Posts tagged “Reading

The Kennet & Avon Canal: A Survivor’s Tail


A random bit of Kennet & Avon Canal

It’s hard to believe I know, but I do occasionally leave Cactus World to visit mystical, far away places.  It’s good to reach out to other cultures and immerse yourself for a time within an alien environment, mixing with people who have a totally different word view to your own.  So I recently found myself spending five and a half days walking from Avonmouth back to Reading, along the River Avon and Kennet & Avon Canal.  For those that don’t know, Avonmouth is by the Bristol Channel and thus nearly in Wales, which is of course a real foreign country.  I endured 100 miles of physical and psychological torture, increasingly poor quality cider and lovely sunny weather, staring down at the path in front of me for hours on end, whilst acting as prey for psychopathic cyclists who prowl the National Cycle Network (mainly Route 4) in feral packs, searching for lone walkers to victimise and kill.  I spent most of the trip reading The Hunger Games Trilogy; by the end I think I’d lost my mind a bit and I really thought I was actually a tribute in the Hunger Games, what with the hunger, thirst, injuries and homicidal cyclists that I had to deal with.  Here then, is my story. 

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Suck / A New Challenge


Suck  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK ReleaseThe greatest rock ‘n’ roll vampire comedy ever made, “Suck” stars rock royalty Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins, and brilliant performances from Moby and British screen legend Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”).   The Winners are a struggling band desperate to make it to the top and strike a record deal.  After another mediocre gig, Jennifer (Jessica Paré “Hot Tub Time Machine”) the sexy female bassist, disappears with a young vampire and returns the next morning sprouting fangs and a taste for blood.  One by one each member succumbs to the dark side and leaving a trail of lifeless groupies in their wake, they soon reach the heights of success that they could only dream of as mere mortals.

2009  –  Certificate: 15  –  Canadian Film
Rating Details: Strong language and comic gory horror
7.5 out of 10

Yesterday I walked to work at my new office for the first time.  No longer do I need to trek thousands of miles (well it felt like thousands) each day, face death as I cross the busy A4, deal with selfish pavement hogs along the Oxford Road, heroically climb ‘The Mountain’ or risk loss of sensory deprivation as I bisect the country-sized Tesco car park.  My journey now takes about 15 minutes and I don’t need to set up a series of resupply depots and emergency evac protocols to enable me to take the trip.  A number of other differences were apparent too.  For a start, I had to battle my way through two (yes two) school runs, as I passed two primary schools.  A pavement jam-packed with slow-moving mothers, toddlers in pushchairs and chaotic, hyper-active youngsters, who randomly change direction with no respect for The Rules.  I’m an experienced Pavement Warrior, but this was something else.  It’s only going to be a matter of time before I accidentally mow one of these tiny terrors down and end up in jail forever as a child killer.  Then there were the others, a mixture of students going to the Tesco Metro (I didn’t realise any got up that early) and men and women in business suits, power-walking into the centre of Reading.  On my previous journey, I’d count myself unlucky to be overtaken by even one person, but yesterday it happened twice, as I was left choking on the burning rubber left behind by the soles of two pairs of fast-moving, expensive shoes, worn by who I can only assume are relatives of Usain Bolt.  Unless I’m carrying a heavy bag, being overtaken by someone is a direct challenge to my sexuality, questions my prowess in bed and lessens my status as an Alpha Male.  Clearly more of a sprint than the marathon I’m used to, I’ll not be caught out next time.  Game on…  This film is about a group of people who make a change to how they do their job.

Sadly, this movie wasn’t so bad that I’m able to say it sucks.  Nether was it some sort of  unimaginatively named 70’s porn.  It’s actually quite a lot of fun and does feature a number of real rock stars amongst its cast.  (By the way, who originally came up with the expression “rock royalty”?  It’s an unspeakably dreadful term.)  The cast put in generally spirited performances and the whole thing is really quite endearing.  It’s got Malcolm McDowell in it as well, as vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing; and let’s not forget that this is the guy who killed Captain Kirk!  That’s real ultra violence.  And while we’re on the Star Trek theme, it’s also got Ezri Dax in it.  Moby (who’s vegan and thus awesome), plays a character called Beef Bellows, lead singer of rock band The Secretaries of Steak.  See, even vegans have a sense of irony.  Jessica Paré, who plays bassist Jennifer, was a bit disappointing.  I’m not quite sure why, but she didn’t quite pull off the vampire diva ‘thing’ that was meant to propel the band to stardom.  Much more of a comedy than a horror, this movie’s a good excuse to while away 91 minutes of your life.

A film about a band needs to have good music, but unfortunately this one suffered a similar fate to so many others and features a lot of mediocre, bland, forgettable, indie rock.  It’s a film about a band of vampires, but the music’s about as gothic as One Direction.  The performances are pretty good though.

Recommended for rock stars, would-be rock stars and vampires (and the undead in general).

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Nicole de Boer has a part in this film.  That’s badass.

Suck at IMDB (5.9 / 10)

Suck at Wikipedia

Suck at YouTube


My Life With Morrissey / Domino’s Pizza


My Life With Morrissey  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseJackie, a hard-working assistant at a TV studio, pours herself into her work with an odd enthusiasm that her co-workers embrace with mixed feelings.  An obsessed Morrissey fan, her off hours are spent talking to posters and photos that plaster her apartment.  Her nights are spent scouring places Morrissey has been spotted around Los Angeles…  One fateful night things take a turn for the worse when by chance her dream comes true.  Meeting Morrissey in a deserted parking lot, Jackie’s world is suddenly turned upside down.

2003  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
8.0 out of 10

The last couple of days at work have been somewhat dispiriting.  A mixture of ‘stuff’ and ‘other things’, combined with a lack of time and a recurring, nightmarish vision of the apocalypse, (complete with demons, fire, horseman and endless teleconferences), have made the first half of the week pretty heavy going.  I forgot my mobile phone today too and came home to 14 missed calls.  Someone had left me a voice mail which was so muffled and distant that I could only conclude it came from Satan himself, deep in the bowels of Hell.  I wonder what he wants, this time?  However, coming home from work each day I’ve been reminded of just how worse things could be.  Whilst walking along the Oxford Road in Reading I’ve passed a guy dressed in a giant, blue, Domino’s Pizza takeaway box, loitering outside the Lidl supermarket.  Whatever he had in mind as a career when he was at school, I don’t suppose hanging about dressed up like a homeless and miserable, blue version of SpongeBob SquarePants, was top of his list.  Sadly for Domino’s, the overall effect of a bored looking guy in a scruffy pair of jeans and a baseball hat, inside a massive pizza box, wasn’t to make me want to eat pizza.  Whatever they’re paying him, it’s not enough.  Strangely, this film has a connection to SpongeBob too.

I always enjoy movies about losers that’re trying to fight back against ‘the system’, or at least exist alongside it; I suppose I can relate to them.  This film starts off with us following a young woman with an over developed enthusiasm for all things Morrissey, into work, where we meet some of her rather overbearing colleagues; and it ends up with a nuclear explosion.  I’m not really spoiling it for you though, as the latter doesn’t actually have any sort of connection to anything else.  At some point whilst watching it, I was suddenly hit by a “wtf?” moment and realised that everything had become rather surreal, weird and odd.  On one level, this is quite a disturbing film, as you watch a young woman descend into some sort of mental distress.  On the other hand, it is kind of funny.  Jackie Buscarino, who plays the main character who’s also called Jackie, as well as being very cute, throws herself into the role with a level of embarrassing intensity that’s really quite fun to watch.  I can imagine it’s the sort of film that a lot of hardcore Morrissey fans would hate, but I really like Morrissey and think it’s very entertaining.  I’m not sure if it’s a totally dumb, poorly scripted film, or one that subtly and covertly comments on modern society and its values; whatever, I’d recommend it either way.  

This movie has some really good music in it, which certainly helps turn it from being a potentially slightly crappy film into a much better one.  The fact that one track is by Nerf Herder (the band that bought you the theme to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), is just the icing on the cake.  Needless to say, it features no music by Morrissey or The Smiths at all.

Recommend for fanboys (and fangirls).

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations. 

Top badass moment?  Who hasn’t at one time or another, secretly thought about going into work, trashing the place and abusing everyone? Okay… so just me then.  Anyway, the overlong scene where Jackie goes into work and does just that, is badass.

My Life With Morrissey at IMDB (3.9 / 10)

My Life With Morrissey at Wikipedia


Puberty Blues / A New Type of Hero


Puberty Blues  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Australian ReleasePanel vans, drive-ins, friendship rings & surfie beads.  The ultimate coming-of-age film “Puberty Blues” is back.  Based on the novel by the same name, written by the infamous Salami Sisters, namely Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, “Puberty Blues” traces the adventures of Debbie (Nell Schofield) and her life-long companion Sue (Jad Capelja).  Two teenagers are desperately trying to break into the “in” group who dominate Greenhill Beach.  Once they are accepted into the group, they realise that the laid-back, ultra-cool façade is just that: a glossy cover-up.  As they fall into all of the group’s vices, including drug-usage and casual sex, they willingly present themselves to the males of the group as virtual slaves, ready to serve their pre-chosen lover’s every need.  Soon though, the girls grow tired of playing the victim role, and they work to regain respect and equality.  From the Academy Award Winning Australian Director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”, “The Club”, “Barry McKenzie” & “Black Robe”), “Puberty Blues” is the ultimate Australian beach classic.

1981  –  Certificate: M  –  Australian Film
7.0 out of 10

As you should already know, I’ve recently become a fully fledged Pavement Warrior, in recognition of my bravery in standing up to greedy, urban footpath-hogging bastards.  Just because this is an entirely self-administered qualification, shouldn’t reduce its significance.  Indeed, as I’m the only Pavement Warrior in existence, it does in fact make the award all the more special.  As part of my walk to and from work, I have to pass the planet-sized Tesco store on the Oxford Road in Reading.  Behind the store is its car park, a car park so big that the other side of it is hidden by the curvature of the Earth.  I have little choice but to cross this expanse of tarmac on my journey, corner to corner.  Given its lack of surface features I need to navigate by compass; the tarmac interferes with GPS signals by destabilising the Earth’s magnetic field, as its metallic components combine with a thousand lost Smartphone signals to set up a sort of virtual Faraday Cage.  Many a time I’ve come across lost shoppers, wondering hopelessly amongst the endless rectangular parking bays, surviving on the remains of their shopping, desperate to locate their cars before they starve to death; (which is somewhat ironic given the nature of Tesco’s core business).  In winter I battle hurricane force winds and horizontal rain; whilst in summer baking hot temperatures and sunlight reflected from the ground, test me to my physical and mental limits.  Now, you know those films where heroes walk out to their aircraft, before flying off to almost certain death?  I’m thinking of “Battle of Britain” or Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”.  (Except in the “Battle of Britain” they always ran to their aircraft and they were genuine heroes, whilst Tom Cruise swaggered to his jet like the overpaid Hollywood actor he is.)  Well today in the Tesco car park I saw something very similar.  Two guys were slowly walking out across the barren tarmac, their hair blowing in the summer wind, dressed in their Tesco high-vis jackets.  They were going to their home delivery vans.  I knew they were about to go ‘out there’ alone, face unknown horrors*, deliver their payloads and if lucky, God willing, return safely again.  (*Such as ignorant home-shoppers who don’t even help them carry the bags from the vans to their kitchen tables, because they paid a few pounds for the privilege of having someone else do their shopping for them and expect to treat the delivery guys like their personal slaves for five minutes.)  As they started their engines and drove slowly out of sight, I felt quite humbled and I’m not ashamed to admit it bought a lump to my throat.  Home delivery drivers are the new heroes!  This film has two heroes of its own.

Made in 1981, this movie is a nearly random slice of life in what I guessed passed for teenage normality in Australia around that time in the sort of place it features.  This appeared to consist of thoughtless guys on surfboards who just put up with girls so they could have sex, (or root them as they tended to put it); and stupid young women who went along with this.  It has all the normal stuff you’d expect, late periods, drug overdoses, drinking too much, ‘condom problems’, parental confusion, an ‘in-crowd’, drive-ins, ‘growing-up’, etc.  This is an unusual film, in that it’s pretty boring but weirdly compelling too.  For some reason Debbie reminded me of Wayne Rooney.  (Facially at least; I doubt Rooney’s body looks like hers in a bikini.)

I hated the theme tune.  Strangely it fitted the move well, but it was a dreadful dirge of the worst kind.  However, I did rather like the version of Split Enz’s “Nobody Takes Me Seriously” that plays over the ‘climatic scene’ near the end of the movie.

Recommended for surfers, Australians, fans of Australian school uniforms (like they used to wear in “Neighbours”) and Wayne Rooney haters.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. A lovely black cat makes an appearance in a bedroom scene.  (No, not ‘that’ sort of bedroom scene).  It provides a master-class in how to lay on a bed and look cute.

Top badass moment?  After 77 minutes of film-time living in the gender stone-age, Debbie and Sue finally realise that they can be something more.  Overcoming a lifetime of stereotyping has got to hard-core badass.

Puberty Blues at IMDB (5.7 / 10)

Puberty Blues at Wikipedia


Freeze Frame / Pavement Wars


Freeze Frame  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseSean Veil (Lee Evans) is an ultra-paranoid murder suspect who films himself around the clock to provide an alibi, in case he’s ever accused of another crime.  When the police come calling to investigate a new murder, the one tape that can prove his innocence has mysteriously disappeared.  Past and present collide as Sean strives to prove his innocence of this and all the other crimes that have been laid at his door.  But the accusations and the tension mount and just when Sean thinks it’s all over, an unexpected twist finds him fighting for his life…

2004  –  Certificate: 15  –  UK/Irish Film
Rating Details: Strong violence and language
8.0 out of 10

A couple of months ago I started walking into work again, rather than driving.  Regularly walking the 2.4 miles each way has turned me into a hyper-fit super-being, but it’s not without its drawbacks.  Today I’d like to briefly consider the concept of Pavement Wars.  My journey includes a significant section along the Oxford Road in west Reading, where I find myself walking ‘against the tide’, as most people are going in the other direction and into town.  I’m used to the barbaric anarchy of rush-hour on the Tube, where a fallen body is considered nothing more than an annoying trip hazard; but I thought out on the open road (well pavement) of the Home Counties, things would be a little different.  I thought people would lift their hats in polite greetings as they passed one another, whilst exchanging a few words of small talk, about the weather or cricket scores perhaps?  Sadly it’s more like a pedestrianised version of Carmageddon, with the sort of manoeuvring that would lose a driver his or her license in a moment.  Seriously, it’s like a war zone out there and I’m not winning.  I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve been forced into walls, bollards and the road, in an effort not to get mowed down by others’ irresponsible walking.  But this guy is fighting back!  Last Thursday, my path was blocked by two women coming in the other direction.  Any decent human being, when walking next to a friend, would make sure they got out of the way if someone was coming in the opposite direction and the two of them were totally occupying the path.  But not these two.  And they both saw me coming along, I’m quite sure of that.  Did they expect me to step out into the road to let them pass, even though I had my back to the traffic?  Was I the innocent victim of bitchy office politics, which meant nether of them wanted to walk behind the other, in case this more submissive stance might have some bearing on an inter-departmental power-struggle?  Perhaps my “Do You Like Waffles?” t-shirt wasn’t scary enough?  Or were they just inconsiderate, stupid, thoughtless, brain-dead bimbos?  Who knows?  Whatever, this time there was going to be no hanging about waiting between the bollards for them to pass.  I braced myself for the inevitable impact, which happened just about here.  As we passed my arm briefly collided with the tall blonde’s.  I suppose with hindsight it was probably the most exciting sexual caress she’s had for ages, but to me it meant only one thing; at last, I was a true Pavement Warrior!  No longer will I cower in shop entrances, between bollards, behind bins or pavement furniture.  Reading take note; there’s a new kid on the block, a new kid who’s no longer gonna be pushed around by people who think the sidewalk owes them a living.  I’m ready for war.  Are they?  Given all that, it’s a shame I’m not about to consider a viewing of “Mad Max”.

In a thriller with more twists than a shop full of Curly Wurly bars (or an avenue of Corkscrew Willow if you prefer), comedian Lee Evans convincingly portrays a paranoid and socially inept guy (Sean) who films his every waking (and sleeping) moment.  Fortunately, we’re spared most of the more ‘intimate’ moments of his life, but  it does make for an original and interesting, although somewhat convoluted movie.  I’m a bit stupid so I’m pretty sure I didn’t manage to follow everything, but it was still a really good watch; (despite the overuse of blue filters and a tiny, non-anamorphic 2.35:1 picture).  So this probably means it’ll be a good watch next time too, as I still won’t know what’s going on; being an idiot does have its advantages.  I did feel sorry for Sean; putting up with dodgy TV reporters, useless and greedy psychologists, a whole population that thought he was a triple murderer and cops that ‘cross the line’, is enough to send anyone a bit round the bend.  The amount of plot twists in the last ten minutes are likely to send most viewers a bit round the bend too.  His ‘underground house’ was interesting though.

The soundtrack is exactly that.  There’re no dumb pop records put into the film to enable some sort of “as featured in” soundtrack to be released.  It’s just decent music added into scenes to make them better in that way that only music can.

Recommended for police detectives, the paranoid, the tabloid press, everyone who hates CCTV and any innocents who’ve ever been accused of murder.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitation.

Top badass moment?  In a film full of twists and turns, the fact that Sean managed to keep himself together enough to do what he needed to do, qualifies as badass.

Freeze Frame at IMDB (6.3 / 10)

Freeze Frame at Wikipedia


Exam / There Are Always Alternatives


Exam  -  Front Blu-ray Cover (UK Release)Eight candidates face the interview from hell.  Led into a windowless concrete bunker they are given eighty minutes to answer one simple question.  A question that will take each candidate to the very edge… and beyond, as they are forced to confront their deepest, darkest, most violent fears.  This nerve shredding thrill ride features a cast that includes Colin Salmon (“AvP”, “Die Another Day”), Jimi Mistry (“2012”), and Luke Mably (“28 Days Later”). Do you have what it takes to sit the “Exam”?

2010  –  Certificate: 15  –  UK
Rating Details: Strong language and one scene of torture
8.5 out of 10

About once a week I travel by train in the evening between Reading and London.  I use First Great (delusions of grandeur) Western’s non-stop service to/from London Paddington; takes about half an hour, there’s hardly ever a seat and it’s always cold.  When I come back afterwards, if I’m lucky, I get the chance to travel on one of its stopping services, which are much the same except they take nearer an hour, are colder and even more crowded.  It’s public transport for cattle, but it’s fast, (well except the stopping service).  Yesterday I went to see the awesome Random Hand at the Borderline in central London.  (An evening that included the observation by Robin the singer, that one side of the Wall of Death looked ready for action and the other like the end of a stag do; which I have to say was profoundly accurate.)  So I got to Reading Station, only to discover that the whole line into Paddington is closed over Easter, while Railtrack plays ‘train sets’ with it.  Three rail replacement bus services were being offered instead; noooooooooo!  However, Reading isn’t a transport ‘node’ for nothing.  Hidden away in the corner on the new platforms is the South West Trains direct service to London Waterloo.  I never take it, as it stops 16 times and dumps you in south London 82 minutes later.  (In fact under normal circumstances, it would actually be quicker to get the Paddington train and then travel on the Underground across London to Waterloo.) Putting my best Indiana Jones foot forward I decided to chance it and test out this hitherto, unexplored world.  I can now confirm that it does officially ‘take forever’ to reach London this way.  However, there was hardly anyone on the train (in either direction) and the carriages (which are pretty new) were actually quite warm.  It all felt quite civilised, rather like I image the Orient Express to be, minus the “Express” and “Orient” bits; and probably most of the rest too.  But all in all, it passed the test.   This movie is about a test too.

I hate exams.  Other people seem to breeze through them but I hate them.  This probably has something to do with my being very stupid and not knowing anything, although I used to blame it on the injustices of a system that rewards people with large, page-filling handwriting. With this in mind it’s hard for me not to consider this film a horror, by it’s really a thriller.  There are a few plot holes and other inconsistencies, but it’s otherwise a great study of a group of highly motivated people, who allow themselves to get spooked by stress and the environment they’re in.  I remember being on a ‘Training the Trainer’ training course many years ago and for some reason when all the shutters on the windows of the room we were in were closed, it had a similar effect.  This is an excellent film, made almost entirely in one room.  “Resilience is a key attribute in these dark times and if you can’t survive our selection process you won’t survive in the job.”  I must remember that for the next time I interview anyone at work, to put the candidates at their ease.

For a nice change this isn’t a film that’s a marketing exercise for a CD of tunes by loads of boring bands who have 15 second clips of their songs in it, who are also all strangely on a record label owned by the same company as the film.  This movie has a soundtrack that you won’t remember, but if it was taken away you’d notice.  It’s nicely done, tension-building stuff.  The one exception to this ‘invisibility’ is the song that part of sounds exactly like the beginning of “Twilight of the Innocents” by Ash.

Recommended for anyone who‘s involved in setting exams, interviewing or just likes to mess with peoples’ heads.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The Invigilator walks into the room, gives out the instructions for the exam to a group of highly qualified people and then leaves.  That’s badass.  I wish I could be that cool and self-assured.  If it was me, I’d have forgotten some of what I was meant to say, made some not funny comments, confused everyone and then left.

Exam at IMDB (6.8 / 10)


Dread / Getting Caught Up in a Police Chase, Very Slowly


Dread  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)Based on the acclaimed short story from Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood: Volume II”, “Dread” is a psychological thriller centered on three college students who study other people’s fears.  As the study unfolds, one of the students begins to seek salvation from his own obsessions by exploiting the terrors of his fellow participants.  Starring Jackson Rathbone (“Twilight Saga”, “S. Darko”) and Shaun Evans (“Telstar”, “The Take”).

2009  –  Certificate: 18  –  USA
Rating Details: Strong language, once very strong, and strong bloody violence
8 out of 10

Last Tuesday I had to go to a meeting, in central London.  I didn’t have to be there until 12:30, so I’d thought, great, that would give me a couple of hours to read the things I needed to go through, before taking a nice, comfortable trip (out of the rush-hour) on the train.  I switch on my computer at 8:15.  Nothing happened.  No sound like I’m in a wind-tunnel (thanks to the eight fans inside the case), no meaningless messages on the monitor, no rattling of the metal case (because I’m too lazy to do up the screws from when I last pulled it to bits).  No sound is not a good sign.  Using my brilliant Homes-like powers of deduction, I quickly deduced that the power unit has failed, again; it’s only been about two years since I last replaced it too.  (What is it with electronic things these days, does every-single one break-down after two years?)  No matter; that’s a quick, two-mile round trip to Maplins for a new one and back, nothing that £70 won’t put right; then I’ll quickly put it in and it’s all fixed before it’s even 9:00.  Now, Reading’s traffic system is ‘fragile’ at best.  So when someone decides to try to get away from the police, crashes and gets killed, it tends to bring the whole lot to a grinding halt.  I eventually got back home after 10:30; it had taken me two hours to drive less than three miles!  I did get to see the aforementioned ‘incident’ on the other carriageway as I, very, very slowly, drove past it, which despite the crash happening the night before, was still totally blocking the main route into Reading from the M4.  It’s not that I’m not unsympathetic.  The poor guy, just 19 years old, was being chased by six police cars (including an armed response team and dog-handlers), crashed, got thrown from the vehicle and then run over by one of the police cars chasing him.  I can only imagine he must have been an international terrorist, with an armed nuclear device and special powers that would somehow have enabled his clap-out Ford Fiesta to outrun any police vehicle, hence the need for such a response.  He wasn’t even a Muslin, or Black either, just some local lad who’d probably done something he shouldn’t’ve.  And now he’s lost his life, his family and friends are all devastated and one police officer has that on his conscience forever.  I guess that puts my broken power unit into prospective.  And I ended up having to stand on the train, in both directions.

The first 15 minutes of this film are a mess, as a desperate race against time takes place to introduce us to everyone and establish a back-story for them as quickly as possible.  There was no sign of Judge Dredd either!  Fortunately, things improved greatly after that.  I have to admit that this is an excellent, modern horror, which manages to capture some of the essence of what makes films like “Saw” work so well, as opposed to just featuring a series of gross ways to hurt people.  As the big ‘sticker’ in the middle of the cover proudly proclaims, it stars some guy who was in “Twilight”.   No matter that this blatant bit of marketing totally spoils the cover art, (not that it’s especially inspiring but, you know, it’s the principle).  Interestingly, one of the lead female characters has a huge birth mark, which I think is supposed to make us feel sorry for her.  Unfortunately, they picked such a beautiful actress to play the part that she just came across as looking exotic and still really hot.  Still, realism isn’t what I was watching it for; I’d had plenty of that in the traffic jam and it wasn’t fun or nice at all.  Needless to say, as a vegan, the scene with vegetarian Cheryl and the bit of beef was of particular enjoyment.  Will she or won’t she?  It was probably horse meat anyway.  If you can forgive its more irritating moments, this is a great horror and well worth watching, if you like that sort of stuff.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for masochistic vegetarians and the normal array of weirdos who get their kicks watching movies like this.

Top badass moment?  It’s pretty predictable and to be honest a bit weak in badass terms, but I suppose it’s Stephen going off to try to find Cheryl after she’d been kidnapped.  Not that it did either of them much good.  He’d had the hots for her for ages anyway.  I bet he wouldn’t have bothered if it had been someone else, me for example.

Dread at IMDB (5.7/10)


Chronicle: 3.5 Stars


Chronicle  -  Front Blu-ray CoverI did something last week that I never do these days; I met someone ‘for a drink’ ‘after work’, in a place called Wallingford.  Because I don’t ‘do’ friends this isn’t an activity that I find myself involved in very often.  Going ‘for a drink’ to me means consuming lots of alcohol, to maximise the possibly of my becoming an obnoxious, unpleasant and a generally horrible human being, so that I don’t get asked to ‘go for a drink’ again.  (If I ever did, I’ve long since forgotten how to behave in social situations, so this is how I deal with them these days, on the rare occasion they arise.)  Not wanting to drink and drive, I had to work out how to get there.  I could have gone on foot, but as Wallingford is probably a good two day’s walk from Reading, I decided this wasn’t very practical.  Wallingford doesn’t have a train station and taking a taxi would have meant I’d have had to have sold my body on the streets of Reading for months and months on end to earn enough for the fare; (probably years in fact).  As I didn’t have time for this either, I had to explore ‘other options’.  So imagine my amazement and pleasure when I discovered that the only alternative appeared to be a trip into space and the chance to be an astronaut, in a 50’s inspired spacecraft called the X40.  How fucking cool is that?!  I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so excited.  On Monday evening I turned up at launch pad EB near Reading Station.  Talk about disappointment, I felt like I’d found a $1,000,000 note, only to then be told it was from Zimbabwe and only worth £1.24. (This is the actual conversion rate as of today, I just checked.)  The X40 was a bus!  What a swizz!  I’m seriously thinking of taking the bus company to court with respect to false advertising.  The other passengers that boarded with me looked as miserable as I felt, so I expect they were all struggling with the same feelings I was.  This film features three people who, unlike me, really did get to fly.

2012  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA
Rating Details:  Bloody injury detail, strong violence and sustained threat

This is nicely made but somehow unsatisfying sci-fi film, about three ‘ordinary friends’ who end up with psychic powers that they then proceed to piss about with.  The special effects are great, the movie looks nice and to be fair the acting’s pretty decent too.   My main problem with it is that the three of them just weren’t very nice.  Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t inherently evil or anything, but they came across as caricatures of ‘young people’ rather than real ones.  They also behaved like they were about 13, not their real ages, (which I guess were meant to be around 17).  So I never really got to care what happened to them.  I need to be able to relate to the characters in the films I watch to fully engage with what they’re going through and in this case I just couldn’t.  Perhaps I’m just becoming a bitter old man, but that how it was.  It’s a great film in many ways, but my inability to give a damn for the three of them held me back.  The ‘journey’ from crappy home life to psychopathic loony that one of them goes through really didn’t work for me either.  Also, and maybe it’s because I’m a pervert, but if I had powers like them I’d want to use them to ‘rearrange’ ladies clothing; they do next to none of that, which really does undermine their ‘young person’ personas.  Having said all that, the scene in the toy shop is really very funny and so well acted it feels more like a documentary.  (As an ‘aside’, I want to apologise for my totally ‘over the top’ use of inverted commas here.  I’m writing this under the ‘influence’ of half a bottle of wine, so that’s my excuse.)

Recommended for immature adults everywhere; I guess that includes me then.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  Scaring little girls is so not cool, but if you’re going to do it anyway there’s not a lot that’s more badass that using a flying, talking teddy bear to do so, like in this film.  She’s probably going to grow up to be a psychopathic serial killer as a result of the damage this did to her psyche, but I doubt anyone would be able to prove the link so you’re probably safe from prosecution if you want to have a go too.

Chronicle at IMDB (7.1/10)


Love Liza: 3.0 Stars


Love Liza  -  Front DVD CoverWhen you drive from Reading towards Oxford, as you leave the town you pass a number of road signs proudly proclaiming you’re entering Oxfordshire,  the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, most importantly of all, that the speed limit is now 50mph.  After the slow 30mph climb out of Reading, with its 100s of speed cameras ready to catch the weary, the inattentive and the downright stupid, the sudden vista of trees and open fields, a straight road and all that ‘roadside furniture’ is enough to turn even the most mind-mannered driver into a Mad Max style petrol-head.  So imagine my pleasure recently, as when leaving the town along this very road, at the very moment of transition from high-tech military oppression to the anarchy of the countryside beyond, onto my car stereo came Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard”.  This is a great bit of ‘speeding up’ music.  However, the intro goes on for 27 seconds.  Even in a Ford Focus that’s a lot of acceleration time.  I was quite surprised when I looked down to see I was doing over 200mph.  That’s pretty impressive for a diesel.  This film also has a main character that talks a lot of bollocks but thinks he’s making sense.

2002  –  Certificate 15:  –  USA
Rating Details:  Language: Frequent, Strong.  Sex/Nudity: Infrequent Moderate References.  Violence: None.  Other: Substance Abuse.

I feel a bit guilty for not liking this drama / black comedy more.  I did try, but I just couldn’t get behind the ‘hero’ Wilson.  I know he was having a bad time, what with his wife’s suicide and all that, but he had plenty of friends, family and work colleagues who wanted to help him.  But what does he do?  Not open the letter his wife left for him and develop a somewhat unhealthy interest in sniffing petrol and (in his own words) “radio-control”.  For a successful winner like me, who’s never failed at anything in his entire life, it’s hard to see someone behaving quite so pathetically over such a small thing.  What a wimp.  Loser.  Anyway, don’t let me put you off watching this film, because it is pretty entertaining and the acting’s great too.  It’s just that I got a little too much pleasure out of seeing Wilson make a bit of a tool of himself once too often and then that made me feel guilty.  I didn’t really get to feel his pain, you know what I mean?

Recommended for radio-controlled boat and plane enthusiasts.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  In a film filled with flawed, somewhat sad individuals, where no one really ‘rises to the challenge’, this is not an easy thing to do.  So rather than bother I’ve decided that anyone who flies radio-controlled aeroplanes is badass.  For a hobby that’s easy for everyone else to ridicule, (it’s only one step above train-spotting in my mind), who hasn’t secretly wanted to have a go at it anyway?  Pursuing your interests when the rest of the world thinks you’re just a stupid kid who won’t grow up, is badass.  It’s just jealousy you know. 

Love Liza at IMDB (6.8)


Monochrome Set Reform. Awesome! (And Other Stuff)


Travel and comedy news first.  I went to Milton Keynes by train today, to meet someone who works for Network Rail.  You have to admit there’s a certain symmetry in that.  On the way back I travelled with my boss as far as London.  We were discussing the attributes of e-mail; my suggestion that my boss gets his family to e-mail him when they want him for anything when he’s at home, thus ensuring they don’t get forgotten about and he can do more work at the same time when they don’t need him, certainly amused the man sitting opposite us!  (You probably needed to be there.)

In financial news today, I’ve just had to spend £243.80 on a new pair of Shure SE530 headphones, as for some reason one of the earphones on my existing pair has apparently sneaked off and got itself a part in a slasher film and has now been almost totally decapitated.  Strangely, the fact that it’s now hanging on only by the thinnest strand of exposed copper wire doesn’t seem to have done the sound quality any harm.  Humm, pairing up probably the world’s best in-ear headphones with plenty of crappy 128bit mps3 files ripped from dodgy old 7” singles perhaps isn’t the most sensible idea I’ve ever had; it’s like dropping a GE90-115B (the world’s most powerful jet engine) into a Smart Car, and then making it drive around Reading in the rush hour.  Equally stupidly, I now face another few months of poverty as a result of this unexpected purchase.

Finally, in music news.  In 1979, my favourite four bands in the world were the Undertones, the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers and the Monochrome Set.  The Monochrome Set have now reformed, thus giving me the opportunity to actually see the four best bands in the world (in 1979) 31 years later.  This is good news. It’s probably on a par with the invention of, em, something really very good.  I probably ought to sound more exciting; trust me, I’m celebrating on the inside.

Right now I’m listing to “Wide Open” by Reset.