Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Tron Legacy


Tron, when it arrived on the scene in 1982 was a groundbreaking picture. Whilst it didn’t perform particularly well at the box office, it was the first step on the road to CGI in cinemas, which for better or for worse, is now highly common place in the world of cinema. Tron was indeed influential and now in 2010 the long awaited sequel has finally arrived.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski And starring Garrett Hedlund and Jeff Bridges, Tron Legacy picks up on the story twenty years on and delivers a visually stunning and entertaining next gen style reimagining of what proceeded before.

The plot is rather by the numbers and follows an establishment, action, development, action, finale set-up, action, finale kind of structure; in short there’s quite an emphasis on action. Despite being relatively standard action movie fare as far as a plot is concerned – especially considering the narrative will normally take a back seat in a film like this, usually to the detriment of the film as a whole (stand up please Transformers and Michael Bay) – the writers have done a good job to balance the quality of the two well without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. True, it is not a perfect film as far as story goes, and there are a few cheese ball lines thrown into the dialogue too, but what is on offer is compelling and engaging enough.

The story is relatively easy to explain, simply imagine the Third Reich but set in the Matrix and run by an evil Jeff Bridges-alike, who’s fond of gladiatorial/arcade style combat. Sam Flynn, the son of Bridges’ character from Tron, enters the grid believing he’s been contacted by his long lost father who disappeared in 1989, (into the grid as it would happen) however, there is deception afoot. It is then up to Sam to save the grid and the programmes inhabiting it from Clu, a rogue computer clone of Bridges (who has been given a CGI makeover to look 20 years younger although looks slightly too shiny to be an accurate copy of the man).

Of course what Tron Legacy is all about is visuals and big splashy CGI scenes, that’s what the original did well and that is precisely what the “son of Tron” does too. There are amazing moments of excitement when Sam takes part in a light cycle race, which will have fans of the original juddering with glee, and the world is eye-poppingly glorious to behold.

The casting is decent enough, if a little vanilla at times. Bridges does a good enough reprisal of his original character Kevin Flynn. Garrett Hedlund plays his son and flips between whooping and hollering during the action scenes, to whispering in a low toned growl for the rest. Playing the female lead is Olivia Wilde, who is ok if unspectacular. Still all credit to the filmmakers for not needlessly bolting on romantic subplot to a character that doesn’t need it - a rare show of restraint from Hollywood.

A real dishonourable mention however, goes to the usually excellent Michael Sheen, who plays the dazzlingly annoying Castor, who gnashes his teeth through the beautifully digitised scenery in blazing display of buffoonery whilst dressed as a Ziggy Stardust-alike. Maybe he needs to find another character based on a real live person to play (and no! Bowie doesn’t count in this instance)?

The soundtrack of the film deserves the highest praise though. The soundtrack by Daft Punk is nothing short of breath taking and mixes the right level of orchestral music with ‘bingy bongy’ sounding 80s techno.

Tron Legacy overall is a solid enough sequel and is definitely a 7 star movie. It’s by no means a movie of the year but it is good all round entertainment and is undemanding without just being dumb and loud.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shows that will make you want to punch a teenager

“The children are our future” so the saying goes. Kids and teens have been pretty hard done by over the years; be it from the fear spread by media such as Reefer Madness in the 1930s, any teenage rebellion movie in the 1950s, or more recently, Waterloo Road. Indeed, on-screen portrayals of adolescents are often just hate-inducing.

It is troubling to find that such a grim world view of the big and small screen can have an influence on a persons perception of the tykes, to the point where you feel vindicated to trip-up the next pubescent chap or chappette that you see in the street. It’s not fair or nice and you can’t help but feel manipulated by a cackling writer somewhere, who is idly writing another gormless, unsympathetic teen character into a script somewhere.


Here are a few current TV programmes that will turn you into a bitterly vengeful teen-hater:

The Season:

One of the BBC’s latest attempts at ‘getting down with the kids’, can be found on BBC Switch (a kind of CBBC for teenagers). It is a type of docu-drama series set in a ski-town somewhere in the European Alps and is very similar to other real-life documentaries like The Hills or Laguna Beach, but this time it’s full of British kids on their gap year (or should I say “gap yah”).

Now the first thing to make clear is that these kids are bastards! They are just horrible examples of humanity, being all spikey haired, perpetually grinning and beanie hat-wearing in the case of the boys and pretty, dim and “random!” exclaiming in the case of the ladies. If there was ever a reason to cause an avalanche to bury a town, then this is it.

You will recognise many of these strutting pricks from your first year at university, or lurching around your local shopping center. You know the type: the people that wear shorts and sandals despite it being winter and that seem to hang around in a cluster of six or so of their type, with a self satisfied smirk on their big fuzzy faces.

Skins:

I think I have said enough on this blog as to why Skins is a horrible, horrible TV show (despite being frustratingly compelling sometimes) full of the sort of kids that somehow have decided warehouses are the coolest places on earth. They also have casual access to drugs that most kids could have only dreamed of getting their hands on. If you want to know more about the people you see on Skins this video should explain them better.

Hollyoaks:

This programme has issues. That isn’t a criticism, more of a matter of fact, as a majority of the programme’s plotlines seems to revolve around whatever the latest vogue issue affecting young people is. Whether it be drug addiction, teenage pregnancy or STI’s, Hollyoaks seems to have them with alarming regularity. It does beg the question why parents living in the village don’t pull their children out of Hollyoaks Comprehensive, as it would seem to have the highest teenage preganancy rate in Europe, not mention a high fatality rate…

Getting back to the teens in question, they couldn’t be a more dislikeable group of rebellious bellends. They whine, they fuck each other and generally ruin their lives and all without much in the way of normal common sense, which most real teenagers actually do have most of the time. They always seem to be written as lowest common denominator types; so teen girls that aspire to be glamour models, get pregnant or get addicted to smack etc. Then on the other hand you have the boys that want to smash everything and/or fuck everything. Sure this happens in the real world but not every day in the same village necessarily. Or does it?

Doctors:

Another soap opera that gives real teenagers absolutely no hope of being taken seriously. I get the impression that the writers see teens as a malleable source for plot devices.

Most teens on this programme are self righteous, mentally unstable and just make you want to smash your head through the TV screen in some kind of vain attempt to reach into the show and throttle them into silence. One of the loathsome teen portrayals in this show are weirdo outsider characters. These can be found doing odd things like befriending paper clips, or becoming convinced that they are communicating with an alien called Thanziel. To contrast with this you also get the occasional fully fledged teen revolutionary, complete with a shaky political agenda, like freeing all the stray dogs infected with rabies at an animal testing lab. Either that or you are delivered a feminist fighting to ban umbrellas because they restrict women, or something equally as trite.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Give The Marketers Time And There Won’t Be A Town Without A Flashmob-Style Advertisment By 2030



Flashmobbing has become a fad of late and it is easy to see why; the spontaneous, silly actions are quite funny. Flashmobbing is nothing new either, considering the term was first used back in 2003, I even remember there was a Flashmob society at my university (I heard they once ran into Cardiff town centre for a spontaneous water balloon fight before scarpering).

The fun and hilarity is being hijacked by the marketers now however, as T-Mobile continues to ramp up it’s televisual, ‘feelgood’ public transport sing-a-long ad campaign. The phone company has made a few adverts set around public areas already, normally involving a mass group of people singing or dancing, whilst the camera occasionally pans to shots of smiling onlookers clutching their phones and texting with glee. It’s easy to see how this is effective marketing in that sense.

The latest offering however, has actually perturbed me a little more than the others. It is set in the Heathrow Terminal 5 international arrivals area and this time “fun” is compulsory for all citizens and people entering the UK, as the singers are targeting (random or non-random it’s hard to tell) strangers and in some cases giving them a bit of a fright.

Sometimes happiness is genuinely infectious but this example just looks terrifying. Picture the scene if you will: You’ve spent 12 hours on a long haul flight, you’re tired and just faced the twin joys of immigration (lord only knows how someone who has been given a cavity search is going to feel at this point) and baggage claim, then you faced with a surprising onslaught of wide-eyed, smirking singing dancing people, who then start jostling you to join in, as well as making you smile as your on camera. That’s right people you are on TV, right now, no chance to prepare yourself, no time cover up those bags under your eyes or hide the fact that you’ve got obviously messed up hair from trying to sleep on your flight. Also don’t show your lack of enthusiasm at taking part in the charade, as you will be outed as the scrooge you are, and we all know the public doesn’t like a scrooge… If you don’t play along you might get voted out of life by a telephone poll, that I’m sure is now expected in most spheres of life by the roaring masses.

I am now genuinely afraid of using public transport for fear of being set upon. Terrorism doesn’t scare me nor does the idea of a crash but the thought of people singing and dancing hovering around me does make me quite scared. Judging from the comments about the adverts I think I might be in the minority, as many people actually would rather like this to happen to them. I expect this could lead to a lot more flashmob-like events of this nature but nationwide or even further afield. Other marketers surely are going to look at the success of this and want a piece of the action.

We might end up with all our public transport injected with fungeneered bullshit such as this, to brighten up our country’s image and to make the public happier (not to mention sell a few phones). It’ll be fun, it’ll be just like North Korea.

Do you fancy being set upon, when worn out, by an awkward bunch of smiling singing bastards, or do you think you are going to start walking round with a tazer more often? Let me know…

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cartoon Characters On Facebook = Child Abuse Awareness? The Power Of A Meme

Social networking has seen some interesting fads over the years. Whether it be the recent #iamspartacus trend on Twitter or people sending round those dodgy emails proclaiming a virus is going to eat your computer unless you spread the word to your friends, people love following a cause online.

I have found myself a bit confused by the recent trend on Facebook of changing a profile picture to that of a favourite childhood cartoon character, all in the name of some vague raising of awareness.

The message being spread at the moment on the site claims:

‎"Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (December 6th), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children."

Ok fair enough, a good cause indeed and a form of affirmative action is following, fine. But how does this help children exactly?

I really am surprised that people aren’t being more discerning and my real problem is that this attempt at affirmative action is actually quite hollow. How is this doing good? Are the kids being beaten by their parents going to look at Facebook, see beloved characters on profiles, and have their tears of distress change to tears of joy by knowing that someone was rooting for them but is planned to do nothing to physically help? I very much doubt it. The question remains, what is this going to do for the kids?

My personal take is that it has gone so far now that people are blindly following to almost keep up appearances and appear to be behind a good cause, when they really might not take any real steps to help with this issue. Sure a few people that started it might be sincere but I fear that now a mass game of follow-the-leader is taking place.

I don’t mean to be cynical but I don’t see how changing ones profile picture to Snagglepus or Stoppit and Tidyup is going to do anything except allow the person posting the photo to have a bit of a laugh with their friends about how outrageous or nostalgic his/her picture is. Do people actually know why they are taking part in this, or do plan to give money to charity? I’m not so sure. 

Do you think this will lead to positive change or do you think the whole thing is a hollow gesture? 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Welcome To Reality: The Commute



At last reality has finally caught up with me and I have recently joined the droves of people who go off to work for 8 hours every day for the rest of their lives. There is a lot to get used to in this time as things rapidly change and the carefree life once known becomes but a distant memory. One such challenge that I have come up against is the commute.

Like many people I need to commute to my office and the journey from home to central London takes about an hour door-to-door. Now what I have learned thus far is that if the commute goes well, then it is but a blip on your consciousness and passes quickly. However, if things go wrong then it can be frustrating and horrifying, with every draining second of it becomes a battle against for your very sanity.

I have already encountered a number of irritating challenges that crop up in the commute, see if you recognise these nightmares:


Delays – 

When these happen (and I guarantee you THEY WILL) you are powerless to resist. It feels as if god is mocking you.

What’s worse is if you change modes of transport en-route, as each different vehicle captain will be working as hard as he can to make your brief ride on his gloomy chariot of transport as awkwardly timed as possible. I think buses are the worst as they have the nerve of turning up early and carrying on as if everything is somehow normal, whilst you dash from your delayed train and see your delusions of having enough time for a slowly smug walk to the bus stop shattered.


Overcrowded Trains, Tubes or Buses –


Sweat, claustrophobia and bad breath surround you everywhere whilst you are cooped in an overcapacity tin coffin. Personal space becomes a priceless commodity, as you are crushed by several of your peers and then another 20 bustling commuters bundle into the already crowded carriages.

It is about this time that you realise that not everyone actually has the same level of personal hygine as you and seem to be unfamiliar with the art of taking regular showers. Or on the flipside there are people who smell too strongly of whatever perfume or musk it is they decided to bathe in before leaving home and suffocating the carriage.

Things get especially ugly if a seat is vacated as the harmless looking middle aged chap with glasses next to you elbows you out the way to steal the precious chair for the last five minutes of his forty five minute journey.


Loud Fellow-Passengers - 

These are normally irritating teenagers (where I live there are plenty) are an issue, as they have no concept of an indoor voice. So resultantly you get to hear all about their boring social dramas like whether Giselle is being two faced over Darren etc. In the worse case scenario these pricks actually have a degree of self awareness and realise they are being too loud, only to congratulate themselves by laughing at their own stupid audacity; probably grunting something like: “we’re so random” or anything equally as staid.


Avoiding All Contact With Other Commuters –

British reserve apoppin’! We Brits really don’t like each other. We politely nod at each other every so often - we have to by hardwired social protocol – however, despite the surface affability we’re really visualising kicking you up the arse and having a giggle. Why? Just because we’re tossers.


Well, as you can imagine mixing this bubbling inward hostility with confined spaces and you have a minefield being swept by short-sighted Parkinson sufferers. Basically any eye contact or unfortunate leg or arm brushing is a massive no-no or angry staring and a short abrupt “Do you mind” could ensue.


Train Failures/Signal Failures –


These are annoying precisely because you don’t know what or why is causing the exact problem. Forget trying to find out, you’ll never discover the truth, it’ll just be one of those vague excuses train providers stamp on every delay.

There could be a logical explanation for this or it could be that the fat controller running the show is just doing it for a laugh. Personally I lean towards the latter explanation but maybe that’s because I find it easier to imagine people in charge of anything serving the public as an old fashioned, incompetent, upper- class stereotype, preferably with a top hat.




It Is Impossible To Hear The Driver Over The Intercom –

Did he say everything is fine, that the train isn’t stopping at my station or that this train has been rerouted to hell? This is the 21st Century! We should have been able to construct a loudspeaker system that can transmit clearly and audibly enough on a train and not one that sounds like Alexander Graham Bell making the first recorded phone call with a mouth full of biscuits.



It Makes The Working Day Last Longer –

You’re at work for long enough but you still can’t relax yet… You still have a slow hour negotiating public transport before you can sit down and have a cup of tea in the comfort of your own home.

At least at work you have the satisfaction of having something to do, rather than anxiously checking the information boards to see if your train has been delayed by another minute because of a stray cat crossing the line; or trying to avoid touching the arm of the chap standing next to you who for some reason feels the need to hold the handrail in a way that means you can’t not bump into his arm after every lurching jolt.


Children – 

These are more of an issue on the ride home but if you just want to withdraw from the reality of the commute situation ‘mummy’s little dears’ make the process a lot harder. Also pray for your very soul if you happen to be riding anywhere on public transport and a school trip boards your carriage as you are then in for a very high pitched and hyperactive journey.


Pets –

Who! I mean who brings a dog on the train, aside from a disabled person with a helper dog! Something tells me the other passengers aren’t going to be best pleased when Rover gets spooked by the train and unfamiliar people



Slow Walking Bastards –


Result! You’ve just about made it to the station near work on time despite the constant delays. You’re cutting your timing a bit fine but if nothing else goes wrong you should make it into the office on time. Suddenly oh no! It appears as if a smooth walk to the office has been denied by the dragging heels of the wheezing, lurching, suit in front of you and several of his compatriots.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Hallowhine

It's that spooky time of year, where the leaves are changing and everything is a little bit colder and eerier. Not least because the clocks went back this weekend and we are treated to dusk setting in at nearly 4pm. The atmosphere must suggest that it’s time again for the merchandising clusterfuck that is Halloween.

Now I'm probably going to be universally derided as a killjoy for not liking Halloween, which is on the surface a quite innocuous event (unless you are flour bombed), but I just don’t like it. Surprisingly I might not be the silent fist shaking minority I originally thought I was, as I’ve actually been quite pleased by the amount of commentators on the radio and TV who seem to agree with me; implying that maybe I’m not mad but that society is.

I don't know what it is about it that riles me so much? Whether it's the fact I hate dressing up because of this costume-party-friendly time, or if it's that I just don’t like the idea of being forced to buy sweets so that little costumed pests - who will inevitably be lauded as ‘adorable’ by people who’s souls aren’t so shriveled up and bitter - can extort me on my doorstep. There seems something wrong about congratulating these precocious bell ends in pathetic costumes, whether they are making threats or not. Personally I’m all for getting into the spirit of the holiday and just scaring them off by pretending to be insane. It’s amazing what a bit of talking to yourself and swinging a cricket bat around whilst screaming will do.

The costume parties are a particular gripe for me, especially after thinking I’d escaped all of that after leaving the costume party fest that is university. Costume parties are awkward exercises at the best of times, where if lacking a particularly flamboyant character you can feel very alone and confuddled by the confident and strutting masses around you that are showing off how their outrageous costumes/personalities are. Then there is the time that goes into making these costumes, normally for little payoff except for a slight feeling of inadequacy and the discomfort of wearing makeup; that’s not even mentioning the stress an elaborate costume can cause if it prevents you from sitting down for fear of ripping the damn thing.

Maybe it's just that this holiday (well I say that but we don’t get any time off work) is an American export that we have adopted so that card shops can prop up their takings by flogging us plastic masks and devil horns galore. This is a simple case of supply and demand and it is unsurprising that Halloween it’s now more profitable for shops than Valentine’s Day. Yes indeed, rampant commercialism has created a monster out of Halloween that is for sure.

Overall I think that Halloween is a pretty shallow holiday. It’s a chance for the flagging high street shops to try and get us to reach into our wallets and pay for more disposable pap than we normally would at this time of year. Oh, and so that people can excuse some heavy drinking.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Can We Please Shut the Rooney-Gate

Now I know I won’t be the only online commentator making a reference to this matter this week; but will people please shut up about Wayne Rooney’s desire to leave Manchester United FC.

Just stop it, forget it exists and move on! Seriously close your eyes, and think very hard about not thinking about Wayne Rooney. There are so many better things in the world to focus on for example. Flowers come to mind, or kittens etc. Just don’t think about stroppy professional footballers.

Rooney is a spud faced, over moneyed, blustering, chest beating little man-child, who is whining because his boss gave him a telling off one too many times. Besides, he hasn’t been playing very well recently, so why does a man of his status and salary deserve any coddling?

Rooney’s star has been falling fairly steadily since the disappointing world cup showings. Sure, there have been some flashes of brilliance but ultimately he has been underwhelming. This matter is not helped by his frustrated approach to matters and by throwing his toys out of the pram when things don’t go his way. There is no way he can pretend to be the victim in this matter, whether he attempts to seize the moral high ground or not.

Ok, to be blunt this story is only running because the newsmakers know a good story when they see it, but now the story is being flayed of all its meat and the carcass is being kicked about. Besides, since Alex Ferguson made it known that Mr Wayne was unhappy at the team, there has been little to no development in the issue. Still you can rely on there being a few column inches dedicated to the matter in tomorrow’s papers.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not Quite a Case of Sour Grapes


 Recently I was invited by some mutual friends to attend a wine tasting at the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair. Now this was my first attempt at trying to understand wine as well as my first real introduction into a very exclusive crowd. So here goes with my attempt to explain the day.

Wine tastings have a very mysterious air about them. The layman would see them as pretentious, odd events where people spout the most nonsensical drivel about a drink that seems to have a similar taste across its range, whilst openly spitting in polite company. It is very hard to penetrate the wine community as it is an exclusive and obtuse industry, full of technical knowhow and well trained pallets.

If you don’t know about wine and go to a place where you are greatly outnumbered by wine connoisseurs you will find yourself lost in a sea of grape varieties, subtle tastes and regional nuances. So much so you will feel like you’ve just been told to sit a test about what you’ve learned, whilst being showered with 10 tons of grapes of different varieties. To be fair I felt like I was being pelted with grapes half the time.

What I did manage to pick up was that the Gavi grape is very sour and dry, extra dry Prosecco is sweeter than a brut and that there is a wine called Pecorino (yes, like the cheese). As you can see I barely scraped the surface of what there is to know about different types of wines. I did however, have a crack at trying to spot some of the subtle flavours within the different wines and was actually able to spot them in some cases. For instance I could taste some faint hints of citrus fruit in some bottles although I wasn’t able to spot any of the extreme types of flavours you hear the likes of Oz Clarke prattling on about, so no subtle hints of cut grass or baked cat or such nonsense.

An interesting quality about the wine crowd is that it attracts a lot of older, upper class, tweed wearing sorts. This is especially the case for the journalists who attended, which made me stand out as not only the youngest member of the press but also as probably the least snobbish. These old chaps were pushy and rude ogre-like so-and-sos into the bargain which sometimes brought down the atmosphere of the event. I found it especially unsettling to be around these people as I’d probably be tarred and feathered by these old fools if I so much as gave them the hint that I was a know-nothing outsider, as they lurched about glugging down another glass of red, whilst claiming to be able to taste Celine Dion in a grape variety. All in all it was like being marooned on Michael Winner Island.

Still it was all for free; lunch was thrown in and if given the chance I’d probably go again. It wasn’t all bad and quite honestly I did feel like I picked up some useful information about good wine and wine ranges.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Apprentice Reopens For Business.



After months of waiting, and with a suitable amount of hype, the Apprentice has appeared back on British screens at last, as Lord Scowler Sugar (I wonder if he insists that his wife refer to him as Lord Sugar too?) begins the search for a new bootlicker.

Firstly let me diffuse a myth, The Apprentice is not a representation of real business in action. I’m pretty sure that anyone who claims that the Apprentice is a representation of real business practice probably still believes in the tooth fairy or Tiger Wood’s fidelity, as most people surely must have realised that real business it ain’t.

The candidates this year seem to be an even bigger collection of cocks, back stabbers and self important windbags, which is quite frankly fantastic. The most amusing thing is that quite a few are out of work, as the recession continues to ravage our economy (I know as well as anyone), which means they have less of a credible position to pontificate about how bloody great they are.

The task this week was to make sausages and sell them, which caused a lot of stumbling and bumbling as one might expect. The boys team managed to ruin their sausage mixture and reacted calmly by running around screaming at one another in the process. The girls were just as volatile as they squabbled over the name of the group – in the end settling with Apollo, because the NASA mission had the ethos that “failure is not an option” – and hissed at one another passive aggressively. Still, at the end of the day they sold the most and rightfully won the task, whilst the boys were left to meet with the craggy face of Lord Sugar in the boardroom.

Watching the boys prepare for their face to face meeting with the angry Lord Troll, seemed like something prior to the night of the long knives. In the end the shouty and dictatorial Dan of the boys team got the chop.

Here is a brief rundown of this year’s candidates:

Stuart Baggs: Ah, Stuart Baggs. Stuart Baggs “The Brand.” So far the only image his brand conjures up is that of naively bold statements spurting from the love child of James Cordon and Frodo Baggins.

Raleigh (pronounced rawley?) Addington:
A well to do unemployed graduate, who looks as if he’s in his forties? He’s a bit of a wet fish really, as he accused the project managers actions in the first task of being “shameful” and looked as if he was about to start blubbing from the confrontation.

Stella English: Mrs Blend In.

Alex Epstein:
What’s Alfred Molina doing on the Apprentice?

Joanna Riley: Nice but dim.

Dan Harris: Ball busting, blundering bastard. When he isn't shouting he's looking for someone to shout at. Thankfully was the first to be fired, despite the potential for being very entertaining.

Melissa Cohen: Horrible! Horrible! Horrible! The worst kind of sanctimonious, self interested, excuse for a businessperson as I have ever seen on the show. She’s about as agreeable as a punch in the face.

Jaime Lester: Very wishy-washy and very quick to point the finger when something goes wrong.

Paloma Vivicano: Seems a little airy fairy, but otherwise we have yet to see what she can do.

Sandeesh Samra: Who?

Dr Shibbi Robati: Now hang on? Why oh why would you give up a career as a surgeon to be Alan Sugar’s apprentice. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed but does Amstrad actually make anything anymore apart from Sky boxes (and shoddy ones at that)?

Chris Bates: Wins the accolade for being the least deluded thus far. Seems to be able to cut round the bullshit and pleased me no end when he called foul on the practice of running round aimlessly trying to sell things to local businesses. I’ve never understood why people keep trying to do this on the show, as if I ran a small business I wouldn’t even consider buying anything from a flurry of pushy salesmen that walked in off the street. Then again would you?

Joy Stefaniki: Bouncy. Too bouncy! It’s as if someone has plied her with Red Bull and Pro Plus before the task.

Christopher Farrell: Yet to show his colours.

Liz Locke: I think Britain’s Next Top Model is missing a pouty and vapid clothes horse.

Laura Moore: A potential emotional minefield. I’d say her composure is about as stable as Pete Docherty’s rehab program.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

You Just Can't Get the Help These Days


TV and movie Sidekicks are an odd breed. Effectively their only purpose in a film is to prop up, or provide the comic relief to a films hero. They are the wingman, the guy who might have to throw away his life or, more likely, provide a diversion so that the hero succeeds. 

Despite their noble job description some of the most irritating and teeth grinding characters ever, have played the part of sidekicks in major movies. Today we’re going to look at a few of the worst. Warning: This list contains characters that will make you lose the will to live.

Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars):
Any annoying sidekick catalogue cannot be complete without Jar Jar making the list. Perhaps one of the most hated cinema creations of all time, this childish, bumbling, infuriating, racist stereotype, kind of marked the beginning of the end for George Lucus’s credibility. Why he didn’t take the initiative and just kill this stupid waste of space off is anyone’s guess. Let's not forget it is in fact Jar Jar's fault that the Emperor succeeds in taking over the Galaxy in the first place. Doesn't that make Jar Jar guilty of war crimes on some level? 

Lucas is well known for trying to bleed the Star Wars franchise dry, so I expect he will canonise the book I am planning to write, dealing at length with Jar Jar’s demise. I even have a first line: “Jar Jar was dead, to begin with...”   

Fergie (Judge Dredd):
Everyone loves the constantly wise cracking sidekick right? Wrong. This prattling moron is one of those sidekicks who is pretty much no help at all because he’s a complete coward - except by maybe the odd fluke - but then acts as if he’s the indispensible brains behind the outfit through either delusion or compulsively lying. 

He is supposed to be a hacker but there is no clear evidence to this end but he clearly is a fully qualified prick however. 

Mutt (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull):
Shia La Boef has become a relatively big player in Hollywood by some kind of clerical error. His part in Transformers was ultimately forgivable; he isn’t that annoying, and there are plenty of irritating characters in those films to distract from him. However in what was already a car crash of a return for Indiana Jones, the writers decided to include this joker as Jones’s young accomplice/long lost son. 

The latter identity provides the biggest kick in the groin for most fans, who had to endure perhaps the most cheesy moment in cinema when young Mutt picks up Indy’s hat in the dying minutes of the film, as if to represent that the torch had been passed to a new generation. Even before this final insult, Mutt was generally a whiney waste of space; that could have so easily have been quietly killed off in an unfortunate Zeppelin accident – it could happen.

Trinity (The Matrix):
Sometimes the sidekick can also be the love interest and sometimes the love interest can be as interesting as talking about wallpaper with Ben Stein. Whether it is the horrible sex scene in Zion or the horrible dullness of the character, Trinity will always be remembered as a pouting, scowling charisma vacuum. I suppose in that way her and Keanu Reeves were meant for each other. 

Bumblebee (Transformers) :
There is nothing cute or endearing about a robot who can only communicate in stupid sound effects butchered from pop culture. Bumblebee is annoying, loud and mostly useless bucket of bolts, makes it more desirable to root for the Decipticons. So what if they want to destroy humanity?  

Scrappy Doo (Scooby and Scrappy Doo): 
Why didn’t anyone just let him fight the monsters as he wanted and allow him to risk death. It would shut him up for one thing. Scrappy is a horrible addition to the Doo family, and just makes the idea of kicking puppies seem less horrible than it should be.  

 Also despite being younger than Scooby Doo he has a better grasp of the English language (considering it’s no mean feat that Scooby talks as much English as he does), how is this exactly?

Robin (Batman and Robin):
Chris O’Donnells portrayal of Robin not only ruins a relatively good comic book super hero, but manages to fail badly as a sidekick. When he isn’t getting teenage kicks over Poison Ivy and trying to sell out Batman for a kiss, he’s moping around like a spoilt stroppy pubescent boy.  
"Holy nipple suit Batman!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Smogasbord of Idiots

Dappy:
For some reason Dappy fell from grace in the eyes of parents when he angrily texted a woman who insulted him on a radio interview, but then who ever thought this gurning, posing, stupid hat wearing, buffoon was going to be a good role model anyway? "Oh he grew up on an estate, and is now famous. Let’s use him to try and reach out to the great unwashed, because he can talk to them on their level" (or so the assumption seems to be)! He's about as good a role model for children as Peter Sutcliff or Mike Tyson.


Siobhan O’Dowd:

O’Dowd is of course the shockingly misguided woman who set up the Facebook group ‘RIP Raoul Moat, You Legend,’ which managed to give a glimpse of her mighty stupidity and set the Daily Mail brigade off. This woman clearly has a chip on her shoulder about the police. In her lofty wisdom the police need to be kept on their toes by a demented roid rage fuelled gun man? Oh great idea Siobhan! What next? Was he testing the paramedics too? What if I commit arson, am I keeping the fire brigade on it’s toes?

Axl Rose:
 I think the only person who still believes in Guns and Roses, and  the‘show up when you want’ style of rock and roll is him. Whilst most other front men have retained a sense of pragmatism and realised turning up on time and where you’re supposed to, is likely to be more endearing to fans. Rose however seems to think that people will still accept his greatness and his right to not really deliver what people have paid for. He has not aged well and is becoming an embarrassing has been. Still at least he doesn’t have to worry about becoming a full blown twat – he’s been one since the 80s.




Anjem Choudary:
 A bit like a kid who calls up the emergency services pretending there’s an emergency, except with the caller is offending a group of easily wound up middle England shockavores; looking for something to offend their meek sensibility, whether it’s bullshit or not. It also doesn’t help he’s got a group of equally easy to insight religious nutjobs to back him up. The sad thing is he’s now got himself a copy cat Christian equivalent, in the Reverend Terry Jones of Koran burning fame.

Johnny Borrell:
 A man who in 2004 reached the lofty heights of being the fourth coolest person in the world according to the NME. Considering that, as yet, I have never heard of a person who was considered cool by NME that wasn’t an idiot, it’s a title that well befits the man. He’s strutting twat who, like Axl Rose above – who at least has done some seminal musical work, seems to be the only man who believes his own rock god credentials.

Rick Edwards:

 A Square jawed chump. When he isn’t beating his chest and making low toned grunts, he’s introducing Hollyoaks or trying to flirt with Miquita Oliver on screen. Why don’t I like him? Well what is there to like about the squawking arse.
He seems to have an undeserved sense of being fantastic despite being a subpar example of humanity. I reckon if I met him we would end up having a long conversation – whether me or anyone else wanted to or not – about him, and how great he is, before he starts to flirt with someone’s girlfriend in front of them.

Nick Grimshaw:

 Marking the second entry of a T4 presenter on my list, I have chosen Grimshaw as I find him and everything he stands for repugnant. He really epitomises many things wrong with the world, and comes across as a cocksure, swaggering waste of organs.

Why hate the man you might ask? Well look at him: he is the perfect example of a grinning tousled tosser. It is depressing that some may see this antagonistic moron as a role model, and really it says much about society’s decline. He appears on T4, which is a fail on one part as it seems to be a breeding ground for annoying posers, and he (or maybe Rick Edwards) is the king of them all in terms of sheer annoyingness. The fact that this pantomime horse, in a Shoreditch hipsters clothing, is seen as being an appropriate face for TV, makes me want to give up on the TV industry and youth itself.

He is a part of what I like to call ‘the Skins fad’ i.e. a group of rambling imbeciles implying that anyone south of the age of 25 is a back talking, immature and fashion conscious nobjock. Really most of us grow out of this faze by age 19 at the latest. However here we have the Peter Pan of attitude, as he will never grow out of this idiotic ADD-like character.

Justin Bieber:

First of all he is a precocious little whelp who needs a good hiding and sending to bed without any supper. He sings about love despite probably not knowing anything about it beyond tired romantic symbolism such as holding hands, roses and chocolates etc. I remember seeing one of his music videos a while back whilst in Cambodia (and believe me one video of his is enough for a lifetime) and honestly believed that he wasn’t being serious. The video was meant to be charming and cute, but it looked like Master Bieber was stalking a woman (way out of his league and seemedly a few years older) and came more across as creepy and staid.

Jedward:

KILL THEM! KILL THEM WITH ACID, AND FIRE THE REMAINS INTO SPACE!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: The Other Guys


Gamble and Hoitz are two NYPD desk cops living in the shadows of New York’s finest crime fighters Danson and Highsmith (Dwane Johnson and Samuel L Jackson respectively). Gamble is a forensic accountant who revels in paperwork and has no interest in fighting crime on the streets, and after being pranked by his co-workers is left with only a wooden gun as a weapon. Hoitz on the other hand is a streetwise and hot headed detective stuck with Gamble as a partner; presumably as punishment for firing his gun in the line of duty unnecessarily and shooting a famous NY Yankees player during a crucial game. When Danson and Highsmith die (due to a bizarre lack of judgement on their part) Hoitz and Gamble get the opportunity to step up and fight some real crime. This ends up with the mismatched duo becoming embroiled in a murky corporate conspiracy, of the type that would bring Vince Cable to tears.

Generally I judge a comedy film on the frequency of laughs (it’s not an exact science but it works), and on the whole The Other Guys gives you plenty and without lengthy gaps between the funny moments. Whilst it achieves that it also has a solid core behind it, dealing with the buddy element, often seen in McKay’s work, and also tackling the corporate conspiracy plotlines.

The Other Guys marks the latest collaboration between Will Ferrell and Anchorman director John McKay, and hopes for the magic of the partnership returning are not unfounded. This film shows Ferrell at his awkward and na├»ve best. Although thankfully this is a more restrained performance from the actor, and he doesn’t just spend all his time screaming silly lines. This however doesn’t prevent that side of Ferrell coming out, but it is measured and is normally tempered to the right moments. This is especially satisfying when Gamble starts slipping in and out of his ‘college pimp’ persona named ‘Gator,’ complete with street lingo. In one instance of this he screams “Gator’s bitches better be using Jimmies,” when he learns of his wife’s pregnancy. It really is Ferrell at his insane and hyperactive best.

The real surprise of this film is Walberg as Terry Hoitz. This marks the actor’s first proper steps into comedic acting and he achieves it well. Walberg manages to play the straight man to Ferrell’s wet blanket accountant/cop beautifully; managing to hold an expression of eye-popping frustration with his partner that is hilarious on its own, and that’s before he even tries to be funny, which is also very good.

Another worthy performance comes from Michael Keaton, who is given a surprisingly minor role as the Police precinct captain. Keaton slides into his semi-serious role well, and manages, like Walberg, to come across in straight and comedic modes. His character, despite how little we see of him, is also quite developed and is shown to be the father of a bisexual college student and working at a second job at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

A problem with the movie however, is that it feels like it’s running a hidden agenda against corporate bailouts. This is made clearly overt at the end, where there is a direct reference to the Goldman Sachs debacle, as well as the amount of money being squandered on bailouts. It’s a bit like McKay is attempting to trick us into becoming involved in a political debate, and this feels wrong. Let’s remember the people going to see a piece of entertainment, not for a finger wagging. It’d be like going to a football match and being given a multiplication test based on the players numbers.

Despite these minor gripes. The Other Guys overall is a fantastic return to form for both McKay and Ferrell. It is sharp, funny, and is more fun than you can shake a wooden gun at.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Radio Wave Pollution

I’ve been listening a lot to mainstream radio again recently for the first time in a long while, and have been relatively unimpressed with what I’ve heard. It’s been many moons since I was even aware of who was where in the singles charts, but since having listened to a station playing top ten singles to an obnoxious and repetitive level, I have slowly started to become embittered towards pop music.

Now as you probably (or don’t) know I have never been a person completely driven by mainstream tastes. I sit on an awkward fence between mainstream and subculture a lot of time; which often means I’m criticised by both the subculture mob for having mainstream music tastes, and vice versa, the mainstream posse lambast my taste for being too subversive.

In any case, sod what they think. I listen to music for the music not for the scene and anyone who does follow music for a fashion is an exclusive member of club stupid.

Here’s a brief rundown of some annoying types of music that are gracing the top ten singles charts at the moment.

Rich people wishing they were poor people who wished they were rich:


It seems because we are in recession at the moment lots of bands are singing about how it sucks to be poor; which is seemingly at odds with their apparent wealth as a singer of overplayed music. It really couldn’t be more patronising, as it seems to tap into some romantic notion that being poor is somehow credible, like it’s the latest fashion and can be dropped when tastes change.

In many ways it’s A bit like a group of Oxfordshire socialites moving to a sinkhole estate in London and pretending to be bohemian, or the sort of thing I observe kids doing in my area, where with the power of imagination they seem to have turned a conservative middle class suburb into a ghetto – their words not mine - filled with pretend gangsters.

Also it’s patronising enough on its own if someone is pretending to be poor because it’s in fashion, but when they pretend to be poor whilst aspiring to be rich, despite being rich, you do lose patience with them.

Silky voiced Cocknobs:

Another problem with much of the music in the top ten (as ever) is that there seems to be a large proportion of castrati voiced males, whose career perpetually seems to be two days away from retirement, because to be honest boy bands have a short shelf life. As flavours of the month, they are beloved by shallow twelve year old girls and even shallower forty plus cradle snatching women, who have the delusional belief that they like the music; when really it’s a thinly veiled excuse for ogling well sculpted men with orgasm inducing vocals – I’m sure most boy band members are wise to this fact also.

Dance Bilge:

Now these have left me mystified since age eleven, when after one summer of being into dance music I immediately went off it realising it was a repetitive tune on a loop with moronic lyrics about, “being in love with a drumbeat,” or some such rubbish. There are almost always always suggestive lyrics alluding to some kind of fantastical club/orgy venue; that seem to exist solely in the minds of morons. In this world (if the music videos are believed) everyone on the planet is a posing, gyrating twat, kinky uniforms are compulsory in all public services and unattractiveness has been outlawed. That is of course save for a small proportion of conscientious objectors who are made –perhaps by the law of this preening master race - to look uncomfortably geeky. These portrayals are generally about as subtle as a prize winning marrow being used to cut a plank.


Indie-er than thou:

Yep every so often there comes along a band that is a contradiction, in that they embody sub cultural values and looks, yet are clearly a mainstream band. Whether they are just being overplayed on the radio or are genuinely of the opinion that from a trilby hat an indie band is made, they are irritating. This is made even more painful by all the fans of the above types of music that I’ve described, becoming convinced that they are suddenly have a varied and discerning musical taste for liking something seen as non-mainstream (I call it the Green Day or Kings of Leon effect – going to show that it works with already established bands).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Trouble with Gigs



I had the fortune of going to a live concert at the weekend (Muse at Wembley) and a good time was had. However, being my first big live gig experience for some time, I was rudely reminded of several downsides to being in an excitable and lively outdoor crowd. It certainly showing me once again that amongst gig audiences you meet some of the best, and worst, examples of people.

Now as you may have realised, I am not a big fan of crowds, but I had really forgotten about the many pitfalls of being amongst that many people. Sure the music and atmosphere are great, but occasionally you do wish that everyone else, except for your group of friends, would piss off elsewhere.

Here follows a list of the problems with attending a concert or gig. Some of them I experienced last weekend, and others I have seen or heard about elsewhere.

Problem 1: People Who Are Drunk Or High

These people are complete cocks, as they have little special awareness. At the best of times this can be a problem, but when you have no elbow room; are trying to peer over a tall guy in front; and are being continuously jostled by the dancing drunk twat behind you, sympathy and patience become short. Whilst they may appear semi-comatose, unfortunately they are still blessed with motor functions so can still crash into you.

Another danger is the ‘sweaty grip of the moron’ when some drunken idiot decides to try and put his arm round you. This mainly happens if you inevitably get sick of being constantly jogged by the nearby pill head, and then attempt to push back against his/her stupid dancing, and they decide to settle matters by clinging on to you and singing in your face. Still it’s better than them getting aggressive I suppose, but it’s still not very fun.

Problem 2: People Who Fling Beer, Or Other ‘Liquids’

I have never understood this. I know I’m being a bit prissy complaining about the people who suddenly fling their drink into the air, as I have been in many a live music crowd and can/should come to expect it. But still why do people do this? First of all it’s a waste of perfectly good beer, which probably cost about five pounds. Secondly getting beer on your clothes smells, and makes them sticky. That’s assuming it is beer they are throwing and not urine… It’s the not knowing that can be the biggest pain.

Problem 3: Girls Who Sit On Their Boyfriend’s Shoulders

I hate to say it but it’s mostly the ladies to blame for this, which is - I assume – because they believe people will be too polite to stop them. This has been vindicated by the few times I have seen men trying the same thing; they got short shrift from those behind them, and were summarily pelted with rubbish. However, just because people are polite and tolerate it, doesn’t mean they approve of it. Personally I don’t give a toss whether you are man or woman, old or young, if you are trying to appear on the big screen or not. Get out the way you inconsiderate tossers!

Problem 4: Amorous Couples

Now this is something I find awkward in day to day life, but bear with me before you write me off as a bitter goblin of a man (you wouldn’t be far off). This is really infuriating as the loved up drones seem to have no regard for anyone else’s presence. Do they just feel the need to show off how in love they are? Or is it just another level of social ignorance on display, and they really have forgotten there are others staring in their direction?

Then you wonder into the minefield of where you should be looking, as to be fair, what’s to stop the lovebirds turning round and glaring angrily at you for looking at their general direction, assuming you are looking at them – this has happened before I might add. What are you supposed to do exactly? Turn round and miss the show (The music! Not them, you pervs!) or stare in their direction and come across as a sex starved letch. You can’t win!

Also the boyfriends in these cases often make me laugh as they often look more effeminate than their girlfriends, so perhaps they are looking to prove something in the first place.

Problem 5: Smokers


Yes, ever the problem with the outdoor gig; smokers. In fact in any large built up crowd the smoking ban is nearly impossible to enforce, so you could expect this even indoors. Still, cigarette burns acquired from some obnoxious bell end flailing his arms about like a windmill, despite the hot object in his hand, are no laughing matter.

Problem 6: The Feeling Of Being Trapped

Once time drags on and the moment nears that the headlining band will take to the stage, escape from the crowd becomes near impossible. As a result toilet breaks become missions, conducted with military precision and planning.

No longer can one hope to simply nip to the loo. Nope, instead the order of the hour becomes: successfully milling through the crowd; avoiding treading people sitting down; factoring time for queuing (if you are a lady, as let’s face it, women’s toilets are bad for this). This is even before you have to try and track your way back to where your friends are anonymously standing amongst the throng of thousands.

Problem 7: Scary Fans


Once in a while you run into someone, or a group of people, whose fandom is near religious. This is bemusing in one sense as if you do not share the high opinion of the band that they do, you might struggle to see what exactly they are seeing that you don’t. Then you have to contend with them screaming around you how much they love a band, and I think when you focus your attention more on the band than the music, then you have a problem.

No band is perfect - even my favourites have had dud albums in my opinion - but when you find someone who has to like the music of their chosen band, lest their world perception and universal balance be crushed, it becomes a bit creepy.

Especially if, like me, you want to obnoxiously correct them, and say: “whilst you may like this band I don’t see the hype”. I have yet to put this into practice, for fear of being stoned to death for crimes against cool.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs the Blog.



Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on first impressions looks like a bombardment of pop culture, video games references and slacker humour. On many levels it is, but underneath that confusing coat is a decent bit of cinema, and probably one of Edgar Wright’s best films to date.

Based on the graphic novels of Scott Pilgrim comes this modern tale of romance with a twist, as the titular Scott must win the heart of the love interest, Ramona Flowers, by defeating her seven evil exes; each with their own super abilities.

For younger members of the audience, Scott Pilgrim will be a treat as it feels like an adult film that’s swallowed an over-sized kid (ok I agree that’s not the most visually appealing metaphor). The over the top and stylistic battle scenes as good as confirm this fact, as every punch thrown is exaggerated the nth degree. In this way there is little rooting in reality apart from that these films are set in a real world location, but for the rest of it you are seeing the world through Scott’s very biased, videogame addled eyes. You may as well have an epitaph saying at the beginning: “You are now about to enter the sub-conscious of a twenty three year old slacker. Hold on tight and enjoy,” as that is how this film feels. The fight scenes themselves are electrifiying, and liable to make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle.

That is why this film is a welcome relief to other films on the subject of romance between twenty somethings. It doesn’t feel like your average coming of age melodrama, and isn’t quirky to the point of being saccharine. Sure Scott learns several important lessons and grows as a character but this point doesn’t feel too laboured, and he is fundamentally the same person at the end of the film. Also the romance between Ramona and Scott is tempered nicely so that it isn’t too full of awkward nihilism, but isn’t too full of gooey eyed cuteness. It strikes a fine balance.

Wright has done a brilliant job of getting the visual tone right, but also including some great subtle references. One of the greatest feats however is that he has managed to create several high powered action sequences, and all without the extensive use of shakycam – a very in vogue Hollywood trick (I’m talking to you Michael Bay, you will get your comeuppance one day).

The characters are also of a decent fare. Michael Cera does with Scott what Michael Cera does with most characters he plays. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what he’s best at. For once he doesn’t come across as quite as weedy as before. He actually plays a character who can take a punch as well as he can give, and it’s nice to see this Cera, instead of the one who would otherwise try to run away from the fight. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is absolutely spot on as Ramona Flowers too, and embodies a persona that is both mysterious and cool perfectly. One of the standout performances comes from Kieran Culkin who plays Scott’s gay room-mate. He embodies a gay stereotype which is less flamboyant than the norm, but is rooted in gay identity. This makes a positive change to the usual flaming queen we’d perhaps expect (no thanks to Sex and the City 2 I might add).

Scott Pilgrim is another solid film from what has been a rather good year for summer releases. It’s sharp it’s funny, it’s romantic, and you can watch it more than once. Wright’s attention to detail has paid off once again and hopefully this will lead to further Hollywood work for the British director.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Japin' Round The World Revisited: New Zealand Earthquake


It’s odd when you return from travelling and then hear months later of a disaster striking one of the cities you’ve visited.

I’ve already encountered this once with Bangkok, after the Red shirt and Yellow Shirt riots ripped through the Siam district; fundamentally changing what was there when I saw it myself. I suppose I was able to get past this fact easily as I had little love for Bangkok.

Therefore I found it very sad to discover this morning that an Earthquake, rated seven on the Richter scale, had hit New Zealand and caused quite a bit of damage. New Zealand was easily one of my favourite locations, so to hear of such devastation was miserable news indeed.

Much of the damage seemed to be centred on Christchurch, which was closest to the epicentre, although I know through my contacts that it was felt as far away as Wellington. So it’s fair to say this was one hell of a quake, especially compared to the many other hundreds that hit the islands each year, which are quite weedy by comparison. Either way, it was a miracle that no one has been killed by yesterday’s monster quake.

However, it was tragic to see the damage done to Christchurch on the news. The city that I remember was a vibrant and easy going place, and it is such a shame to see what a state it is in today. Much of what I remember of the city may yet change, and render the place unrecognisable to what I saw. There is rubble from damaged buildings in the city streets, and giant cracks in the roads. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some buildings will have to be knocked down now, having been severely weakened by the quake. There has in fact a curfew in Christchurch overnight, for this very reason, as there is no way of knowing if more debris is going to crash onto someone out on the street.

Hopefully it will be a speedy recovery, and Christchurch will be restored soon. Still this does leave me with the question: what will be the next city I visited this year, to be hit with disaster next? Perhaps Sydney will break off from Australia and float off into the Pacific. Maybe Hanoi will be targeted by terrorists and Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum blown sky high. Or possibly Tokyo will attacked by Godzilla, or Hong Kong by pirates.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The People & Lola the Cat vs Mary Bale


It’s been all over the papers, people have been outraged, politicians are racing to make comments conveying their ire; it might just be the most shocking piece of news since Baby P! This is of course the reaction to the woman (Mary Bale) who was recently fined for putting a neighbour’s cat into a bin.

This almost surreal incident has captured the imagination of the press and the twitterbooksphere, inspiring a range of emotions such as: shock, disgust, mild amusement, shock again, and then murderous rage – look at any book on the five stages of grief and you’ll find it listed under the ‘reactionary moron’ process. Yes indeed we Brits do have an odd relationship with animals, and when one is mistreated, by god we get angry!

Some however, have got so angry they’ve launched death threats against the woman in question. I’ve just had a look at Facebook, and there are several groups popping up demanding she be locked up, locked in a bin, or otherwise tried by ordeal.

I don’t know what is a more interesting or saddening symbol of our society; that a woman should be mean spirited enough to put a small friendly cat into a bin, or that the people of Britain should react in such a disproportionate flurry of rage?

I won’t deny the crime in itself was so ridiculous, that I actually laughed when I first saw it, whilst feeling a little bit sorry for Lola the cat. However nothing made me want to go out and violently assault the perpetrator for it. We’re talking about a cat after all, not a child or even (‘gasp’) a dog. She has been fined – a perfectly reasonable punishment considering the cat survived – and that should be an end to it. But being such a group of fist waving animal fanciers, we can’t just let it go at that it seems.

We are slowly becoming used to subjecting public figures to unpleasant punishments – after all just look at I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here – but the lines between celebrity and ‘joe public’ are becoming increasingly blurred as personal CCTV and the likes of You Tube, become more common. Now I don’t think people know how to react to crime, unless of course a criminal is sat on a ducking stool and dropped into gunge on national television.

Would people feel better for that? Probably for a bit, until they found out someone was bullying a duck in York, or something equally as innocuous. Then the collective public torches will really be firing up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Expendables, Or Let's Blow Everything Up and then Set it On Fire!

Blasting onto our screens, in a wave of 80s movie nostalgia, comes the action ensemble to end all action ensembles. I am of course talking about The Expendables, the film that has brought together the likes of Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Rourke, Willis and Schwarzenegger; frankly it’s hard not to get excited by that combination. So for all that promise was the film the dumb, loud, explosive, action fest that we had been praying for? Well the answer is yes, and then some.

The plot is not the film’s strongest point, but then this is an action film, where the plot is nearly always secondary. The only problem is the film sometimes tries to have it both ways and maybe indulges in more of a story than is necessary. Some parts of exposition could easily have been dropped for longer action sequences, much in the same way as Snakes on a Plane did to great effect. However, this problem does not completely ruin the film, and also allows us some laughably cheesy character development scenes; like for instance where we get to see a touching man to man discussion about women between Stallone and Rourke, and a glimpse into Statham’s love life.

A major problem with the film is that Stallone quite frankly doesn’t do a great job of directing, and seems to over rely on close-ups and shaky-cam, which can make watching this movie a little bit disorientating at times. However, whilst the photography isn’t amazing, the action scenes more than make up for the bad camerawork. The last fifteen minutes of the Expendables are truly spectacular, as literally EVERYTHING seems to get blown up, or set on fire.

The cast are an excellent blend of old-school and new school action stars, with the likes of Statham and Li bringing an element of youth – and in the case of the latter kung-fu kicking awesomeness - to the old grizzled oldies like Stallone and Lundgren. A special mention also should go to Eric Roberts who plays a corrupt businessman so obviously evil that he must have gained an award from the Lex Luthor finishing school of villainy. Robert’s character seems to hover in the background, demanding people be killed for interfering or threatening his financial gain (the two aren’t mutually exclusive), or simply enjoying a nice cup of tea whilst the female love-interest of the film is waterboarded in front of him. Another mention also goes to Steve Austin (of WWE fame) who plays the human equivalent of a pit-bull attack dog, who comes across as pretty-much indestructible for much of the film.

In many ways much of the film seems to overflow with testosterone; from the opening sequence where we see The Expendables rolling into a tattoo parlour on their Harleys, whilst a bit of heavy metal plays in the background you can just tell what sort of a ride this is going to be. Aside from that there are big impossibly powerful guns, and attractive ladies to save. It’s like a teenage boy’s dream.

I suppose all in all this film makes the ideal tonic for men, after offensively girly films like Sex and the City 2, swept the box office earlier this year. In fact in many ways this is the Sex and the City 2 of male films, but of course not as rubbish as Sex and the City 2 was to most people. True this film is not the perfect action film, after all a perfect cast isn’t everything, but it’s a damn good try.