Distraught over breaking up with his girlfriend, Zia (Patrick Fugit) decides to end it all. Unfortunately, he discovers that there is no real ending, only a run-down afterlife that is strikingly similar to his old one, just a bit worse. Discovering that his ex-girlfriend has also “offed” herself, he sets out on a road trip, with his Russian rocker friend, to find her. Their journey takes them through an absurd purgatory where they discover that being dead doesn’t mean you have to stop livin’!
2006 – Certificate: R – American Film
Rating Details: Language and disturbing content involving suicide
8 out of 10
Let’s start with a history lesson. In January 2010 I bought myself a new amplifier, an Onkyo TX-NR807. (It’s totally overpowered for someone who lives in a flat like me and is surrounded by others they don’t hate, but hey, I’m a bloke and I need to make up for my perceived sexual inadequacies; I’d probably be tempted to buy a Porsche if I could afford it, just to drive up to the corner shop and back.) In January 2012 it broke down. Fear swept across Cactus World, as the population was plunged into a miserable silence. Fortunately it got fixed pretty quickly. In January 2013 it broke down again, with exactly the same fault. This time it wasn’t fixed quickly. Last Monday I rang up the crappy repair company, (Genserve, Onkyo’s official repair company in the UK). Not my first call to it. Fed up with it abysmal service, I used my ‘really, really, really pissed off customer who knows where you live and will kidnap your babies and torture and kill them if you don’t bloody get it fixed soon persona’, to get some information out of them. Apparently the replacement part was ordered from Germany but if it’s not in stock there it has to come from Japan. The guy I spoke to offered to send an e-mail to see where things had got to; wow, I bet that would’ve scared the shit out of them. I also phoned up Onkyo and gave it a load a grief about its shoddy amplifier design. What a lot of bollocks that all turned out to be, as strangely I got a phone call less than 48 hours later to tell me it had been fixed. I got it back on Friday and two days later it’s actually still working. Why do I have to pretend to be a murderous psycho to get anything sorted these days? And the moral of this story? Never, ever by anything made by Onkyo, because it’s unreliable, fucking shite; yep, I think that just about sums things up. A shame, because when it’s working it’s a great amp. It’s enough to drive someone to despair, get a gun and randomly go out and shoot people and then blow their own head off. All of which bring me to this film…
I’m swearing a lot here, sorry. Anyway, this is a mind-fuck movie, but a good one. The idea of an afterlife that’s just a bit more crappy than the living version, appeals to my pragmatic world view. It’s not a bad metaphor for life. In fact I’m starting to wonder if in fact I’m already there, given my recent experiences with my amplifier. Sometime between January 2012 and January 2013 I must have committed suicide, although I can’t for the life of me remember doing so. (By the way, my saying “Can’t for the life of me” there is a bit of a joke; I don’t want anyone to miss it so I thought I’d mention it.) I guess it just wasn’t very memorable. It would also explain a great many other things. One of the characters spends her time looking for the People In Charge, because she’s convinced there’s been a mistake and she shouldn’t be there; I could relate to the too. This is a really interesting film which, despite its theme, is fun; if there’s such a thing as a black, rom-com road-movie, this is probably it. Its story is really quite unique. Well worth watching.
This film has some interesting music in it and extends its theme by using some songs from bands whose singers sadly did commit suicide. A lot of the rest is from Gogol Bordello, a band who’s sizable appeal I’ve never really quite understood, although it sounds fine here. Tom Waits, who’s in the film quite a bit, also contributes a suitably jolly track.
Recommended for undiscovered rockers, pizza shop workers and cult leaders.
One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. It’s only onscreen for a few moments, but it’s a cute ginger one!
Top badass moment? I watched this film about two weeks ago, so I have to admit I can’t remember enough to identify it now. I’m sure there was one though; probably several actually. I really should take notes.
In a riveting performance that won him 1993’s Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor, Anthony Wong (“Hard Boiled”) stars as the owner/chef of the Eight Immortals Restaurant, where the original owner and his family mysteriously disappear. As the police, led by Danny Lee (“The Killer”), intensify their investigation, they gradually uncover the shocking truth. Definitely not for the squeamish, “The Untold Story” is also an intelligent character study filled with dark humour touches. And remember… it actually happened!
1992 – Certificate: Not Rated – Hong Kong Film
Rating Details: Scenes of extreme violence and graphic sexual situations
6.5 out of 10
In the late 80s I stopped eating Birds Eye Potato Waffles. This is because I got really bad food poisoning from them, twice in a row. I can still remember it quite vividly. I think it’s the last time I took time off work through being physically ill. They’re the only thing that’s ever given me food poisoning, as far as I can remember. A few months ago I decided to try them again. The good news was, no sickness or diarrhea etc, a promising start. (I don’t recommend trying to microwave them though, the results aren’t especially satisfactory.) Now, these are potato waffles; they’re probably one of the Bird Eye brand’s ‘signature products’. On the side of the packaging is a marketing highlight which proudly proclaims, “Made with REAL potatoes”. What the fuck? Potato waffles and they’re actually made with potatoes; surely not? Is that really the best thing they can come up with? It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the product if that’s the highlight. This also left me wondering what exactly is an unreal potato. The packaging also goes on to say each 100g of waffles is made with 109g of potatoes. Really? I guess an understanding of particle physics is helpful if you want to enjoy Birds Eye Potato Waffles; it must be all that ‘new physics’ stuff again. Personally, I’d rather know that all the potatoes used are grown within 40 miles of the factory where they make them, which is what it says on its web site; I think that’s much more worthy. Has our food become so crap these days that the fact it contains what you’d expect it to contain has become such a big deal that it needs bragging about? (Oh, I forgot about all the horse burgers.) Birds Eye in Europe is presently owned by private equity group Primira. One of its 11 Business Principles is “Comply with both the letter and the spirit of all applicable laws, regulations and contractual obligations”. I guess that’s why it has its finance team based on Guernsey; nothing to do with its tax haven status then? This film features a restaurant and food that makes people sick; and dead.
Never released in the UK, Anthony Wong plays a restaurant owner called Wong Chi-Hang and it’s worth tracking down a copy of this film for his performance alone. The guy has some serious, anger management issues. When he’s not feeding his clientele with the ground-up remains of people he’s killed, raping his staff, beheading children or cheating at Mah Jong, he’s being beaten up by various people, generally the police or the relatives of those he’s murdered. For a pretty gruesome and dark film that’s basically about a serial killer, the police are presented as only a few steps above the Keystone Cops. The senior detective and his team investigating the case don’t seem to do a lot of work, they continually belittle the only woman in the team, they happy beat up poor old Anthony with the least provocation and the senior detective nearly always has a prostitute with him at work. It’s not often you can have any sympathy for a serial killer, but he’s clearly a product of his environment; well, sort of. Set in Macau, this film is meant to be based on a real crime too. It’s a bloody horror with the occasional bit of almost slapstick comedy; very watchable if you can deal with all that.
This film has a fair amount of background music, much of which is clearly inspired by the “Psycho” ‘shower scene’. You’ll not want to watch this film for the music.
Recommended for catering students, the police and anyone who’s crap at Mah Jong.
No cats or chainsaws and three decapitations; two of the latter were after they were dead though. It’s not often you see a child have her head cut off in a film…
Top badass moment? In the middle of cutting a load of people up, it was good to see Anthony Wong take time out to sharpen the meat cleaver he was using. (He forgot to wear safety goggles or gloves whilst using the grinder though.) No wonder he was so pissed off when the cutting edge got damaged soon after. (Maybe he sharpened the blade too finely for cutting bones; or perhaps he hit the floor with it by mistake?) Caring about your tools, even if you’re a serial killer, is good practice and therefore badass. They do say a blunt tool is more dangerous than a sharp one.
When you drive from Reading towards Oxford, as you leave the town you pass a number of road signs proudly proclaiming you’re entering Oxfordshire, the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, most importantly of all, that the speed limit is now 50mph. After the slow 30mph climb out of Reading, with its 100s of speed cameras ready to catch the weary, the inattentive and the downright stupid, the sudden vista of trees and open fields, a straight road and all that ‘roadside furniture’ is enough to turn even the most mind-mannered driver into a Mad Max style petrol-head. So imagine my pleasure recently, as when leaving the town along this very road, at the very moment of transition from high-tech military oppression to the anarchy of the countryside beyond, onto my car stereo came Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard”. This is a great bit of ‘speeding up’ music. However, the intro goes on for 27 seconds. Even in a Ford Focus that’s a lot of acceleration time. I was quite surprised when I looked down to see I was doing over 200mph. That’s pretty impressive for a diesel. This film also has a main character that talks a lot of bollocks but thinks he’s making sense.
2002 – Certificate 15: – USA
Rating Details: Language: Frequent, Strong. Sex/Nudity: Infrequent Moderate References. Violence: None. Other: Substance Abuse.
I feel a bit guilty for not liking this drama / black comedy more. I did try, but I just couldn’t get behind the ‘hero’ Wilson. I know he was having a bad time, what with his wife’s suicide and all that, but he had plenty of friends, family and work colleagues who wanted to help him. But what does he do? Not open the letter his wife left for him and develop a somewhat unhealthy interest in sniffing petrol and (in his own words) “radio-control”. For a successful winner like me, who’s never failed at anything in his entire life, it’s hard to see someone behaving quite so pathetically over such a small thing. What a wimp. Loser. Anyway, don’t let me put you off watching this film, because it is pretty entertaining and the acting’s great too. It’s just that I got a little too much pleasure out of seeing Wilson make a bit of a tool of himself once too often and then that made me feel guilty. I didn’t really get to feel his pain, you know what I mean?
Recommended for radio-controlled boat and plane enthusiasts.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? In a film filled with flawed, somewhat sad individuals, where no one really ‘rises to the challenge’, this is not an easy thing to do. So rather than bother I’ve decided that anyone who flies radio-controlled aeroplanes is badass. For a hobby that’s easy for everyone else to ridicule, (it’s only one step above train-spotting in my mind), who hasn’t secretly wanted to have a go at it anyway? Pursuing your interests when the rest of the world thinks you’re just a stupid kid who won’t grow up, is badass. It’s just jealousy you know.
I’ve always considered myself a bit of a jet-setting, international playboy, (just without the “international”, “playboy” and “jet-setting” bits). The fact that I’m a friendless, social recluse who never goes anywhere (other than gigs) probably also mitigates against this, but honestly, I do try! And I’m pretty sure Peter Stringfellow has me on speed-dial too, just in case he needs some advice at any point. However, next week I find myself needing to go to King’s Cross (London), Alton (Hampshire), Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire), Norwich (Norfolk) and Leeds (West Yorkshire). It’s true, these aren’t exactly “international”, but Leeds isn’t that far from Scotland and London probably has more foreigners in it from more countries than their own countries have of their own populations in them. It’s also not very “jet-setting”, but I will be travelling by train a lot and some of them go over 100mph, so that’s nearly as fast as a jet (probably). (A lot faster in fact, if you take into account Manchester Airport’s little embarrassment last week, when it ran out of aviation fuel.) As to the “playboy” bit, well I don’t want to push my luck, two out of three isn’t bad.
1980 – Certificate: 15 – USA
Rating Details: Language: some, strong. Sex/Nudity: none. Violence: once, moderate. Other: suicide theme
It may have won four Oscars, but “Ordinary People” hasn’t aged well. It’s still an engaging and generally bleak film, but it also looks and sounds ‘really old’. Everything from the cars, through to the hairdos and clothes, shout out “ancient history”. Released three years after “Star Wars” and “Anarchy in the UK”, it’s set in an America that belongs in some long-forgotten, day-time soap from the 80s. In fact, I couldn’t quite work out why I owned a copy of this film at first, but then, as it gradually revealed its generally depressing and miserable narrative, I come to realise that this was why I bought it. It’s another film about a dysfunctional family who have everything yet nothing. It’s slow, it’s out of date, it’s very American and the picture and sound quality of my copy didn’t exactly endear me to it either, yet the story and the acting is top draw stuff and manage to (almost) overcome its modern shortfalls. Worth watching if you’ve had an overly good day and feel guilty about it, so you can go to bed depressed. I found it a bit creepy seeing Donald Sutherland with a lot of hair and playing a decent character too; for some reason in my mind he always plays bad guys. I really felt sorry for him in the end; poor guy. All a bit tragic really.
Recommended for gloomy people in general and anyone who can listen to a mono soundtrack without their skin crawling.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? In a depressing film about depressing things, what could be more badass than a scene where the most depressing (and best) book in the world is discussed? Thomas Hardy’s “Jude of Obscure”. Thomas Hardy, the original emo; (and incidentally the best author in the history of the universe, ever). It’s simply badass.
Today feels like a Sunday. It’s actually Monday but it feels like a Sunday because I worked on Saturday. Tomorrow is Tuesday, but I’ve no idea if it will feel like a Tuesday or more like a Monday. This film is similarly themed around confusion, except that it’s about a Jew who’s a Neo-Nazi. Okay, I’ve got a bit of a confession to make now. I’ve personally harboured a secret expectation for years that I might be a real Jedi Knight, who one day will be called upon to save the human race from some horrible fate. (I do actually do something very similar to this every day of life as part of my job, but somehow it’s not quite the same thing.) Sadly, up to now my attempts to influence people with my mind have been a singular failure; in fact I can’t even influence my own thoughts. I also can’t fight with a light sabre very well. If anyone remembers Star Wars Kid from a few years ago, you will probably be able to visualise just how well I can’t wield this awesome weapon; if I had one, which I don’t, obviously. I do however, enjoy waving a torch about when in a dark place as if it’s a light sabre, making ‘that’ light sabre sound. In fact I suspect I do this nearly every time I have a torch in my hand, probably not to anyone’s amusement except my own. I suppose I’m lucky that most people in Cactus World are pretty tolerant when it comes to care in the community.
2001 – Certificate: 15 – USA
This is a great film. Ryan Gosling makes a first class job of playing Danny, the main character in it, an anti-Semitic skinhead who’s actually Jewish. It’s all pretty engrossing stuff and the ending is far from clear until you reach that point. Despite his entirely repellent and ridiculous views (especially regarding Jewish people), the film does a good job of making Danny quite a sympathetic character at times. It’s often the sign of good writing and acting when an unpleasant character can still make you feel sorry for them. If the movie has a weakness, it’s probably that Danny seems educated and highly intelligent, yet his actions demonstrate quite a mixed up and confused outlook on life. It would have been good to have got inside his mind a bit more to find out what was going on in there. The film’s pivotal scene, where Danny and his gang get sent to ‘tolerance classes’ after a fight in a cafe, is genuinely powerful and heartbreaking stuff, from the point of view of both the stories that get told and the reactions to them. This movie also has Summer Phoenix in it, who as well as being a very beautiful woman also happens to be a lifelong vegan. Then again, all vegans are beautiful/handsome, clever, empathic, compassionate, determined, (please insert your 50 favourite human attributes here), etc. Except me, which is a bit annoying actually. And finally, I’d just like to remind people of the link between early reggae and skinheads. Being a skinhead doesn’t make you a raciest, although being a moronic asshole who frequently spouts uninformed and ill-conceived, generalised crap about other cultures, often does; so really, they should be easy enough to tell apart. Don’t fall into the trap of getting them confused and assuming they’re all the same, or you might just find you’ve become one yourself.
Recommended for people who like good films and topless vegans. (If anyone wants to see me topless I come pretty cheap!)
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? Danny in the scene near the end when he’s speaking to all the people at the fundraising meeting. Doing the unexpected with style and pissing just about every one off in the process is pretty badass.
Last week I celebrated 25 years with my employer in one form or another. Some of the people I manage arranged for a group of us to go out for a meal, which I wasn’t expecting and was really rather nice of them, especially as I’m actually the boss-bastard-from-hell who hates everyone he manages, considers then to be little more than ‘resource units’ to be utilised and enjoys nothing better than telling them to “work smarter, not harder” in response to any problems they might be having. They presented me with a collage of pictures from my 25 years, which just served to remind me how fat I’ve got and how much hair I don’t have anymore; thanks! Getting old is rubbish. What’s the point of it? Like wasps, wind and dust, it doesn’t appear to have any useful function, or indeed any function at all; it just ‘is’. Anyway, in 25 years I appear to have moved up the career ladder exactly one rung; still, I’ve plenty of time as I’m never going to be able to retire as I won’t be able to afford to. By now I really should be playing golf on Sunday with people who get huge bonuses, drive even bigger cars and live in houses so large that other people would call them whole towns. Instead, I sit at home, talk to Penny, watch endless films and go to gigs and wobble like a Weeble to music by bands that no one over the age of 25 has even heard of. Getting old sucks.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – Germany
Anyway, this film. It’s a depressing, German drama. Very depressing. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, where 10 is paradise and 1 is spending a whole day with me discussing how cat fur is really, really hard to vacuum up, even with a powerful cleaner like a Dyson, this film would score a negative number. It’s about an ‘old woman’ who starts an affair with an even older man and then tells her husband about it. In its favour it’s very well acted; it feels much more like a documentary than a movie. In fact Ursula Werner (who plays the woman Inge) is amazing in it. It’s worth watching just to see how good an actress she is. Wonderful stuff. It has some full-frontal nudity, but with most of the characters being in their 60s and 70s it’s not exactly pornographic. Oh, did I mention it’s depressing? Is this what the future holds for you when you get old? Getting old sucks.
Recommended for people who don’t have any sharp objects near them.
No cats and no decapitations. (Actually I can’t remember. I should write these things down. I must be getting old…)
Top badass moment? Ursula and her lover Karl going skinny dipping in some pond in the country. That’s pretty cool, especially considering their age. Doing ‘stuff’ that you’re not meant to do because you’re too old is always badass; and it freaks ‘the younger generation’ out too.