Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Looks and Personality Wot Wins Elections. Not The Sun.

Is it me or are we resigned to the fact that this time next year the man running our country will be a toff in Blair’s clothing. I am of course talking of the fact that The Sun has changed its allegiance to The Conservative party, ending it’s 12 year association with the incumbent Labour party. Now it is no surprise that the Sun has lot of clout in this country, as it is the paper with the biggest readership, and is a strong arm of Murdoch’s News Corp Empire. The paper even announced, after John Major surprisingly won the 1992 general election, that: “It was the Sun Wot Won it,” in its usual blunt instrumental way, so even it is in some way self aware of its influence. Sure, it’s true that people decide the outcome of an election and not the media, as Labour are spluttering frantically, but having the media on your side certainly helps. Then again is what we are seeing a case of The Sun backing on the horse with better odds, or an attempting to influence the voters?

Now to be fair, it is not always the Sun ‘wot wins’ it. In fact the Sun got it spectacularly wrong when it comes to betting on the right winner, as shown in the 70s when they gambled on Labour winning and lost and then remained neutral for the rest of the decade. So it looks like it’s all about choosing the person with the best chances of winning, and that normally means the person who looks best.

If proof was ever there, that politics is all about window dressing, and that personality supersedes policy, it is that the public turns to the charismatic and physically more appealing candidates rather than listen to anything that a less smooth talking, and repugnant, politicians (or bastards, the same principals apply to both really). The fact that Tony Blair was able to schmooze his way into the PM position, turn everything upside down – blaming it on God and virtue of course – and then bugger off to profit off the middle east he helped mess up in the first place, and people still say that he’s a lovely chap goes to show. That is, to me, a major reason as to why David (don’t mention the fact I went to Eton) Cameron is faring a great deal better than old wonky eyes Gordon. True, Brown has been faced, in his controversial tenure, with scandal and upheaval that would have even the most confident Prime Minister glumly admitting his chances of staying in power are less likely than, say, Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill going out on a hot date, but he has stuck it out with gusto. What bothers me more is that it seems less mud seems to stick to Cameron because of this halo effect, despite the fact Brown has battled hard against the odds, and really his only crime is having a negative image.

Either way, whether the Sun influences people to vote a certain way, or appears to do it to keep up with the public mood, we’re probably going to see the Tories running our recession torn country next year. Tories in a recession ha! that’s going to end well! Then again, I suppose that’s just the human way, go for the winner, and that is certainly what the Sun seems to have decided to do, god help us all.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Expend This!

Now I am quite a fan of action films. Sure they are purile and mindless things to watch, but god they are entertaining. Maybe it’s being a man or something, but a movie with lots of explosions; stupid puns and men who can’t act for shit, but can still forge an acting career thanks to the former two things, despite being as wooden as a petrified pine tree, but then who cares as that kind of adds to the entertainment. Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m suddenly gushing about my love of action theatre, is because the culmination of every action movie generic convention seems to be amalgamating into a massive, perpetually exploding, testosterone filled lump of pure muscle, which will be called The Expendables, and is out next year.

This film has the action casts of action casts, including: Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke… oh and ARNOLD SCHWARZNEGGAR. Seriously, this film will be Actiongeddon, and may raise the bar of the ludicrous action flick to new heights, or at least heights not seen since Snakes on a Plane. This is surely one of the most anticipated cast line-ups since; Robert De Niro and Al Pacino got together for coffee in Heat. Although imagine that, but then them being joined by Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando, Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins.

This movie is going to be a real treat for everyone who likes a good bit of testosterone on their cornflakes, and I can’t wait to see the first trailer.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whoever thought a doctors surgery was like this needs a doctor themselves.

Another short thought on daytime TV today from me. I have been watching the BBC’s daytime soap Doctors for a while now. Now, it’s tough making a daytime soap, as its restricted on content and racy material even more-so than it’s evening soap counterparts, and the writing and acting talent isn’t really in the market for daytime output. But that notwithstanding, Doctors is pretty poor by anyone’s standards.

To sum up the premise, it is based on the day-to-day trials and tribulations of a group of GP’s running a health centre in the West Midlands, ranging from normal surgery where pensioners basically come in so that they have someone to talk at for five minutes about their cough, to hostage situations (I kid you not on the latter). As you can already tell the format flip-flops between two extremes of mundane and quirky, to all out drama, which is a bit off putting. After all one day the doctors might be dealing with a mother who is panicking, in an unnecessarily excessive way, about her child’s cough; whilst on another a group of Chechnyan rebels might break in and threaten the O.A.P’s - waiting for morning surgery - with a dirty bomb. This I suppose is necessary considering that a GPs surgery is never going to deal with all the sorts of exotic and eye-watering illnesses that we see on House or Casualty, so drama needs to be installed somewhere, but maybe they do go a bit too far sometimes.

Another problem with this programme is that it doesn’t really have a strong footing in reality. On a more satirical point you have to point out that the doctors on screen in Doctors, actually go beyond the call of duty and go to their patients homes without being told to. Now I rarely have seen GPs making housecall’s in my time, even when asked to, but to think that a doctor would try searching the whole town for someone who they believe to be at risk (also happens a few times on screen) is ludicrous and probably just wouldn’t happen. Maybe these fictional doctors are what the real versions should be like i.e. caring, attentive willing to go to great lengths for their patients health, but to be honest I haven’t seen it happen. On the other hand there are other times when the fictional docs are seen prattling round the surgery seemingly doing nothing, which makes me wonder shouldn’t these people be seeing patients, or are the sick folk happy to wait whilst the gang get up to all sort of camaraderie and high jinks in the staff room? I suspect not, I guess life isn’t perfect in cloud cuckoo land after all.

Another thing which is particularly annoying is the one-sided portrayal of teens. Now I for one – as a good few of you who read this stuff regularly might have guessed – I hate teens. In a lot of cases they’re arrogant, attention seeking, whiney selfish bastards (I should know as I was one not so long ago), but even I accept they aren’t all bad. Doctors on the other hand only seems to deal with the former stereotype. I don’t think I’ve seen one spotty adolescent on this farce, who wasn’t some kind of know-it-all screechy emo, or at least a sanctimonious angst filled prick, who seems more worried about the state of their hair then the fact they, or one of their relatives, has the ebola virus or something. Most of them also complain that no-one listens to them, which in some cases is true, but in most cases I can understand why; as they are painted as unsympathetic; hormone addled; dim-wits.

I guess the diagnosis (ha! See what I did there. I used a medical term… You see because it’s about Doctors… Oh forget it!) for doctors isn’t good. It’s disconnected from reality, slightly schizophrenic, and is kept on a bad diet of poorly written bilge. Still I am willing to watch it, perhaps as a guilty pleasure (well that and Hollyoaks), as it is quite amusing to watch, and for that it deserves some credit.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I couldn't resist The Resistance

This week marked the release of Muse’s 5th studio album The Resistance. Now I had a lot of reservations about this album, which was surprising with Muse being my favourite band. However, the singles that had been played from the Resistance, in the run-up to the album’s release, had caused me some concern that the band had passed their prime (as I discussed lengthily here) and had begun to embrace a more conventional and rather bland sound. Well, was I in for the surprise of my life when I sat down to my first listening of the full album, as it swept away any belief from my mind of its mediocrity.

That’s right! I really like this album. Sure, Uprising the first single and track, is a bit of a jarring entry to the album, but it doesn’t matter as what follows is sheer brilliance. The album in general is a bit eclectic as we, the listeners, are treated to a real blend of rock classics complete with Muse’s normal space-aged tweaks, along with some jazzy piano songs, classical symphonies, and a little bit of electronic thrown in for good measure. As you might imagine, this isn’t you’re average rock album, oh no, as Muse has taken conventional rock logic and mixed it in a blender with 80s electronica, an orchestra and a bit of madness. Of course these are risky ingredients to mix, not to mention volatile, but despite the hazard warnings Muse have triumphed over the odds.

A special mention also needs to be made for ‘Exogenesis’ the three part symphony, which makes up the album’s finale. To simply cut to the chase, Exogenesis is a beautiful and awe-inspiring piece of music and confirms the band’s skill, as if anyone was in any question; showing a brave direction for the band. True, Muse have flitted with classical music in the past, but never on this scale.

I suppose the only negative criticism I’d level at the album is that the singles are not indicative of the albums potential at all, although that’s just business for you, as they represent the most marketable material on the album. Also as the album has such a mix of different sounds it can make the flow of the songs seem a little bit schizophrenic at times. However, considering how many different musical styling’s have gone into this album, this does not really ruin the enjoyment of the work as whole.

Overall I was blown away by this album, which was pleasantly surprising as I did not feel the usual anticipation, which I normally get for Muse prior to their album releases. If I had only known what was in store for us. The only thing which had excited me about this album had been the cover, which is also highly deserving of praise, but thankfully the content of music has both style and substance.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Done to Death

I went to see The Final Destination this week, with the interest of seeing if Death had really “Saved the best till last” as the trailer triumphantly tried to jam down my throat. Instead what I saw was the flagging remains of a premise that has been done to death (puns ahoy!). I think the only things that I can safely say are different about this film compared to the other three films in the series are the change of scenery, a fresh batch of forgettable teens and the addition of the ‘The.’

So we begin as ever with the usual group of carefree and unrealistically attractive teens hanging out somewhere (this time it’s at a racing circuit). Suddenly one predicts that all were about to be brutally slaughtered in an unlikely chain reaction disaster; averts death only for each survivor to be picked off in even more ridiculous circumstances (seemingly by death himself), and in the original order of the initial premonition. Of course all this exposition in the film is totally wasted on someone who has seen all of the previous films, and is even boring. That is the key problem with this film, is that it drags on re-hashing the premise, when really it would have saved a lot of time and effort just cutting to the chase and showing each surprisingly improbable death in sequence, back-to-back, and getting it over with!

The characters on the whole are pretty forgettable. Few of them are particularly sympathetic, as they include amongst them a redneck racist, a ‘soccer mom’ of two detestable children, two girls with absolutely zero personality, a recovering alcoholic, a mechanic and a cock-jock who will have you yearning for his grizzly death even before he opens his mouth. The main character Nick (Bobby Campo) is a bit better than the others although not much, and is pretty indistinguishable character-wise to the predecessor leads, although Campo does a fairly good job on what is now a rather well trodden path.

Another problem with this movie is also that the writers seem to have no concept of suspense. Most of the deaths are foreshadowed so excessively that when it does come to the punch-line it’s not surprising or scary, it’s just a bit gory; also unlike other films in the Final Destination franchise, this wasn’t as funny. Maybe I was thinking to hard during the movie, I don’t know, but for some reason it wasn’t as funny as before. I don’t think it helped either that some of the most genuinely surprising death moments were already shown or hinted in the trailer too. All in all you may as well of had the director loudly shouting what the eventual deaths were going to be over the scene, with additional diagrams as only that would have made the deaths less obvious.

Another mention is also due to how the deaths seemed to highlight the absolute incompetency of pretty much any appearing workman, as the deaths all appear to be caused by someone being careless somewhere or faulty equipment: be it a clumsy building site worker, or an unfortunate fire juggling incident. Still incompetence and shoddy workmanship on this level in a society as litigation wary as the USA is totally unbelievable.

Maybe I’m being too hard on this film, as I wasn’t expecting anything particularly different to the past outings, and for what they were worth, the improbably deaths are fairly funny. But there I think this kind of film has just been done too many times now, and any shred of credibility to it that was there before has been long lost. Still love it or hate it The Final Destination is still mindless fun although it isn’t good for much else.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I wrote this and it changed my life!

Why is it that a lot of people on TV or in the media – be they actors, documenters, contestants or interviewee – have to trawl out the old cliché of their experiences being a ‘personal journey’. Sure this simple phrase conjures up the romantic idea that someone has gone through some kind of spiritual or life changing experience, and that is fine when it’s used appropriately. But to just keep slapping it into sentences at will, as some people do, just becomes nauseating, and makes you want to just have a pretentious-twat shock-button on your TV remote to deal out swift justice.

The reason I’ve become riled, is thanks the use of this cliché by Ricky Groves - a prospective Strictly Come Dancing contestant and ex-Eastenders dullwit - in a pre-series interview. So then are we to assume that Strictly Come Dancing is a spiritual and life changing experience? I think this takes a lot of credence away from the idea of the ‘personal journey’ as, after all, taking this phrase to it’s logical conclusion makes everything as trivial as switching on a light, or listening to an old man in the queue for the bank complaining loudly about immigrants become a life changing experience as it, well, changed your life, albeit in the smallest way imaginable.

I realise that in some cases – especially on reality TV – that the events of the showcase in question will be life-changing; especially if you were to win, or get past the opening rounds of whatever karaoke, act off, or who’s-the-biggest-pratt competition it is in question. But to pretend that a z-lister celeb going on a z-lister dance off (let’s face it Brucie has a better celeb rank than some of these people) is going to be a magical journey of self discovery is frankly ridiculous. It just doesn’t have the same pezazz as talking about your travelling experiences in India, or how you learned how to love again, or something actually relating to a proper personal journey! What spiritual guidance does Strictly Come Dancing really offer? Keep your feet in time to the poor cover of A Town Called Malice, or Campy, Bitchy, and Oldy (the judges) will give you low marks, ah… there’s a moment of spiritual realisation there if ever I saw it, and surely Brucie is our ‘Spirit guide’. Still at least Groves wasn’t claiming that staring into the fat toady eyes of Andrew Lloyd Webber is akin to reaching enlightenment!