Posts tagged “Train

Kontroll / The Great Pasta Rip-off


Kontroll  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseA dark and dynamic ride through Budapest’s labyrinthine subway system, “Kontroll” stylishly careens through genres, thriller, drama, comedy, horror and romance, at the breakneck pace of a runaway train.  Life has turned upside-down for brooding Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), a ticket inspector who patrols the platforms and trains of the city’s underground network with a motley crew of colleagues.  Bulcsú has forged a series of ‘relationships’ with other long-term denizens of this neon-lit world; the serial fare-dodger, the shadowy serial-killer, the veteran whose seen it all before, and the mysterious, beautiful woman who rides the rails in a bear suit.  The most successful Hungarian film of 2003 and selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, Kontroll”, with its echoes of “Run Lola Run”, is a fascinating tour of an unseen world and an atmospheric, pulsating search for redemption.

2003  –  Certificate: 15  –  Hungarian Film
Rating Details: Strong language and violence
8.0 out of 10

Today I’m being angry about dry pasta.  Dry pasta is a total rip-off.  By which I mean the price charged for some types is a blatant attempt to feed the insecurity, snobbishness and stupidity of a significant percentage of the population.  Normally I buy Ocado (own brand) Fusilli pasta at 113p / kg.  But on a whim, last time I did my ‘big shopping’ I also bought a bag of Giuseppe Cocco Fusilli Pasta at 598p / kg, to find out what’s so good about it.  That’s over 5 times more expensive!  The latter comes in a smaller bag and has fancy Italian writing all over the packet (that could be telling me to go fuck myself for all I know), but beyond that it isn’t any different.  It looks and tastes just like the cheap stuff.  People are soft in the head if they’re stupid enough to buy the expensive version and think it’s superior in some way.  Listen up.  It’s exactly the same!  Whether you like it or not, it’s only bought by the dull-witted and easy led, who actually believe it’s better; or food snobs who’re clearly lacking something in their lives that impressing themselves, their family and friends with grossly overpriced food, helps them to cover up.  It you really want to impress your peers, buy the cheap stuff and donate the £60 or so you’ll save each year to charity.  And while I’m on the subject, why is it that if you don’t buy spirals, spaghetti or tubes, the price of pasta also goes up hugely?  Another rip-off!  In fact, the only thing more ridiculous is bottled water.  Being a Brit who lives on a small island, I’m genetically programmed to think just about everywhere else in Europe is basically like one place as it’s joined together, such as Italy and Hungary

I went to Hungary once.  (Yes, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?)  I arrived with no local currency and had no idea what the exchange rate was, so for quite a while I based my estimate of prices on the bottle of overpriced Coke I bought from a vending machine at the bus station in Budapest.  (Based on this, a bottle of lager was about half the price of Coke.)  I never went on the underground there, which now having seen this film I’m quite glad about; the bus was quite traumatic enough.  This movie follows the exploits of a scruffy team of five ticket inspectors on the Budapest subway.  It starts with an introduction from someone claiming to be from the subway company, explaining why permission was given for the film to be made (entirely underground) and for the company to be depicted in the way it is.  I’m not 100% sure if this was serious or just a clever bit of writing.  The whole movie has a well developed script and provides plenty of nuanced observations and WTF moments.  The subway environment provides a great atmospheric background too, as the action switches quickly between different genera and pacing.  Ticket inspectors are depicted as being very low on the ‘food chain’ of careers, with questionable management, rivalry between teams and a general antagonism towards them from the travelling public.  A dark comedy (with a bit of romance and horror thrown in), this is a pretty fun, mind-fuck film that uses its setting well.  A great film.  Enjoy.

Musically it’s not an especially interesting movie as there’s not a lot used, although its scarcity does give it an impact when it does appear.

The trailer’s pretty decent, but I couldn’t find a copy of it with subtitles anywhere on the Internet.  There’s a copy on the DVD though.

Recommended for ticket inspectors, tourists, serial killers and fare dodgers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  For most of this film the ticket inspectors are on the wrong end of abuse from passengers who haven’t got a ticket.  In one incident, an especially annoying woman threatens to report one for groping her if he hassles her any more about not having a ticket.  So the guy promptly grabs her boobs, much to her horror and embarrassment.  Now I’m not condoning this in any way, but somehow she deserved it.  Calling someone’s bluff is always badass, if you get away with it.

Kontroll at IMDB (7.7 / 10)
Kontroll at Wikipedia
Kontroll at Roger Ebert (3.5 / 4)
Kontroll trailer at YouTube

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13 Going On 30 / New Town Kings Gig


13 Going On 30  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)Jennifer Garner (“Daredevil”, TV’s “Alias”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) star in this hilarious flash-forward romance about a pre-teen girl who goes from geek to glamorous.  With the help of some magic wishing dust, 13 year-old Jenna Rink (Garner) becomes 30 and gorgeous overnight, with everything she ever wanted, except for her best friend Matt (Ruffalo).  Now, this grown woman must create some magic of her own to help the little girl inside find the true love she left behind.

2004  –  Certificate: 12  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Moderate sex and drug references
8.0 out of 10

Went to see the New Town Kings last night at the Camden Underworld in London.  It’s probably the best ska band in the country.  (Quite why people listen to stuff like Coldplay when they could be listening to bands like the NTK entirely escapes me, but I think it’s probably just another symptom of the fall of humanity; the signs are all around us after all, this is just another scream of terror from the depths of hell into which we’re falling.)  The gig was great, had a little bit too much to drink but managed not to be too uncoordinated or tread on too many feet.  I really like going to gigs in the summer, as when you leave at the end in a sweat-soaked t-shirt, you don’t walk out into a dark night that has a wind chill that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Antarctic winter.  I hate that and hanging about at Paddington Station afterwards, waiting for a train that’s either packed and you can’t get a seat, or freeing cold.  (I know it’s partly my fault as I wear the same things all year, but cloakrooms are a pain so if I can’t wear it under ‘combat conditions’ or tie it around my waist, then it’s too much hassle.  I’m sure regularly undergoing a freeze-thaw cycle is good for something; it’s good for some seeds anyway.)  Have to say I’m feeling pretty fit at the moment.  I remember seeing NTK a couple of years ago and I was knackered at the end.  This time it didn’t feel that big a deal.  I truly have the body of top sportsman!  (Darts probably).

I can’t believe it, but this is the fifth comedy I’ve watch in a row.  What’s come over me?  Then again, I do choose the films I watch entirely at random, although there are a lot of complicated rules that govern this process, but at the end of the day it’s still pretty random.  Anyway, let’s not consider how clichéd or stupid this film is.  Let’s just consider it and its (I think for me) unique, pink DVD case.  To deflect the fact and consequent embarrassment that comes from my sitting and watching a chick-flick on my own, I like to consider this as a movie with a hard science fiction storyline, that just happens to have some sort of romance built into it somewhere.  We first meet our hero Jenna around the time of her 13th birthday, just before she travels about 27 years into the future, into an alternative time-line.   So okay, the ‘time-machine’ consists of some sort of ‘fairy dust’ that we never get an explanation for, but that’s the nature of these things, apparently.  Then in the future she does stuff and it all works out okay.  Right?  It is actually an excellent film, even though it’s rubbish too; I did feel myself getting emotional once or twice, (just a tiny bit of course).  It also has one of those brilliant, so-crap-it’s-good dance routine scenes in it; Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” being the victim in this case.  (You should check out all the people at IMDB seriously discussing how realistic this scene is and how poor the choreography is; and I thought I had trouble living in the real world sometimes.)  Technically I like how this film looks and sounds on DVD.

This movie uses it’s soundtrack to strongly emphasise its 80s vibe.  In this, thanks in part to the way the sound blasts out every time a song is played, it succeeds well.  Even I have to begrudgingly admit that it’s not that bad.

Recommended for magazine editors, freelance photographers, 13 year-old girls and anyone who thinks 80s pop music is of any value; (yes, you there at the back, I can see you).

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Biach Tom-Tom getting her comeuppance.  So she gets a drink spilt on her, a few harsh words and some work ripped up in front of her face; but when you’re 13 and have a social position to maintain in front of your friends, that’s probably not dissimilar to having your head blown off with a big gun by the unsung hero in the climatic final scene in a bloody action film.

13 Going On 30 at IMDB (6.0 / 10)

13 Going On 30 at Wikipedia


Bandwagon / The Roberts Stream 83i


Bandwagon  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)“Bandwagon” is a fresh and exciting indie comedy about four unlikely characters, who together form a band.  Tony Ridge is a tragically shy singer and songwriter who can barely discuss his songs, let alone play them in public.  He meets up with Charlie, an anxious young drummer with a practice space and a mom who makes them snacks.  They seek out Wynn, a perpetually stoned lead guitarist, and finally, Eric, a feisty bass player who’s just given away his instrument as collateral on an overdue bet.  Once the bass is retrieved from an unforgettable drug-dealing redneck the guys are ready.  But ready for what? Is their band about the music, about getting the girls, or just something to pass the time?  They decide that the best way for them to get noticed is to hit the road so they procure Linus Tate, the elusive, but legendary, road manager.  The group soon realizes that life, confined to the space of their not-so-trusty van, isn’t always an easy endeavour.  First-time writer/director John Schultz, a native of North Carolina, has taken full advantage of the striking local scenery during the peak of fall.  Witty dialogue and clever plot twists punctuate a well-crafted story.  An expertly produced sound track, including original songs performed by the film’s band, Circus Monkey, as well as other independent bands, gives the film an edgy, contemporary sound.  A mix of familiar faces (Kevin Corrigan from “Living in Oblivion” and Steve Parlavecchio from “Amongst Friends”) and refreshing new talent round out an energetic ensemble cast.  “Bandwagon” is a good-time venture into young artistic expression.

1996  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
7.0 out of 10

My new Roberts Stream 83i has arrived, as a replacement for my old but now sadly broken, Logitech Squeezebox.  It plays FM radio.  It plays Internet radio.  It’s a DAB radio.  It streams music from my NAS Drive.  It sounds nice.  It’s very easy to work out how to use it.  It looks a little too like it was designed by someone with an over enthusiasm for 50’s sci-fi spaceship control panels; Buck Rodgers would feel right at home with it.  What’s there not to like?  Well, two things so far.  Despite giving access to thousands of radio stations available on the Internet, it only give you 5 pre-sets for them, which is a bit perverse; was that bit of the specification sorted out on a Friday afternoon by some thickie on work experience with the company?  Also, and far more annoyingly, it won’t shuffle music from my NAS Drive unless there’re less than about 2,000 tracks or folders in a folder, so it expects me to rearrange my whole, digital music collection to convenience this crappy bit of its design.  I’ve e-mailed the company for a solution; let’s see how long it takes to reply and what it says.  It never fails to amaze me how those that design things never seem to get the details quite right.  This film is about music too.

Wynn, Eric, Tony and Charlie are four losers that have little else in common.  They form a band, go on tour, fall out a lot, deal with loads of angst and in the end come good.  So pretty much like every other film ever written about a band. Having said that, it’s quite a lot of fun and, critically, feels fairly authentic.  Their enigmatic road manager, Linus, also adds a slightly surreal feel to things too.  It’s often hard for actors to look like musicians in films, but in this case they generally do a pretty good job.  It does feel bit dated at times, mainly because these days so much independent music is promoted and distributed on the Internet.  There is a bit near the end where the band is being spoken to by the head of a record company, who’s explaining, quite convincingly, how the band has to do this, that and the other to be successful.  Sometimes it feels like that at work; I spend more time playing the game that doing anything that’s actually making any sort of difference.  It doesn’t matter how many times I have it explained to me, I’m still left with a feeling that there’s a better way to do things.

A film about a band needs to have good music.  With a number of decent, mid 90s, American indie rock songs, this movie does manage to be convincing enough on this level.  In fact a couple of them are actually pretty good.

Recommended for garage mechanics, dope-heads, record shop assistants and construction vehicle manufacturer workers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The record company president meets the band and offers it a recording contract.  It turns it down.  That’s defiantly sticking it to The Man, and that’s badass; and in many ways stupid too, but there’s something to be said for keeping you integrity and principles intact.

Bandwagon at IMDB (6.7 / 10)

Bandwagon at Wikipedia


The Waiting Room / Happy Shopper Brown Sauce


The Waiting Room  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)“The Waiting Room” is the beautiful, feature debut of Academy-Award nominated writer/director Roger Golby.  The sterling cast give ‘top-notch performances’ in their portrayal of two strangers – Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) and Stephen (Ralf Little) – who are brought together by chance as they sit together in a deserted waiting room.  Here they make a brief but powerful connection, forgetting their individual lives for an isolated moment in time.  As Stephen and Anna’s lives move onwards, they find themselves thinking more and more of the stranger they met in the waiting room – and what would happen should they meet again.  This highly acclaimed and deeply moving film presents a fresh, edgy and totally romantic view of contemporary life and love in London.

2008  –  Certificate: 15  –  British Film
Rating Details: One strong sex scene and strong language
8.5 out of 10

On my way home from work two days ago I did a bit of food shopping.  A sudden impulse buy was a bottle of brown sauce.  I can’t remember the last time I bought any, but it must have been years ago.  If I’d had any sense I’d have bought some decent stuff, like HP.  Instead, I bought some cheap, Happy Shopper Brown Sauce.  It tasted sort of okay, but it contains about a tonne of salt per gram.  (No, I don’t know how that’s possible either; I guess it’s this sort of ‘new physics’ that makes the experiments being done with the Large Hadron Collider so exciting.)  Using it gave me a sore throat and I could feel my arteries bulging as if they were about to explode, thanks to my suddenly elevated blood pressure.  All in all it’s pretty toxic stuff.  I can only imagine that a large-scale deployment of Happy Shopper Brown Sauce would probably cross someone’s “red line” somewhere or other…  I’m glad I only have the one bottle.  I’ve not checked frame by frame, but I’m not aware that this film contains any brown  sauce, or  sauce of any colour for that matter.  If anyone spots any do let me know.

I can’t understand why this film isn’t better known.  It’s set in Wandsworth, south London and features a lot of Southern Trains suburban services in it; I mean seriously, how much more cool and fashionable could it possibly get?  It’s a story that revolves around three couples, their relationships and a chance meeting between two people in a waiting room at Wandsworth Common Station.  This is a gentle but hugely touching film about ordinary people.  Like many character-driven stories, it just sort of jumps into a period in their lives and then after a while it leaves them again, giving us a glimpse into their thoughts, feeling and actions.  It has a number of scenes that provide the sort of emotional impact that all good films should and characters, though flawed, it’s still easy to sympathise with.  Funny in places and intensely sad in others, at times it felt a bit too close to home for my linking, which is partly why it’s such a brilliant movie.

The soundtrack is generally restrained and unmemorable, but quietly gets on with business of extending the impact of the scenes it’s used in.  A job well done.

Recommended for anyone who accepts that their life is as good as it’s ever going to get.

No cat, chainsaws or decapitation.

Top badass moment?  Stephen, one of the two main characters, works in a nursing home.  When my mum was in a nursing home all the care staff there seemed too overworked to really spend much time with the residents.  Perhaps that’s the reality of it, but if any of them did ever have a bit of time on their hands, I’d have wanted them to be like Stephen.

The Waiting Room at IMDB (6.3 / 10)


Exam / There Are Always Alternatives


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

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

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

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

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

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

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

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

Exam at IMDB (6.8 / 10)


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)


My Girl: 4.0 Stars


My Girl  -  Front DVD coverEver watched any of those TV ads, which always seem to feature a young and good-looking guy in a white shirt and tie, sitting on a train with loads of space around him?  The ones where it’s sunny outside and the train is passing through some beautiful countryside, which the guy in the shirt glances at contentedly whilst he works away on a laptop, looking happy and in control, as he drinks his complementary and delicious cup of coffee and deals with his important but achievable workload?  Well that’s total bollocks.  I’ve spend a lot of time recently sitting on trains trying to work on a laptop and its had about as much in common with that image, as someone sweeping the floor in an aircraft hangar has with Tom Cruise in “Topgun”.  So here’s a reality check.

1)  The trains are always over-crowded and no one looks happy.

2)  You always have to chuck someone out of the seat you’ve booked, who’s always the person most genuinely in need of a seat on the whole train; typically a heavily pregnant but exceedingly fray old lady, who’s often from a Black or Asian community too, so that everyone else on the train can brand you both a bastard and a racist.

3)  You can never plug your laptop in anywhere; there either isn’t a plug, or someone else is using it and will defend it to the death if need be.  You’d have more chance of negotiating a peace treaty between North and South Korea.

4)  The tables are too narrow to have the screen at the right angle or the keyboard in the right place; and there’s always some other poor sod sitting on the other side of the table trying to use a laptop too; and the nightmarish possibly that the backs of the lids might accidentally touch one another, would feel not unlike experiencing your best mate suddenly touching you ‘inappropriately’ and declaring he’s always loved you.

5)  You’re always stressed out because you’ve got too much work to do.  Internet access costs nearly £5 for an hour and at best is annoyingly intermittent and slow, so you end up having to close and reopen Outlook loads of times in an effort to send or receive any e-mail.  And don’t even think you can use a mouse, as the train’s movement will result in your clicking on everything but what you wanted and a screen full of usless boxes and windows that you’ve then got to try to close, an equally futile exercise that just perpetuates the nightmare.  And if you saved the link your mate sent you last week for that comedy bestiality gay porn website, you can be sure you’ll accidently click on it and everyone in the carriage with hear your tinny laptop speakers blare out the fact, confirming in their minds that you’re a social deviant as well as being a bastard and a racist, and probably a paedophile too.  Your only defence against all this is that the chance of you actually finding a suitable space in which to move a mouse around, is rather less than that of the Earth suddenly exploding right now… nope, we’re still here.  (And here’s a friendly bit of advice; don’t bother trying to use your mouse on your thigh, it doesn’t work and after it’s fallen on the floor with  a loud clatter a few times, everyone will be adding stupidity to your growing lists of crimes.) 

6)  The person sitting opposite you always has a better laptop that makes you feel like a Luddite and failure, as you look at your scratched Dell with its broken bit of trim in the corner; whilst his is miraculously in pristine condition, despite its apparently nomadic existence; they’re nearly always Macs too; does Apple pay people to travel on trains just to make it look like it has a bigger market share than it really does?

7)  The weather is always wet and horrible; or really bright and the sun shines directly onto the screen of your laptop, rendering it unreadable.

8)  The person next to you acts as if he’s Beelzebub’s cousin and insists on staking his claim to every square nanometre of his allotted space; even using his bag and jacket to build something akin to the Berlin Wall between you and him.  The unspoken threat this leaves hanging in the air will lead you to prefer the option of wetting yourself, rather than ask him to move so you can go to the toilet.

9)  If the person next to you is a woman, she will continually use body language that strongly suggests the world’s most evil-smelling pervert has just sat next to her.  Unlike Beelzebub’s cousin, she will attempt to curl up in as small a space as possible, mathematically as far from you as she can, whilst texting her mates non-stop to tell them of her ongoing trauma.

10)  The coffee is mediocre, costs £2.20 and comes in a paper cup.

This film is set in 1972. Before laptops existed.  (And I really actually like trains.)

1991  –  Certificate: PG  –  USA

Before I watched this film I couldn’t remember anything about it or why I’d bought it.  Neither the overview nor the trailer suggested that it’s going to be anything other than a fairly crappy, 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it.  An evening of British stoicism beckoned, as I looked forward to 98 minutes of mediocre averageness.  But when a film starts with an 11-year-old girl speaking directly into the camera, claiming to have caught haemorrhoids and explaining how her breasts are developing at different rates and that means she’s got cancer, does suggest that it’s going to have more balls that it ought to.  (Sorry if that all sounds a bit Jimmy Savilley, it’s not meant to.)  For a PG rated film, I bet that freaked out a few parents in the cinema!  It’s basically a film about death, a suitable depressing topic that probably explains why I bought it in the first place.  In the end, it still turned out to be a 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it, but at times it’s also a genuinely touching and powerful bit of drama.  The adults are more or less cardboard cut-out characters, but the kids make the film come alive and the script’s surprising subtle.  It’s got a good soundtrack too.  (Problem is, I still can’t get used to Dan Aykroyd not hunting ghosts, or Jamie Lee Curtis not fighting Michael Myers.) 

Recommended for people who want to revisit the experience of losing someone they love. 

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws. 

Top badass moment?  Vada sulking in the supermarket and throwing can after can from the shelf into the trolley.  Am I the only one who thinks doing this without looking at the shelf or fumbling any of the cans, whilst the trolley is moving, was pretty clever?  It’s hard to make sulking look cool, so managing to do so is badass.

My Girl at IMDB (6.5/10)


Toto the Hero: 3.5 Stars


Toto the Hero  -  DVD Front CoverEver had the feeling you’ve been cheated?  Last night I was at Paddington Station, coming home from seeing the New Town Kings (a great, 9-piece ska band) at the Camden Purple Turtle.  30p to use the toilets at Paddington Station.  30p!  What especially pisses me off is the fact that I only had to do this as my train was delayed and the display boards didn’t say how long this was going to be for, (it was 20 minutes in the end).  Was it really so hard for them to work that out?  Didn’t they know where the train was and how fast it was going?  Of course they did.  Bastards; they waited until I’d paid my 30p before announcing that useful bit of information.  Put together with my 65 minute delay coming into London that afternoon, (on a journey that’s only supposed to take 30 minutes), it’s a fucking disgrace that you’re then charged 30p for something you can do on the train for free, (well for no more charge anyway as you’ve already paid for it in your massively overpriced ticket), if it actually turned up on time.  In fact, no one should have to pay to use a toilet ever, it’s not like it’s a luxury you can do without.  And what’s more, I had to go and buy a cup of coffee for £2.00, to get some change to use the ‘little boys’ room’. So basically I paid £2.30 and waited around for 85 minutes on cold stations, just for the privilege of going to the toilet.  What next? You’ll need a ticket for breathing in the air at a station?  Well guess what?  Last time I travelled on the same service I sat in First Class, even though I only had a Standard Class ticket.  The train was totally bunged and some people couldn’t even get on it, so my travelling companion convinced me to make this futile gesture to The Man.  (Not that we were alone, although we were the first of the proles to burst out of Standard Class; by the time the train left people were even sitting on the tables in First Class and in the luggage areas, it was so crowded.)  So up yours Great First Western (or whatever it is you’re calling yourself this week).  Next time I’m going to urinate all over the station concourse.  And also, some random, young guy came up to me whilst I was waiting, shook my hand, asked if I knew him (I didn’t) and asked me if I liked people called Mohammed.  What sort of idiotic question is that?  What did he think I was going to say?  That I hate all Muslims, especially ones called Mohammed?  I just said that it depends on the person.  Anyway, this seemed to suitably impress him and he went on his way.  This film is about feeling someone else is having a better time in life than you are.

1991  –  Certificate:15  –  Belgum

This is a really interesting thriller, despite the fact that it comes from Belgium, which as everyone knows isn’t famous for anything, except weird chocolate and being boring.  It’s about a guy, Thomas, who’s convinced himself that he was swapped for another baby (Alfred) when the hospital they were in after being born, caught fire and everyone was evacuated.  As a consequence, he’s spent his whole life being jealous of Alfred’s apparently more successful one and feeling it should have been his.  It’s like four films in one, covering him as a wide-eyed young boy, unfulfilled and underachieving middle-aged guy and bitter old man, as well as a fantasy version of his life with him playing the part of a private investigator / secret agent kind of person.  The movie cuts between these and goes back and forward in time a lot, so you’ll probably need to write some notes if you want to keep things straight.  Thinking about it today, I’ve realised that I entirely missed the point of whole parts of it, but that’s okay as it means it’ll be worth watching again.  Despite it being quite a bleak sounding film, it’s actually quite fun in places and Thomas’s ‘solution’ to his ‘issue’ is quite unexpected.  It also has a nice and positive cameo for his brother, who has Down’s Syndrome, who’s shown as the one person in it who’s content and happy with his life.  Everyone else spends their time regretting what they did or didn’t do, lost and wasted opportunities.  No wonder I liked it, it’s a film I can relate to.   Yes, it’s a really worthwhile movie, so go watch it please.

Recommended for people who like high quality films that are a bit different.

1 cat and no decapitations.  But poor cat; it’s all squashed at the side of the road!  :-(

Top badass moment?  Alice (Thomas’s sister) trashing the Virgin Mary in the church, after their father isn’t found quickly enough after an air crash.  I’m not condoning such behaviour, but busting up a religious icon in a church is pretty badass.

Toto the Hero at IMDB


Creep: 3.5 Stars


Creep  -  Front DVD CoverI’ve probably made thousands of journeys on the London Underground in my life, a lot of them early in the morning or late at night.  I think I can say that I’ve never noticed anyone famous, seen any fights, heard a gun-shot or met any homicidal maniacs.  I’ve met a small number of weirdos, but that’s about it.  I’m always secretly impressed by people who seemingly see a politician or film star on the Underground nearly every week, have tales of gunman or knife-wielding hoddies to share, or who regularly get trapped for hours in tunnels on broken-down trains.  Maybe it has something to do with my ability to put on an iPod and fall asleep in almost any location; to me, the Underground is basically an uncomfortable, mobile bed.  It’s like sleeping in a communal dormitory, where half the people look as miserable as sin, wear suits and never speak, whilst the other half talk all the time (but never in English), wear a range of strange clothing (I guess it’s all in fashion somewhere in the world) and continually look with confusion at a pocket-sized map of the Tube.  However, I love the Underground, it’s a great social leveler.  It’s a place where everyone can share equally in its sweltering, fetid, humid, summer ambience; enjoy having their faces pushed into other peoples’ armpits; or try desperately not to end up standing in the middle of an aisle, miles away from the doors that they’ve got zero chance of getting to when they want to get off and where whoever’s sitting adjacent to where they’re standing will have an eye-level and close-up view of their crotch, whether they want to or not; (remember kids, don’t get ‘excited’ and always go to the toilet and check your undies for the dreaded VPL, before you travel).  It’s another example of a great bit of British engineering!  (The Tube, not crotches.)

2004  –  Certificate: 18  –  United Kingdom

Rating Details: Strong bloody violence

This is a pretty good horror.  The London Underground has plenty of potential to provide a creepy environment in which to trap people and it’s cool to see it used in this way in a film.  It does drift off into torture porn territory towards the end, but it’s still entertaining.  There’s loads of unrealistic stuff in it too, but let’s not dwell on that, as it will only spoil an otherwise pretty good movie.  It also does a good job of making you have some sympathy for the ‘baddie’ too.  I do hope all the survivors got checked for Weil’s Disease afterwards; it would be shame to escape from everything, only to succumb to an unpleasant disease a few weeks late; that would really suck.

Recommended for Tube fans, commuters and people who enjoy swimming in sewerage.  If you fall into all three groups, then you’re in for a real treat; and you’re one sick puppy too.

No cats and no decapitations.  There were a lot of rats and some decent neck cutting scenes though.

Top badass moment?  It really has to be Kate throughout most of the film.  She has to try to save the life of a guy who tries to rape her, deal with unhelpful London Underground staff, swim around with rats in sewerage, watch several people get killed, deal with the baddie herself and then still have to get home afterwards.  Shit happens; dealing with it is badass.

Creep at IMDB