Posts tagged “Star Trek

Old Computer Games: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy


Star Trek  -  Starfleet Academy  -  Front Game Cover

It’s a tragedy when old things don’t work anymore.  Actually that’s not really true, as a lot of old things are rubbish.  But some old things are good.  I started ‘seriously’ playing computer games in the late 90s.  Well to be honest, calling myself a “serious gamer” is probably building up my status rather more than is strictly accurate, but I did like to play one or two online.  Mostly I frustrated people on the same side as me in team-matches, with my inability to shoot even the weediest, largest, slow-moving targets, whilst simultaneously being loved by anyone who faced off against me in a death-match.  Running away as fast as possible tended to be my tactic of choice.  This had the advantage of being unexpected by my opponents, which helped to both extend my lifespan and annoy the hell out of them at the same time too, although pissing off a bloodthirsty killer who’s already out to try and murder you probably isn’t the greatest idea in the world; but then again, what did I have to loose?  Many of these games I’ve haven’t played for years and years (and some I’ve never actually got around to playing), so over Christmas I thought I’d get a few out and see if they still worked.  Most of them are Star Trek themed ones; a lot of these got released around the turn of the century and there’s an interesting story behind most of them.

I tried eight in all, but only three would install and run properly.  The other five either wouldn’t run, crashed very early on, or wouldn’t run well enough to make them fun to play.  There’s no enjoyment to be had from trying to help Commander Riker from the Starship Enterprise investigate a damaged space station, when the graphics make it look like someone’s been sick all over everything after eating a banana-based blancmange.

The most frustrating was “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy”, which allowed me to complete a number of missions before reaching a particularly long and fiddly one against the Venturi (with no in-mission save option) which, however well I did it, I was always informed at the end that I’d allowed my ship to be destroyed.  What?  How did Commandant Rotherot think I got back home?  Swim or flap my arms and fly many light-years through the vacuum of space?  The man’s an idiot.  I even hailed him from my ship (I was its captain you know) when I got back to the starbase to tell him I’d completed the mission, so all he had to do was look out of the window to see my ship and crew were safe.  He wasn’t the least bit sympathetic either; no support, no discussion, nothing.  What a useless teacher he is.  He may be in charge of Starfleet Academy but he’s obviously just a stupid pencil-pusher who hasn’t a clue how to motivate students.  “Your score is inadequate. You’ll have to repeat the mission.”  Seriously dude, that’s not in the least bit helpful to me.  He’s pretty well ruined my self-confidence now.  After having the same conversation with him three times I got so pissed off that I tried to shoot at the starbase itself, but that just invoked an even more scathing rebuttal from him.  I really did feel like I was back at school; then again, I suppose shooting at your own base isn’t exactly the most grown-up thing I could have done.  I’m probably lucky I didn’t get expelled.

I think the solution to this problem and many of the others, is to get hold of an old Windows 98 computer and install them on that instead.  That’ll show the idiot that I really am starship captain material!  (I am, I really do believe that.)

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy at IMDB (8.1 / 10)
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy at Wikipedia
Review 1
Review 2


Frontier Blues / Begging for Money


Frontier Blues  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

In this debut feature written and directed by Iranian born Babak Jalali, “Frontier Blues” features four, intertwined stories all set in Iran’s northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs. Featuring non-professional actors from the northern region of Iran, Jalali’s film looks at fragments of the everyday existence of a varied collection of characters from the region.

2009 –  Certificate: 12  –  Iranian Film
Rating Details: One use of strong language and a moderate sex reference
7.0 out of 10

Although I frequently do nothing at work for weeks at a time (except procrastinate), I occasionally have to do something. This is normally something which I can’t delegate downwards or pass the buck upwards.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I had to complete a funding application.  I’d known it’d need doing for the last month or so, but it was only yesterday that I did much about it, as it had a 17:00 deadline.  I’d had a quick look at it the day before and decided that it wasn’t a lot of work; why I believe myself when I think something like that I’ll never know, but somehow I always do.  So yesterday I found myself having to do some real work for a change.  Now, there are people who actually do this sort of thing as their full time job and some of them actually seem to enjoy it.  I lack the intelligence, focus and strength of character to be like that.  I see it as a necessary evil that allows me to lead the decadent lifestyle that I do.  No one should be forced to write funding applications; it’s only one step up from begging in the street.  Like writing poetry or songs, funding bids come from the heart; they’re not something that can be forced out of someone.  In my case they’re dragged screaming and kicking from my very soul, before being nakedly spread-eagled across the page for all to gawp at, pointing and laughing as they do so, as if I was exposing a very private part of me, which in a way I am.  Being forced to write a funding bid is like being forced to love someone.  Of course I enjoy getting that follow up letter that contains the word “congratulations”, but most of the time they just say “I’m sorry to inform you”.  Writing funding bids is like asking someone out, and I’m crap at that too.  (You work yourself up for ages to do it and then it all comes out wrong.)  I’m just not thick skinned enough to take the rejection and it sends me into a subconscious mire of desolation and self-loathing.  I still haven’t got over asking Debbie Warby out in 1977 and getting turned down; I only wanted to go and see “Star Wars” too.  I never did see it at the cinema; no wonder I prefer “Star Trek”.  So anyway, I got it done yesterday and what a beautiful creation it was; really, it should’ve been on display in a gallery, not stuffed into a brown envelope.  After a 100mph death-defying drive, (it wasn’t far to go and I had an hour or so to get there, but I’d drunk far too much coffee), I got to hand it in before the deadline.  I got a call about two hours later from the fund’s administrator, asking if I could e-mail her a copy, as she was having to scan all the applications and she’d been “inundated” with them and would be at work for hours doing them, so it would save her time.  Inundated.  Inundated!  It’s like asking girls out again; a futile exercise that ends in humiliation and a feeling of abject failure.  A woman gets asked out in this movie; that ends in abject failure too.

So this was a chance to watch my entire collection of Iranian films… all one of them. Not sure what I was expecting really, probably just some propaganda to do with nuclear bombs, oppressed women who choose to wear a burqa and jihadist wars.  There isn’t anything else there is there, other than sand and oil… and camels probably?  Well, that’s what it says in the papers, so it must be true.  Okay, I don’t really believe any of that nonsense, but I was surprised by what I did see.  In fact it took me a while to get over my preconceptions and begin to appreciate what this film actually was, which made me feel a bit guilty; I really was under the impression that it would be sort of worthy, but a bit amateurish and boring.  In fact this is a black comedy, which pokes fun at itself and Iran’s own, internal preconceptions about itself.  It’s true to say that not a lot happens for most of the film and there aren’t a great many spaceships, aliens or explosions in it.  It’s simply a snapshot of the lives of four people that to some extent are interconnected.  At first I did find it a bit boring, but when I finally worked out what I was watching it got a lot more interesting.  It was almost as if I felt guilty about finding the discomfort of the characters funny, which is a bit sad really.  The picture quality isn’t always the best, which is a bit frustrating as the scenery is really worth seeing.  It’s also quite slow and nothing happens quickly; and in a cultural way there are a few things that just don’t sit comfortably for many westerners too.  However, the majority of it is good stuff and I really rather enjoyed it.

The music used in the film is sparse and haunting. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own but as a soundtrack it’s great and adds to the atmosphere a lot.  We also get treated to a bit of what sounds like Marlene Dietrich, but I could be wrong.

Movie Weather Forecast. I’ve still not started doing this properly, but it was dry and mostly sunny, with some blustery wind at times.

For stupid people like me, the trailer makes the tone of the film a bit clearer.

Recommend for wrestlers, photographers and anyone who works on a chicken farm.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  I like tea.  I drink a lot of tea.  I like coffee but I like tea more.  In this film the characters drink tea.  They drink a lot of tea.  In fact I suspect that it’s a subtle joke about how much tea people in Iran do drink.  I thought all they did there was build nuclear bombs and hate on the West, but actually they drink a lot of tea and have a sense of humour that I can relate to.  That’s cool, because most of the people I actually know don’t understand it.  I’m a Brit so tea is automatically badass and badass in a way coffee will never be.  In fact it’s the most badass of drinks; except perhaps cider.

Frontier Blues at IMDB (6.7 / 10)


Laura / Wow! How to be a Great People Manager


Laura  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

The sensually provocative images of internationally acclaimed photographer David Hamilton again move and breathe in Laura. A delicate journey through innocence, beauty and sensuality involving a 16 year old ballet dancer who falls in love with her mother’s former lover, a 40 year old sculptor. A classic cinematic treatment of mother-daughter competition and the first stirrings of sexuality.  With utmost taste and talent, Hamilton presents the gratification of budding womanhood.

1979 –  Certificate: 18  –  French Film
5.0 out of 10

For reasons that mostly baffle me but probably point to a severe breakdown in the decision-making process somewhere, I’m trusted with the management of nine people at work, plus another two or three that are ‘incoming’. I’ve never received much in the way of training to accomplish this, but I do my best.  I try to work them all to within an inch of their lives, make them feel worthless and in awe of me, blame them when something goes wrong and take the credit when something goes well.  I provide them with impossible deadlines and grass them up to more senior people when they fail to meet them.  I invent or overcomplicate existing procedures, to make their lives as difficult as possible.  My managerial catch-phrase is, “if you don’t like it you can leave”.  In fact the only book on management I’ve ever read is “The Art of Demotivation”.  I’d heartily recommend this to anyone who manages staff.  I keep my well-thumbed copy by my desk at all times.  Despite my obvious lack of emotional intelligence, in a strange way I consider these ‘resource units’ as my family.  (In that sense I care for them deeply, in the same way that Captain Janeway on the Starship Voyager cared for her crew, but still managed to nearly get them killed most weeks.)  Consequently, I get very distressed when any of them decide to fly the nest or take maternity leave.  (Mainly because of the extra hassle it’s going to cause me.)  In the next couple of months I have to recruit three or four new members of staff.  From experience, I’m pretty sure that interviewing is about as close as a man can get to giving birth.  The only difference is that we interview during office hours to a sensible timetable that minimises the disruption it causes.  It is however a painful experience, in which you deal with things as best you can, when all you really want to do is scream and moan about how long it’s all taking, as you wait for the candidate(s) to come into the room so to speak.  And my top tips for interviewing?  Always have the interview panel with the light behind its back.  I find it helps to put interviewees at ease if you silhouette yourselves.  I also find that starting off interviews with the question, “what’s the worst question we could ask you today?” often helps to put candidates at ease too.  If I don’t see tears by the end, I know I’m facing a tough son-of-a-bitch, who might one day challenge my Alpha Male status, an attribute that at work we call Wow; strangely, these people always score really poorly and consequently never get appointed.  There’s nothing Wow about this film either.

David Hamilton made a few films like this and they’re all crap. This is probably because I know nothing about art and can never relate to anything or anyone in them.  And I hate the ‘soft focus’ (i.e. out of focus) photography that always seems to get used too, so it’s not just the people, plots and places I don’t get.  I guess if I was cultured enough I’d think this movie was a cinegraphic masterpiece that “presents the gratification of budding womanhood” and unrequited love, rather than some child porn dressed up as art.  But what do I know?  I’m probably just an ignorant, Mail-reading Brit, who thinks anything foreign is rubbish (unless it’s American or curry).  I guess if I go out and kill someone on purpose, as long as I do it tastefully it’s art, not murder.  Having said that, there is a story of sorts (a somewhat pervy love triangle) and a bit of action when something catches fire.  There’s also some ‘fun’ with weed-killer too.  (It’s a good example of what happens when you don’t store and use chemicals correctly.)  I guess if you can work around all its technical and plot foibles, then you could get something positive out of it.  (It’s not unlike a trashy B-movie in that respect.)

The soundtrack is mainly plinky-plonky ‘emotional’ piano or dated prog rock. It’s not something I’d miss if it was somehow erased for existence by time-travelling, intergalactic film critics.

Trailer. Well if there is one I couldn’t find it.  Yes, the Internet has let me down.  The best I managed to locate were some clips, so I’ve picked out an especially action-packed one for here.

Recommended for sculptors, dancers and anyone with a very open mind.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? I guess it’s another reason for me to be sent to Hell, but Paul (40) manages to get off with Laura (15).  It’s not that I approve or would want to be in his place; it’s just that he could, which makes it badass, although mostly just bad.  What’s he got that I haven’t?  Other than he’s good looking, French, talented, sexy and (in these post-Saville times) “a sinister pervert who used his fame to get close to young women and girls”.  No wait, that’s Rolf Harris.

Laura at IMDB (6.0 / 10)
Laura at Wikipedia
Laura clip at YouTube


I Know What You Did Last Summer / Star Trek Novels


I Know What You Did Last Summer  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Uk Release

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.)

I Know What You Did Last Summer at IMDB (5.6/10)
I Know What You Did Last Summer at Wikipedia
I Know What You Did Last Summer at Roger Ebert (1.0/4)
I Know What You Did Last Summer trailer at YouTube


Lars and the Real Girl / Doing Less Than Nothing


Lars and the Real Girl  -  Front DVD cover  -  US Release

Sometimes you find love where you’d least expect it.  Just ask Lars (Academy Award Nominee Ryan Gosling), a sweet but quirky guy who thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams in a life-sized doll named Bianca.  Lars is completely content with his artificial girlfriend, but when he develops feelings for Margo, an attractive co-worker, Lars finds himself lost in a hilariously unique love triangle, hoping to somehow discover the real meaning of true love.  You’ll be swept off your feet by “Lars and the Real Girl”, hailed as “One of the Year’s 10 Best” by The Associated Press.

2007  –  Certificate: PG-13  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Some Sex-Related Content
8.0 out of 10

I’m on something called Annual Leave at the moment.  This is a strange, but rather welcome concept through which I get paid my salary to do sod all.  In fact for the last two days I’ve done even less than that and in doing so have actually discovered a new physics, which I’ve decided to call “Anti-nothing”.  This is a weird, quantum effect wherein you can actually do less than nothing at all.  It’s pretty scary stuff too.  It’s only through washing my sleeping bag at one point that I avoided crossing over the non-event horizon and falling into some sort of parallel dimension where no one does anything ever.  I’ve never been there myself, although I think I’ve met a few people who have.  Doing nothing has given me the time to enjoy the view out of my window a little more than usual.  I’ve notice a huge, bright orange building that has suddenly spring up amongst the trees that I’ve never seen before.  There’re also a couple of cars in the car park that have had most of their windows smashed in, which are accompanied by a number of dented panels.  I’ve no idea what the story is behind them, but they’ve been sitting there, neatly parked, side by side for several days now, and resemble a couple that have had a row and now aren’t speaking to one another.  Whoever owns then hasn’t even bothered to sweep up the glass or block up the holes.  Weird.  I’ve also observed the police dealing with who I imagine is my local drug dealer.  They spent ages searching him and his car yesterday morning; I watched all the action through my binoculars.  The good thing is that the car has gone now, because it’s been frequently and annoying parked just where I turn in.  There’s never a dull moment around here!  This movie has none of these exciting things in it, yet it’s still very entertaining.

This is basically a comedy-drama about a guy who buys a blow-up sex doll to have as his girlfriend.  Now I’ll readily admit that I’m not an expert in such ‘things’, but I’m willing to bet that most who are don’t take them outside to meet other people very often.  Although we live in relatively enlightened times, I’m not sure the world is quite ready for ‘significant others’ down the pub, at the shops or in the cinema, who are made of silicon and rubber and have lifelike ‘bits’ under their clothes.   It’s probably acceptable in the Star Trek version of the far future and in Japan right now, but for the rest of us it’s a bit of a social faux pas.  But this film sees Ryan Gosling doing exactly that.  This would all seem to suggest that this movie’s going to be full of smutty innuendo and body-function-based humour.  Actually it’s nothing like that at all.  It’s much more of a study of how one individual starts to recover from a life-long difficulty in relating to people.  Yes it is very funny at times, but it’s also quite moving too.  I really like Ryan Gosling and he seems to totally nail the part in this film.  The plot does start to stretch the boundaries of realism, especially towards the end, but it’s well written, acted and made.  Kelli Garner is very cute too.  An original, well-observed and great film.  It’s got one of the worst titles ever though.

The soundtrack is fine for what it is, but isn’t very memorable.

The trailer makes this movie seem more of a comedy than it really is.  It probably has most of the best jokes in it.

Recommended for people who work in builders’ merchants, mums-to-be, parents that want to have to explain what a “Living Doll” is to their offspring whilst watching the movie, and anyone who works in an office with people who clutter their desks with toys.  (I despair at some of my own colleagues, who stick lumps of brightly coloured fur-with-eyes to their monitors and clutter their work spaces with animal-based, plastic fripperies and desk tidies full of virtually unusable and hideously ugly pens.)

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  In the same way as I’ve never met anyone who’s admitted to voting for UKIP, I’ve never met anyone who’s admitted to using a blow-up sex doll. However, given the number of votes and sales associated with both, I probably have unknowingly met quite a few.  So it’s a pretty badass thing to take your blow-up girlfriend out and about with you, especially if you start to have conversations with her in public too.  (I’m not so sure voting for UKIP is though.)

Lars and the Real Girl at IMDB (7.4/10)
Lars and the Real Girl at Wikipedia
Lars and the Real Girl at Roger Ebert (3.5/4)
Lars and the Real Girl trailer at YouTube


Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan / Cinematic Perfection


Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release Box SetFeeling that the future holds nothing close to what the past once did, Admiral James T. Kirk begins to believe that galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young.  Yet on a routine inspection of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Kirk’s Starfleet career enters a new chapter as a result of his most vengeful nemesis: Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically enhanced conqueror from late 20th-century Earth.  Escaping his forgotten prison, Khan sets his sights on both capturing Project Genesis, a device of god-like power, and the utter destruction of Kirk.

1982  –  Certificate 12  –  American Film
10.0 out of 10.0

Yesterday was Wednesday; time for another trip to the dentist.  My dentist (who for some reason reminds me more and more of a vampire each time I see him), seemed in a slightly better mood this week; (I guess he must have had a good feed of virgin’s blood or something).  He still didn’t want to remove my misbehaving wisdom tooth though.  Instead he gave me even more antibiotics.  In this film Khan says to Kirk, “I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral.  I’ve hurt you.  And I wish to go on hurting you.”  This time my dentist gave my antibiotics that I’m not supposed to drink alcohol with.  I’m pretty sure I know how Kirk felt about Khan at that moment.  I think my dentist might be into my “utter destruction” too.  It’s just a feeling I have.

When people ask me what my favourite film of all time is, I often say this one. The best sequel ever, I’ve watched it 1,000s of times (poetic licence okay) and can probably quote most of the dialogue, but I still love watching it again.  And I’m probably about to gush a load of insufferable, embarrassing and slightly degrading stuff about it and how it’s affected my life, but I don’t care.  If this movie hadn’t become the success it was, it’s quite likely there’d have been no more Star Trek and basically life as we all know it would be futile and virtually meaningless.  Star Trek gives us meaning and purpose, and this film is probably as close as any of us will get to perfection.  From the awesome first scene, where most of the regular crew appear to get killed, until the final one where someone really does, it’s just one, long, cinematic orgasm.  It’s the sort of film the Borg would enjoy in its search for perfection.  The fact that it was revisited for “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (which was also an amazing movie) just goes to prove how good it really is.  It’s got a great villain and a great (if slightly clumsy looking) space battle in it too.  Made over 30 years old, it’s theme of getting old has become more and more relevant to me with each viewing, as they characters in it haven’t aged a bit but I have; I guess it wasn’t such a big deal when it was first released when I was 19.  I use so, so many out of context quotes from this film in my day-to-day life.  Indeed, I think I’ve probably arranged my life to better fit the film, entirely for this purpose.  So, for example, when I drive about in my car I secretly, (or not so secretly if I’ve got a passenger with me who I don’t feel will think I’ve lost it), when I go from one area to another, ‘borrow’ from Sulu’s words during the Kobayashi Maru scene and say something a bit like, “exiting the Berkshire sector, for the Hampshire sector”.  (Yes, I really do that; in fact it’s become such a habit that I have to actively stop myself doing it if I don’t want to weird anyone out too much.)  When I do my budget forecasts at work I often think that I’m facing my very own Kobayashi Maru test and then find myself quoting Sulu again, “We’re not going to make it, are we?”  In fact my whole life is a “no win scenario”.  And as someone who used to do something quite similar to “exploring strange new worlds” and “galloping around the cosmos”, but is now stuck behind a desk delivering the occasional bit of training, I can totally relate to Kirk when he says the latter “is a game for the young”.  If it didn’t mean I had to go outside when it was cold and wet, I’d follow McCoy’s advice; “Get back your command. Get it back before you really do grow old.”  Sadly I’ve never had anyone say anything like “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material” to me.  I guess that means I was as rubbish at what I used to do as what I do now.  Shame really.  I guess I’ll have to steal one of our minibuses from work, go back in time and save the Dodo or something like that; which seems strangely apt.  (But that’s another tale for another Star Trek film.)  And the list goes on and on.  Sad, isn’t it?  And as for the overall story arc of starting the day with a routine bit of work and ending it literally saving the universe from an evil genius with a terrifying weapon; well, that’s not as unusual for me as it might seem.

Is there’s a bigger gap anywhere between a great film and a diabolically bad trailer?  I don’t think so.  OMG, it’s bad!  (Note for young people:  That’s “bad” as in actually bad, not “bad” as in wicked, sick, hot, etc.)

Not only is this film almost perfect, it’s also got an amazing soundtrack; I even bought it on CD and I hardly ever do that.  There’s a bit of music which is used when the Enterprise is first seen in dry dock just prior to launch.  Whenever I’ve start anything epic in my life (which is exceedingly rare), or driven a new vehicle for the first time (also exceedingly rare), that bit of music is my soundtrack to the event.  Imagine the lights coming on, the music booming out and try it yourself, it really works!  (Incidentally, I’ve never really understood why Kirk looks so uncomfortable in this scene.  Whatever Saavik says or does, it’s Sulu that’s actually ‘driving’, so I can’t imagine for a moment he’s just going to go ahead and crash into something if she makes a mistake.)

Recommended for everyone.  Seriously, if you don’t like this film you really need to go see a doctor.

No cats, chainsaws of decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Can I say the whole film?  I guess not, so I’m going to select Kirk’s reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test so he could beat it.  Is that not the ultimate in thinking outside the box?  (You could set up an entire and very lucrative, senior management training programme around that one.)  It’s just a shame it’s not possible to do it to real-life.  I’d have my Aston Martin by now if it was.  It’s still totally badass though.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan at IMDB (7.8 / 10)
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan at Wikipedia
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan at Roger Ebert (3.0/4.0)
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan trailer at You Tube (the original one)
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan trailer at You Tube (a better one)


Alone in the Dark / Working for Fighter Command


Alone in the Dark  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseEdward Carnby (Christian Slater) is a private investigator specializing in unexplainable supernatural phenomena.  His cases delve into the dark corners of the world, searching for truth in the occult remnants of ancient civilizations.  Now, the greatest mystery of his past is about to become the most dangerous case he has ever faced.  With the help of his ex-girlfriend, archaeologist Aline Cedrac (Tara Reid), and his bitter rival, government agent Richard Burke (Stephen Dorff), Edward is about to learn that just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it cannot kill you!

2005  –  Certificate Not Rated  –  German/Canadian Film
4.0 out of 10

I hate this time of year.  It’s not just the fact that all the good bits of the winter are over and it’s still months until the summer; or the fact that I’ve got no money as I squandered it over the Christmas period; or even that there’s hardly ever any decent gigs to go to.  No, it’s also the time of year when everyone I care for dies and my relationships always end.  On top of all this, it’s when we write our Financial Plan at work too.  The latter is less a mathematical exercise and more a futile attempt to predict the future; (and the scale of my successes in the National Lottery over the past 20 years nicely demonstrates how well my precognitive abilities have been developed).  The process bares all the hallmarks of Fighter Command at the height of the Battle of Britain, wondering where the next plane or pilot is going to come from, as its fully committed assets are quickly depleted.  The consequences of all this is that it generally feels like we’re looking into a dark, bottomless abyss, as the world as we know it ends.  (Although on the up side, we are still here after nearly 55 years).  More to the point, I have to spend this afternoon and evening working, because I’ve been told to move loads of numbers about in mine; I’m not sure why, they won’t get any bigger however many times I move them.  This film is also about the end of the world as we know it.

Other than all the things and people I hate, despise or loathe, I like to think of myself as a pretty easy-going, laid-back, tolerant guy.  But even I have my limits and this film has just reached one.  What makes things worse is that it could have been really good.  The story’s fine (it’s based on a computer game), the effects are decent enough (the gun-shot one borders on impressive) and even I’ve heard of its three, principal actors.  Christian Slater was the Communications Officer on the Excelsior for goodness sake; it’s not the most challenging bridge job around that’s true, but it was on Captain Sulu’s ship so that must count for something.  And Tara Reid, the Choir Chick from “American Pie”, gets given some glasses to wear, so she can look intelligent and thus play the part of an archaeologist.  The chase scene, (once we’ve got over the longest “Star Wars” like preamble in cinematic history), is actually pretty good too.  Unfortunately, the characters are so poorly written that the Oxford English Dictionary is considering using them as part of its official definition of one-dimensional.  The Alpha Male rivalry between Richard Burke and Edward Carnby is a key plot element.  (Edward used to work with Richard, so consequently they scowl at one another a lot.)  It’s probably fair to say they don’t get on, aren’t each others’ friends on Facebook and don’t send one another Christmas cards, not even e-cards.  Then, in the middle of a big battle Edward shoots a ‘bad guy’ who’s coming up behind Richard.  The latter gives Edward a brief nod of gratitude.   This incident is never acknowledged or further developed, but from then on they’re instantly the best of buddies.  Is that what it takes to remove years of personal animosity?  Maybe I’ve entirely missed some sort of gay subplot, which would explain a great many things, as well as why Edward and Aline are ex-lovers. The whole film is littered with a garbage script and stereotypical characters that act in nonsensical ways.  I especially enjoyed the Abkani (they’re the bad guys) charging towards some soldiers and then basically stopping a few metres in front of them to growl and throw their limbs around a lot, thus allowing the latter to blast away at them for ages and ages; not that the sight of thousands of rounds of ammunition fired at point blank range not seeming to have much of an effect, puts them off trying.  When I see a movie like this I want to really believe the world is about to end, not keep glancing at the clock to see how long I’ve been watching it for.  So basically it’s great, except for the characters and everything they say or do…

It has a Scandinavian, heavy metal soundtrack.  Nightwish aside, this tells you a lot.  Listen up.  Heavy metal (and all its sub-genera) should never be used for any film with a budget of over $500,000, ever.  It’s just not right.

The trailer’s like the rest of the movie; it seems to promise lots but contains nothing.

Recommended for archaeologists, private investigators, ‘Government agents’ and anyone who wears glasses to look intelligent.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  At one point Steven Dorff throws a bit of a wobbly.  He picks up a few bits of paper (probably the script), scans them briefly and then pushes over a table and screams out, “My guys are dying out there for nothing; for fucking nothing!”  Seeing an actor demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence by empathising with the audience whilst also staying in character, just has to be badass.

Alone in the Dark at IMDB (2.3 / 10)
Alone in the Dark at Wikipedia
Alone in the Dark at YouTube

No trailer I’m afraid, thanks to YouTube blocking the video.  Liongate clearly doesn’t want anyone to find out about this film!


Deterrence / Fun With Laptops and Phone Lines


Deterrence  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Dutch ReleaseIn the year 2008, U.S. President Walter Emerson (Kevin Pollak), who recently took office after the death of the former chief executive, is campaigning for re-election.  After winning the Colorado state primary, Emerson finds himself stranded in a roadside diner after a freak snowstorm.  While the president exchanges pleasantries with the diner’s staff and customers, a new bulletin appears on TV: Udei Hussein, son of the late Saddam Hussein, has invaded Kuwait and butchered several hundred U.S. peace-keeping troops.  Outraged, the president announces that if Hussein and his forces do not withdraw and officially surrender, he will begin dropping nuclear weapons on Baghdad.  However, Iraq responds that if they are attacked, 23 cities in the United States and allied nations will be immediately destroyed in a counterattack.  Emerson, his advisors, and the others trapped in the diner with them debate long and loud about what to do, and what the potential consequences could be.

1999  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  French / American Film
8.5 out of 10

A few weeks ago I wrote about my work laptop having a few ‘issues’.  Work-related stress, cruel and heartless management and a failure to ‘work smarter and not harder’, had reduced it to an untidy pile of nearly useless components unable to do the simplest things, other than make up excuses for not having done them. (Oh wait, that’s just me.)  Over the past week or so, to coincide with moving our office, trying to sort out the old one and get the new one in a state to be used as anything more than a second-hand furniture shop, I’ve had ‘The Man From Dell’ visit no less than four times, in an attempt to fix my laptop’s problems.  However, I’m now the proud owner of what looks like a new computer; although it’s been totally pulled to bits so many times and so many parts have been replaced, that I’m not sure it even recognises itself now.  More importantly, it actually works.  I really enjoyed downloaded the four million or so e-mails that have piled up for me over the past couple of weeks, many of which are increasingly angry ones from people demanding that I do this, that and the other by yesterday.  I doubt they’ll care that moving office takes a bit of effort, my laptop’s gone mental, my mobile phone went into hiding and the new office looks like Engineering on the Enterprise after a particularly bad day dealing with Klingons.  They’ll just think I’m a lazy, work-shy imbecile, who can’t be arsed to make an effort; trouble is, they’re probably right.  In related news, ‘The Man From BT’ was also in today, to put in two basic phone lines.  Quite why this took him (and a colleague) most of the day, I’m not sure.  We’re in the centre of the town, there’re landlines and junction boxes everywhere.  Unlike BT and myself, the President in this film manages to ‘get things done’, even though he’s stranded in a cafe with just a few phone lines and a TV, as he organises universal Armageddon faster than BT can get a telephone to work.

Despite all its plot holes and general dumbness, this is actually a really clever and tense political thriller.  A number of its assumptions have since proved to be quite prophetic too.  Its clever use of stock footage of American Presidents playing at “Team America: World Police” and TV coverage of the developing crisis, works very well.  I wasn’t entirely sure if it was making a point about war being bad or necessary; or that American presidents have too much power or a responsibility to use that power.  However, there is something very chilling about seeing someone ordering a nuclear attack on another country.  It was also rather depressing to see how little value was placed by the Americans on the lives of its enemies and allies alike.  (If it wasn’t for us, they’d still be riding around firing bows and arrows at one another.)  I can’t really say much more as knowing about the plot would spoil things, but I’d certainly recommend watching it.  It’ll give you lots to talk about afterwards too.

The soundtrack is good example of understated music making a big difference to the feel of the film.  Good job.

Recommended for Special Agents, dictators and anyone caught in a snowstorm or who works in a cafe.  Definitely not recommend for American Presidents.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The American President ordering a nuclear attack is about as badass as you can get.  Shame it’s not a good type of badass.  I wouldn’t like to piss him off though.

Deterrence at IMDB (6.4 / 10)

Deterrence at Wikipedia

Deterrence at YouTube


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


Death Wish 4: The Crackdown / Soft Drink Shortage Hits Cactus World


Death Wish 4: The Crackdown  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseThe streets are filled with death and destruction.  Ruthless drug traffickers prey upon the poor, the lonely, the helpless.  LA is a city desperate for deliverance… until now!  Charles Bronson returns as Paul Kersey, the original urban vigilante and one-man demolition force in this pulse-pounding, take-no-prisoners thriller!  Two rival drug gangs have a death-grip on LA’s battle-torn inner city.  But their brutal reign of terror is about to come to a violent end.  One man is out to avenge the cocaine-induced death of his girlfriend’s teenage daughter.  His name is Paul Kersey – and he’s armed, dangerous… and mad as hell!

1987  –  Certificate: R  –  American Film
6.0 out of 10

The unseasonal run of warm days we’ve been having recently has put an unprecedented strain on reserves of cold drinks in Cactus World.  In fact I’ve run out of normal soft drinks and the things I only drink in an emergency, like bitter lemon and ginger ale, have been in the fridge so long they’ve all frozen solid.  I tried opening one this afternoon, but so much pressure had built up in the bottle that the contents started to explode everywhere; in fact I read this evening that earlier today America had briefly gone to DEFCON 1, as some military satellite had mistaken my attempts to get something cold to drink as a ballistic missile launch.  I think it’s all okay now though.  Fortunately, I also found some old bottles of Bacardi Breezer (Pineapple) in the back of the fridge that the alcohol had stopped from freezing.  It tasted okay(ish), considering it was two years past its Best Before date.  I also have to report the good news that the far worse scenario of there being a shortage of cold, alcoholic drinks, is not presently a concern.

Before we had mega-budget screen superheroes and nutters like Martin Riggs cleaning up urban scum, we had Paul Kersey.  The original street-level vigilante, here’s a chap who reluctantly goes off on his own and sorts out bad guys.  In many ways he’s a lot like Batman, a tortured soul who’s lost the ones he cares for most; except he’s not especially fit and strong, isn’t a billionaire and doesn’t have a flash car, cave, computer, utility belt or butler.  Then again, he does use guns and he hasn’t got an annoying sidekick either.  Last time we saw him, he was busy helping disadvantaged communities in New York become more resilient.  This time he’s back in America’s other city, Los Angeles, sorting out corrupt police and drug barons; you know, the usual stuff architects deal with.  Scarcely have I recovered from seeing Lieutenant Commander Chakotay turn up in “Night of the Comet” when along comes Lieutenant Commander Tuvok in “Death Wish 4”.  Clearly working under cover for Starfleet in some sort of time-travel paradox, he inadvertently gives some drugs to some dumb bimbo, who promptly kills herself with them.  She just happens to be the daughter of Charles Bronson’s latest love interest too.  In another interesting parallel with “Star Trek” I would say it was at least as deadly being a friend of Paul Kersey, as it is wearing a red shirt as a member of a landing party.  There’ve been five Death Wish films and nearly all of his ‘nearest and dearest’ have ended up being raped and/or murdered.  You do see Bronson take out Tuvok’s car with a grenade in an underground garage, but I’m pretty sure I saw him being beamed out just before it exploded.  Tuvok could’ve easily stunned them all with his phaser, but he probably didn’t want to contaminate the time-line or such like.  I watched the hardcore, uncut version, not the old, UK cut one with its missing 54 seconds.  Because of that I’d have probably turned into a serial killer by now, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was also a pan and scan version too, so half of it was missing.  I hate it when they do that.  It was mono as well.

There’s not a great deal of music in this movie and what there is has a tendency to sound like a reject from The Terminator.  The theme music is horrible though; some nasty saxophone-heavy garbage that sounds like it escaped from an obscure, 70s porn VHS.

Recommend for architects, vigilantes, would-be superheroes and anyone who might make friends with Paul Kersey.  And a warning to the latter; DON’T DO IT!

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.  However, someone does sort of explode into nothing after having a grenade fired into him.  And you thought The Terminator came up with that one first?

Top badass moment?  Dumb question. Charles Bronson IS badass.  And when someone asks, “who the fuck are you?” and you simply reply (after a tension building pause), “death”, that’s badass too.  And keeping a M203 grenade launcher attached to a M16 assault rifle in a cupboard behind your fridge is badass too.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown at IMDB (4.8 /10)

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown at Wikipedia


Night of the Comet / Walking to Work


Night of the Comet  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)It’s the first comet to buzz the planet in 65 million years and everyone seems to be celebrating its imminent arrival!  Everyone, that is, except for Regina Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney), two valley gals who care more about meteoric fashion trends than celestial phenomena.  But upon daybreak, when the girls discover that they’re the only residents of Los Angeles whom the comet hasn’t either disintegrated or turned into a zombie,  they… well, they go shopping!  But when their day of malling threatens to become a day of the mauling, these two val gals flee with both killer zombies and blood-seeking scientists in hot pursuit!

1984  –  Certificate: PG-13  –  American Film
6.5 out of 10

Over the past year or so, I’ve become somewhat lazy in terms of travelling to and from work.  Using the excuse that “I’m really busy” to justify turning into a fat, sickly, exploitative capitalist, I’ve got into the habit of driving most days.  Fortunately, realising my impending metamorphosis into a fat, middle-aged asshole, along with the fact that at work we’re even more penniless than usual at the moment (it’s a company car), I’ve resolved to do things differently.  Remember kids, ‘smashing the system’ starts at home!  If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem.  In an effort to save the planet even more than I normally do and increase the likelihood of my still being around to enjoy the fruits of my labour, I’ve started walking into work and home again.  It’s 2.4 miles each way, so when I add a bit extra on for all the staggering I do that results from the exhaustion walking this far causes me, that almost 5 miles a day.  After a week or so I have to report that the main effect has been to make my left knee really sore, although I’m sure the reduction in the amount of driving I’m doing has probably resulted in the reversal of Climate Change and consequentially the crappy, cold weather we’ve been having recently.  I’m really sorry if I’ve spoilt anyone’s holiday.  This film is also about something that has global consequences.

This is a cult movie.  That means a lot of people have convinced themselves that it’s good, whereas in fact it’s pants.  Two young sisters, the tall, attractive but slightly geeky Regina and the out-and-out bimbo Samantha, manage to survive a phenomenon that turns most people turn into a brown dust or a zombie.  (I hate days like that.)  They manage this as one of them had sex with her boyfriend in a cinema, whilst the other had an argument with her mother about something ‘teenage’ that I don’t understand and then spent the night sulking in a garden shed.  Fortunately for them, they then manage to meet up with Lieutenant Commander Chakotay from “Star Trek Voyager”, although he’s a lot younger in it, nearly 400 years or so younger, given the date he was first aboard Voyager.  But it’s definitely Chakotay and not some actor playing his part; the way he reacts to the zombie boy in his parents’ house is just so Star Fleet.  Anyway, the sisters talk bollocks a lot, go shopping and foil a sinister plot of sorts by a group of Government scientists.  With hindsight, I guess it was lucky that their absent father was in the military and taught them how to use a range of guns.  Don’t mess with an armed cheerleader, good advice at any time.  In its defence, this is a fun, über 80s film, which manages to lampoon many others without ever turning into a parody of them.  I guess that makes it a bit of a geeks’ film too.  The fact that one of its two main characters has the top ten scores on a Tempest arcade game, just goes to reinforce my point.  (Tempest was crap; Asteroids was loads better.)  Less impressive is the random survivor that turns up near the end.  He’s driving a Mercedes sports car.  He’s in Los Angeles, almost everyone else is dead and he’s probably got the pick of just about every sports car ever made within a mile of the city centre; and he’s picked a Merc.  That’s so unrealistic, it totally undermines the believability of the whole film…

I like to moan about how rubbish most music is these days is, but in the 80s it was even worse.  This movie features a lot of music from that time period and it’s dire.  Trying to consider that it’s some sort of important cultural landmark and should be preserved, is rather like arguing we should keep a 60’s concrete tower block in place, simply because it’s an example of a certain type of architecture. No, no, no.  The clothes women wore at the time were awful too.

Recommended for airheads, scientists, geeks, bimbos and Star Trek Fans.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? When the whole burden of civilisation has fallen upon you, it’s good to see that the Green Cross Code Man’s word still counts for something.  After all, remember what he turned into.  How the once mighty can fall…  Even more badass is the fact that the traffic lights are still working so long after 99.9% of the world’s population has died.

Night of the Comet at IMDB (6.2 / 10)

Night of the Comet at Wikipedia


Mad Cowgirl / I Meet Skynet’s Grandparents


Mad Cowgirl  -  Front DVD Cover (US Relese)Sarah Lassez (“Nowhere”, “The Blackout”, “Until The Night”) delivers a star-making performance as Therese, an ass-kicking health inspector with a failed marriage, an on-going affair with a creepy televangelist (Walter Koenig, “Star Trek”), nymphomania, and an obsession with old kung-fu movies.  Further complicating her life is a very questionable relationship with her brother Thierry (James Duval from “The Doom Generation” and “Donnie Darko”), a meat importer who may (or may not) have infected her with mad cow disease.  She soon embarks on a surreal journey which descends into violence, insanity and her quest to kill the Ten Tigers From Kwangtung!

2006  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Graphic violence and sexual situations
6.0 out of 10

I’ve described before how technology hates me.  I think it probably hates most people, but for some reason it gets an especially perverse satisfaction out of giving me hassle and grief.  The latest example was last Friday; the day my amplifier finally returned from over four months away being repaired, my Logitech Squeezebox died.  This cute little device has helped me to go to sleep for years, playing Internet radio stations such as Dub Xtra, Ska World, Hussieskunk and Gutter Punk when I went to bad.  I suppose I’ve had a reasonable amount of use out if it; they stopped making them quite some time ago.  However, the loss has been keenly felt right across Cactus World.  The nearest equivalent that’s now available is the Logitech UE Smart Radio, which isn’t what I really want.  Logitech seems to think everyone has a smart phone these days and will use it to access music, so its range of products reflects this outlook; well I don’t so I can’t.  Its loss then.  I don’t have any friends so what’s the point of me having a phone, smart or stupid?  Instead I’ve bought a Roberts Stream 83i.  Doing this has also freed up my DAB radio alarm and a nice mini stereo system, as the 83i (wow, catchy name) has these things built into it.  In fact, if I’d listed all the features I wanted, this clever bit of kit would be the result. The User Guide has 108 pages, all in English.  It hasn’t been delivered yet, but I’m already looking forward to it pissing me off for some reason soon.  Oh yes, and if this wasn’t proof enough of the self-aware nature of technology, the hard drive in my NAS also failed last week.  I’m pretty sure it’s all a precursor to something resembling Skynet.  And on the subject of not being able to tell reality from fantasy…

I always enjoy a film that within the first couple of minutes makes a positive statement about vegans.  Sadly, I don’t feel I can really reciprocate the feeling.  Maybe I should try to be more sober when I watch movies, so I can make more sense of them?  Despite its title, this film isn’t trying to do for westerns what Twilight did for vampires and it’s probably much better that I’m giving it credit for.  It staggers about like a drunk, from straight-forward drama, through slasher horror into surreal mind-fuck territory and then back again. On the surface it’s really quite a shambles, but underneath it’s actually quite a clever film.  It’s a parody of a kung fu movie, yet it also offers up an emotionally screwed-up scene as the lead character breaks down in a confessional booth, with the realisation that’s she’s not got long to live.  It’s got Chekov in it (the Enterprise’s navigator, not the doctor/writer), but far too much gratuitous gross meat-eating for my liking.  In fact it’s a bit of a food-fight movie; there’s ideas and thoughts splattered everywhere.  So something for everyone then, or nothing for anyone, or whatever.

This film offers up a muddle of many different types of music; an intentional mixture of a straight-forward soundtrack and kitsch opera, rock, rap, funk and many other music genus too, as it tries to keep up with the ever-changing vibe on-screen.  There’s a brief burst of a great punk song at one point, but sadly I don’t know who it’s by or what it’s called.

Recommended for environmental health inspectors, butchers, evangelists, Trekkies and connoisseurs of kung fu movies.

3 decapitations, no cats or chainsaws.  The Flying Guillotine is an interesting concept…  And it was pleasing to see a battery-powered drill and circular saw being used to good effect too.

Top badass moment?  Ten Tigers From Kwangtung!  Cindy, The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick, wasn’t bad either.

Mad Cowgirl at IMDB (5.0 / 10)

Mad Cowgirl at Wikipedia


Another Earth / Holidays


Another Earth  -  Front Blu-ray cover (UK Release)This “deeply emotional…extraordinarily profound” film became a must-see sensation at the Sundance Film Festival.  “Beautiful, bright and fearless” newcomer Brit Marling and fan-favourite William Mapother (TV’s “Lost”) star as Rhoda and John, two people whose worlds collide after a tragic accident.  Their intimate drama plays out against the astounding discovery of Earth 2, a parallel world that poses provocative and fascinating possibilities.  Does a new Earth mean a chance at another life?  Another destiny?  Another self?  “Another Earth” is science fiction at its best, with a mind-bending surprise ending that you will never forget.

2011  –  Certificate: 12:  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Moderate sex and one scene of bloody accident injury
8 out of 10

I’m on holiday for two weeks.  What this actually means is that I’m off work for two weeks, which isn’t exactly the same thing; I’m not planning on going away anywhere.  When other people come back from being on holiday they say things like: we went windsurfing and it’s so easy once you get the hang of it; we made great friends with Dawuma of the Ingoca-Ti Tribe and helped them build a solar-powered oven; we got drunk every night on French wine in our château, but never had a hangover because it was really good quality stuff; we sat at the top of Ben Nevis and watched the sun go down, it was so romantic; we saved a species of bird from extinction by planting trees to extend the rainforests; we laid on the beach all day and got a perfect suntan; we went to Alton Towers and didn’t have to queue-up for any of the rides; we went to Butlins and the kids loved it; we went paragliding over Norwegian glaciers; we met the Dali Lama and now perfectly understand the Tibetan wish for autonomy, but respect the Chinese viewpoint too; etc, etc.  I’ll just end up going to a few, half-empty gigs and trying to catch up with all my old e-mails from work, so I won’t have so much of a backlog to deal with when I start on the 500 new ones that will have arrived in my absence.  This film features a great new place to go on holiday.

What if there was another you?  Rhoda Williams is an ace student that gets accepted to go to university to study astronomy.  On her way back from celebrating this news, its announced on the radio that a planet identical to Earth has been discovered. She looks up into the air to see if she can see it in the night sky and crashes her car, changing her life forever.  (Most of us have to settle for fiddling with the car stereo to achieve the same thing, but I guess that’s not quite so exciting.)  The rest of the movie is basically about her dealing with the consequences of this, which is played out against the background of Earth 2 (as it gets named) slowly getting closer and closer to us.  Just occasionally I watch a film and I really, really want it to be great.  This was one of those films.  It turns out that it is great, but it isn’t GREAT.   It has a wonderful, if mostly downbeat, ‘other-worldly’ vibe (literally) and a fairly unique background, but the narrative leave a little too much unsaid for my liking.  Star Trek at least has the good sense to use some techno-babble to explain things; “Another Earth” just leaves you wondering.  Even the ending is a bit of a “what?” one.  This is really just a simple drama about two fucked-up people that’s played out against the biggest thing ever to happen to anyone.  It’s nicely shot too.  You really should watch this film.

The music used in this film is fine and provides a nice bed for the narrative.  Unfortunately I just didn’t really like it that much.  What a shame.

Recommend for cleaners, astronomers, composers and mirror-makers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  It features a new planet.  It’s like Earth.  Exactly like Earth.  If that’s not badass enough for you then I don’t know what is.

Another Earth at IMDB (7.0 / 10)

Another Earth at Wikipedia


Hawa / First Aid


Hawa  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)Renu (Tabu) is a divorced mother of two daughters and the only sister of a teenage brother.  She works in her mother’s antique shop to make ends meet and moves into a new house in the outskirts of the city.  However, life in her new home is not as simple as she’d hoped as she soon senses strange and unusual happenings occurring in her house.  Her new home turns into her worst nightmare after she is brutally attacked by an unseen assailant and when her youngest daughter goes missing she races against time to save her family.  Will she be able to survive this nightmare?  Watch this spine chilling horror to find out.

2003  –  Certificate: 15  –  Indian Film
Rating Details:  Scenes of moderate horror and strong sexual violence
5.5 out of 10

I’ve spent the last two days being retrained in first aid.  This happens every three years.  It’s great, because I get to snog what’s almost a real woman (the Resusci Anne mannequin) in an effort to practice CPR; it’s hard not to get carried away, despite her lips tasting mainly of antiseptic wipes.  I’m not one to comment on what other people get up to in their own time, but sadly I think she’s a bit of a tart; she’s not that fussy who she ‘hangs out’ with from what I’ve seen and it was hard not to get jealous when I saw her ‘carrying on’ with the others on the course.  Anyway, I passed, despite during one part of the exam saying, “two to beam directly to sick bay”.  I can now feel extra guilty the next time I see someone in need of first aid in the street, as I walk straight past him/her.  Afterwards I spent far too long in the pub with some of my fellow learners, drinking too much decent cider, whilst discussing the finer points of first aid techniques and pointing out that in 20 years I’ll be like all the other old, sad, lonely men that were also sitting in the Wetherspoon pub we were in.  It was the Coronet on Holloway Road in London; it’s a converted cinema so really big inside with a high ceiling.  It’s an interesting place and it was a fun evening, but it made me late to The Ruts gig I was going to.  In an effort to review the medical knowledge I’ve gained (and will probably have forgotten by the end of next week), I’ve decided that I’ll now be spending some time following the films I watch, reviewing any ‘first aid incidents’ that are shown.

Sanjana and her family have to move to a new house, as they can’t afford to stay where they are.  Unfortunately, after some lightening and a nearby burial site for ‘bad guys’ get jiggy, things get a bit hot and heavy at the new home.  This isn’t something that looks like it going to do much for local property prices, although the Indian idea of ‘downsizing’ doesn’t seem to be quite the same as mine.  This movie is a Hindi horror that’s basically a total rip-off of “The Entity”, although the ending, which seems to involve God making an appearance, is somewhat different.  However, many of the scenes are almost word for word the same.  The special effects vary from quite effective to really ropey, literally.  It’s a while since I’ve watched a film in which you could see the actors being held up in the air on wires; it sort of takes away from the drama a bit.  And let’s not even think about the pillow over the head scene.  Having a tell-it-like-it-is bedside manner must be a requirement to become a doctor in India too.  Sanjana goes to see two after being attacked and shows them her injures.  Comments like “Oh my God” and “Oh it’s terrible” don’t exactly sound like they were designed to put someone’s mind at ease.  And in the big scheme of things, her injures weren’t actually that bad.  I wonder what they’d have said if she’d have had all her guts all hanging out?  (First aid observation: she’d have needed more than putting into a W sitting position to sort that out.)  My own doctor’s Indian, I hope he never finds anything seriously wrong with me; I’ll probably want to throw myself under a bus by the time he’s finished telling me.  I’ve also learnt that Indian estate agents are pretty mouthy too.  It’s a long film, 128 minutes, although a fair amount consists of people running about shouting “Tram” and looking for the family’s dog.  I’m trying really hard not to say this film is pants, but it’s hard not to.  The main character, played by the slightly unfortunately named Tabu, doesn’t do a bad job with what she’s given.  At times it is quite effective, but then it goes and spoils things with an unintentionally crappy bit of film-making.  Surprisingly, it didn’t feel like it lasted over two hours.

The ‘attack’ music used in the film is also a rip-off from “The Entity”, only not as good.  The rest sounded like it was copied straight off “Now That’s What I Call Scary Music For B-Movies: Volume 74”.

Recommended for doctors and ghost-hunters.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  In the big scene near the end, the parapsychologist continually implies to Sanjana that she’ll be perfectly safe, even when he’s being thrown about all over the place by the invisible baddie.  But when he’s still shouting out things such as “I will blow you asunder” as he gets impaled on a branch, you’ve got to question the validity of his outlook.  Being an optimist can be badass, if futile.

Hawa at IMDB (3.1 / 10)

Hawa at Wikipedia


Star Trek: The Motion Picture / Being Related to Someone Famous


Star Trek: The Motion Picture  -  FrontBlu-ray Cover (UK Box Set Release)For the first time on Blu-ray, see the original theatrical version of the film as it was initially released in theatres.  A massive alien presence of enormous power enters Federation space destroying three powerful Klingon cruisers and neutralising everything in its path.  As it heads towards Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk returns to the helm of an updated U.S.S. Enterprise and sets course to meet the aggressor head-on.

1979  –  Certificate U  –  USA
7 out of 10

At work I often feel like Kirk does in this film.  Like him, I’ve been promoted to such an enormously high level that I too haven’t logged a single star-hour in over two and a half years; (or at least our equivalent of them).  Also like him, if I went out and tried to do a real day’s work like I used to, I’d not have a clue what I was doing.  And I too, have needed to surround myself with people who do actually know how to do things properly, so I can make myself look good and benefit from their abilities.  And, of course, like Kirk, I save the Earth on a regular basis.  Actually, now I’ve thought about it in a bit more detail, pretty well the only way to tell us apart, other than the fact that he will live 300 years in the future and I’m here right now, is the fact that he did everything with the support of an effectively endless supply of resources; whereas I do the same with almost no resources whatsoever.  I guess we’re probably cousins.

It’s hard to imagine there’s anything that hasn’t been said about this film 1,000s of times before.  Yes it’s slow.  Yes it’s overlong.  Yes it’s not really like any other Star Trek movie or TV show.  Yes it’s full of plot holes.  One the other hand, it is Star Trek.  It was the first new bit of Star Trek for years, (especially if you ignore the animated episodes) and we didn’t know then what we know now about the Star Trek Universe.  It was a genuine attempt to turn Star Trek into proper, hard science-fiction; (not like that ‘other’ famous sci-fi film from the late 70’s that was clearly made for children).   It’s got Klingons in it, (although not nearly enough of them).  Both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy give great performances; and Persis Khambatta had great legs and was a very attractive skinhead.  It’s also a reminder that three of its stars have now been taken from us.  :-(  It’s far from the best bit of Star Trek ever made, but it’s had a bad press over the years and I think the passage of time has helped it.  I watched it on Blu-ray.  At points it looked great, but at others it’s pretty dodgy; some of the special effects are certainly showing their age, although to be fair many of them still look very cool.  But it’s far from being a great, high-definition presentation.  Another odd thing is that I don’t think any of it was filmed outside; it’s all studio shot, which is quite unusual for a major feature film.  The trailer is terrible though; it’s like it’s for a low-budget, 50s, B-movie, sci-fi horror.

Jerry Goldsmith’s sound track is one of the high points of the film.  From the Star Trek Theme through to the great scene where Kirk (and us) first see the new Enterprise, great stuff.  The latter bit of music always reminds me of Jurassic Park for some reason.  I wish I was talented enough to write music like that.

No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.  There’re some photon torpedoes though; much cooler.

Recommended for people who seek out new life and new civilisations; even when they’re just down the road shopping.

Top badass moment?  WTF?  It’s the return of the Enterprise!  Nothing could be more badass than that.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture at IMDB (6.3/10)


Digging To China / My New Printer


Digging to China  -  Front DVD Cover (Canadian Release)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…

Digging to China at IMDB (6.7/10)


Psycho Holocaust / Thomas Hardy and Star Trek, Separated At Birth


Psycho Holocaust  -  Front DVD Cover (USA)Eager for one final vacation before their lives change forever, six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area.  By nightfall, their lives will change forever… in ways too horrific to imagine.  For in the shadows awaits a pack of the most evil, vicious rejects of humanity, addicted to violence and thirsty for blood!  This is “Psycho Holocaust”…

2011  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  USA
6 out of 10

I’m not just an uncouth, middle-aged yobbo, who only listens to angry punk music and watches slasher movies.  No, I also have a cultured, respectable side, the sort that The Queen would be entirely at home with.  In proof, I offer up the fact that I’ve just finished reading “The Hand of Ethelberta” by Thomas Hardy, not for the first time either.   In between reading Star Trek novels I read Thomas Hardy ones.  The latter is of course, the greatest writer the world has ever seen.  In fact I’m a fully paid-up member of the Thomas Hardy Society.  That’s how cultured I am.  Unlike “The Terminator” Sara Connor’s “No fate but what we make”, Hardy’s novels generally provide more of a ‘fate will do whatever it wants with you, despite your best efforts to do otherwise, and you probably won’t like it either’ point of view.  Even though it’s one of Hardy’s more light-weight stories, “The Hand of Ethelberta” once again provides us with a reminder that it’s basically pointless trying to do something about your lot in life, or dream about bettering yourself.  When it comes down to it, you might win a few battles, but the war will be lost.  I find Hardy an excellent counter-balance to the optimism and can-do attitude prevalent in Star Trek. Together, they help to keep me grounded!  This movie is more Thomas Hardy than Star Trek.

“Six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area” eh?  I wonder what on Earth this film could be about?  Ornithology?   Geology?   Photography?  Actually, it features three veterans of the conflict in Iraq, in a searing and damming documentary about the effects of combat on individuals and the political implications of going to war.  Okay, I lied a bit.  It does indeed feature three veterans (and one was a documentary film maker), but then it all sort of goes where a million low-budget horrors have gone before.  In its favour, our six ‘heroes’ weren’t teenagers and even the three war veterans displayed a clear lack of fantasy indestructibleness.  (Cool, a six-syllable word that Word approves of.)  The latter also exhibited a genuine concern for their local environment, (an attractive woodland).  It was heartening to see a couple of sick and twisted psychos busy taking two of their victims off to a location to kill them in, discussing an impending plan to turn the area into “one big fucking suburb”.  A small quirk of fate and they’d have been running about, carrying out direct action in the name of Earth First instead.  That’s the ‘Hardy Effect’ for you.  The violence is well up to scratch and some (though not all) of the special effects are generally pretty believable.  The lead baddie is suitably effective and entertaining, even though he did look a little too like Simon Pegg to be totally convincing.  I kept expecting him to pick up a pile of LPs and use them as weapons.  Despite the occasionally horrific bit of acting, the film works well as a B-movie and the violence scores highly on the official sick-gross-eew scale.  Turning to health and safety now, a number of different tools get used in the film, including two carpenter’s saws, a claw hammer, a few hand axes, a double-headed axe and a sort of flat bladed butcher’s hatchet, as well as a chainsaw.  By and large, these were used in a generally appropriate and certainly effective way, although the arm that was cut off wasn’t really secured properly and the no-handed use of one of the saws isn’t a formally recognised technique.  (You may wish to give that some further though.)  Unfortunately, as is often the case, the chainsaw was used with little or no attention paid to safety.  I couldn’t see any PPE in use and even an idiot must surely realise that running about in a woodland carrying a running chainsaw, over uneven terrain full of trip hazards, isn’t a terribly good idea.  It never fails to amaze me how few chainsaw wielding psychos use their equipment safely.  Particularly in this case, considering the latter were ex-military; this was disappointing and certainly made the whole movie feel a lot less realistic.  However, it did seem to start really easily, from both hot and cold, so at least it looks like it was being maintained properly, which is promising.

1 cat, 1 chainsaw and 1 decapitation.  Bingo!  The first film I’ve watched for ages that gets a full set.  (I think the cat was just a bystander that ran onto the set though.)  There’re a few other rather painful amputations too.

Recommended for would-be psychos.  An excellent training film.

Top badass moment?  It’s certainly a gentleman’s leg-crossing moment, but Laura’s treatment of her would-be rapist was pretty awesome; I’m just not sure how feasible it would be in real life (so says Mr. Modest-Bigboy).  It wasn’t that she’d had an especially good day up to then either.  A whipping, a drowning, another rape, a bashing on the head with a big rock and finding her boyfriend missing a leg, (who then promptly fell on her when she tried to help him, trapping her), do not a good day make for anyone.  And let’s not forget her safe and effective use of the double-headed axe too.

Psycho Holocaust at IMDB (4.9/10)


Being John Malkovich: 4.0 Stars


Being John Malkovich  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a struggling street puppeteer.  In order to make some money, Craig takes a job as a filing clerk.  One day he accidentally discovers a door… a portal into the brain of John Malkovich (played by John Malkovich)!  For 15 minutes, he experiences the ultimate head trip – he is being John Malkovich!  Then he’s dumped onto the New Jersey turnpike!  With his beautiful office mate Maxine (Catherine Keener) and his pet-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz), they hatch a plan to let others into John’s brain for just $200 a trip.  See what all the critics are talking about.

1999  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA

I’ve got far too fat this year.  Too much to do at work, along with a very slowing recovering ankle injury (sustained whilst trying to walk the South Downs Way, that well-known hiking equivalent of climbing K2), have somewhat curtailed my more extreme sporting aspirations over the past 18 months.  It totally sucks, I must be the only fat vegan on the planet.  Although some kinds of exercise do have an attraction (by which I mean ‘dancing’ at punk and ska gigs), eating less has very little to recommend it using just about every system devised for measuring human fun levels.  Several years ago I didn’t eat anything for 35 days, which lead to my losing 23kg, but this didn’t exactly leave me with a lot of energy or get up and go; even less than normal, attributes which are often in short supply anyway.  (Please insert joke here about my get up and go having got up and went years ago.)  So this time I need a slightly different approach.  Having considered the wide range of fad diets and other crap that’s published about how to lose weight, I’ve realised that what I actually need is a more industry-standard, heavy-duty model; less like a pair of scissors and more like a chainsaw.  So for the last four days I’ve been following what I’ve dubbed the Husqvarna Diet; (other chainsaw-themed weight-loss programmes are available, probably).  And yes, I’m afraid it was a Christmas present to myself.  I need to lose 35kg, which will leave me weighing about the same as when I was born, I think.  I’m not sure what that is in ‘old money’ but I suspect it’s quite a lot.  At this point I’d like to reveal the details of the Husqvarna Diet, but I’m afraid I can’t; if it works I’ll be looking for a publishing deal to sell my brilliant idea to all the other obese, lazy, losers ‘out there’.  If I’m looking forward to one thing, it’s being able to wear a lot of totally out of date clothing, which like many people I’ve kept in the wardrobe for years and years in the stupidly misguided hope that somehow it will fit me again one day.  In fact, I’d go as far as to suggest that they’ll be so old-fashioned as to actually be cool and retro.  Like my diet plan, this film is also truly unique and rather ridiculous.

I really like this movie.  With what’s probably a one of a kind plot, it’s clever, amusing and watchable.  Unfortunately, it’s also just a little bit too clever for its own good.  Then again, the story doesn’t really make any sense, yet somehow is perfectly coherent and believable.  It could come across as a bit freaky and gruesome, but it doesn’t.  The characters could all easily seem quite unpleasant, but they aren’t.  A bit like in Star Trek when they use a bit of techno-babble to get around problems, this film creates a whole mythology around its characters and living forever, but doesn’t bother to explain where most of it came from.  You just need to accept things as is, but for all that it doesn’t really matter and it’s highly entertaining stuff.  Cameron Diaz is almost unrecognisable as the pet fixated wife, whilst Catherine Keener just looks sexy.

Recommended for people who enjoy weird films; but weird in a good way.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  In a film featuring a lot of animals, it’s sad that the cat only has a brief cameo, but even so does introduce a classic continuity glitch.  You can’t keep a good animal actor out of the limelight!

Top badass moment?  This has to be John Malkovich playing (what I assume is a rather subtlety shallow version of) himself.  That’s just weird and weird is badass.

Being John Malkovich at IMDB (7.8/10)


RoboCop: 5.0 Stars


RoboCop Trilogy  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Whilst watching this film, I realised that my life is a lot like Robocop’s.  Like him, I used to be a normal guy with a normal life, job I liked and was good at, friends, relationship, etc.  Then one day stuff happened and I ended up a half-crazed cyborg, owned by my employer, devoid of outside interests, single-mindedly saving the planet, dealing out swift justice to those that dare trash it in any way.  These days I mindlessly follow the instructions I’m given to the letter, fill in lots of forms and databases, drive around in a souped-up Ford, (well okay  I changed the stereo in it), and seek out funding wherever it’s hiding, 24/7.  I’m tormented by fragments of memory from my former life and long for redemption; and call me paranoid, but I think the rest of the environmental sector is out to get me too, because I want to do more than map and count every bug and flower there is, over and over again.  Like Robocop, I also have four Prime Directives:

1)  Serve the membership
2)  Protect the planet
3)  Follow procedures
4)  Make money (as is the case for Robocop, this last one is classified, so don’t tell anyone please)

Okay, so I’m not really a cyborg (although I do wear glasses and contact lenses and have a few fillings); and I also sleep and do other stuff at times as well; and I’m hopeless at doing what I’m told, but really, the parallels are startling.  And if more proof was needed, then about 12 years ago, when I was just starting a new job with my current employer, I had to make a presentation to a number of people, including the Group Director.  There’s a great line in this film from Dick Jones, Senior President of Omni Consumer Products.  He stands up in front of the board of directors, adjacent to a bank of TV screens showing images of the company’s products, to do something quite similar to what I had to do.  He starts off by saying, “Take a close look at the track record of this company” and then goes on to describe how the company has “gambled in markets traditionally regarded as non-profit”.  That’s what charities generally get up to, so I’ve always felt there were a lot of similarities between what I do in my job and what OCP was looking to achieve with Delta City; I’m sure I’d fit right on in there, should it be looking to recruit anytime soon at the C-level.  With my crappy little PowerPoint presentation (which I still have a copy of), I began with a very similar line.  I’m not sure anyone there at the time made the connection, but to me it was awesomely cool!  This movie is awesomely cool too.

1987 – Certificate: 18  –  USA

I love this film.  I’ve watched it loads of times.  It was one of the first DVDs I ever bought.  I imagine it’s required viewing for all the new Police and Crime Commissioners that were voted for this week too.  The whole story feels quite unique, it’s got a number of great characters in it, the acting’s good and it looks good as well, even though some of the special effects are now a little dated.  Its take on corporate greed works for me and even the theme tune is dead-on.  (I’ve no idea why the trailer uses the music from “The Terminator”.)  Be sure to watch the Director’s Cut, to get all the most violent bits.  Since her appearance in “The Philadelphia Experiment” three years before, Nancy Allen has certainly toughened up her act.  I guess all that running around with two guys transported through time does that to you.  And it’s got Miguel Ferrer in it, who was at one time the First Officer on The Excelsior in Star Trek.  Imagining having that on your CV!  The remake (which I think is due out in 2014) will be interesting.

Recommended for awesome people.  I’m sorry, but if you don’t like this film you’re not awesome and I can’t be your friend, as I’m simply too cool and you’re probably a square.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.  However, plenty of other body parts do get ‘removed’.

Top badass moment?  The advert for Nuke Em.  A sample of this was used by Random Hand for “The Eyeballs of War”.  As the 5th best band on the planet, this makes it badass.

RoboCop at IMDB (7.5 / 10)


Cruel Intentions: 4.5 Stars


Cruel Intentions  -  Front DVD CoverI went to see The Skints last night, at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston; (that’s Kingston-Upon-Thames, London, not Kingston, Jamaica).  The Skints are a great, punk-edged reggae band from east London.  Now, I have three irrational fears in life; getting my hair cut in a hairdressers/barbers, public toilets and seeing bands in venues I haven’t been to before.  Given that selection, you’ll be please to know that my experiences last night only concerned the latter.  Kingston is a bit of a pain to get to from Reading by public transport; well it’s okay to get to but really difficult to get back from afterwards, mainly because the last train times aren’t very bohemian.  So on the odd occasion I go there I have to drive, which means I both add a little more towards the destruction of the planet (and suffer weeks of guilt-ridden nightmares as a consequence) and also of more immediate concern, I can’t really drink anything.  Why new venues freak me out I’m not sure.  I think it’s a fear of not knowing how to find where the stage is, while everyone else there knows the most intimate details of the place and will basically notice my confusion and inability to navigate myself around, leading to my being laughed at by them all (complete with pointing fingers) and as a consequence having to run away after suffering this public humiliation and never ever being able to go to a gig again, in case anyone recognises me and tells everyone and the nightmare starts again.  Now I totally realise that this probably inflates my worldly importance and significance somewhat and that in reality no one would even notice or give a dam, or would just tell me where to go if I asked, but I did say it was an irrational fear.  The venue in the Fighting Cocks is basically a shed (it looks like a garage from the outside) next to the pub.  So after arriving and sitting in my car for ten minutes to build up the courage to go, I walked up the road to meet my nemesis.  When I arrived the bloke on the door was giving some guy trying to get in a hard time, suggesting that the photo on the Driving Licence he’d provided as proof of his age had been tampered with; something to do with his eyes looking in different directions.  Anyway he was got in in the end and I just walked past the bouncer; no one asks me to prove I’m over 18 these days; not sure why…  Anyway, I walk into the place and what do I see?  Giant writing on the wall saying “Toilets and venue this way”, with a big arrow to reinforce the message.  (Well I think that’s what it said, I was just so happy that I could have thrown myself on the floor and prayed to God for thanks).  There was also a bit of a queue too, which helped reinforce the suggestion; (well it could have been a queue for the toilets I guess).  Inside the place wasn’t much bigger than a double garage, with a small bar in one corner, a stage in the other and paint peeling off the walls everywhere.  I managed to end up trying to dance more or less under the speakers, as I slowly went deaf and the sweat of 150 people dripped down the walls.  Yes, it was a pretty cool place!  Great gig too; a benefit for the band (so it got to keep all the money from the sale of the tickets), as it had a van with most of its gear and merchandise in it stolen a couple of weeks ago.  I only managed to stand on one person’s feet, which wasn’t too bad for me, but he was very forgiving.  In a complete contrast to all this, Cruel Intentions features nothing materially seedy but lots of very questionable characters.

1999 – Certificate: 15 – USA

I love this film.  I shouldn’t, but I do.  Offering some terrible role-models and dodgy morals, we get to see so-rich-its-obscene kids taking pleasure in fucking up other people’s lives just for the fun of it.  They aren’t even politicians or bankers either!  In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” I was always more of a Willow than a Buffy fan, but Sarah Michelle Gellar manages to turn her character in this film into a total sex diva.  Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to slobber all over her as she tells you to be like Captain Picard and “boldly go where no man has gone before”.   (I’ll just add that one to my Bucket List, shall I?)  A smart script makes the most of a less the original story and the characters are sufficiently well written and acted to make this a genuinely awesome, must-watch movie.

Recommended for fans of excellent films and those that like to say things like, “what a bitch” or “what a bastard” while watching them, especially when the primary emotion when saying them is jealously.

No cats and no decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Sarah Michelle Gellar gets to be the sexy-bad-bitch-from-hell that Buffy could have become if she’d not have been a prime-time TV character; except without all the fighting.  Her every word in this film is badass and not ‘good’ baddass either.  However, I’m almost sorry she got her comeuppance in the end.  What a bad person!

Cruel Intentions at IMDB (6.7)


Saying Goodbye is Never Easy


Cactus World is in shock today, with the news that one of my dinner plates has broken.  A set of four, these have been with me for around ten years and were hand-made by some peasants in South America somewhere; (I’m sure they were fair-trade though, so probably middle-class peasants). 

I discovered the plate myself, drying in the plate rack, with a chunk of one side broken off.  (I’m sorry for being so explicit, but I can’t think of a gentler way to describe it.)  Despite attempts at the scene to push the broken bit back into place, it was clear that the damage was permanent and the plate had been rendered entirely useless.  The whereabouts of the broken plate is not presently known, but unsubstantiated reports from the scene suggest it was quickly placed in a blue carrier back, destined for the communal bins outside Cactus World, at the front of the car park.

Although the loss of the plate is not expected to cause significant, civic disturbances, the population has been warned that it may need to get accustomed to washing-up a bit more often, as there will only be three dinner-plates available in future. 

No one has yet claimed responsibility for this cowardly act, although a number of rumours have been flying around, but a recurring theme is that one of the Star Trek mugs (which themselves have suffered two breakages over the past few years) was badly placed in the rack and fell on the plate.  However, others have rejected this hypothesis, pointing out there’s no way the mug would have been heavy enough to break the plate in that way.  One outlandish theory is that the local chemist sneaked across the border into Cactus World and broke the plate deliberately, before sneaking out again.  Certainly, there’s a strong indication that he recently suggested that the population wouldn’t be so fat if it used smaller plates for meals.  From what I’ve heard though, the authorities are not presently pursuing this line of enquiry.  It may turn out that the plate was simply old.  It was made from some sort of earthenware rather than pottery and as a result of this probably had a finite shelf-life.  If this turns out to be the case, then this has serious implications for Cactus World, since the remaining three plates are all the same age.

Some people have been saying quite openly that I should just forget about these old plates and go to Ikea and buy some nice, new, colourful ones.  Personally, I find this sort of thing really quite unacceptable, although what I’ll do if any of the others get broken I don’t know.  It’s certainly the sort of nightmare scenario that I dread; a bit like the idea of a huge meteorite hitting the Earth, or nuclear war.  I’m just relieved that Penny doesn’t seem to have been unduly affected by all this.

A number of pictures taken by bystanders that claim to be of the broken plate, have started to surface on the Internet.  I wasn’t going to reproduce any of these here, but I think this one does seem to be authentic and at the moment I really feel I want to put it here.  I’m sorry if this image upsets anyone.

Broken Plate

Dating back to the time when I had some money, a partner and a life, the plates have become a focus for many of the population, who look on them as a tangible and physical connection with the past and Cactus World’s rich history.  Others however, claim that they reflect Cactus World’s preoccupation with its glorious past and prevent it from moving forward; they describe the recent surfacing and playing of a number of Bert Kaempfert and James Last LPs, as other examples of this lack of vision and any sort of forward-looking policies.

Regardless of the longer-term implications, there is a very real sense of sadness in Cactus World at present.  Dinner Plate, R.I.P.

In other news, I cleared out a cupboard today and discovered some instructions for a coffee-making machine that I don’t own and a sealed bag of coffee beans from 1990.  Unfortunately, the instructions for the bread-making machine, which is what I started out looking for (before getting waylaid by the cupboard), have failed to materialise.  (The coffee beans can best be described as “brittle” and have been disposed of.)

Right now I’m listening to “Dancing in the Dark” by Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra.


Star Trek: The Next Generation


I have just officially wet myself:


The Xindi and WordPress: Separated at Birth?


Well, Cactus World has survived its conversion from Live Spaces to WordPress, just.  I’ve a lot of battle damage to repair over the next few weeks and I have a feeling that those of us that lived through it (so that’s Penny and I) will probably never be quite the same.  It was touch and go at times, I really wasn’t sure we were going to make it through; it was very much a one-way trip and the idea of a one-way trip to nowhere didn’t exactly inspire me; I don’t especially like travelling at the best of times.  The emotional scars are there on so many levels.  It’s not something that I, or probably many people, could ever express in words; (and you can probably imagine how difficult it is for Penny, with only a few variations on meow to pick from).  But I just know things will be different in future.

When I need to reflect on life, I tend to look for analogies from Star Trek, Thomas Hardy or punk; (and quite frankly, let us all face the truth, right here, right now; what else is there)?  To reflect on this particular experience, I’ve decided that the following video sums it up pretty well. (For Xindi substitute WordPress and for Cactus World read Enterprise). Enjoy!

It really was exactly like that, over dramatic looks at one another, explosions, stuff falling out of the ceiling, Penny running about with a fire extinguisher.  Whilst this Home Page may look okay now, everything else is still a bit of a shambles.  We were ‘that’ close to going under.  To be continued….

Right now I’m listening to “Underwear Goes Inside the Pants” by Lazyboy.


The No Win Scenero


A nightmare has come upon me.  The No Win Scenario is at hand.  My very own Kobayashi Maru, but unlike Captain Kirk I don’t think I’m going to get out of this one.  Therapy? is playing three nights in a row in London in March, for a live CD, with a different set each night.  Unfortunately, on the same three nights Random Hand are playing (on two of them) and the Automatic on the other; I already have tickets for these latter gigs as well.  If this wasn’t bad enough, I’ve also got gig clashes to deal with involving the Primitives vs King Blues, MC Lars vs the Stranglers and Stiff Little Fingers vs Power of Dreams.  This totally sucks*.  You don’t have to like any of these bands (and with my taste in music why on earth would you)?  However, I hope you can appreciate my pain.

*for those over 30 this means pisses me off.

Oh yes, happy 2010.

Right now I’m listening to “Live Young Die Fast” by Alkaline Trio.