Posts tagged “Prison

Four Minutes / Unqualified Parents


Four Minutes  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Following on from the success of The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, the award winning “Four Minutes” sees wrongfully imprisoned piano prodigy Jenny, a Molotov cocktail of suppressed emotions and uncontrollable rage, locked in a constant battle with those around her.  Together with Traude, a professional musician who wants to expose Jenny’s talents at a national competition, the pair develop a volatile teacher-pupil relationship.  As the duo plan their intent to make it to the finals, it soon becomes apparent that, once there, Jenny will have only four minutes to prove herself, and no guarantee of freedom afterwards.  Starring multiple award winner Hannah Herzsprung (“The Reader”, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex”), “Four Minutes” is a cinema tour de force that combines music, gritty prison drama and powerful performances to winning effect.

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  German Film  –  Rating Details: Strong violence and very strong language.  10 out of 10.

To do most things that people consider important in life, you have to study and then possibly pass some sort of test, exam or interview.  In other cases you need to read the instructions or practice, but in the end you’re required to be able to demonstrate a degree of competency before you’re trusted by anyone to do it ‘for real’.  Yet for some reason, with one of the most important and challenging things, we expect everyone to just get on with it without demonstrating the slightest level of ability.  That’s so stupid.  Where’s the logic in that?  It’s enough to make Mr. Spock freak out.  I’ve mentioned it before, but my journey to work involves walking almost past an infant school, at least close enough for me to run into lots of parents taking their kids there.  I don’t expect young kids to ever do anything remotely sensible; in fact it’s in their job description.  They live in a world that isn’t quite in phase with grow-ups. However, if fate has put you in change of a young person, you really ought to be trained how to do this important job, as most people clearly don’t have a clue.  In fact those that do know are generally too old to have any, which in my opinion is a really bad design error.  I’m generally a very tolerant person; yes, really.  But one thing that’s been testing me to my limits recently is the almost total inability of parents to wait at traffic lights and not block the entire pavement with hyperactive kids, bags, pushchairs, dogs and other non-essential stuff.  Hell, it’s only a short walk to the local school, not a manned mission to Mars.  Somehow, they think having control of a young person entitles them to inconvenience the rest of the universe, as if this is some sort of reward for proving their immense virility or fertility.  Seriously dudes, we’ve managed to reproduce adequately enough to keep ourselves going since life first evolved on Earth; it’s really not that difficult and it doesn’t reflect on anyone’s worth.  What does take skill and deserves admiration is dealing with the consequences, which many clearly fail at on an epic scale. I’m a Pavement Warrior and denying me my right of access is a direct challenge to my entire belief structure.  I’m not keen on making kids orphans, but sometimes, someone needs to make a stand.  Just today I narrowly avoided a serious incident on an especially narrow bit of pavement, when two young boys came flying out of a terrace house; the sort that has a front garden about 1m deep.  A guy coming down ‘The Mountain’ (as I call this particularly steep section of my route to work) had to take evasive action to avoid running into them and nearly swerved into me as a result.  Seriously, I was lucky to get out of that in one piece.  Then again, what do I know?  It was only very recently that I found out that you can’t just take the batteries out of them at night when you go to bed.  And now something a whole lot better…

This is a totally awesome movie.  One of the best 50 films ever made.  It’s German, so unsurprisingly it’s not a comedy.  (I guess saying that makes me a racist, unlike Nigel Farage because he’s got a German wife.)  However, it is a kick-ass drama and totally absorbing.  Slow, dark and smouldering, it just blew me away.  I have a soft spot for movies about mavericks, rebels and people who don’t play the game properly.  In particular the ones that do it for no other reason than to piss the world off and who’re willing to take themselves down along with everyone else rather than change.  (I like to think that I’m a bit like that, except in reality I’m probably the world’s biggest ‘yes man’ and enjoy nothing better than asking “how high?” when someone tells me to jump.)  Cutting off your whole head to spite your face.  Our hero Jenny isn’t quite as nihilistic as that, but she comes close.  The Four Minutes of the title refers to a scene near the end of the movie.  One of the best bits of cinema ever; you could never play it loud enough.  It’s not a perfect film for a range of minor but noticeable reasons, but I’m willing to overlook it small faults and consider the bigger picture.  An essential watch.

This is a movie about someone who plays the piano and as such without a suitable soundtrack to support the story, it would fail miserably.  Fortunately it’s a great mixture of original and (mainly) classical, (mainly) German composed music.  There’s an interesting article on the official website about how hard it was to find a composer for the original music used.

I think this trailer lightens the mood of the film slightly and misrepresents the relationship between the two main characters, so it’s a bit disappointing.  It really doesn’t portray the power or mood of the film well.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Cloudy and cool.  Stay indoors is my advice.

Recommended for pianists, lesbians, nurses, prison wardens, Nazis, abusive parents and rebels.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The four minutes that give this film its title are as badass as it comes.  The closest you can get to sticking two fingers up to the world without saying a word; a great bit of punk and not a guitar in sight.

I wrote about this film here in 2010.  This is what I had to say then.

Four Minutes at IMDB (7.6 / 10)
Four Minutes at Wikipedia
Official Website
Four Minutes Trailer at YouTube


Reform School Girls / My Microwave Oven & Thunderbird 2: Separated at Birth


Reform School Girls  -  Front DVD Cover  -  American ReleaseWelcome to Pridemore Juvenile Facility For Girls, where forbidden passion and violent death are a shocking way of life.  But when two innocent teens are thrust into this world of degradation, they must battle sadistic guards as well as a violent gang of lust-crazed lesbians (led by the legendary Wendy O’Williams of The Plasmatics).  In a hellhole gone mad with chaos and desire, can they survive the ultimate orgy of naked rage?  Sybil Danning and Pat Ast co-star in this cult classic of bad girls gone berserk, written and directed by Tom DeSimone (“Hell Night”, “Concrete Jungle”) and featuring songs by Wendy O. Williams, Etta James and more!

1986  –  Certificate: R  –  American Film
6.0 out of 10

I have a microwave oven in my kitchen.  (Actually I have two, but that’s not important right now.)  It has a big sticker on it, which enthuses at some length about all its great features, of which there appear to be many.  (Apparently it’s got a “digital clock”.  Real state of the art stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.)  However, I’ve never really bothered myself to read this sticker.  The only reason it’s still there is that I thought it might contain some ‘important stuff’.   Although as the oven is now about ten years old, I can’t imagine there’s much especially important about it that’s worth learning now.  If there was something I wasn’t supposed to do to stop it exploding in a fireball of microwave energy, I’d probably have found out by now.  However, this afternoon I found myself reading the sticker in an idle moment, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.  (By which I mean the water in the kettle to boil; waiting for the kettle itself to boil would probably take quite a time, as I don’t think the Sun is expected to suddenly expand and engulf the Earth today.)  Amongst my oven’s many interesting features, I learnt that it has “Easytronic Operation”.  As you might imagine this got me pretty excited, as it sounds like the sort of thing Thunderbird 2 would have had fitted as standard.  I’ve no idea what it really means though, but as the oven has a few buttons on it that are quite easy to press, I guess it might mean them.  I wonder how much some marketing guru got paid to think up that one?  Honestly, what a load of twaddle.  This film is a load of twaddle too, but just like my microwave oven, it does have some entertainment value.

It’s hard to be too nasty about this movie, as it’s really not meant to be taken seriously.  As far as B Movies go, it’s pretty entertaining.   It’s a film set in a “juvenile facility”, which I imagine is meant to cater for those under the age of 18.  This doesn’t stop Wendy O. Williams (who was the vocalist with overrated punk/metal band The Plasmatics) playing one of the main young characters in it, even though she must have been about 36 at the time.  Then again, she looks so scarily tough that the makers probably didn’t want to bring it up.  (Really sadly she committed suicide in 1998.  She was a committed vegetarian and spent much of her latter years caring for animals.)  This film also features the infamous kitten stomping scene, which I really shouldn’t approve of.   Lots of mal-adjusted teens worldwide have probably gone on to become serial kitten stompers as a result of this film, in the same way that everyone who’s ever played Guitar Hero is now a world-class guitarist.   I was a little disappointed to see a number of tools being used for weeding a field that weren’t really appropriate for the job.  Long tail shovels and garden rakes really aren’t the correct equipment for that sort of thing.  Then again, perhaps that was part of their punishment?

The soundtrack is mostly small sections of forgettable incidental music, mixed in with a few rock tracks.  Unfortunately, the latter is that special brand of boring American rock, which tries to act tough but just ends up sounding old-fashioned.  However, the film’s big saving grace is Wendy O. Williams’s “It’s My Life”, which plays over the end credits.  Top stuff.  I’ve got it as a 7” single.

Recommended for juvenile delinquents, lesbians, prison officers and psychiatrists.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A really beautiful, fluffy, ginger tabby kitten has both a speaking role (that sadly looks like it was dubbed by another cat) and a proper action role.  The kitten stomping scene, where it has to do a runner, is now considered a standard-bearer for cat-based action movies.  Tragically, it doesn’t even get a credit!

Top badass moment?  Fighting ‘the system’ is never easy, so whether it’s trashing the dormitory, trashing the dining room or trashing the whole facility, it’s all badass.

Reform School Girls at IMDB (4.3 / 10)

Reform School Girls at Wikipedia


The Untold Story / Birds Eye Potato Waffles


The Untold Story  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)In a riveting performance that won him 1993’s Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor, Anthony Wong (“Hard Boiled”) stars as the owner/chef of the Eight Immortals Restaurant, where the original owner and his family mysteriously disappear.  As the police, led by Danny Lee (“The Killer”), intensify their investigation, they gradually uncover the shocking truth.  Definitely not for the squeamish, “The Untold Story” is also an intelligent character study filled with dark humour touches. And remember… it actually happened!

1992  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Hong Kong Film
Rating Details:  Scenes of extreme violence and graphic sexual situations
6.5 out of 10

In the late 80s I stopped eating Birds Eye Potato Waffles.  This is because I got really bad food poisoning from them, twice in a row.  I can still remember it quite vividly.   I think it’s the last time I took time off work through being physically ill.  They’re the only thing that’s ever given me food poisoning, as far as I can remember.  A few months ago I decided to try them again.  The good news was, no sickness or diarrhea etc, a promising start.   (I don’t recommend trying to microwave them though, the results aren’t especially satisfactory.)  Now, these are potato waffles; they’re probably one of the Bird Eye brand’s ‘signature products’.  On the side of the packaging is a marketing highlight which proudly proclaims, “Made with REAL potatoes”.  What the fuck?  Potato waffles and they’re actually made with potatoes; surely not?  Is that really the best thing they can come up with?  It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the product if that’s the highlight.  This also left me wondering what exactly is an unreal potato.  The packaging also goes on to say each 100g of waffles is made with 109g of potatoes.  Really?  I guess an understanding of particle physics is helpful if you want to enjoy Birds Eye Potato Waffles; it must be all that ‘new physics’ stuff again.  Personally, I’d rather know that all the potatoes used are grown within 40 miles of the factory where they make them, which is what it says on its web site; I think that’s much more worthy.  Has our food become so crap these days that the fact it contains what you’d expect it to contain has become such a big deal that it needs bragging about?  (Oh, I forgot about all the horse burgers.)  Birds Eye in Europe is presently owned by private equity group Primira. One of its 11 Business Principles is “Comply with both the letter and the spirit of all applicable laws, regulations and contractual obligations”.  I guess that’s why it has its finance team based on Guernsey; nothing to do with its tax haven status then?  This film features a restaurant and food that makes people sick; and dead.

Never released in the UK, Anthony Wong plays a restaurant owner called Wong Chi-Hang and it’s worth tracking down a copy of this film for his performance alone.  The guy has some serious, anger management issues.  When he’s not feeding his clientele with the ground-up remains of people he’s killed, raping his staff, beheading children or cheating at Mah Jong, he’s being beaten up by various people, generally the police or the relatives of those he’s murdered.  For a pretty gruesome and dark film that’s basically about a serial killer, the police are presented as only a few steps above the Keystone Cops.  The senior detective and his team investigating the case don’t seem to do a lot of work, they continually belittle the only woman in the team, they happy beat up poor old Anthony with the least provocation and the senior detective nearly always has a prostitute with him at work.  It’s not often you can have any sympathy for a serial killer, but he’s clearly a product of his environment; well, sort of.  Set in Macau, this film is meant to be based on a real crime too.  It’s a bloody horror with the occasional bit of almost slapstick comedy; very watchable if you can deal with all that.

This film has a fair amount of background music, much of which is clearly inspired by the “Psycho” ‘shower scene’.  You’ll not want to watch this film for the music.

Recommended for catering students, the police and anyone who’s crap at Mah Jong.

No cats or chainsaws and three decapitations; two of the latter were after they were dead though.  It’s not often you see a child have her head cut off in a film…

Top badass moment?  In the middle of cutting a load of people up, it was good to see Anthony Wong take time out to sharpen the meat cleaver he was using.  (He forgot to wear safety goggles or gloves whilst using the grinder though.)  No wonder he was so pissed off when the cutting edge got damaged soon after.  (Maybe he sharpened the blade too finely for cutting bones; or perhaps he hit the floor with it by mistake?)  Caring about your tools, even if you’re a serial killer, is good practice and therefore badass.  They do say a blunt tool is more dangerous than a sharp one.

The Untold Story at IMDB (6.8 / 10)

The Untold Story at Wikipedia


Cube: 4.0 Stars


Cube  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Six strangers awaken from their daily lives to find themselves trapped in a surreal prison – a seemingly endless maze of interlocking cubical chambers armed with lethal booby traps.  None of these people knows why or how they were imprisoned…  But it soon emerges that each of them has a skill that could contribute to their escape.  Who created this diabolical maze, and why?  There are unanswered questions on every side, whilst personality conflicts and struggles for power emerge as the tension rises.  But one thing is crystal clear; unless they can learn to co-operate to work out the secrets of this deadly trap, none of them has very long to live…

1997  –  Certificate: 15  –  Canada
Rating Details:  Language, occasional, strong; violence, infrequent, strong, horror; other, horror, science fiction.

I tend to buy a few books for myself around Christmas.  I think I do this because I have a bit more time then and when I’ve got time I start to think how nice it would be to read a book.  So off I trotted (electronically) to Amazon.  I decided to buy a couple of Star Trek novels.  For various dull reasons, the first one I selected was called “Homecoming”.  £200.68 new!  £200.68!!  For that price I’d expect it to come with a full-sized, fully operational Star Trek spaceship, including crew.  Is there suddenly a world shortage of letters?  Are the Chinese restricting exports of full stops, thus leading to frantic trading in alternative punctuation marks on global stock markets?  Have the Americans finally realised that they can’t spell and bought up the entire world output of letter Us for the next five years, in an effort to correct all those misspelt references to colour?  So anyway, I’ve ended up buying myself a Kindle, the cheapest one, which costs £69.  I can now buy the book for £4.99.  I am suffering a bit of a guilt trip though.  I feel like I should be castigating Amazon for its over-effective use of British tax laws and in fact be refusing to buy anything from it in line with the recently announced boycott.  Then there’s also the fact that I’ve effectively allowed myself to be locked into its proprietary file format and e-book system for the rest of my life.  However, there’s a certain thrill in the idea that the first book I read on it will be a Star Trek one, a franchise that frequently depicts characters reading from a small pad that with hindsight looks suspiciously like a Kindle.  As for the other issue, if you’re going to lock yourself into a sweet factory, it may as well be in Willy Wonka’s.  This film also features people who’re locked in somewhere, but there’s not a lot of chocolate around, or books, e or otherwise.

I simultaneously love and hate this film.  It’s a great and stylish horror/sci-fi thriller, with an unusual and suitably disturbing and clever storyline.  I also like how by using only seven people and virtually just a single, small set, it manages to be such a good movie.  It creates a tense atmosphere by making great use of sound and the claustrophobic set-up; the traps are ‘nicely’ presented too.  Sadly, the characters in it lack any semblance of common sense, so they seem unbelievably stupid, despite their unique talents.  There’s not a great deal of emotional intelligence on show, or indeed any sort of togetherness.  I’ve seen more communication between passengers on the London Underground in the rush hour than this lot managed, such was their inability to interact meaningfully in a ‘mission-critical’ way.   The way they develop and change during the film also stretches their credibility to pretty ridiculous levels.  At first, they seemed like a group of people under a lot of pressure, which does tend to make individuals do some strange things, but then I found myself thinking, “what the fuck”?  What sort of morons are these people?  Why don’t they just work things out together like everyone else would?  Haven’t any of them watched “The Poseidon Adventure”?   The cliché of groups of people in films who’re trapped together and then not getting on, is getting to be as bad as the one involving groups’ of young people going to remote places for a ‘good time’ and then meeting a grizzly end.  Their over or under reaction to different situations just seemed to have been determined by the writers throwing a dice.  6?  Oh dear, you’re going to freak out.  1?  That’s cool, you’ll barely notice what’s going on, you’re so laid back about it.  It’s not that the acting is especially poor, it’s more the script that’s at fault.  One plus point is that it’s got Nicole De Boer in it, the world’s third most beautiful woman, although she’s not looking her best, but I can forgive her for that given the circumstances.  Nicole De Boer is of course, Lieutenant Ezri Dax from Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  However, despite its shortcomings, Cube still manages to be a really good film. Weird eh?

Recommended for fans of clever sci-fi, who won’t let a few hot-headed characters spoil their geeky fun.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.  However, two heads do get well and truly mangled.

Top badass moment?  Given the uniformly un-cooperative, combative and plainly stupid behaviour of most of the characters most of the time, the top badass moments have to be whenever the Cube does something that pisses one of them off, or worse.  It’s a sad day when you end up having to cheer for the mechanical baddie.  If our ancestors conducted themselves in the same way, we’d still all be living in caves and bashing one another over the head with clubs.  Get some anger management people, for goodness sake.

Cube at IMDB (7.4/10)


The Italian Job: 4.5 Stars


The Italian Job  -  Front DVD CoverBefore I wised-up and realised that cars were the spawn of the Devil and responsible for the political, environmental and social decline of our world, I was a bit obsessed with them.  When I was in my early teens I’d buy Motor magazine every week; I’d send off for reviews of cars from other magazines too, just so I could spend hours and hours comparing them.  I went to the Motor Show.  I had just about every pack of Top Trump cards you could get that were about cars.  I had about 50 Matchbox toy cars and regularly used to run them along a long section of track that started at my bedroom window (on the first floor) and went down into the garden below, before carefully putting them back in the box in the order of the ones that got the furthest down the track.  (I must have got a lot of exercise keep running up and down the stairs and into the garden, if I did that each time for all 50.)   I had a Saturday and school holiday job in a car repair shop, where I worked for several years.  (I earned £5 a day).  I could recognise and name just about every car on the road, in a matter of seconds.  When I was old enough to drive, I had several cars at different times, which I pulled to bits and rebuilt in various ways.  So basically, what I’m saying is that I knew everything about cars.

So what car did I decide to drive?  A Mini?  Nope.  In fact I choose the arch nemesis of the Mini, the Hillman Imp.  (I also had a Singer Chamois coupe and a Sunbeam Imp Sport too, which were basically different versions of the Imp.)  It was a great little car; even though it overheated all the time it was miles better than the boring old Mini; it just had an aversion to motorways.  It had a rear engine, which made it really like a Porsche, kind of.  When I was at university I managed to roll an Imp onto its roof, with five of us in it.  Fortunately no one was hurt.  I still have the pictures of what was left of the car.  I got done for careless driving too!  Who’s ever heard of a man who drives carelessly?  The police tried to make out I was doing over 60mph, but in fact the Imp struggled to get to that speed even on a motorway with just me in it.  When I went to the police station the next day to make a statement, there was a little piece of my Imp’s bodywork (it was partly fibreglass) in an ashtray on the desk; they’d thrown a bit of my car away!  (I didn’t ask for it back though.)  The police only found out about my accident as we were pushing what was left of the car along the road to get it home, when one overtook us and smashed head-on into one driving in the other direction.  Amazingly no one was badly hurt in that crash either, even though they must have hit each other at a combined speed of about 70mph.  I remember someone coming out of a nearby house, spotting some oil on the ground in the darkness and exclaiming with what I remember seemed a lot of excitement in his voice, “Is that blood?”  Weirdo.  Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that this film would have been a lot better if they’d picked Imps rather than Minis to star in it.

1969  –  Certificate: PG  –  United Kingdom

Rating Details: Mild violence, language and sex references

This is a true classic and contains one of the most quoted lines in movie history; (5, 4, 3, 2.. you know the one I’m talking about).  Made when England were still football world champions (okay I know it’s an old film), it’s got the added bonus of having Michael Caine and Noël Coward in it and the Brits getting one over on Johnny Foreigner, (always a good thing of course).  Sadly, as we don’t make anything in Britain anymore, including cars (and have become pretty hopeless at football too), there isn’t likely to be a undated version of it made anytime soon; (and I’m talking about a British version of it here, not something set somewhere like, oh, Los Angeles, for example).  It just wouldn’t be the same if they drove Peugeot 107s, or got the bus instead.  I watched a Blu-ray version of this film and if anyone wants to see what this format can bring to old films, I’d recommend watching this one, as it looked stunning. 

Recommended for fans of classic movies and for all English people.  It brings a lump to the throat and swells the heart; (with pride not cholesterol.)  If there was such a thing as an English passport, the watching and enjoyment of this film would be a mandatory requirement for getting one.  Also recommended for staff managers everywhere, as it contains some excellent advice from Charlie Croker; “Now, it’s a very difficult job, and, the only way to get through it is we all work together, as a team.  And that means, you do everything I say.”  Words of wisdom.

3 cats and no decapitations.  Enjoy the awesome cats-on-laps action, matched with some expertly written and delivered dialogue. 

Top badass moment?  The Minis in the sewer pipe, the Minis on the dam, the Minis on the steps, the Minis in the shopping plaza, etc.  Celebrating the best bit of British engineering since the Spitfire is badass; if you’re a Brit anyway.

The Italian Job at IMDB


Four Minutes


Watched Four Minutes on DVD last night.  This is a 2006 German film (so that means subtitles for the Euro illiterate like me) about a young woman who’s in prison and also a great pianist.  It’s the best film I’ve seen for months (and I watch a lot of films).  It looks good, it sounds great, the story mixes up a lot of different subjects that you don’t normally get together really well and it has two actresses in it playing the main characters that’re totally awesome.  It manages to include prisons, guns, punch-ups, decapitation, Nazis, lesbians, incest, pianos, really intense arguments and a psycho pianist!  And it’s nothing like how I’ve just made it sound.  It also has a great final scene (the four minutes of the title).  It’s not a comedy and it’s actually quite a slow and serious film most of the time.  You need to go and watch it.  It’s certainly a new entry into the Top 50 Films of All Time in Cactus World.  Penny hated it though, so not a great film to watch when you’ve got all the neighbourhood cats around.

Right now I’m listening to “Pathways” by the Frank and Walters.