Posts tagged “Thomas Hardy

The Hunger Games / My Own Hunger Game


The Hunger Games  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK ReleaseEvery year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capital of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games.  Sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister’s place and must rely upon her sharp instincts when she’s pitted against highly trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives.  If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

2012  –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
Rating Details: Strong violence and threat
9.0 out of 10

It’s back to the humourless dentist oral surgeon for me this Wednesday.  Not sure what he’s going to say or do.  Perhaps there’ll be a full moon that night and he’ll be resting, or taking the day-off for a lie-in in his coffin.  Actually my wisdom tooth isn’t really hurting anymore, nowhere near enough for me to need pain-killers or anything.  However, I can’t open my mouth much now without my jaw aching, a lot.  In fact I can’t really open it at all.  Whilst this might seem to some around me to be a positive step, it’s really pissing me off.   My ability to eat has reverted to how I imagine I was when I was nine months old, all sloppy food which I then fail to push into my mouth properly, resulting in it ending up everywhere except my stomach.  I may not show it, but inside this is how I feel.  I did initially think this was a film about dentists, but apparently not.

A movie about a dystopian future?  That’s always a good start.  Female hero?  That’s good as well and makes a change too. Woody Harrelson’s in it, playing a character who looks very much how you might expect Kurt Cobain to look now, if he’d sadly not killed himself; somewhat ironically, this version is very much a survivor.  This is an awesome film, even though it’s only a few steps beyond a cross between “Big Brother” and any number of romantic dramas.  In fact the only reason I didn’t think it was even better was that I could sort of tell where some parts of the story that I’m sure must be in the books, weren’t really used in the film.  Not having read any of the latter, that’s not good. But I’m glad someone’s writing popular ‘teen fiction’ that uses this sort of challenging setting for its stories; it’s just a pity it’s a bit buried in this film.  I have to admit I couldn’t really see what Katniss saw in Peeta.  Sure he’s good looking and there’s all that stuff about being thrown together in a crisis, but really, he was a bit boring.  I can well imagine she’d soon get fed up with him.  I thought the make-up crew did a good job on Jennifer Lawrence, making her appear very different from setting to setting.  Then again, there’re so many credited at the end that each of her eyebrows must have had a whole team working on it, etc.  I watched the “Unseen Version” (which kind of isn’t true now).  I certainly enjoyed the extra 3.2 seconds and reinstated blood that had been digitally removed and denied to the sissies that went to see the Certificate 12 version shown in cinemas.  I’m so hardcore.  Anyway, despite it being targeted at a ‘younger audience’, I really enjoyed it and got an emotional buzz from watching it too.  Critically, I actually cared what happened to the main characters.  And let’s not forget that Katniss Everdeen gets her family name from Thomas Hardy’s Bathsheba Everdene, which alone is enough of a reason to recommend this film.

The orchestral score is great but I didn’t much care for the rest.  I guess it was an attempt to give a primitive, combative edge to things, but most of it sounded just like some boring drumming to me.

I really like this trailer.  It makes me want to see the film.

Recommended for sibling sisters, bakers and archers.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A great bit of cat hissing gets the action underway shortly after the start.  Sadly this isn’t utilised further and we just get a couple of hours of reality TV nonsense instead.

Top badass moment? At a key moment, Katness gives two fingers to the watching millions; (actually three but anyway).  A defiant gesture that starts her journey from ‘average teen’ to rebel hero.  There’s no way on Earth that’s not badass.  Sticking it to ‘The Man’ always is.

The Hunger Games at IMDB (7.3/10)
The Hunger Games at Wikipedia
The Hunger Games at Roger Ebert (3/4)
The Hunger Games Trailer
Spoof Trailer for The Hunger Games

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In the Mood for Love / Drinking Port


In the Mood For Love  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseHong Kong, 1962.  Chow (Tony Leung – “Happy Together”, “Hard Boiled”) is a junior newspaper editor with an elusive wife.  His new neighbour, Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung – “Days of Being Wild”, “Irma Vep”), is a secretary whose husband seems to spend all his time on business trips.  They become friends, making the lonely evenings more bearable.  As their relationship develops they make a discovery that changes their lives forever…  In this sumptuous exploration of desire, internationally acclaimed director Wong Kar-Wai (“Chungking Express”, “Happy Together”, “Fallen Angels”) creates a world of sensuality and longing that will leave you breathless.  “In the Mood For Love” has seduced audiences and critics alike, winning awards at Cannes 2000 for best actor, cinematography and editing.

2000  –  Certificate: PG  –  Hong Kong Film
Rating  Details:  Mild sex references and language
7.0 out of 10

I’ve recently developed a new interest; a new kind of fetish if you like.  I’ve discovered port.  Not the type with boats and things, but the one that’s like red wine on steroids.  Cockburns Special Reserve Port is meant to be vegan and is well structured, with rich, ripe fruit and gentle spicy tannins.  It has a clean aroma, showing maturity and finesse, with a hint of dried plums.  Off dry to medium sweet, it has a rich, mellow texture and a smooth tannin structure, with a long, satisfying finish.  (Obviously I got that lot from the Internet; I don’t really know anything about port, other than it’s red and I like how it tastes.)  Apparently the classic way to serve Special Reserve is with aged Stilton cheese after dinner; or with roasted almonds or walnuts and squares of rich, dark chocolate, for a simple but elegant dessert.  Personally I just drink it on its own out of the wrong shaped glass.  Still, I like to think I’m a higher class sort of drunk.  You won’t find me in the gutter with some cans of Asda lager in the remains of a six-pack ring, or a smashed bottle of Buckfast.  Port is a bit of a throwback to a more civilized time now past; so’s this film.

When I was young I used to sit at home on a Saturday afternoon with my mum, watching old, black and white films on BBC2.  In those days we only had three TV channels to pick from and no Internet or home videos; life was hard.  Nowadays I can pick from about 200 TV channels and a billion videos on the Internet, or select a DVD or Blu-ray disc to watch.  No wonder more people suffer from mental health difficulties these days.  Those old films were inevitably made in the 50s and focused on some couple in America with ‘marital difficulties’.  They were pretty boring.  I’d much rather have watched the wrestling on ITV’s “World of Sport” and seen ‘bad-guy’ Mick McManus trashing another opponent illegally when the ref’s back was turned, but you only had one TV in those days.  (Sadly Mick died earlier this year.)  Watching “In the Mood For Love” took me straight back to those days; (the films that is, not the wrestling).  It’s in colour and set in Hong Kong in the first part of the 60s, but other than that…  When I was watching it I was trying to work out why I’d bought it, as it’s not the sort of movie I’d normally watch, but by the end it made perfect sense.  It’s got the sort of plot Thomas Hardy could easily have written, (if he’d been able to get away with writing about marital affairs).  Chow Mo-wan certainly has something in common with Jude Fawley.  The first 15 minutes or so are a real muddle to follow, but then it settles down.  It’s also currently the 247th most highly rated film on IMDB, so I guess that means it’s pretty special.  Whatever.  But overall it’s worth watching, despite the lack of explosions, spaceships and perverted sex.

The music plays a big part in making this movie work, from the use of a number of songs by Nat King Cole, through to the regular musical montages (using the same bit of hypnotic waltz music) that’s used to drive parts of the story along.  Not a soundtrack I’d want to listen to on its own, but great in the context of the film.

Recommended for newspaper editors, PAs and lonely husbands and wives.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  It seems you have to be a bit of a bastard to get anywhere in life these days.  Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan were just too nice.  This makes them badass, but unfortunately it also makes them total losers.  What a shame.

In the Mood For Love at IMDB (8.0 / 10)

In the Mood For Love at Wikipedia


Brokeback Mountain / The New Forest


Brokeback Mountain  -  Front Blu-ray Cover (UK Release)From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee comes an epic American love story, “Brokeback Mountain”. Set against the sweeping vistas of Wyoming and Texas, the film tells the story of two young men – a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy – who meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

2005  –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
Rating Details: Strong language, moderate sex and violence
8.0 out of 10

I had a very disappointing day today.  I went to a meeting in a place called Lymington.  It’s about as far south-west as I can go and still remain in ‘my patch’ at work.  If I’d gone much furthered I’d have entered the “South West” and risked immediate kidnap, assassination, or worse, from my colleagues in that part of the country.  Although we’re officially “One Team” these days, at a local level there’re still some patches of tribalism, although it’s nothing that a forty-foot high electric fence topped with razor wire wouldn’t cure.  Anyway, Lymington is on the edge of the New Forest National Park.  But what a swizz it all is!  I drove right across it and all I saw were loads and loads of old trees, some of which actually looked dead and had ‘things’ like birds, bats and bugs living in them.  There were hardly any young ones at all.  How ‘they’ get away with such a bare-faced lie I’ve no idea; surely there must be some sort of advertising standards law they’re breaking?  It’s a terrible reflection on us all that these days unless something’s labelled new or improved, no one’s interested in it; indeed, I seem to suffer from this problem myself.  Washing powder and smartphone manufactures have a lot to answer for.  “A mosaic of ancient and ornamental woodland, open heather-covered heaths, rivers and valley mires, a coastline of mudflats and salt-marshes and pretty, historic villages; the largest area of lowland heath left in southern England.”  Who’s going to be interested in that when they could go and play Laser Quest and then get pissed in the pub afterwards?  Like the New Forest, this film also grossly misrepresents itself, as it fails to provide any sort of back injury whatsoever, not even a pulled muscle.

I’m not a big fan of westerns.  I also imagine Hell to have a soundtrack that features country music on heavy rotation.  Characters engaged in herding animals about and shooting others, have to work hard to overcome their inherent, non-vegan nature and don’t tend to attract my sympathy either.  It’s been a while since I was a cowboy too, so I’m probably a bit out of touch with what’s hot and what’s not in lasso-land; in fact the last time it happened I was very young and had been given a cowboy outfit for my birthday; I didn’t even know which way around to hold the gun and consequently went about shooting myself rather than the hordes of evil Indians that I imagined were busy invading our flat in central London.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that this film was not one that on the surface I was likely to enjoy and up until now, unlike every other human being on the planet, I’d never watched it.  Fortunately, I quickly realised what it’s really about and it suddenly made a lot more sense to me.  “Brokeback Mountain” is basically a reimagining of a number of Thomas Hardy’s novels, where the dictates of society prevent two people from being together.  “People go on marrying because they can’t resist natural forces, although many of them may know perfectly well that they are possibly buying a month’s pleasure with a life’s discomfort.”  (Jude the Obscure).  It’s a film that, like many Hardy novels, involves a lot of rural landscapes, shepherds, folk music and drinking in bars.  I was just waiting for all the sheep to find a cliff somewhere to throw themselves over.  Like Hardy, “Brokeback Mountain” demonstrates the futility of life and the inevitability of being disappointed, let down and kept apart from those you hold most dear.  At the very least, the credits should have said something to the effect that it was inspired by the poems and novels of Thomas Hardy.  “Brokeback Mountain” is a bleak  and touching film, with the last half hour providing a powerful bit of cinema.  The admission that your feelings for someone have effectively fucked up everyones’ lives; priceless wisdom.  This is also a lovely looking film (and I’m not just talking about Michelle Williams, who looks very cute in it), with lots of great views of the countryside.

Country and western music, noooooooooooo..!!!  I’m just a woman and my man beats me up and shot my dog for fun and had an affair with my sister and hates me but he’s still my man so I’ve got to love him….  The rest of the soundtrack isn’t bad and it does have ‘that’ bit of music, “The Wings” by Gustavo Santaolalla.

Recommended for fans of good movie making.  Not recommended for anyone that thinks gay people are an abomination or mentally ill; for you I recommend you go fuck yourselves instead, which if you’re a guy is actually a pretty gay thing to do when you think about it; but you probably won’t want to think about it.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  It takes him long enough, but Jack finally giving Lureen’s father the bollocking he deserves.  I despise people like that who’re so full of themselves; what a bullying, arrogant prick he was.

Brokeback Mountain at IMDB (7.7 / 10)


Funny Games / Reading on Train Journeys


Funny Games (US)  -  Front DVD Cover (UK ReleaseMichael Haneke (“Hidden”, “The Piano Teacher”, “Code Unknown”) takes on America with an English language remake every bit as shocking as his brilliantly conceived original 1997 “Funny Games”.  In this exploration of our violent society Haneke retells the story through the eyes of a middle-class family who arrive at their secluded holiday home in the Hamptons for a two-week vacation.  Soon after, a young man makes a surprise call, and asks to borrow some eggs.  When the man is joined by his ‘charming’ friend, what initially appears to be an innocuous visit by their neighbour’s guests, soon turns into a horrifying ordeal for all concerned as the two men embark upon a twisted campaign of torment and raw terror.

2008  –  Certificate 18
Rating Details:  Strong sustained threat, humiliation and violence

(I can’t help thinking the rating details sound like a day at work.)  When I’m not saving the planet, listening to music, going to gigs or watching films, I like to read books.  I often read them on trains, though mainly to help prevent the affliction known as eye-contact.  Yesterday at work I had to go on a secret, special mission, to deepest, darkest, West Sussex; even my manager didn’t know where I was going, I think.  I felt a bit like James Bond, except saving the planet and working for a charity seems (so far at least) to have precluded my being provided with an Aston Martin as a company car; (I have asked for one, many times).  So I went by train instead.  I got somewhat muddy trying to make-up a bit of time, by walking the three or four miles from the station to my ‘mission objective’ along a bridleway down the side of a field; I must speak to M, or P, or whatever letter of the alphabet is responsible for my equipment, about that.  On the train afterwards I finished reading “Return of the Native” by Thomas Hardy.  In fact I was so engrossed in it that I missed the station I was supposed to change trains at, to discover I was then stuck on a non-stop trip to London Victoria, which was a bit frustrating.  I was also worried that when I got there, people might think I was a bit weird if I just carried on sitting on the train; well I had to get back to where I’d come from and I didn’t want the hassle of negotiating at the ticket barrier and trying to explain away my stupidity.  In the end I did get out of the carriage and nonchalantly wonder about for a bit on the platform, before getting back on the same train when I though no one was watching; (I guess I’m very paranoid, or just have a hugely inflated opinion of my importance).   As far as ‘classic literature’ is concerned, I only ever read Thomas Hardy.  Despite Hardy’s misfortune to miss out on punk and modern movie blockbusters, I do find I share a lot of his world views.  His books totally rock and if reading one whose first chapter is wholly devoted to the landscape of a heathland in southern England isn’t your idea of a fun time, then quite frankly you should go off and die; or at least feel very ashamed of your MTV-addled, “I want everything and I want it now” life-style. “Return of the Native” is probably my second favourite Hardy book.  Honestly, you really should read it.  My next book is “Star Trek: Millennium”; (which is really three books).  And finally, if you still think my life isn’t exciting enough, then tomorrow I’m going to drive for about four hours, just so I can deliver four pints of hot water somewhere and shake a mayor’s hand.  If someone wants to invade my home, then I probably won’t be in much, which if it was featured in a film like this one would have made it extremely boring and short.  But even if I was home I’d be okay; I’m vegan so I don’t eat eggs.

In 1997 Michael Haneke wrote and directed a German thriller/horror home invasion film called “Funny Games”.  It was so good that he remade it in English ten years later.  That’s remade as in replicated virtually everything, even the camera angles.  This is the American version. I have the German one but I’ve not got around to watching it yet.  Most people seem to think the original version is the best.  I really like this film.  The victims were just a bit too nice and successful for my liking, what with their stupid 4WD car and huge, gated, second home in the country.  The ‘bad guys’ were suitably bad and manage to be very unsettling.  If the film does one thing well, it’s provide a real feel for the hopelessness of the family’s situation.  Naomi Watts as Ann is really excellent and it provides a few “did they really just do that?” moments.  It loses it a bit near the end, but overall it’s an excellent, tense, movie.  Its pervading black humour and the hopelessness of the situation the family finds itself in are things Thomas Hardy might have appreciated.

Another film with a limited use of music, but when it does make an appearance its makes a big difference.  The sudden jump from opera to Naked City’s thrash metal is a great segue.  You just know something bad’s going to happen when you hear that.

Recommended for fans of tense, oppressive films.  Not recommended for anyone who’s seen the first version; you know you’ll only moan that this one isn’t as good.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Georgie, the little boy, did good; (for most of the film anyway).  He was loads better than his useless father, who just sat around looking anguished and fussing about his leg.  (Mister dull and conservative; whatever did Naomi Watts see in him?)  It’s so wrong, but little kids with shotguns are badass.

Funny Games at IMDB (6.4 / 10)


North Sea Texas / The Return of China Drum


North Sea Texas  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)North Sea Texas is the feature film debut from cult director Bavo Defurne.  His short films are love letters to the male form and soaked with lush visuals, garnering fans from across the globe and drawing comparisons to Pierre et Gilles, Herbert List, Dreyer and Eisenstein.  Pim lives in a small town on the Belgian coat, together with his single mother Yvette, a local accordion starlet.  It’s an ordinary existence which Pim brightens up by dreaming of princesses, beauty queens and handsome Gino, the boy next door. But when hunky traveller Zoltan blows through town, Pim’s life takes an exciting and unexpected turn.

2011  –  Certificate: 15  –  Belgium
Rating Details:  Infrequent strong sex
7 out of 10

On Thursday I went to see China Drum play at the Garage in Islington, London; its first gig for 13 years.  Since The Undertones reformed in 1999, it’s been the band I’ve wanted to see get back together more than any other.  Playing as a 5-piece, I can’t even begin to express the kick-ass awesomeness of this gig. The place looked packed out and despite a somewhat alarming number of 30-something couples, the mosh-pit was great.  The band played most of “Goosefair”, plus a few other tracks.  I was really glad they played “60 Seconds” from the second album.  China Drum is the band that singlehandedly got me back into going to gigs after about ten years of not really having been to any.  Without China Drum, my life would be an empty void, without meaning, without value, without soul.  (Well maybe not totally, but I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here.)  It’s also a band that means a lot to me on a personal level and reminds me very specifically of a certain time in my life.  When the guitar chimed at the start of “Simple” (possibly the best revenge song ever written), 13 years of crappyness in my life was distilled into two and a half minutes of pure, sonic anger.  “And if you ever get a life, I hope that it’s in hell, I wish that I could kill you, I’d slit your ugly throat, I’d wrap you up in concrete and throw you from a boat.”  Well… sometimes you need to offload a bit of life’s baggage.  They ended the set with the best cover version by any band ever, Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”.  I hope they don’t make this a one-off.

This film is about a right miserable little so and so.  Then again, I suppose having a less than attentive (accordion playing) mother and living in a boring little town on the coast of Belgium, (which as everyone knows is boring at the best of times anyway) and being called Pim, is probably enough to make any young teenager miserable.  This film follows Pim’s life for about seven years, as he falls for the handsome, older boy next door, Gino, who then basically dumps him for a girlfriend.  He also gets nowhere with the hunky border Zoltan, who then proceeds to run off with his mother, leaving Pim on his own.  Moving in with Gino’s family, the latter’s mother then dies.  Rarely smiling, seemingly having no job, no friends and no prospects, Pim spends his time moping about doing nothing much at all, spreading an air of negative vibes wherever he goes; what Gino’s sister saw in him I’ll never know, but it was clearly more than he saw in her.  There’s being “sensitive” and then there’s being “sullen”.  Then there’s the whole, are they or are they not half-brothers, bit going on too.  This film does its best to drag the viewer down to Pim’s level, with its unending vistas of meaningless days and general hopelessness.  (It’s a shame Pim didn’t get to hear China Drum.)  Despite its gay theme, this is more accurately a film about loneliness and rejection.  It’s a metaphor for life, a few good parts adrift in a sea of disappointment.  I guess that’s why I bought it.  It’s the sort of thing Thomas Hardy would have written, if he’d penned gay-themed screenplays, set in the latter half of the 20th Century in Belgium.  This is a movie which does an excellent job of capturing the futility of life; it’s well acted, the characters nicely rendered, it looks the part and it’s eminently watchable.

The music used in the film is mostly heard in the background, in pubs and on the radio, that sort of thing.  The theme song, “Wooly Clouds”, works well as a quirky little song that fits the overall feel of the film.  I really rather liked it actually.  (And it really is spelt “Wooly”; it must be a Flemish thing.)

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for The Borg; in this case, resistance really is futile.

Top badass moment?  Pim burning his shoe-box of ‘mementoes’ on the beach, before running off into the sea naked.  I prefer to work out my frustrations with life in the mosh-pit, but hey, each to their own.  Burning things is a classic way to make a break with the past; irreversible, final and violent.  It’s always good to make a fresh start, just so you can bugger things up again from scratch.

North Sea Texas at IMDB (7.0/10)


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)


Betty Blue: 3.5 Stars


Betty Blue  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Listen up, this is important.  I believe the Earth is about to be invaded and taken over by an evil alien, whose sole purpose is to enslave the entire human race and laugh in a really, really annoying way at our suffering.  Proof?  For a start, this film.  The main male character in it is called Zorg.  Is Zorg a common name in France?  I doubt it.  This film is clearly a message from the future sent back into the past, to warn us of the impending doom to come.  No one really calls their son Zorg, do they?  I hope not, because it’s the sort of name only megalomaniacs in 50’s pulp sci-fi and B-movies should have.  Emperor Zorg; Zorg the Mighty; Lord Zorg, Ruler of the Flatulent Empire and 10,000 Worlds; that sort of thing.  We never get to meet Zorg’s parents in this film, but honestly, what were they thinking?  They must have been smoking something when they came up with that name.  Then this evening I had my shopping delivered by someone called Zoltan.  Again, another clear example of a Flash Gordon era baddie, who was obviously casing the joint and looking for weaknesses in the Earth’s defences.  You shouldn’t allow the fact that he came not in a gigantic spaceship, but in the “cabbage van” (so the text from Ocado said), to deflect your attention.  He even had a bit of an accent, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t of this Earth.  These aliens, clever people, that’s why they’re ‘here’ and we’re not ‘there’.

1986  –  Certificate: 18  –  France
Rating Details:  Strong scenes of sex and nudity and some strong violence

Clocking in at almost three hours (it was the Director’s Cut), this is a loooong, French, romantic movie that takes us on a trip with young couple Zorg and Betty.  From painting beach houses, through to working in a pizza restaurant, writing books and selling pianos, it chronicles their relationship and the effect Betty’s (undefined) mental illness has on it.  Having a friend with the latter, I found it intensely saddening at times.  But I also enjoyed it in a rather Thomas Hardyish way, in the sense that I knew the relationship was probably doomed from the start and I was just waiting for it to crash and burn.  Now having just compared it to a quintessentially English author, it’s actually a very French film.  There’re plenty of examples of tasteful love-making (because the French are supposed to be good at that), as well as lots of ‘unconcerned nudity’ in it, most of it of the male variety it has to be said.  It also had several somewhat bizarre and funny scenes of what you might consider to be almost slapstick comedy too.  The ending is somewhat inexplicable as well, which seems to happen a lot in French films.  Ultimately though, it’s a downer of a movie and after spending three hours with the characters, sharing virtually every aspect of their relationship with them, it’s hard not to be affected.  I really felt sorry for them both.  It’s a nice looking film too (and I’m not just talking about the main characters) and the mono soundtrack is actually pretty decent.

Recommended for those who are willing to invest an evening in lusting after Betty or Zorg.

1 cat, no decapitations or chainsaws. The cat, a lovely white one, appears in three scenes and has a pivotal role right at the end, including a bit of (dubbed) dialogue.

Top badass moment?  Betty throwing a bucket of pink paint all over Zorg’s boss’s car.  He was a serious asshole and quite frankly a load of paint on his car was the least he deserved. When you’re boyfriend’s being a wimp and not sticking up for himself, someone has to be badass about it.  And let’s face it, who hasn’t thought of doing something like that to a crappy manager at one time or another?

Betty Blue at IMDB (7.2/10)


The Notebook: 4.0 Stars


The Notebook  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)I’m vegan.  This makes me better than most other people.  I’m not being big-headed or stupid or anything, that’s just the way things are.  (See “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” for more details.)  I’m lucky, in that the whole population of Cactus World is vegan, which makes things a lot easier.  However, the same can’t be said for some of the neighbouring areas.  My flat has a couple of air vents in it with built-in fans.  These appear to be connected to all the other vents in the building, via a series of pipes buried in the walls.   They’re the sort of vents you can use to ‘enjoy’ a ‘domestic’ going on next door.  If I lived in a Hollywood film in an old apartment in New York, I’m sure I’d regularly hear murders being committed through them, (which there’d mysteriously be no evidence for when the police arrived to investigate things); or perhaps a major terrorist attack (with a nuclear bomb of course) being planned.  I suppose I should be thankful that the vents are in the kitchen and bathroom, as they don’t seem to pick up the sound from other rooms of happy couples em, coupling.  So anyway, a little while ago I went to the aforementioned bathroom, to do some ‘bathroom things’.  As soon as I opened the lounge door, my senses were assaulted by the smell of cooked fish.  I doubt the world’s oceans smell as fishy as my flat right now.  Unfortunately, the vents transport smells as easily as they transfer sounds.  Four emergency incense cones have now been lit, in an effort to neutralise the insidious odour.  (High-powered ones obtained from the US military, through a special arrangement with the authorities in New Mexico.  They have “the fragrant aroma of smouldering Piñon firewood that is characteristic of the whole Southwest and the foothills of the Rockies.”)  We’ve yet to hear any announcements regarding whether this is a deliberate chemical weapons attack on Cactus World, the result of a massive industrial accident, or simply the outcome of dinner-time for one of my neighbours.  For a vegan however, it’s pretty crap; and annoying.  The last time my flat smelt this fishy was the day I first came to see it prior to moving in.  This was later determined to be a deliberate ploy by the previous inhabitants to disguise one of their leisure activities; it was about a year before it ceased to smell of dope; my predecessors were apparently keen on a joint or two.  This film doesn’t feature any of these things.  In fact, it couldn’t ‘unfeature’ them more if it tried.

2004  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA
Rating Details: Moderate sex

I need to go on a diet, (even more than I normally do).  This film was so syrupy and sweet that just watching it has made me put on about 5kg.  The plot twist at the end is also so obvious that it probably shouldn’t really count as one at all; it’s like one of those weakening fronts you see on weather maps, which by the time they arrive only consist of a few clouds, so if they weren’t pointed out to you you’d probably not even notice them.  I’m not much of a fan of period dramas, so a movie set mostly in the 1930s and 1940s isn’t the sort of thing to really excite me.  The chances of there being many big explosions, spaceships or gratuitous violence felt slim.  Then again, any film with Ryan Gosling in is worth checking out.  James Garner’s in it too, who was already old even when I was young.  So anyway, okay, this is actually a great film, with the most romantic/tragic ending it’s probably possible to have.  As  a fan of Thomas Hardy, I’ve always had a soft spot for relationships that get fucked-up by families, class, money, etc.  This film delivers a classic Hardy class-barrier storyline, rich city girl and poor country boy; (sounds awful doesn’t it)?  Fact is, this film doesn’t really do anything very much else and it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but what it does do it does really, really well.  In fact the only part that felt a bit weak was the Mother’s ‘revelation’; it did feel a bit of a plot contrivance rather than something that fitted into the overall narrative.  As a romantic period drama, this does deliver; and yes, it is, especially the ending, tissue-friendly.

Recommended for true romantics.  In the perfect world, we’d all end up with our first loves forever.  (Aw, see, I can be romantic too.)

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?  I have to give this to Lon Hammond.  He just goes to prove that even if you’re handsome, a war hero, successful, attentive and an all-around nice guy, you don’t always get the girl.  Being a good loser is badass and he manages here to be a top bloke about everything, when he probably had every right to be really, really pissed off.

The Notebook on IMDB (7.9 / 10)


Yentl: 3.5 Stars


Yentl  -  Front DVD CoverEach summer in the UK an ever-increasing number of music festivals seem to be organised.  Every year we hold Wimbledon on almost all open courts.  We insist on trying to have barbeques.  We invented a sport, cricket, which relies on almost totally dry conditions for it to take place.  And this year we have the Olympics too.  Why is anyone the least bit surprised that the weather is being especially wet at present?  (June was the wettest on record and half the country seems to be under threat of being flooded as I write this.)  We should be proud that the British weather has raised it game to give us the sort of summer that befits the Olympics.  Floods, lack of sunshine, torrential rain. I’m just worried that by the time the Olympics start, we’ll find that the weather has ‘gone too early’ (like a 1,500m runner starting his ‘run for home’ at the wrong time) and it might end up being a bit nicer next month.  I want all the millions of visitors that are coming to the UK to enjoy the full range of experiences our special weather can offer them.  We don’t need the drama of hurricanes, tornadoes or years of drought, our naturally understated thunderstorms, grey, drizzly weekends and ‘unseasonally cool for the time of year’ days is what they’re really coming for; I don’t want anyone to go home disappointed.  Yeh!  Yeh!  Jet Stream go!  You rule!  The idea that we might actually get what we technically refer to as ‘nice weather’ anytime soon, is frankly absurd; a little like this film really.

1983 – Certificate: PG – USA

This ‘historical’ drama would be so easy to ridicule and quite frankly it deserves to be.  For a start, it has a pretty ludicrous plot.  It conveniently ‘ignores’ loads of issues that would have made things a whole lot harder than they actually appear to be, (money anyone)?  It majors on continually reinforcing the notion that men and women have to stick to a strict code of social behaviours and expectations (that would give even a Thomas Hardy novel a run for its money); but then when they’re ignored it doesn’t seem to produce any consequences.  It has a 40-year-old woman trying to play the part of a young woman passing herself off as a teenage boy, (her ‘disguise’ is even less convincing than Batman’s), who frequently bursts into song; (yes, it’s a musical too).  After about 20 minutes I was ready to give up watching it.  I was asking myself, why on earth had I bought this film?  I don’t really like ‘period pieces’; (grown-up’s translation = historical dramas).  I don’t especially enjoy musicals either.  But then something really weird happened; it actually got, well, interesting.  As soon as it started up with the pseudo-cross-dressing-gay-lesbian stuff, things improved loads!  Well okay it’s a PG film, so don’t expect anything very explicit, but for a movie that’s basically ridiculous on nearly every level, it actually manages to feel quite realistic and touching.  It also builds a decent amount of tension around the idea that her true identify as a woman might be discovered at any moment; I was sitting there getting agitated thinking, when are one of these stupid people going to realise she’s actually a woman; it’s like so totally obvious)?  I have to say that Babs (that’s what Barbra Streisand’s fans seem to call her) does look rather fetching in it too.  So yes, in the end I did quite enjoy it and consequently have to now file it away under lock and key as a guilty pleasure.

Recommended for Avril Lavigne fans who want a new kind of idol.

No cats and no decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Barbra Streisand’s character Yentl/Anshel sticking it to ‘The Man’.  At a time and place when women weren’t allowed to go to school but basically had to just hang around at home making dinner and babies, Babs most defiantly gives the finger to all and sundry.  That’s badass!

Yentl at IMDB (6.2)


Ordinary People: 3.5 Stars


Ordinary People  -  Front DVD Cover 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.

Ordinary People at IMDB (7.8)