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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And you thought Ronald McDonald was frightening.

Adverts, we can’t escape the bloody things. Every 15 minutes on TV they appear without fail, popping up on a website whilst we’re in the middle of web browsing, and leering at us jealously from billboards as we drive past them. Adverts can be entertaining, sad, funny or even just downright scary. It’s the last of these things I’m going to have a look at today as I look at a collection of ads which are disturbingly strange or unpleasant.

Kinder Surprise – Humpty Dumpty

Nowhere in the original Humpty Dumpty Nursery rhyme do I remember anyone saying Mr Dumpty would talk in terrifying, satanic tongues. I mean give the guy a break, he’s already an egg; why make him even more freakish?

Unfortunately that is exactly what the makers have done, as they’ve given Humpty a scary looking face before he’s even managed to open his mouth. Also why is the fact he’s eating one of his kind, and that he jumps off the wall unperterbed not addressed properly?

My theory is that he’s come to believe that he contains a toy inside himself, and perhaps therin lies the moral of this ad, i.e. don’t give a Kinder Surprise to a deformed man-egg in case he gets the wrong idea. Then again maybe he just can’t live with his cannibalism.

In any case, to a kid this is bound to make them question trusting eggs, Kinder or otherwise, ever again lest they come to life like this terrifying abomination.

Metz - Judderman

The weirdness of this ad led to its own downfall in the end, as it had to be pulled from our screens after giving young children nightmares and in all fairness you can see why.

It’s a pity about this one, as visually speaking the makers did a really good job, and you can’t fault the copy-writers for coming up with something worthy of the Grimm Brothers books.

However, watching a dodgy looking Jack Frost-like man sneaking up on an unsuspecting wood cutter in a world that seems inspired by a Tim Burton style brain-fart, is undeniably disturbing.

Cheese Strings – A lip balm?

This is not the first time I’ve launched an attack on this advert, but there’s no getting round the fact that it’s so weird it’s unnerving.

This ad comes from the same people who brought you the Cadbury Gorilla, so there is no doubting their pedigree in the strange and irrelevant. However, this takes on a noticeably dark twist, as the unseen protagonist is some kind of jabbering stalker, who successfully freaks out several members of the public as he lurks in wait.

I don’t really know what they’ll think of next, maybe an axe-murderer who recommends a type of shampoo before he lops his unfortunate victim’s head off?

Orangina – Lap dancing squid?

Calling all bestialists, and animal pornographers! This could just be your lucky day, as you get to watch a highly suggestive bit of animation where animals get kinky.

This just reminds me too much of the weird furries you sometimes find online. And the squid getting her tentacles involved is just too bawdy for my liking; those of you who are like me and like their squid deep fried and chopped up, not in underwear and stockings, as well as poking its tentacles hither and dither, will probably agree.

Smiths - Singing Potatoes

There is nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, endearing about singing vegetables. I enjoy vegetables for their ability to keep quiet and know their place, but here we get vegetables being loud, and also openly rebellious.

The damn spuds decide to sing a protest song and refuse to budge until they get cut up into Smiths Crisps. The whole thing just ends up looking like the 1984 miners strike, but with the miners winning.

I’m pretty certain that this is where it all starts, as the veggies decide to organise themselves into unions, and then will eventually grow tired of being chopped up and eaten. At least this advert at least shows they are still open to their fate of being eaten and for that you have to admire the potatoes in this ad, but give in to their demands now and who knows where that could lead.

Now vegetable rebellion isn’t something I often think about, but this advert has given something new to fear.

New Zealand Police – If you drink and drive then you’re a bloody idiot!

We’ve all seen the harrowing ‘don’t drink and drive,’ ‘don’t smoke’ or ‘don’t eat fatty foods’ warning ads before, and often we can accept that they have a right to be blunt and scary.

This one however is just creepy, as a couple of mates decide to go for a drive after a couple of drinks and the inevitable occurs. Then the one surviving member then is forced to lie alone in the dark with his dead chum, and a bit of mental breakdown takes place.

Definitely makes you want to not drink and drive if anything else.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I somehow doubt they'll have Pope branded condoms on sale...

Much like the tacky crap that airlines try to entice you with on flights, The Vatican is offering its followers, and all round pope fans (now does the Pope have a fan club? If not then maybe the Catholic Church has missed a trick there) the chance to pick up their own official t-shirt, mug or bracelet, for the Holy Father’s UK visit later this year.

It’s not unusual for event organisers to try and rip off people, and make a quick buck with overpriced rubbish to commemorate something; but when the organisers are part of a major world religion and have legions of devoted followers who may now be encouraged to put even more (every week they’re giving to the church collection plate after all, the poor sods) of their hard more money into the coiffeurs of the Vatican, the whole thing begins to seem a bit exploitative.

I know there is an element of choice involved, and that some Catholics won’t be drawn into buying anything like this - that is the beauty of free market choice after all - but you cannot account for the die-hard conservatives and the fervent god-fearing souls out there who will now feel compelled to buy into this. It’s a bit like a car hobbyist who insists on wearing nothing but merchandise made by his favourite car brand, but instead we’re going to witness god botherers in Pope hats (will they wear a mitres like the Pope himself?), Pope t-shirts, and with Pope jackets galore.

It’s not even like this is something outlandishly evil for The Vatican to do, but it is very suspect all the same, and reeks of self interest and a certain amount of exploitation; much like those TV evangelists in the USA who keep saying “show god how much you love him by sending us money.” In the end is the pursuit of wealth about as un-Christian (Christians of most denomonations do seem to agree that Jesus wasn't best pleased with people doing business deals in the temple after all) as you can get, yet the Vatican seems quite happy to flout those rules.

It’s times like this I’m glad I’m an Atheist. At least they’ve yet to start selling Dawkins T-shirts, or Darwin T-Shirts. I think anyway…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Human Centipede Review

Due to the persuasion of some close friends (they promised beer and pizza, so how could I refuse) I found myself sitting to down to watch Human Centipede (First Sequence), the high concept gore-horror from Dutch director Tom Six (is he perhaps related to Sporticus 10?). Now this for me was a bit of a leap into the unknown, as I knew how disgusting the premise was and had quickly dismissed the movie as a gore-for-the-sake-of-it kind of film. Nevertheless, I sat down to watch and endure it.

Well, all I can say is it delivers what it promises, i.e. a human centipede - the answer to a question no one really asked – but offers little in the way of plot and believable characters, or crucially much in the way of gore. The one thing I thought that Human Centipede was marketing to its audience, wasn’t even really there; much of the horror is implied rather than visceral. Sure, the psychology behind the plot is rather disturbing, as is the thought of the ordeal of being stitched arse-to-face to someone. However this is just playing on basic human fears: like a fear of confinement, nausea, pain and paralysis etc; beside that, this film lacks a good plot and acting, and gets very boring incredibly quickly.
So what is this film all about? Well, simply speaking it’s about a insane surgeon, who has spent his life separating Siamese twins, and has now become fixated with fixing people into one entity with a shared gastric system, and who sort-of succeeds. It’s a shaky premise as you can imagine, after all you don’t hear of kidney surgeons getting sick of removing kidneys from patients, and then trying to fuse unsuspecting victims into a giant functioning homemade kidney made of beef scraps. The silliest thing of all is that the film stands proudly beside the fact that the portrayal is surgically accurate, implying that Mr Six has done a fair bit of research into this nonsense. Fine it is surgically possible to do something as wrong as this, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that there is no need to make a three person human centipede in the first place, it doesn’t make sense.

The fact that this mad scientist is doing this all for his own sick pleasure means that Human Centipede cannot possibly hide itself from the criticism that it is torture porn, as that’s all it is really. The fact that two of the ‘segments’ of the centipede are played by young, attractive, helpless (not to mention gormless) women, who’s top halves are gratuitously naked when attached to the ‘pede’ just shows that this is really for the sadomasochists. Also all the victims are portrayed quite unsympathetically, and whilst they do nothing that deserves the outcome of having their face literally stuck into someone’s arse, you don’t feel anything remotely resembling affinity.
The plot plods along as slowly as the human centipede itself with the usual bit of establishment, a bit of exposition; a hilariously poor attempted escape that fails to capture any sense of suspense, and copies about every hopeless slasher film victim ever; the doctor marvelling at his odd creation, as he literally makes the back two parts of the centipede eat shit; and finally a bit of a shootout tacked on at the end.

The acting for the most part is pretty awful too, the female victims seem to spend the first part of the film rambling through hammy dialogue. Then they spend most of their time making muffled screams into the anus of the person in front. It begins to feel like they are substituting for the lack of screams from the audience, or even trying to prompt the audience screams, a bit like scream-o-vision. The only honourable mention goes to Dieter Laser (a man with an undeniably cool name), who plays the wacky surgeon behind the shocking misdeed. Unfortunately even his character is so overbearing unhinged and suspect that it is surprising the police haven’t had him under some kind of secret surveillance. Not Laser's fault, the writing is just very bad. This is especially the case when he tries to get his victims to drink a drugged glass of water. His insistence that they drink their water is so incredibly obvious that it’s surprising anyone manages to fall for this trick. It really is like something out of Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place albeit serios, it’s that bad.

In summary, there is no point bothering with this film unless you, for some reason, get off on mutilation porn, or on people eating excrement. There is no more depth to it than that, and it just drags on in the end. Its an eye catching idea, that lacks any substance.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Silly Season

It says a lot about the summer when you find that nothing is interesting. This month is often known amongst journalists and TV schedulers as the “silly season,” as nothing really happens at this time of year. For one thing parliament is off on summer holiday (cue horrendous mental images of David Cameron on the beach tossing a beach ball to George Osbourne, whilst Nick Clegg is sent off to get the cabinet a round of ice creams), so there are no interesting parliamentary squabbles for the news to report on. Additionally much of the rest of the country are off on holiday, as parents take advantage of their kids being off from school and go abroad too.

As there are not many interesting news stories to comment on - aside from the Naomi Campbell Diamond scandal, but a phrase ending with the words “fish in a barrel” comes to mind in that scenario. Instead I’m going to make up some ridiculous stories which probably would gain seasonal coverage at this moment in time, if they were real.

MEATA declares war on PETA

A pro-animal cruelty group: Meat Eaters Against Tawdry Animal-loving-antagonists (MEATA) has attacked the headquarters of the celebrity endorsed People for the Ethical Treament of Animals (PETA), in what is said to be the first wave of a sophisticated terror campaign.

The attack took place last night, when the MEATA members stormed the PETA UK headquarters in London. The fur clad MEATA men were reported to be ‘armed to the teeth with frozen sausage and salami truncheons, as well as Pâté based grenades’. The attackers were held at bay by PETA activists, who retaliated with sharpened carrots until the police arrived.

6 MEATA campaigners have been treated for carrot stab wounds, whilst a further 13 PETA members were treated for psychological trauma, after freaking out from touching meat products.

Terror as everyone realises no one is in control of anything really

Fear gripped the world today as everyone suddenly realised that no one knew how to do their job very well, and had been relying on the fact that someone else knew what they were meant to be doing.

From judges to lorry drivers, panic struck, with men and women running around, waving their arms and yelling at their colleagues, “I thought you knew what I was meant to be doing! I bloody well don’t!”

The Prime Minister urged for calm, as he frantically tried to phone the President to see what he should do next to deal with the crisis; as the President frantically tried to reach God on the special White House to Heaven hotline installed by George W Bush.

Prince Andrew corgi fighting ring broken up

Buckingham Palace guards were forced to act last night as it was found that Prince Andrew had been organising illegal corgi fighting matches in the horse sheds of the Palace.

Palace Guards were alerted by shouts, and yelps from the dogs. It is estimated that no corgis were killed, although one is in a critical condition according to the royal vets.

“We don’t think this is the first time that Andrew has organised corgi fights” said Palace Guardsman Geoffrey Townsend “we have began to notice the dogs limping around recently, and some have had tufts of fur missing, but we thought that was because they had been fighting over one of the bitches”

This controversy of course comes after the Prince was caught trying to sell Stone Henge to an American tourist last year.

Ryan Air take their rivalry with Easyjet up a notch

The bosses of Ryanair have been severely reprimanded by the ASA for a print advert featuring a picture of Hitler above the caption: “Like Easyjet, he also had some crazy ideas about better service, and look what happened there.”

This marks the second time this year that the Irish budget airline has compared its rival unfavourably with a dictator, having previously featured an advert attacking Easyjet, using an image of Robert Mugabe.

Ryanair has been fined £100,000 and has been ordered to not use a dictator (living or dead) in any advertisements for the next six months.

James Cordon arrested for indecent exposure

Funny fat man James Cordon has been held in remand by Hertford Police for walking up Stevenage High Street completely naked.

The incident took place this afternoon, when police were called by shocked residents who got to see more of the chubby comedian than they had ever imagined.

Witnesses said “I knew he had a big belly, as he keeps showing it on TV. But nothing could prepare me for seeing it in real life, it seems a lot bigger. Oh, and he had his dick out too.”

Mr Cordon’s agent claimed, “My client believed he was taking part in an audition for a new episode of Naked Jungle with Keith Chegwin”.

Kim Jong il is Top of the Pops

The first single by North Korean dictator Kim Jong il, has been released in high streets across Europe.

The sixty nine year old, who is known for his love of quirky projects such as film directing, has released his musical works, of what is to be known as NK-pop, outside of the DPRK – where every single reached Number 1 in the charts – for the first time ever.