Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a 30-something man living comfortably in New York balancing a busy job and active social life. When the wayward Sissy (Carey Mulligan), turns up at his apartment unannounced, Brandon’s carefully managed lifestyle spirals out of control. From award-winning director Steve McQueen (“Hunger”), “Shame” is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.
2011 – Certificate 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong sex and sex references
7.5 out of 10
I’m having a water meter fitted at home. No longer will I pay Thames Water £36.60 a month for the few drops of H2O that I use every day. (Apparently it has to dig up half the town to fit it, but who cares?) No longer will I feel guilt if I wash-up, flush the toilet, have a shower or do some washing, as I’ll simply stop doing all of those things. This will save me money and, more importantly, save the planet too. Who would have though becoming a lazy, housework-averse, smelly slob would actually be more community-minded than keeping your whites white and your home clean? The next time I see someone washing his or her car I’m going to go up to the criminal (and let’s face it, you can’t do much worse than destroy the whole planet), and tell them just how selfish they are. They may as well just get a gun and start killing people. Indeed, a clean 4×4 has a lot in common with a minigun. In a mostly unrelated incident, the first thing I did this morning was knock an almost entirely new toilet role into the toilet, while I was using it. I managed to knock it off the holder and in an effort to stop it falling on the floor, only managed to redirect it into the bowl instead. (My hands were pretty full at the time.) For the second time in about a month, I enjoyed the taboo experience of urinating onto something that’s not really meant to be treated in that way; (last time it was my mobile phone). In a not dissimilar way, this is a film about a successful guy with an addiction to sex. We also get to see him using a toilet in a similar fashion to me, although minus the bog role and with a ‘physical presence’ that made me feel somewhat inadequate.
This film has a story and a plot of sorts, but if you’re the sort of person who likes a story that sort of has a purpose, then you may not find it that satisfying. On the other hand, if you like films with a vibe and an atmosphere, then you might quite enjoy it. Depending on your world view, I guess you’ll either consider Brandon is ‘the man’ or a ‘total loser’. (If it helps you, please feel free to insert a pair of diametrically opposed euphemisms of your choice in place of the two I’ve just used, perhaps more suited to your age and social background.) This is actually a very good movie. I didn’t really want to like Brandon, but somehow he manages to come across as a decent guy with two sides to his life; one a success at work and the other an uncontrollable addict that he keeps bottled up by routine and ‘rules’. Then his somewhat messed up sister arrives on the scene. I felt quite sorry for him actually. This probably has a lot to do with how Michael Fassbender portrays the character, which is in a quite understated way. The story does leave a lot of unfinished business and unanswered questions in its wake, but really, it’s the mood of the film that makes it work. Mostly depressing (like most of what I watch), it’s a visually and emotionally entertaining portrayal of a guy with a problem, a guy with a problem that he then tries to do something about.
I really love how the music is used in this film, a mixture of mainly 80s pop, Johann Sebastian Bach and some great incidental stuff by Harry Escott. It also seems to be part of the trigger that makes Brandon try to change his behaviour.
No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.
Recommended for perverts, obviously.
Top badass moment? Twice in under two hours, we see Brandon make ‘meaningful’ eye contact with attractive women on the Subway. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Tube and never managed that; in fact I’ve only seen it happen once between anyone. Somehow that’s badass, or jealousy, I’m not sure which.
I was born in London. I lived there for many years. I’ve travelled on the Underground thousands of times; in fact I could probably draw a pretty accurate map of the Tube from memory, with most of the stations marked on it too. Last weekend I went to go to a gig in London, at a venue I know, using a part of the Underground which I also know very well. After making no less than four navigational errors on the Tube (getting on the wrong line, going in the wrong direction, getting off at the wrong station, etc), I decided that no lesser person than God himself was trying to drop a hint that I shouldn’t go. In the end I gave up and decided to come home, convinced that on my journey back I’d be involved in some sort of ‘incident’ that would offer me the chance to become a national hero. A major train crash perhaps, a little old lady being mugged, or a cute kitten stuck up in a tree, that sort of thing.
Ready for action, I stood in the vestibule bit of the train from Paddington Station. (For the thickos amongst you who don’t know what that is, it’s the bit of the train where the carriages are joined together.) Now I was dressed in what I normally wear when I go to see bands, which means just a t-shirt and shirt on top; coats are a pain at gigs, but not wearing one in the winter means you can get bloody cold afterwards. So I was cold; and knowing that I was very likely to be called on to perform some sort of heroic action in the near future, I’d decided not to trap myself in the bowels of a carriage. The train was actually quite full, so I’d have been unlikely to find a spare seat to sit on that didn’t involve me sitting next to someone; and I didn’t want to force myself on anyone in that way and spoil his or her evening; (yes, I’m very self-confident I know). So anyway, there I was, standing by the door. Joining me in my vestibule was an early 20s no-one; let’s call him Puppy Boy. Puppy Boy decided it would be a good idea to open the window, a lot. This was bearable for a few minutes, but once the train got moving it got colder and colder, as the wind howled in through the window at over 100mph and made a bee-line for me. Meanwhile, Puppy Boy just stood there, playing with his stupid little phone, seemingly oblivious to the near absolute-zero, super-cooled air that was blasting into his face and then travelling across the carriage to crush my life force in its icy grasp.
Ever seen a dog in a car that likes to stick its head out of the window? Well now you know where Puppy Boy got his name from. In my hypothermic condition, I started to hallucinate about Puppy Boy sticking his head out of the window and being decapitated by a passing train and wondering where the emergency alarm was, so I could alert the drive to this fact; and considering, in some detail, how much of a mess the headless remains of his body would make on the floor in front of me.
However, revenge is sweet. So along comes the ticket inspector. Like the upstanding, pillar of society, good citizen that I am, I proudly brandished my ticket and Railcard for the gentleman to inspect at his leisure. Then he turned to Puppy Boy. Oh dear, Puppy Boy had ‘forgotten’ to buy himself a ticket. I guess at a huge station like Paddington that has thousands of ticket machines and a massive ticket hall, it just slipped his mind. Yeah, right. I personally think they should arm ticket inspectors and licence them to carry out on-the-spot executions on people who have obviously tried to avoid buying a ticket; and if you can afford a snazzy little phone on which to surf the web and text your equally annoying and boring Coldplay worshipping friends, you can afford a ticket. Anyway, Puppy Boy doesn’t have a ticket, so has to buy one for the full single price, which was more than my return ticket, which also included all my Underground travel too. This didn’t warm me up in the slightest, but it did give me a great deal of satisfaction. When we got to Reading, Puppy Boy got off the train in front of me and I pushed him onto the track into the path of an oncoming train, in payment for making my journey so bloody uncomfortable. No wait, I just imagined that last bit. And please, don’t ask me why didn’t I ask him to close the window; I’m a Brit, we don’t do things like that, we just suffer in silence! Oh, and I wasn’t called on to perform any feats of heroism either, so I’ve no idea why I became so clueless on the Underground.
Right now I’m listening to “My Lady’s Games” by Blyth Power.
This film features a Britain that’s been entirely depopulated by an infection; just about everyone who wasn’t evacuated is now dead. (And to think it all happened because of some cruel and pointless experiments on animals in the prequel “28 Days Later”). Most of it’s filmed in London. It’s set around six months after the first movie and focuses on the repopulation of the country, which has started in and around Canary Wharf. NATO (mainly the US Army) is in charge of this. While watching this movie I was struck by just how inexplicably uncomfortable the later felt. There’s no suggestion in the film that they’re doing this for any other reason than the obvious one, but it made me realise just how undesirable the armed forces from another country might feel if they were in your country and in control of things. I suppose it’s a feeling of powerlessness and not totally trusting people who aren’t ‘your own’. Needed perhaps, helpful possibly, but not really wanted. I think I now understand a little more about the relationship between the West and elsewhere and why countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (and even Russia) react they way they do to Western involvement in their affairs. All politicians and soldiers should watch this part of this film.
2007 – Certificate: 18 – United Kingdom
Rating Details: Strong bloody violence and gore
This is a sequel that’s actually better than the original. It’s an action-horror and possibly one of my ten favourite horror films of all time. It’s weird seeing so many shots of London entirely empty of people and traffic. With some great special effects, it works well as both a horror and an action film. It’s only its MTV-esque fast editing (which gives anyone over the age of 16 a headache) during some of the action scenes that I don’t like. It has a few classic “oh that’s so stupid” plot moments, but by and large it’s edge of the seat stuff; good music too. And did I get the very slight feeling that it might just have ended with a set up for another film? I think I did. This is a film you should watch.
Recommended for anyone who thinks zombies would be much better if they didn’t tend to stagger around very slowly; and for anyone who doesn’t like banks.
No cats and at least six decapitations. (You’d need to watch parts of it frame by frame to get the correct number; a helicopter blade can do a lot of damage!)
Top badass moment? Seeing the City fire-bombed to bits by the US Air Force. That’ll give us a banking crisis to really whine about. Bye-bye Canary Wharf Tower; a building that normally contains thousands of people who’re employed to press buttons all day; how constructive. Far more useful I’m sure, than a plumber, a carpenter, a scientist, an engineer, a teacher, a farmer, a nurse, a care worker…
I’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.