On the magic Summer’s night of high school’s end, Julie, Helen, Ray and Barry get into Barry’s new Beamer and drive out to celebrate, their lives and hopes before them. But on the road they have a terrible accident; hit and kill a man. In the shock and panic that follows, they dump the body in the sea rather than reporting the accident. As the body sinks, the hand of the dead man breaks the surface in a last grasp at life, then disappears into the murky depths. The four friends realise they are now guilty of murder and swear to take their secret to their graves. But now someone is stalking them, someone who knows who they are, knows what they did last Summer, and seeks revenge…
1997 – Certificate: 15 – American Film
8.0 out of 10
Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books. Not just any old book though, but Star Trek books. (This is cue for you to both yawn and go find something else to do, or think this is the best thing, ever. I don’t mind which you choose; after all, not everyone mentally and emotionally matures at the same speed.) So anyway, for those of you who have matured sufficiently… I’ll admit that in the past I’ve flirted a little with Star Trek novels and Star Trek audiobooks. (I must confess that I especially love the minimal effort the latter take to enjoy and that I can do other things at the same time, like drive or go to sleep. What’s not so good is the limited range of titles available, their cost and the fact that most have been greatly abridged.) Star Trek was always as much about the relationships between the characters, as the ‘blowing things up’ stuff. If it sometimes tries too hard to project a perfect version of America as itself, then I can forgive it that. Most of these stories were based somewhere in the known Star Trek timeline, generally between this episode or that episode, or occasionally kind of outside it. Following the release of “Star Trek: Nemesis” a void opened up, one as large as the universe itself. The Star Trek reboot, whilst brilliant in its own way, can never hope to fill this space; it’s simply the wrong shape, size and timeline. This void is empty except for one thing, a single Question; what happened to everyone? The novels from this period are generally really entertaining and exciting, well written and treat ‘known’ Star Trek history with the appropriate level of respect and consistency. However, they don’t answer that Question. Then in May 2001, “Avatar” was published, a story written and set after the end of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. Over next few years more books came out that did a similar thing and were set after the various TV series and then finally Nemesis itself. Suddenly we could have answers to the Question. Of course not everyone likes how future history is working out and what’s happened or happening to all those characters we travelled with for so long, but I’m finding the experience to be wonderfully entertaining. No longer hemmed in by ‘official’ history or the limitations of TV or film productions, the books set in the period after Nemesis are able to chart their own way forward, taking the Star Trek story further into the future. They also do a pretty good job of maintaining their internal consistency from one to the next and between different authors. This makes it feel like they’re all part of one, giant story arc, rather than just random tales. I’ve just finished reading the “Destiny” trilogy. This does fundamental things with the Star Trek universe that would have taken a whole series on TV to do justice to them, as well as a sizable special effects budget. For anyone who hasn’t taken the plunge and started to read these books, I’d fully recommend you find the time to do so. I wish I could write stories… This film was the first part of a trilogy. I think that’s about as far as I can push the comparison.
This movie initially worried me. If someone really did know what I did last summer, then it was likely to be a totally over the top erotic thriller, with elements of horror, science-fiction and comedy mixed in with it. (Although I must admit I was curious to see who was playing me in it.) In the end it turned out to be a teen horror with Buffy in it and some killer running around wearing a yellow pacamac and carrying a hook so bent I can’t imagine it was easy to get it to go into anything, never mind a squealing teen. It also features the absolutely worst pretend ice cubes I’ve ever seen a movie; seriously, they don’t even sound like ice. And it heavily features “Hush” by Kula Shaka on the soundtrack too, one of the most insipid, horrible tunes ever to be conjured into existence. It’s awful. I can remember walking past the video hire shop (remember them) in Colliers Wood on a number of occasions when it first came out on VHS and seeing a big, cardboard cut-out for it in the window. (Come to think of it, it could have been for one of its two sequels, but let’s ignore that possibility for now. N.B. Actually I’ve thought about it some more, I think it might have been an advert for the whole trilogy.) I can’t recall exactly what went through my mind at the time, but I think there was a level of disappointment that suggests to me now I wasn’t expecting to see it. It’s weird how you can sometimes recall these random thoughts years later. I guess my disappointment must have been pretty profound. Despite all this (and more), it’s actually a really good film, but I can’t for the life of me work out why. Pretty enigmatic, isn’t it? I think they’re making a new version of it too…
The evil of Kula Shaker aside, the soundtrack is actually okay and includes songs by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Offspring.
The trailer. It’s better with the sound off.
Recommend for students and fisherman.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Despite being an entirely obnoxious rich-boy who seemed to exist entirely for the purpose of pissing off his friends and showing his stomach muscles off to the viewer, Ray finally does the right thing and saves The Girl from The Baddie. As well as being a cliché of the first degree, this is (if it was real of course) a really badass thing to do. (However, he’d probably have been killed by Ben if it was real life, so it’s just as well it’s only a movie.)
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capital of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister’s place and must rely upon her sharp instincts when she’s pitted against highly trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
2012 – Certificate: 15 – American Film
Rating Details: Strong violence and threat
9.0 out of 10
It’s back to the humourless dentist oral surgeon for me this Wednesday. Not sure what he’s going to say or do. Perhaps there’ll be a full moon that night and he’ll be resting, or taking the day-off for a lie-in in his coffin. Actually my wisdom tooth isn’t really hurting anymore, nowhere near enough for me to need pain-killers or anything. However, I can’t open my mouth much now without my jaw aching, a lot. In fact I can’t really open it at all. Whilst this might seem to some around me to be a positive step, it’s really pissing me off. My ability to eat has reverted to how I imagine I was when I was nine months old, all sloppy food which I then fail to push into my mouth properly, resulting in it ending up everywhere except my stomach. I may not show it, but inside this is how I feel. I did initially think this was a film about dentists, but apparently not.
A movie about a dystopian future? That’s always a good start. Female hero? That’s good as well and makes a change too. Woody Harrelson’s in it, playing a character who looks very much how you might expect Kurt Cobain to look now, if he’d sadly not killed himself; somewhat ironically, this version is very much a survivor. This is an awesome film, even though it’s only a few steps beyond a cross between “Big Brother” and any number of romantic dramas. In fact the only reason I didn’t think it was even better was that I could sort of tell where some parts of the story that I’m sure must be in the books, weren’t really used in the film. Not having read any of the latter, that’s not good. But I’m glad someone’s writing popular ‘teen fiction’ that uses this sort of challenging setting for its stories; it’s just a pity it’s a bit buried in this film. I have to admit I couldn’t really see what Katniss saw in Peeta. Sure he’s good looking and there’s all that stuff about being thrown together in a crisis, but really, he was a bit boring. I can well imagine she’d soon get fed up with him. I thought the make-up crew did a good job on Jennifer Lawrence, making her appear very different from setting to setting. Then again, there’re so many credited at the end that each of her eyebrows must have had a whole team working on it, etc. I watched the “Unseen Version” (which kind of isn’t true now). I certainly enjoyed the extra 3.2 seconds and reinstated blood that had been digitally removed and denied to the sissies that went to see the Certificate 12 version shown in cinemas. I’m so hardcore. Anyway, despite it being targeted at a ‘younger audience’, I really enjoyed it and got an emotional buzz from watching it too. Critically, I actually cared what happened to the main characters. And let’s not forget that Katniss Everdeen gets her family name from Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene, which alone is enough of a reason to recommend this film.
The orchestral score is great but I didn’t much care for the rest. I guess it was an attempt to give a primitive, combative edge to things, but most of it sounded just like some boring drumming to me.
I really like this trailer. It makes me want to see the film.
Recommended for sibling sisters, bakers and archers.
1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. A great bit of cat hissing gets the action underway shortly after the start. Sadly this isn’t utilised further and we just get a couple of hours of reality TV nonsense instead.
Top badass moment? At a key moment, Katness gives two fingers to the watching millions; (actually three but anyway). A defiant gesture that starts her journey from ‘average teen’ to rebel hero. There’s no way on Earth that’s not badass. Sticking it to ‘The Man’ always is.
“Bandwagon” is a fresh and exciting indie comedy about four unlikely characters, who together form a band. Tony Ridge is a tragically shy singer and songwriter who can barely discuss his songs, let alone play them in public. He meets up with Charlie, an anxious young drummer with a practice space and a mom who makes them snacks. They seek out Wynn, a perpetually stoned lead guitarist, and finally, Eric, a feisty bass player who’s just given away his instrument as collateral on an overdue bet. Once the bass is retrieved from an unforgettable drug-dealing redneck the guys are ready. But ready for what? Is their band about the music, about getting the girls, or just something to pass the time? They decide that the best way for them to get noticed is to hit the road so they procure Linus Tate, the elusive, but legendary, road manager. The group soon realizes that life, confined to the space of their not-so-trusty van, isn’t always an easy endeavour. First-time writer/director John Schultz, a native of North Carolina, has taken full advantage of the striking local scenery during the peak of fall. Witty dialogue and clever plot twists punctuate a well-crafted story. An expertly produced sound track, including original songs performed by the film’s band, Circus Monkey, as well as other independent bands, gives the film an edgy, contemporary sound. A mix of familiar faces (Kevin Corrigan from “Living in Oblivion” and Steve Parlavecchio from “Amongst Friends”) and refreshing new talent round out an energetic ensemble cast. “Bandwagon” is a good-time venture into young artistic expression.
1996 – Certificate: Not Rated – American Film
7.0 out of 10
My new Roberts Stream 83i has arrived, as a replacement for my old but now sadly broken, Logitech Squeezebox. It plays FM radio. It plays Internet radio. It’s a DAB radio. It streams music from my NAS Drive. It sounds nice. It’s very easy to work out how to use it. It looks a little too like it was designed by someone with an over enthusiasm for 50’s sci-fi spaceship control panels; Buck Rodgers would feel right at home with it. What’s there not to like? Well, two things so far. Despite giving access to thousands of radio stations available on the Internet, it only give you 5 pre-sets for them, which is a bit perverse; was that bit of the specification sorted out on a Friday afternoon by some thickie on work experience with the company? Also, and far more annoyingly, it won’t shuffle music from my NAS Drive unless there’re less than about 2,000 tracks or folders in a folder, so it expects me to rearrange my whole, digital music collection to convenience this crappy bit of its design. I’ve e-mailed the company for a solution; let’s see how long it takes to reply and what it says. It never fails to amaze me how those that design things never seem to get the details quite right. This film is about music too.
Wynn, Eric, Tony and Charlie are four losers that have little else in common. They form a band, go on tour, fall out a lot, deal with loads of angst and in the end come good. So pretty much like every other film ever written about a band. Having said that, it’s quite a lot of fun and, critically, feels fairly authentic. Their enigmatic road manager, Linus, also adds a slightly surreal feel to things too. It’s often hard for actors to look like musicians in films, but in this case they generally do a pretty good job. It does feel bit dated at times, mainly because these days so much independent music is promoted and distributed on the Internet. There is a bit near the end where the band is being spoken to by the head of a record company, who’s explaining, quite convincingly, how the band has to do this, that and the other to be successful. Sometimes it feels like that at work; I spend more time playing the game that doing anything that’s actually making any sort of difference. It doesn’t matter how many times I have it explained to me, I’m still left with a feeling that there’s a better way to do things.
A film about a band needs to have good music. With a number of decent, mid 90s, American indie rock songs, this movie does manage to be convincing enough on this level. In fact a couple of them are actually pretty good.
Recommended for garage mechanics, dope-heads, record shop assistants and construction vehicle manufacturer workers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? The record company president meets the band and offers it a recording contract. It turns it down. That’s defiantly sticking it to The Man, and that’s badass; and in many ways stupid too, but there’s something to be said for keeping you integrity and principles intact.
Ten year-old Harriet (Evan Rachel Wood) dreams of escaping her colourless existence. She lives with her alcoholic mother (Cathy Moriarty) and promiscuous older sister (Mary Stuart Masterson), the proprietors of a rural Pennsylvania motel. Frequently misunderstood by classmates and family, Harriet prefers her time alone, free of ridicule and abuse. For Harriet, fate arrives in the form of Ricky (Kevin Bacon), a mentally challenged young man who is passing through town with his mother. Their common bond as misfits draws Harriet and Ricky to one another. Together, they happily hatch a plan to alter their destinies. In the face of bitter resistance, Harriet and Ricky cling to their friendship even as their families try blindly to separate them.
1997 – Certificate PG – USA
6 out of 10
I’ve had to buy a new printer. My trusty, seven-year-old HP Deskjet 5652 stopped working last week; I guess the two bits of metal that fell out of it a few months ago were important after all. So off I went to Argos for a new one. Doesn’t anyone these days make printers that just, well, print? Most of the ones I looked at faxed, scanned, made tea, looked after small children and developed countermeasures based on home alien invasion scenarios. I just wanted a printer to print stuff. In the end, having decided that I’d been satisfied by my old printer, I decided to get another HP, this time a Deskjet 3000; £50, including delivery. To say the new one doesn’t feel exactly robust would be a bit of an understatement. I’m quite worried that if I open a window in the summer, the first gust of wind and it’s going to be flying away into the great beyond. I guess it’s all those high-tech, space-age materials it’s probably made of. My old printer would have made an effective close combat weapon, for anyone with the strength to pick it up. A similar thing goes for the noises it makes when it prints. The old one made a satisfyingly expensive and comforting sound whenever it printed anything. The new one makes all my fillings want to fall out. I now know what ‘cheap’ sounds like. It said on the box it takes four minutes to set up. Bollocks! It took me four hours over two evenings. Those bastards that write instructions and installation software, do they ever actually try out what they throw together? Do they ever actually speak to the people who market the things they write for? No! No, they don’t! They just write trash to palm off on the technically inept public they sell stuff to and their IT-illiterate bosses who are too stupid to know how to check it; I image the consumer printer software and instruction writing department at HP is rather like that featured in “The IT Crowd”. Trying to get it to talk to my network at home was harder than (inset politicians from your ‘favourite’ Middle Eastern conflict here) in the same room to actually talk about things like grown-ups. In the end I totally ignored the instructions and the software and did it ‘my way’. Result? I can now print wirelessly from both my home computer and my work laptop.
This was another of those frustrating movies that could have been so much better than it actually was. At its best it’s a sad and touching film about life and friendship; at its worst its, well it’s just a bit rubbishy. Given the plot, it should have had a lot more emotional ups and downs, but it felt a bit flat to me. I suppose what bought the film down most was some of the script, which at times didn’t seem very realistic. The reactions of the characters to many of the sad or unexpected things that happened felt understated too. It also had the misfortune to host yet another overly grown-up youngster; are all young kids in America either precocious, drug-dealing thugs, misfits or would-be superheroes? They’re the only ones ever featured in the movies anyway; I guess the rest must be very boring or something. In this particular case, Harriet was also just a bit too much of a little horror to gain much of my sympathy. Brat. It was strange to see Kevin Bacon not playing a shady character for a change. His portrayal of Ricky, a man with learning difficulties, was generally really well done. The depressing thing about the film was that I was sort of waiting for the ‘inevitable scene’ of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ that it seemed to be setting up between its two main characters.
Set in the late 1960s, the film features a nice selection of music, including some originals from the period. One of its better features. It’s always good to hear “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf; as well as containing one of rock’s greatest guitar riffs, it is of course the song that was played when humans first broke the light barrier in 2063. (It’s a Star Trek thing.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for those who want to watch a decent little film that glosses over the worst bits of life.
Top badass moment? The friendship that develops between Harriet and Ricky, as well as being the heart of the story, was also its best element. A friendship forged in the heat of battle, at a time when whole civilisations rose and fell at the whim of the undead; two ordinary people rise up as heroes, to fight for good and the future of the human race, defeating overwhelming odds and overcoming personal tragedies for the good of mankind! Okay, so I made that last part up. Sounds good though…
This is a film about a young girl who overcomes great adversity. Whereas I’m a sad old bloke who’s got a cold right now and can’t be bothered to even try to do anything about it. Let the fiery depths of Hell take me; at least it’ll be warm there.
2008 – Certificate: R – USA
Rating Details: Disturbing sexual assault of a young girl, and brief sexuality
You know they often say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or that something often acts as a catalyst to help others achieve more together than apart? Well whatever the opposite of those is, applies to this drama. It looks good and the acting is great, but somehow the story and script didn’t really work for me; I guess it’s one of those films that takes too many of its cues from its setting; in this case the southern states of the US in the 50s, a time and place I can’t readily relate to. From what I saw in this film, it was pretty crap anyway and I’m glad I don’t know it. I like films that utilise music as a component in the plot and this one uses Elvis Presley and The Blues to decent effect; and there I was, thinking the Wasted and One Direction represented the pinnacle of popular music. I did enjoy seeing a dysfunctional family again too, it’s been a while since I’ve come across one in a film. Dakota Fanning, who plays Lewellen, the young girl, really does an amazing job with the role; the film is worth seeing for that alone. Her singing is pretty impressive too. I was also stuck by the number of times objects just happened to be in the right place to save someone or other’s blushes; I’ve not seen so many strategically placed house plants etc since the Austin Powers movies. The biggest letdown was the script; the characterisation was excellent, yet I felt I had to fill in too many gaps in the plot; maybe it’s my cold, but some important things just seemed to pass me by. I suppose that makes it a film for clever people, not like me. This is also a film that’s famous for one particular scene, where Lewellen is horribly raped by a milkman. It really isn’t that graphic or anything, but I suppose the idea of what’s happening and the fact that it looks very real on the screen does give it a great deal of power. The second half of the film wouldn’t really work without it either. Also, if you don’t like snakes, this is a film to give a miss; there’re a lot of them in it.
Recommended for intelligent people who aren’t going to freak out over ‘that’ scene.
No cat, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Charles, Lewellen’s unofficial mentor. Despite his slightly unhinged view of the world, which is probably a result of his hanging out with too many snakes, he does represent just about the only character in the whole film that’s able to move things forward. Anyone with that much belief in the power of music has to be badass.