Friday, December 24, 2010


Many people have fallen victim to the UK's pitifully woeful response to snowy conditions. I fortunately was only slightly effected, alas, others I know have missed their holidays, or been stuck in airports for days.

By far however, my favourite snow related travel mishap has occured within the A50 tunnel in Stoke. The A50 is a bypass which handily allows you to pass right through Stoke-on-Trent with ease. The A50 tunnel passes under a round-about in the town of Meir, handily helping to reduce traffic in this very busy area.

However, due to the snow, there was a power cut, and the lights inside the tunnel, which is not very long, went out. Thus, for the safety of drivers the tunnel was closed. This of course led to huge traffic jams and more stress during the holiday period.

This incident did make we wonder whether some one ought to invent some kind of device, which you could attach to a car, that would allow you to see in the dark. Some sort of illuminating device that drivers could use in times of reduced vision that would help them to see where they were going...

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saturday, December 04, 2010

November Film Highlights

Read more at the blog.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2010) Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Halin. Dir: Daniel Alfredson

While Lisbeth recovers in hospital, Blomkvist tries to uncover the organisation that’s determined to silence her. The final chapter is a conspiracy thriller; lower on incidence but still maintains the same edge-of-the-seat tension. If only Rapace and Nyqvist had more screen time together. A fine end to a fine trilogy.


The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Grant Williams,Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton. Dir: Jack Arnold

A man is caught in a strange mist, and begins to shrink. Too melodramatic, it’s not ‘till the second half that it becomes the adventure yarn it should be. Effects are decent, but ostentatious narration will make you cheer for him to be squished .And the ending is unbelievable.


Murder, My Sweet (1944) Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger. Dir: Edward Dmytryk

A botched ransome handover and a missing nightclub singer add up to trouble for Philip Marlow. Unfairly overshadowed by Bogart, Powell is excellent as the cynical PI, and backed by a strong supporting cast. Set the template for many seedy noir thrillers to come, and benefits from sequences of expressionist flair.


The Mark of the Vampire (1935) Lionel Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Elizabeth Allan. Dir: Tod Browning.

Vampires are accused of murdering a wealthy man and return for his daughter a year later. One of the silliest and most anti-climatic of early horrors. Lugosi lingers silently while Barrymore chatters endlessly. Sort of fun; the ending is so nonsensical that one expects a Shyamalan remake any day now.


The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North. Dir: Robert Fuest

A mad organist plans elaborate deaths for the doctors responsible for his wife death. Deliberately outlandish horror lark which delights in camp flamboyance. Being built around grisly, creative, death sequences causes some pacing issues, but if viewed with tongue in cheek it is more than worth a few good laughs.


Mystery at the Wax Museum (1933) Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell,Frank McHugh. Dir: Michael Curtiz

A new wax museum opens, but the sculptures are too life-like, almost familiar.... Superior to the remakes, but seldom seen. It’s not just fascinating for its early colour and pre-production code dialogue, but also for it’s fine set design, dramatic direction and extremely strong script.


House of Wax (1953) Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson, Carolyn Jones. Dir: Andre De Toth.

Another new wax museum opens, but the sculptures are far too life like, almost familiar... Inferior to the original, in both direction and the script, but generally good fun. The horror is played up and Price is good fun as always as the villain. Was originally 3D, hence the amazing paddle-ball man.


House of Wax (2005) Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Paris Hilton. Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra.

Beautiful youngsters get stranded near a ghost town with a sinister wax museum. It’s as if they wanted to remake Texas Chainsaw but were forced to do this instead. They clearly didn’t understand what made the originals work and made a bland, clichéd, rubbish teen slasher instead. It’s boring too.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 50 Word Curse

I’m approaching my 200th review on the 50 Word Film Reviews Blog, and if you add reviews published on this blog, far more than that. The blog is boasting, on average, a hundred hits a day, which is not bad for something I have no idea how to promote, and has a dedicated 16 – 18 daily readers (woo-hoo). And in terms of ad revenue I have earned an estimated 7 pence (that’s estimated, not confirmed)

In order to keep the blog supplied with daily reviews, I have been putting up 5 a week. Now I have of course been reprinting the reviews featured on this blog, but they can only last so long. And for the past month and a half I’ve been trying my best to not use the remaining old reviews, which are not many in number. I’ve been using new reviews, brand-spanking new reviews from films I’ve newly sat down and watched.

Now just try and think about this logistically. 5 films for 5 entries – every week. Now as the average film is 90 minutes in length we are talking about roughly, 7 and a half hours every week spent watching films, minimum.

I don’t have to tell you how f*****g difficult that is. Believe it or not, I do have a reasonably active social life and also have French lessons* currently biting away at my time. This is quite a commitment and one I’m not fulfilling with ease.

One might wonder whether, considering the results, it’s really worth all this effort. Not that I couldn’t do with the occasional additional seven pence or so. Oh well, I’m up for a challenge. Let’s see how long I can keep this up.

*I shit ye not. Can’t say as I’m doing very well either.

Monday, November 22, 2010

For the Love of: Proper Movie Trailers

Whether the output of Hollywood today is better or worse than it has been before*, one thing is for certain, and that is that the quality of film trailers is most definitely in decline. If you needed proof, take a look at this trailer for the new George Clooney movie. I wonder if the hunter is going to become the hunted....

Not so long ago I blogged about horror movie trailers. They were pretty silly, but they illustrate how a movie trailer can make a film look and appear exciting, even when the film itself is probably dreadful. Think to yourself, when was the last time you saw a film trailer that made you really excited about seeing film?

And I don’t mean that film that you were excited about seeing already; it doesn’t count if you wet yourself watching the new Harry Potter trailer, you were excited about seeing that anyway. But when was the last time you heard about a film you’d never heard about and were persuaded by the trailer to see it. I can’t think of many.

Here are a few examples of the lost art of the movie trailer. Yeah, they’re a bit long, but they weren’t just out-sourced to some lousy marketing company, filmmakers took proper time to make them and even film special footage for them....

*Well it's certainly not better is it? Just arguably not worse.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Album review

I wrote this album review a short while ago....

It's for Clinic's most recent album Bubblegum. I didn't care for it much.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

October Film Highlights

The obligatory link to the blog.

The Illusionist (2010) Dir: Sylvian Chomet.

A musical hall magician struggling to find work in the 60s meets a girl in Scotland who believes in magic. A film so beautiful (the Edinbugh scenes are stunning), yet so heart-wrenchingly tragic - it deals with the casualties of the changing times. It’ll put a tear in your eye.


Cat People (1982) Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O'Toole. Dir: Paul Schrader

An orphan finds her brother, who believes they are were-cats that can only mate with each other. The subtly of the original is lost on this tawdry and lurid remake. The story, now more erotic than horrific, has potential, but it’s undermined by melodramatic direction and some laughably gratuitous nudity.


Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (2010) Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman. Dir: Edgar Wright.

A slacker kid falls in love with a mysterious girl, but must battle her seven evil exes before he can win her heart. Hilarious teen romance transformed into an action comic book and pop-culture piss-take. A little long perhaps, but consistently funny and imaginatively brought to life on screen.


It Happened One Night
(1934) Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns Dir: Frank Capra

An heiress on the run from her father gets help from a willing journalist as she tries to reach her new husband. One of the first and best road-trip comedies. Gable and Colbert are the perfect double act, the screenplay is virtually laugh-a-minute, and Capra never lets the pace drop.


She (1965) Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, John Richardson, Bernard Cribbins. Dir: Robert Day

A former soldier is lead to a lost city by ‘she who must be obeyed’ as she believes him to be her reincarnated lover. Much more lavish than the average hammer horror, but pretty dull otherwise. The pace is languid and the leads have no chemistry. Lee is completely wasted.


The Seventh Victim (1943) Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Kim Hunter. Dir: Mark Robson.

A girl comes to the city in search of her missing sister and uncovers a sinister conspiracy. With excellent cinematography and a great build-up, it’s a real shame that this one doesn’t quite deliver, due to a vague expurgated script and cinema’s dullest cult of Satanists.


W (2008) Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss. Dir: Oliver Stone.

A look at George Dubya’s rise and time in power. Starts off with a balanced portrayal but slips eventually into parody. The needlessly non-linear storyline only emphasises the lack of focus, taking chunks of Ws life without really providing an overarching thesis. The supporting cast are all one dimensional.


A Bucket of Blood (1959) Dick Miller, Ed Nelson, Bert Convy, Antony Carbone. Dir: Roger Corman

A young artist becomes a success after creating a series of very life-like sculptures... Amusing Corman cheapie which has some good pops at pretentious artists and their world. Naturally the sets are few, and it’s not exactly thrilling (there’s no bucket or blood), but it’s a pleasant 60 minute distraction.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scenes from Croydon

Yes, Electric House, sounds like a place of atmosphere, a place of excitement.... Is it a legendary music venue? A club where banging tunes are pumped out from dawn till dusk? Where legends of music, the Stones, The Pistols, The Clash, played live? Where they recorded heavily bootlegged Peel sessions before they hit the big time?

Or is it location of one of the UK Border Agencies offices? Yes, it's the second one. Welcome to Croydon, Land of Disappointment.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Scenes from Stoke: The Council House Palace

A man’s home is his castle - as the saying goes, and the owner of this fine abode in the upmarket neighbourhood of Meir has taken that sentiment very much to heart. So proud of his home was he that he decided to raise columns as if it were some kind of Greek palace - just one with double glazing.

And with these fine columns, he constructed a balcony. Somewhere where he could relax and enjoy the atmosphere, site and smells. That of the A50 dual carriageway, Stoke-On-Trent’s most famous and popular road.

Popular of course, as it’s the quickest way to drive through Stoke without having to stop. Alas, last time I passed by, the house was up for sale. Sadly, the owner has had a spot of bother with some of the neighbours. Particularly with one who was a BNP member, who I believe is now dead. Who would’ve thought that the creator of such beauty could be unhinged...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

September Film Highlights

Check out the 50 Word Film Review Blog for more. Some people actually commented on it last week, it's really going places...

Inception (2010) Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Coutillard, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page. Dir: Christopher Nolan.

DiCaprio extracts secrets through people’s dreams, but can he plant an idea in the same way? A dense mind-bending blend of concepts that can dazzle, baffle, inspire and confuse all at once. Easy to pick holes, but sweeps you up with such creativity, mystery and spectacle, that it barely matters.


The Secret in Their Eyes (2010) Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Guillermo Francella, Pablo Rago. Dir: Juan José Campanella

A retired detective revisits an old case he wishes to turn into a novel, reawakening old emotions and an unrequited love. Touches on many themes, love, loss, justice, regret, letting go; the actors and direction are immaculate and constantly manages to surprise. Best film of the year?


Cloverfield (2008) Michael Stahl-David, T. J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan. Dir: Matt Reeves.

A monster attacks New York while beautiful teens have a party; they capture the action on camera as they flee. An interesting conceit, but not one that ever really convinces thanks to the clichéd characters, consistent camera work and movie plotting. Nevetheless, it does provide plenty of excitement.


Hunger (2008) Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon, Raymond Lohan. Dir: Steve McQueen.

When the no-wash protest fails to restore their rights as political prisoners, Irish Republican Bobby Sands goes on hunger strike. A brutal and troubling film about people so determined to win at all costs that they lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve. Fassbender and Cunningham are electric.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell. Dir: Andrew Dominik.

Robert Ford idolises outlaw Jesse James and the two of them develop a strained relationship. A slow burner which pays off in the final hour, though it always proceeds at a stately pace. Stunningly shot, the title is misleading, but then again, legends aren't built on truth.


The Good German (2006) George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire. Dir: Steven Soderburgh

A military journalist encounters his old flame in post WW2 Berlin and gets sucked into a murder investigation. Cleverly wraps a noir storyline around a convincing historical scenario, and the cinematography is striking, but Clooney’s character is thin and the twists become irritating rather than intriguing. A missed opportunity.


Cat People (1942) Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph. Dir: Jacques Tourneur.

Irena is afraid of showing affection for her husband for fear of transforming into a vicious cat. The first of Val Lewton’s horrors virtually invented the technique of never showing your monster. Psychologically complex and featuring Tourneurs characteristics shadows, it has style and depth that few other horrors can match.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

And it Was One Hell of a Ticket Booth... Well Deserving of a Plaque

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I Learnt this Week...

The study of stamps and postal history is called Philately.

Which doesn't at all sound like something rude when you say it out loud.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Dave's News Place....

Researchers prove that money can buy you happiness

Click on news story to zoom in.

All the Dave's News Place stories have now been migrated to this blog. You can find them all by clicking the tab at the top middle.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

10 More Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Federated State of Micronesia

1) Micronesia is scattered over an ocean expanse 5 times the size of France, although its total land mass is very small.

2) As part of their ‘Compact of Free Association’ with the US, the US takes responsibility for the defence of the island and has the right to set up military bases and deny other nations access to Micronesia. In return, Micronesia receives $100m in financial aid per year, and Micronesians have the right to live and work in the US.

3) Despite its small population, Micronesia has a high unemployment rate, a problem which is being exacerbated by the number of Filipino migrant workers.

4) Many Micronesians live without electricity or running water, which is in short supply and is sometimes rationed.

5) Micronesia has no daily newspaper, but the government does print a fortnightly newsletter for all citizens.

6) Despite being the largest and most populous island in Micronesia, Pohnpei only has about 10 restaurants.

7) The State of Kosrae is an island which is called ‘the sleeping lady’ because of it’s shape. See for yourself...

8) The Island state of Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth, with an average rainfall exceeding 300 inches.

9) Pohnpei is often accused of having a national football team that is “the worst team in the world”, although Pohnpei is not actually a nation.

10) The most noticeable Micronesian athlete is Elias Rodriguez, who ran in the Sydney Olympics. He finished last; the closing ceremony was in fact delayed to allow his finish.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Film Highlights

Read more at the 50 Word Film Reviews blog...

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2010) Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson. Dir: Daniel Alfredson.

Lisbeth is accused of the murder of 3 people, Blomkvist must dig deep into her dark past in order to save her. Never quite catches fire like the previous instalment, but the ending sure does leave you desperate for more. The actors, photography and direction remain impeccable.


Soylent Green (1973) Charlton Heston, Edward G Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors. Dir: Richard Fleischer

Earth is overcrowded; mankind relies on the Soylent company for food, and one of their former executives has been murdered. A sour but quite brilliant piece of science fiction. Well realised, despite modest effects, it believably portrays what our future might be, and provides disturbing food for thought.


The Killer Inside Me (2010) Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Bill Pullman. Dir: Michael Winterbottom

A sheriff begins an abusive relationship with a prostitute, awaking a desire for sadism and murder. Affleck is brilliant as the sweet voiced young psychopath, but this noir tale of dark goings on in a small town offers very little that’s not been seen before, besides the brutal violence.


Fallen Angel (1945) Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, Charles Bickford, John Carradine. Dir: Otto Preminger.

A broke publicity man falls for a waitress, but marries a widower for her money; then the waitress is murdered. Has its moments, Andrews redemption, Carradine’s as a dodgy psychic... but thin characterisations let it down. Waitress is such a cow, it’s hard to fathom why everyone wants her.


Oldboy (2003) Choi Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong. Dir: Park Chan-wook.

A man kidnapped, locked-up and released after 15 years, without explanation, picks up a hammer and looks for answers. Grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go, right up to the jaw-dropping finale. The only way to be free is to leave the past behind... Brutal and completely brilliant.


The Invisible Man (1932) Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, Henry Travers, William Harrigan. Dir: James Whale.

A man who cannot be seen goes insane and terrorises a small town. The first and best version; the dramatic, but often hilarious script, is killer, and the effects are still impressive. Whale is at the top of his game and Rains manic performance is the icing on the cake.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

10 things you probably didn’t know about the Federated States of Micronesia

1, The Federated States of Micronesia is made up of four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.

2, Micronesia is made up of 607 different islands, spreading over 1,700 miles.

3, Despite spreading across more than 1,000,000 square miles, the islands themselves only have 270 square miles of land.

4, The population of Micronesia is only 108,105

5, English is the official language of the Federated States, but each state has its own language: Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosraean.

6, The islands of Yap is home to more than 6,500 Rai Stones large limestone discs, some as large as wagon wheels, with a hole carved in the middle. They are thought to be a form of ancient currency.

7, Many natives of Pohnpei exhibit an extreme form of colour blindness known as maskun.

8, The Federated States of Micronesia formed their own constitution in 1979. Prior to this, they had been a United Nations Trust Territory under U.S. administration.

9, Their currency is the US dollar.

10, Over the last 10 years, there has been on average 38 people in prison at a time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I learnt this week...

This week I learnt that peope with a BMI (body mass index) of over 50 are known as the 'super obese'.

I imagine it's because this is the stage at when a fat person begins to develop super powers. They no longer have to consume food; they can simply absorb anything by smoothering it with their own mass.

Apologies for the infrequent posting, but I am extremely busy at the moment, with work and... other things. I would elaborate, but I may be being watched...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Film Highlights from July

Read more at the 50 Word Film Reviews blog.

The Fountain (2006) Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz. Dir: Darren Aronofsky

In 3 different time periods a man tries to save his dying love with the help of the tree of life. A dazzling rush that packs a breathtaking amount into 95 minutes. Metaphysical clap-trap or a meditation on love, destiny and death? – opinions will be divided. Definitely worth seeking out.


Man On Wire (2008) Dir: James Marsh

Wire walker Philippe Petit has (illegally) done his act across landmarks all over the world, but his dream is the twin towers... An absolutely gripping story of obsession and daring with a fascinating cast of characters. Not just a brilliant story, but a brilliant piece of documentary filmmaking.


Hard Candy(2005) Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson. Dir: David Slade.

A man lures a 14 year old he met on the internet to his home, but then she takes him hostage. Sharply directed psychological thriller with 2 exceptional lead performances, but it goes on too long and the final quarter is more clichéd. Warning: includes some mild castration.


Get Carter(1971) Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland. Dir: Mike Hodges

A violent London gangster travels up north to find out who killed is brother. A stark, cold thriller that features Caine in one of his most striking and impressive roles as brutal sociopath. What it lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in style, intensity and pure grit.


This Film Is Not Yet Rated(2002) Dir: Kirby Dick.

A look into the secretive Motion Picture Association of America and how it rates films. A bold eye-opening look at the hypocrisy and bizarre behaviour of a subtly powerful organisation, which culminates in the unmasking of its secret raters. A smart, insightful argument for a better system.


Road to Perdition(2002) Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig. Dir: Sam Mendes.

A high ranking mobster must go on the run with his son, after he witnesses a murder carried out by the boss’ son. A handsome looking film, but ultimately, not a very gripping one. The film feels slow, the characters 1 dimensional, and Hanks is just too dull.


Harvey(1950) James Stewart, James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow, Charles Drake. Dir: Henry Koster.

Jolly Stewart’s relatives try to have him committed for having an invisible 6 foot rabbit as a best friend. A delightful farce; Steward is wonderful as jolly hero whose relentless optimism and cheer brings out the madness and eventually, the best in others. Supporting cast is also excellent.


Battle of Algiers(1966) Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef. Dir: Gillo Pontecorvo.

A reconstruction of events in Algiers in the 50s as the French try to suppress the movement for independence. So realistic in its depiction of guerrilla warfare it was screened at the pentagon before the Iraq war. A masterpiece of realism, as relevant today as it ever was.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cultural Fun Things I Did Around London

I enjoyed a number of cultural type entertainments last week, here’s what they were and what they were like:

An Audience with Clarke Peters

The Wire’s Lester Freeman took the stage to discuss his career, his big TV break through and his socio-political views of life in London. It was pretty sweltering in the E4 Udderbelly tent, and the small audience where perspiring heavily while the old luvvy regaled us with his acting adventures. It was clear from the off that Mr Peters was pretty full of himself, and some his jokes found more favour from him than the audience. An impersonation of Lance Reddick’s walk met with general all round bemusement.

Still, Mr Peters had plenty of interesting stories, of particular interest where his tales of preparing for The Wire by spending time with Policeman in Baltimore, as well as the turf wars caused because of filming – gangs were forced to move to different corners. Now an expert on racial tensions, Peters went on to quiz the audience as to whether they thought London was going the same way as Baltimore. To be fair to him, his opinions were sensible and well balanced. And his stories about doing school theatre with the Travolta family raised a few smiles. An engaging, if slightly too self -assured, performance.

Penn & Teller: Live at the Hammersmith Apollo

Me and my brother used to watch Penn & Teller when we were kids so we both had a sense of excitement at seeing these two old pros. We weren’t disappointed; besides being great magicians and professional showmen, Penn & Teller are also excellent comedians, and while certain tricks were designed to surprise and delight, others were simply there for comic value.

Amongst the highlights was Penn guessing what joke members of the audience at the back of the auditorium had chosen from joke books distributed at random; and Penn getting a card trick apparently wrong thus preventing him from saving Teller from drowning in a water tank. Perhaps the best trick was about misdirection; a man from the audience was given control of a camera, which record scenes played on the screens on either side of the stage. Penn then performed slight of hand tricks in front of the camera, deliberately directing the limited view scope away from Teller who was rather obviously handing and taking away objects in full view of the audience. But the trick was on us, the man from the audience was Teller after all. And the man handing Penn objects had disappeared...

Smart, fun and very, very funny.

An Audience with Alexei Sayle
Sayle is often considered to be the father of alternative comedy, and was voted number 12 in Channel 4’s Top 100 stand-ups list. Yet, Sayle hasn’t done stand up since the mid 80’s. As a fan of his work, seeing him read extracts from his new autobiography ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’ was as close as I was going to get. It was easy, right from the off, to see why Sayle was so popular. He comes on, arms outstretched - an enormous, unstoppable personality. While seen mostly today as an interviewee or documentary presenter, on stage Sayle becomes unstoppable, almost rabid, as he tells tall tales of growing up in a strict communist household.

Highlights included the time he was prevented from seeing fascist Disney’s Bambi, and instead, was given a real treat – a chance to see Sergei Eisenstein’s 1939 classic Alexander Nevsky. Then there was the time he swore in front of his mother, which unleashed so many years of repressed swearing from her, that from that point on, she swore more heavily than anyone Sayle knew, to the point where he was afraid to bring his friends home.

The audience deliberately tried to rile him up with questions about Ben Elton and the Communist Worker’s Party. But Sayle loudly implored them to give him a break when quizzed on the current coalition government. All in all, he was in fine form, a larger than life personality who really ought to be on stage or on TV much more than he is.

British Film Institute Lectures: ‘This Film is Dangerous’ and ‘The Search for the Most Wanted’

Despite being sweltering outside, these 2 illuminating talks, which were staged to celebrate 75 years of the National Film archive, were largely packed out.

The first talk discussed nitrate film, the explosive former film stock which was used once in all cinemas around Britain, but today, is largely illegal. Only the British Film Institute is legally able to show the films, which besides being highly flammable, also decay considerably over time. The talk included an educational film which showed how to deal with fires caused by nitrate film. The answer being, actually, very little if you let it get going. The stuff is quite terrifying once it sparks. Although with the copy and paste film slides, and some video queuing issues, it was a little amateurish, it was a well constructed and interesting talk about an important part of cinema history.

The 2nd talk was about films missing from the archive and showed some of the existing footage that had been discovered. Things were a lot more organised this time, but with the differing films and the almost random selection of films, it was a little disjointed. Nevertheless it was very informative the speakers were very engaging and there was a touch of mystery about seeing parts of film which may never actually get shown on a big screen again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Scenes From Stoke: The Church of the Holy Boxing

Worship not on thy knees, but with thy fists. Sadly, religeon hasn't been so popular in Stoke of recent times, except with kids who like to pick up rocks and throw them at windows. But casual violence has continued to grow and grow, so why not get the kids in to pay to hit each other, while their birds get a tan out back? Twas an idea as divine as heaven itself.

Friday, July 02, 2010

June Film Highlights

Find more at the old 50 Word Reviews Blog

Four Lions
(2010) Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar, Dir: Chris Moriss.

A group of wannabee jihadists argue about what to try and blow-up. A dark comedy which gets plenty of lives aims at the incompetence, ignorance and stupidity of the faux terrorists. The problem is that they’re still just as effective at taking lives and causing anarchy. A frightening film.


Peeping Tom (1960) Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley. Dir: Michael Powell.

A girl becomes attracted to a cameraman who secretly films women as he murders them. Months before Psycho, Powell created a complex psychological film that destroyed his career. The exploration of voyeurism is quite fascinating. But if you’re not swept up by it, you might notice a variety of implausibilities.


The Bed-Sitting Room (1969) Rita Tushingham, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Arther Lowe, Marty Feldman. Dir: Richard Lester.

In post apocalyptic Britain, a young mother and her family return to the surface and move into a man who has mutated into a bed-sitting room. A genuine curiosity. Surreal and bleak, there are brilliant ideas, and the landscape is truly startling, but it’s hard to follow and very disjointed.


American – The Bill Hicks Story (2010) Dir: Matt Harlock

A solid overview of the life of one Americas most controversial cult comedians. The participation of close family and friends provides a lovingly detailed look at his formative years, but the impact of his later controversial material seems a little unexplored. It’s also a little hard to tell who’s talking.


Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2010) Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif. Dir Werner Herzog.

After injuring his back saving a prisoner’s life, a Police Lieutenant becomes addicted to narcotics and slides of the rails. Cage seems to be playing a comedy character but in a very serious film. Hard to be sure exactly what Herzog’s trying to say, it’s bewildering and a little unsatisfying.


Kick Ass
(2010) Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong. Dir: Matthew Vaughn

A geeky teen dons a costume and becomes a super hero, but things get very serious when he crosses a mob boss and a rival hero team. Although the premise is more original, this action packed film soon becomes very much like the standard super hero fair. Still entertaining enough though.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why I Won't Be Going Paintballing Again Anytime Soon....

And this over 2 days later. They were a lot darker at the time...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

For the love of.... 70s and 80s horror movie trailers

Recently I've been enjoying old horror movie trailers on Youtube. Twas an age where they really worked hard to make you want to watch the film. Is it a lost art, well, maybe for the better... Click on the titles and enjoy.

The Entity

From the age of great horror soundtracks.

Legend Of Hell House

So much in this one you’ve got to wonder whether there’s anything left in the film worth watching.

The Changeling

You just don’t get voiceovers like this anymore.

Don’t Go Into The House

I love commitment to a theme.

The House Where Death Lives

Just repeat the title a lot, that’ll make it scary.

Don’t Open The Window

Err, not sure what the whole window thing has to do with this one.

Don’t Answer The Phone

Not really sure how phone’s are involved; there weren’t any mobiles, how could he phone ahead?

“He had done it before, he would do it again, he is doing it now” – it doesn’t even make sense.

Don’t Look In The Basement

Don’t Go Near The Park

A good bit of narration can compensate for a trailer that doesn’t actually have anything happening in it.

Don’t Go In The Woods

They’re really running out of things to put Don’t in front of now. And bad English aside, the narrator’s taking it far too casually.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vintage Ghost Stories on TV

One of the things I’ve been doing recently is seeking out old ghost stories. Many years ago, the BBC would dramatise a ghost story every Christmas. I caught one recently on BBC 4 and it grabbed my interest. You see, I’ve always had a soft spot for old school spooky stories. Because when you’ve got no money and there are certain restrictions on what you can and can’t show, then you have to be clever. You have to be smart about how you do it. And if there’s one thing that these old stories do well, it’s creating an atmosphere.

These stories were released in a short lived BFI Archive Television strand in 2002 and of course they’re now out of print and very expensive to buy. But if you can track them down, they’re definitely on torrent sites, they’re worth a gander. Here are the ones that are, were, available, plus a more modern tale which is very much in the same tradition and caused quite a stir when it went out.

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968 Michael Horden, Ambrose Coghill, George Woodridge. Dir: Jonathan Miller.

Who says dangling white sheets can’t be scary? One of many M.R.James adaptations by the BBC, this one is filmed in moody black and white and features Michael Horden playing a pompous, blundering professor who discover a whistle in a cemetery with the inscription ‘Who is this who is coming?’. He blows the whistle and thinks little over it, until he begins to experience frightening dreams.

Although the story is not as involving as other on the list, this is by far the most memorably sinister. It’s quite startling what can be created with editing and sound. Just watch this sequence; amongst the greatest moments in British horror.

A Warning to the Curious (1972) Peter Vaughan, Clive Swift, John Kearney, David Cargill. Dir: Lawrence Gordon Clark.

In another M.R.James adaptation, an amateur archaeologist finds a legendary Saxon crown, but its last guardian is still determined to see that it stays buried. While not as spooky as the above, Lawrence Gordon Clark takes note of Jonathan Miller’s use of sound to build up the feeling of dread. While not as moody, due to its colour, jagged angles and extreme close-ups keeps the viewer on edge. The chase scene, linked to below, is justly famous; the sight of the jagged black killer galloping unstoppably across the landscape is just to sinister for comfort.

The Stone Tape (1972) Michael Bryant, Jane Asher, Michael Bates, Iain Cuthbertson. Dir: Peter Sasdy.
This one’s a full on 90 minute drama; it’s smart, but probably less frightening today than the others on this list. A group of scientists move into an old mansion, determined to work out a new recording medium to combat the Japanese. When the proposed computer room begins to show repeating ghostly phenomena, they think maybe their new medium lies within the stone walls.

It’s a great modern horror tale by Quatermass author Nigel Kneale, and if it’s not as scary as it was it keeps you interested through its running time, with Michael Bryant’s performance as an egotistical bastard a particular highlight. And once again, the use of sound is really quite terrific; I particularly like the muddy noises.

The Signal Man (1976) Denholm Elliot, Bernard Lloyd. Dir: Lawrence Gordon Clark
Denolm Elliot is a troubled signal man, who is visited by a ghostly presence whenever an accident is about to happen on his part of the line. Dickens wrote this terrific yarn after being involved in a horrific accident himself. Just watch the train approach Elliot like a bullet passing through the barrel of a gun. Just terrific.

Ghostwatch (1992) Micheal Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Craig Charles. Dir: Lesley Manning

For those of you who don’t remember, Ghostwatch was a drama about a TV show doing a live broadcast from a haunted house. It’s just that people didn’t realise it was a drama, and actually thought it was real. Why? Well because it was presented by real presenters playing themselves and it looked and sounded like the kind of cheapo live TV even that they actually did at the time.

It still has that touch of authenticity that keeps you on edge, like a mysterious lost TV clip that shows up on Youtube, although some of the performances aren’t as convincing as they might be. Still, even though it has a credulity stretching third act build-up to the end, the believability of its set up, the mindless filler, the dull studio set, and the fleeting image of the monster... it keeps you unsettled because it’s sort of believable. Just watch Parky getting possessed...

Of course, things were much more cosy on kids’ favourite, Doctor Who...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Scenes From Stoke: The Scaffolding Monument

Yes, it's Stoke's legendary scaffolding monument. Created to beautify the glorious bypass that allows people to pass through Stoke even quicker, it was created to symbolise Stoke on Trent's industial past. Either that, or they just had a bunch of old metal left over after they built a bridge nearby*.

It's certainly well placed, sitting as it does next to a demolished factory, a Co-Op depot and a closed down Little Chef. And it's very admired by the people of Stoke. They glance it several times a day as they pass by on the A50 at 50 miles an hour. What a wonderful, inspiring way to spend public money....

*My money's on that one.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

May Film Highlights

Don't forget to visit the 50 Word Film Reviews Blog

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube. Dir: Niels Arden Oplev.

A disgraced investigative journalist is hired to solve a decades old disappearance, but finds help from a troubled young researcher. Moody, stylish and totally engrossing. The absorbing atmosphere and fascinating characters turn out to be more absorbing than a very interesting mystery. The best and darkest thriller for some years.


Stardust (2007) Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfieffer, Robert De Niro. Dir: Matthew Vaughn.

A boy tries to fetch a fallen star to impress his love, but enters a fantasy world where sinister others seek it too. A colourful fantasy romp with an all star cast who for the most part don’t overdo it. Not especially original, but a lot of fun nevetheless.


An Education (2009) Carey Mulligan, Peter Skarsgard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Rosamund Pike. Dir: Lone Scherfig

A potential Oxford student discovers there’s more to life than study when she meets an older sophisticate. Charming coming of age tale, where the only way to learn’s the hard way. It’s beautifully written and wonderfully performed by Mulligan, Skasguard and the rest on the ensemble. A sweet melancholy delight.


King of Comedy (1983) Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, Diahnne Abbott. Dir: Martin Scorsese.

An obsessive wannabee comic tries to befriend a chat show host to launch his career, but when that fails, kidnaps him. De Niro is at his best when playing the unbalanced, and he’s especially good beside a marvellously restrained Lewis. A wickedly funny look at the unjust nature of fame.


Corridors of Blood (1958) Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Betta St. John, Finlay Currie, Francis Matthews. Dir: Robert Day

A Victorian Doctor trying to create a full anaesthetic becomes addicted to his experiments. A refreshingly different horror/thriller variation. Great later role for Karloff who puts in a sensitive performance as a good man who inadvertently becomes an addict and allows himself to be exploited by evil men.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Watching The Divine Comedy

I saw the Divine Comedy the other week. You can read my review here...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crazy Train Lady Part 3

So who was the mystery woman? What did I know about her? Well, lots, but little of it verifiable. There was one thing I could track down and that was the Sloane Ranger Handbook. A quick journey to Amazon gave me the names of two authors: Peter York and Ann Barr. I can be fairly sure it’s not Peter York, not unless her life was even more fascinating than she made it out to be.

I quickly Googled the name, and clicked on this article, where alas, I could see from the picture that this was not the woman who I had encountered. She was a bit younger and thinner and a glasses wearer. However, reading on I found that the book had been written with the help of three others, significantly Vicki Woods and Sue Carpenter.

Sue Carpenter now appears to live in Los Angeles, which seems to rule her out; despite the story I was told about how my train companion had once had tea with the heir to the Campbell Soup Empire, and how she had two private planes, one to transport the family, one for the pets.

Now interestingly enough, Vicki Woods seems to be based in England, and appears to write for the Daily Telegraph. I saw this article, and immediately got excited. It talked about how the writer worked for the magazine where the whole Sloane Ranger phenomenon started. It talks about Scotland, where my companion’s family lived. But then as I read on, I realised that the writer had not actually been to Scotland until the 90s, just her husband that knew the place well. Here’s a short bio here; this time too young... The stories just don’t match up.

Where to now? Reading the first article about Ann Barr further, I found another name, a sub-editor called Martina Margetts who actually coined the name in the first place. Could this be the woman? This lady is a lecturer at the Royal College of Arts, Senior Tutor in Critical & Historical Studies. There’s a bit about her here. Some international background, books published, but no picture, and no evidence to suggest she was the person involved in the whole Sloane thing. And no picture, alas.

With nowhere else to go, I went to the The Good Schools Guide website, and unsurprisingly, found rather a large list of contributors, none of which matched the name’s I had come across already. Although frustratingly there was a Sue Wood. Could I have sat next to a complete loony? A habitual liar?

Well one tiny thing makes me think that it wasn’t all complete balls. Remember her encounters with the Warner Brothers? That her father went on to be director of Playtex. Read the latter half of this page, there is a connection between the two. Rough – but could this be the nugget of info that proves that it wasn’t all made up? I cannot know for sure.

If you’ve got any further ideas or avenues for investigation, then by all means, let me know...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Crazy Train Lady Part 2

So having made some pretty scurrilous claims about the past two Labour leaders, we somehow got onto her trips abroad. She regaled with tales about her time at the foot of the Himalayas: “Have you ever played croquet?”, I had not. Well, apparently it’s really different on elephant back.

More risky of course if you fall off. She enjoyed it the first year, but the second year war had broken out without the rebels, so the people at the elephant croquet place couldn’t use any firearms. This meant scarring off wild elephants was very difficult, and one particular rogue kept coming into the enclosure and having his way with the females. It was hard to scare him off and he kept coming back. However, one time he came by during the day, and saw the elephants mid-croquet game. He his expressed his disgust with a mighty roar, and was never seen again.

Then we moved onto her time helping to run an African game reserve with the local tribe’s people. The nominated chief of the tribe had left many years previously and become an engineer. But he was tempted back and later went onto to enjoy 13 wives. This of course is the problem, too many of the tribe’s young people are being sent a way to get an education. They make most of their money from letting very rich people hunt there. The one thing they hated was gap year students; too much work to take care for, they didn’t really care about the land, they wouldn’t work very hard, and they just got stoned all the time. This apparently put her at odds with many charities.

I managed to get a few words in and mentioned my recent trip to India, and the conversation gradually moved towards the natural stomach problems I experienced. Apparently banana’s and Coke-A-Cola is best for diarrhoea , she was told that by the personal doctor to one of the more rebellious leader’s in Africa, who was also Glenn Close’s father.

Finally we went back to her childhood growing up in Scotland. Her father ran a few a whisky factories which boomed after prohibition ended, shipping most of their wares to America, but this boom didn’t last forever. He was partnered with a man who had strong ties to the mafia, and who also employed one of President Kennedy’s bodyguards. He frequently spoke ill of JFK, which came as a shock because he had near saint like status. Her father would eventually go on to be director of Playtex.

One of the fond memories she does have of her childhood is that of the Warner Brothers coming around for tea. The two of them would sit in front of the telly, timing the adverts. Commercial television has only just been introduced and they wanted to know how long the adverts really were.

It was at this point that the train stopped for a while and the seat opposite became free. She bought a copy of the Mail and decided to put her feet up there. This was after 3 and a half hours of solid talking. I always take long books with me when I go on long journeys, so I can really get stuck in. I think I got less than 15 pages read before the journey ended.

We eventually arrived at Edinburgh. We spoke a little while we collected our luggage, but as soon as the train was stopped, she charged off, past the shop and down the aisle past the toilet and out of sight. I went on in pursuit, hoping to catch up with her, but alas, she was gone.

I never did get her name. Who was she? I’ve already had one comment with a suggestion, but it’s unfortunately, not that easy...


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Crazy Train Lady

I went up to Scotland the other week. I enjoyed it, I’ve never been up there, it was a nice treat.

The trip itself didn’t get off to a great start though. I had packed, only had to toss in my tooth brush, a towel and then I was ready to go. I set the alarm on my phone for 8:20, plenty of time to get down to the station before 9:30 to get my train. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the living room and only realised this in the morning, when in a state of panic I turned on the TV to discover that it was now 9:40.

I was out of the house in 7 minutes, down on the platform at East Croydon in under 20 minutes and arrived at Kings Cross only 7 minutes late for the train. I was honest with the man on the ticket counter and he validated my ticket for the train half an hour later. I managed to find an unbooked seat – my journey could now continue.

However, what I didn’t realise was that I was about to sit next to the craziest woman I’ve ever met - and in this case, enjoyed meeting. She may have talked non-stop for 3 and a half hours, but I think it was worth listening too. Certainly more interesting than any work of fiction I could’ve indulged in.

It started off quite innocuously as she told me about how she was going up to see her elderly mother who’d been having a rough time recently. She’s not been well recently, but she’s 82 so she’s still a fighter. Her mother had a fall and was ill and the doctors said her hip was fine, but she insisted on an x-ray for her, and it turned out she had. Then there was a mercenary man going around to all the injured old lady, offering them a stair lift, ready for them as soon as they got home if they signed here. She swore at the salesman, even though the doctor recommended one; she’d go down on the stairs on her bum, as she had for ten years already.

Mundane so far. But we would gradually go to more crazy places. She was a writer, she’d written for the Times, Guardian, Independent and so on. Her claim to fame is as one of the creators of a famous book from the 70s called ‘How to be a Sloane Ranger’, which although humorous, many people took to be quite serious. There were two follow-ups, but they delivered diminishing results.

She is also still an editor on the Good Schools guide and told a good anecdote about a school ranked excellent. It was a modest school, with modest resources, and it seemed like it couldn’t keep a head teacher for more than a year. This was because the school hired disgraced, highly regarded teachers, who had been dismissed from former jobs for misbehaving – sleeping with staff, even pupils. So it got the best candidates, at a reduced cost, who needed the work to bounce back.

It was at this point that the crazy claims started to seep in. “You do know that Tony Blair’s gay? Oh, yes, he had this thing going with this press officer”. Then on to Gordon Brown “Did you know that he signed the gun license for the man who went on to commit the Dunblaine massacre?”*

We would then go on to considerably stranger places including playing croquet on elephant back at the foot of the Himalayas, diarrhoea advice from Glenn’s Close’s father, game reserve management in Africa, selling bootleg whisky with the help of President Kennedy’s former bodyguard, and visits from the Warner Brothers to her Scottish childhood home.


* I haven’t found any evidence of his, well, not on Wikipedia anyway.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The 50 Word Film Reviews Blog

Yes, the 50 word film reviews now have their own blog. You can find it here. It’s part of the Orble blog network; at the moment I’m republishing a lot of the old ones to keep it updated every day in the hope of slowly creating a readership. But I will be sticking the latest ones up there too and will be posting the highlights here monthly as well.

Feel free to click on a link while you’re there, I get a huge 50% of all ad revenue I’m going to earn my first penny any day now, I just know it!

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Simon Ward, Veronica Carlson. Dir: Terence Fisher.

Frankenstein blackmails a couple into helping him free a mad colleague. The saga has moved on: the doctor is the monster, and his creation is all too human. A strong plot, with a killer finale, makes up for a lack of scares, though the rape scene is completely out of place.


Ponyo (2009) Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson. Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

A young fish-girl befriends a young boy and decides that she wants to become human. Another typically dazzling Miyazaki creation, with stunning visuals and a story that is both exciting and touching. The adults are dull as usual and Neeson is miscast – but otherwise the film is irresistible.


Jindabyne (2007) Gabriel Byrne, Laura Linney, Deborra-Lee Furness, John Howard. Dir: Ray Lawrence

Four men discover a body in the outback but don’t report their discovery until after their trip. A hard to fathom film; it’s a crowded human drama of pain and expected and unexpected consequences, but one which also hints at ghostly, supernatural goings on. Interesting, but not entirely satisfying.


The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Kate Fitzpatrick, Michael Pate. Dir: Philippe Mora

A washed-up alcoholic superhero is called back into service. The cynical superhero film 20 years before it became popular. Uneven in style and tone, with musical numbers that always come as a surprise. But very likeable, with enough material for about 3 films. Worth watching to see Christopher Lee singing.


Double Take (2010) Alfred Hitcock, Mark Perry, Ron Burrage. Dir: Johan Grimonprez

A thought provoking clips collage featuring Hitchcock meeting himself from the future, US relations with Russia in the 60s and a real Hitchcock impersonator. The theme seems to be how two things of the same cannot exist side by side, one must invariably destroy the other. An interesting curiosity.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Perfect Business Partnership...

It's good to see the Savoy brand growing, although strangely the Lettings store doesn't seem to be open that often. Plenty of hot air going through both I imagine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I saw Archie Bronson Outfit live

I saw Archie Bronson Outfit a week or so ago. Here's the review...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Major delays cause time to stop at Waterloo

Friday, April 02, 2010

I saw Tindersticks live

I saw Tindersticks last week. You can read my review here....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March Films

The Informant (2009) Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey. Dir: Steven Soderburgh

A young executive turns informant by mistake but has plenty to hide himself. What first appears to be a comedy of incompetence soon turns into something darker and more startling. Damon carries the film as the bewildering lead it what is a modest but intriguing black comedy.


First Man into Space (1959) Marshall Thompson, Marla Landi, Bill Edward, Robert Ayres. Dir: Robert Day.

The first man into space crashes down to earth, turned into a monster by meteor dust. Old school Saturday morning film. Although the standard monster on a rampage story, the film benefits from some stylish shooting and genuine attempt to present space travel seriously. Generally good fun.


Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince (2009) Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon. Dir: David Yates

Dumbledore tries to prepare Harry for the battle that is to come. A step backward from the Order of the Phoenix, there’s too much information to digest and not enough excitement. The teen dramatics are a little bit tiresome too. The realisation remains handsome.


The Tingler (1959) Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts. Dir: William Castle.

A scientist speculates about a creature in the body that causes fear and tries to extract it. Totally daft proposition that’s handled with surprising skill and wit, although without the in theatre gimmicks, the finale does not stand up. All around good fun nevertheless.


The Damned United (2009) Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Col Meaney. Dir: Tom Hooper

Brian Clough’s disastrously short lived tenure as the manager of Leeds United. A fun retelling of events, with Sheen displaying his usually impeccable impersonation skills. But it’s a little lightweight, we only scratch the surface of the characters, and we never feel the pressures they’re under.


The Hurt Locker (2009) Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow

A US bomb disposal squad in Iraq is joined by a new member. Expertly tense and gritty thriller that throws light on a terrifying job and the kind of people who do that job. But little bits of ‘Hollywood’ slip in, and it undermines some of its realism.


Key Largo (1948) Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor. Dir: John Huston.

An ex-soldier visits a family of a dead comrade but they’re taken hostage in a hotel by gangsters. Hampered by cardboard characters, Bogart seems to sleep walk thought it, the pace picks up and this becomes a tense and sometimes quite nasty crime thriller.


The Road (2010) Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael K. Williams, Robert Duvall. Dir: John Hillcoat

In a post-apocalyptic world, a man and his son travel across a brutal landscape. It’s hard to fault the acting, the direction and the gravitas of the writing, but it’s so bleak. Only the finale contains the smallest crumbs of hope. Not one destined for repeated viewing. Contains cannibalism.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ordeal

So yes I went to India. Big place, quite hot. I was staying at the bosses flat along with him and 3 other guys, 2 Kiwis and 1 South African, which is why it was a relief to find that Gujarat was a dry state, I don’t imagine I could’ve kept up.

Things got off to a spectacular start when I lost my debit card. You see, cash machines in India aren’t like cash machines in England, where after selecting your amount, you get your card dispensed back to you followed by your money. In India, you get your cash then your card, well I assume so, I just took my cash and left.

I didn’t suffer from jet lag too badly at first, but as the week went on, my health took a few hits. Office hours were from 11 to 8 over there, so that the office was open while the UK was open. And because I had to check up on my UK team every day, I was constantly watching the time and most of the clocks at the office were set to UK time. Lunch wasn’t till 3, and because the boss doesn’t get to India that often, working hours were frequently extended due to meetings and such like. We wouldn’t get dinner till about 10pm. Most of the time, I really had no idea what time of day it actually was.

Then of course once back at the flat, we just sat about till the early hours, and there was at least one heavy drinks session in the evening. And I’m not so good at sleeping in new beds anyway. Gradually, each day I got more tired and exhausted. The air-con did and didn’t help; it was good for keeping the temperature down, but it left you with a nasty dry throat in the morning.

I got properly hammered at the end of the first week. And despite the booze, still struggled to sleep, but things got worse. The drinking weakened my immune system, leaving me totally unprepared for a long journey across India for a cricket match. The country air hit my nostrils, and left them dripping for most of the day. We were supposed to be in an executive box; in reality this was a concrete room with windows, plastic lawn chairs and an air condition barely fixed to the wall. And as for the toilet – it’s a good job I didn’t have the runs or else I’d have been screwed. If I’d have dared place my behind on one of those seats, something would’ve probably sprung from the black water within and bitten my balls off, it did look like new forms of life could evolve down there. Did I mention that I don't even like cricket. There was a machine gun point at the crowds as they came in, what a welcome!

Fortunately for the second week we were moved from Baroda to Surat, where we stayed in a decent hotel and I got a room to myself. Finally some peace, it didn’t feel like I was on duty in front of the boss for once. Unfortunately it was then that I experienced the obligatory Westerner visiting India stomach problems. Frequent diarrhoea (I didn’t urinate for over 2 days) and unpleasant stomach cramps. These managed to carry me through to the end of the trip.

So overall it was quite an ordeal. To aid my stomach's recovery I made sure that I reaquinted it with an English breakfast, KFC, sausage and cheese mash, roast dinner and cheese sandwichs as soon as possible when I got back. It was hard work, but very necessary.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Respect....

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I've been to India

Yes, the title isn’t lying, I’ve been to India. Look here’s me standing on a roof,that would be very easy to fall off if I tripped.

They aren’t much for health and safety over in India; for the first time visitor the first thing that will instantly frighten is the roads. There are no rules on the roads, except that you drive on the left hand side, and not even that is always strictly adhered to. Everyone is pushing in front of everyone else, and everyone is honking their horn to say ‘get out of my way’. No matter where you are, just listen closely, block out the sounds around you, and you can hear a car horn sounding.

How do you cross the road? You walk out into moving traffic. They will go around you, as long as you stay firm - panic and dash and you’re finished. It’s mostly rickshaw and motorcycles, there are very few cars, and no one’s going very fast really, because it’s so crowded. Still, it would probably hurt, and some of those wrecked cars on the motorway certainly made me feel more uncomfortable, especially as our driver was particularly psychotic, even by the local standards – other driver’s shared our opinion that this guy was a knob, and showed it.

Why was I there? Well I wasn’t on holiday, although obviously I spent some time working on my tan. I was there on business (well not officially according to my visa, I think that cost more) working with my team of SEO writers over there, doing training and such like. I then subsequently learnt that the SEO managers were going to use my team to remedy their own mistakes, by making out they’re not doing enough and that 5 times as much work needs to be done. Call me crazy, but if a strategy isn’t working the answer isn’t do lots more of it and then it’ll work. Of course it’s easy for me to criticise, I’m good at my job and can think logically, not everyone is blessed with these attributes.

More on this trip soon...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

January/February Films

DDDDDD – Exceptional and unparalleled
DDDDD – Excellent, a special film
DDDD – High Enjoyable, recommended
DDD – Worth watching, but unexceptional or flawed
DD – Bland, dull and average
D – Will give you cancer

Sherlock Holmes (2009) Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong. Dir Guy Ritchie.

A more dynamic Holmes and Watson take on a sinister criminal who has come back from the dead. Turning Holmes into a comic book style character has worked before, and Ritchie’s film is undeniably fast moving smart and entertaining. The only thing missing is a decent mystery to solve.


A Very Long Engagement (2004) Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Dominique Pinon. Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

A girl refuses to believe her betrothed died in WW 1 and investigates what happened the day he disappeared. Handsome, romantic mystery thriller if a little too garishly shot. Funny and very charming, but is hard to follow and a little slow moving. Not quite a classic.


Woman of the Year (1942) Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, William Bendix. Dir: George Stevens.

A down to earth sports’ writer begins a relationship with a head strong diplomat’s daughter. The first Tracy/Hepburn film quickly establishes their trademark chemistry. Smart and funny, the adult romantic comedy is a dead art.


Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2009) Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Ray Winstone, Olivia Williams. Dir: Mat Whitecross.

Flawed attempt to hammer the strands of Ian Dury’s life into a narrative. Focuses on his family life, but uses not entirely successful plot devices to bring his past and music career in. Doesn’t help that the Rock star rise and fall story is too familiar. Serkis is the highlight.


Tokyo Story (1953) Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara. Dir: Yasujiro Ozu.

An eldery couple visit their children in Tokyo, but they’re too busy to spend time with them. A gentle but deeply tragic film about the way the old replaces the new and how easily the past is devalued. Slow moving but leaves a lingering impression.


Exotica (1994) Bruce Greenwood, Mia Kirshner, Elias Koteas, Sarah Polley. Dir: Atom Egoyan.

Damaged characters are linked by a strip club and a patron obsessed with a school girl dancer. Slow reveals cleverly disguise the true nature of this human drama, which is touching in places, but frustrating also. Some stories add little to the overall plot and some performances aren’t so impressive.


The Silence of the Lambs (1990) Jody Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine. Dir: Jonathan Demme.

An FBI recruit is sent to question an imprisoned psychopath who knows the identity of a serial killer. Slick and stylish thriller; it’s exciting, but implies more depth than is there. Scenes between Foster and Hopkins are few and don’t demonstrate the psychological impact on Clarice that Lector apparently has.


The Men Who Stare At Goats
(2009) George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey. Dir: Grant Heslov.

A jilted journalist goes to Iraq and meets an ex-soldier who claims to have psychic powers. A very funny film, but one without a point to it. It’s too aimless to be the satire it ought to be, and ends up just being a very pleasant distraction.


Christmas in July (1940)Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest. Dir: Preston Sturges.

A man is tricked into thinking he’s won a competition and spends the prize money before discovering the truth. Brief, but smart comedy with top notch performances from a solid cast. As you’d except from Sturges, some of the lines are golden.


Monday, February 15, 2010

For the love of The Room

A few weeks ago I went to see a film called The Room. Haven’t heard of it? Well it’s the big sleeper hit of the last decade. It’s taken years for it to gather momentum after its initial short theatre run. Gradually, its reputation has grown and the film is being shown across America and now it has begun to get a reaction in the UK as well.

What’s so special about The Room? Well.....It’s rubbish. It’s generally regarded to be the worst film of the 21st century so far.

The Room is a throwback to old school days of bad filmmaking. It’s not one of those professional disasters where a filmmaker goes off the rails and creates a bomb that inspires hatred and/or boredom. The Room is that rare beast of a film where amateurs with almost no filmmaking skills and no talent somehow managed to put something together that looks at far glance like something that could’ve been a proper production, but isn’t.

The film is written, produced and stars (never a good start) by Tommy Wiseau, a strange accented lumpy man who first marketed the move as “A film with the passion of Tenessee Williams” overlooking the fact that it’s spelt Tennessee. When people fell about laughing at the premiere, he tried to sell it as a comedy. People laughed, but no one was buying it.

The film revolves around Tommy and his apparently beautiful future wife (not fiancé - this word is unknown to them), who have been together for 5 or 7 years depending which scene you watch. Tommy is a wonderful man (so we’re told over and over) but Lisa has become bored of him and seduces his best friend (so we’re told over and over again) Mark. The film charts the disintegration of their relationship and the revelation of Lisa’s betrayal.

But that’s not all. Denny, who is like a son to Tommy, buys some drugs and is threaten by a dealer. Lisa’s mum has cancer, is fighting with her brother over a house and has relationship troubles. Lisa’s best friend is having sex with some guy. It’s a rich tapestry of different related stories which are irrelevantly introduced and then quickly forgotten about.

It’s a stupid and bizarre film, an innocent effort that the creators really wanted to work, and as result, has gained the sort of following that Ed Wood films now enjoy. And as the legend of The Room has spread, people have begun to gather. They gather at late night screenings, they bring their friends, and they arrive fully versed in all things The Room.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the experience. I knew the film’s reputation had spread and in America it was becoming big, but I didn’t know that already people over in the UK had taken it to heart. I should’ve seen the indicators, 4th screening at the Prince Charles Cinema, 4th sell out in a row – it’s not a small place. As I walked in, a small lady on a stool handed a sheet of ‘rituals’ that you could follow throughout the movie. I also noticed lots of people holding plastic spoons.

The ritual sheets suggested a number of ways to interact with the movie. Such as shouting ‘Who are you?’ when new characters appear and you’re supposed to know/care who they are; ‘Cancer’ when Lisa’s mum arrives on screen, because she forgets about it almost as soon as she says she has it; ‘meanwhile in San Francisco’ because of the many establishing shots of San Francisco, even though almost all the action happens, as the title suggests.

Oh and the spoons... Well there is some artwork in the apartment which features spoons for some reason. So whether the camera passes said artwork, audience members throw plastic spoons at the screen.

The audience is given full license to misbehave as much as they like. People expressed their loud disgust at the awful sex scenes, constantly mocked the rubbish dialogue and applauded loudly at the most pointless scenes in the movie. It was a little like being in classroom where the teacher’s been gone for ages.

It can be annoying; some of the people aren’t funny and naturally won’t shut up. But having a whole group of people there made this film. Watching them erupt into applause at pointless scenes, hearing them point out the ridiculous things you didn’t notice. It was like being in a great audience at a comedy show or at great gig. The sheer momentum of people there determined to have a good time makes it hard not to enjoy the anarchy. Even if you’ve seen the film before, you’ll never know what’s going to come next.

What The Room proves is that just like any great movie, the way to watch a bad movie is on a big screen with an audience. Seeing The Room is like no other experience you can have at the cinema, an excuse to be as badly behaved as you like; and the film is so much funnier than almost any comedy you’ll see on a big screen.

The film is showing monthly at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Try it; you’ll struggle to find something else that much fun for a fiver on a Saturday night.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

5 things I hated in January

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga

While this song may not be as garish and stupid as Pokerface, it still has plenty to hate in it. There’s the bits that don’t make sense, the things she probably heard in other songs and decided she’d she stick in whether it made sense or not: - “walk, walk, fashion baby” what the f@#~s that got to do with anything. But to really hate Gaga, you have to have seen her videos.

As usual she wants to be everything. At various points she’s a victim, a monster, an angel, a whore (mostly this one) and a sort of warped hatchling. It’s not a case of style over substance, it’s no style and no sense. She’s being groomed and sold for sex apparently, but if this is meant to be a harsh sentence, it’s rather undermined by the fact that she’s really enjoying the attention.

If there is one constant in this mess of ridiculous mixed messages is that Gaga is so awesome. She sells for millions, she’s stared at, worshipped, covered in diamonds, and then eventually sets her metal jawed (why?) buyer on fire because she’s so hot. At least witless rappers are blatant about their glorified self indulgent promotion, they don’t pretend that there’s anything remotely artistic or stylish in what they do. Stupid pomegranate faced cow.

Broken Heels by Alexandra Burke

Her first song was about how girls always like bad boys because they’re dangerous* and then her second one is a whole feminism, girls are stronger than boys, thing**. For f%^@s sake, if you’re going to write your songs based on cliché’s at least don’t pick cliche’s that conflict. No wonder everyone say’s X Factor contestants have no personality, no character.

Even Britney Spears, has a character, a persona. Starting off as a purveyor of innocence and idealised teenage romance, and then later as grown up girl gone bad and becoming more edgy – indeed the change in persona has allowed her career to continue to thrive. Where exactly is Alexandra Burke going to go? Exactly how do her managers expect to make a career out of an act that has no weight behind it, no hook? Oh well, a replacement for her is never far away.

Thames Water

I’ve always hated these useless f^~#ers. It was bad enough last year when I complained about their extortionate rates and they failed to mention that I could cut my bills in half by installing a water meter – I had to find that out from a third party. But it takes the p^£s when they can’t even bill you properly.

I moved, gave them my new address and asked them to send me a final bill. I received nothing. I get a call a few weeks later asking about the unpaid bill. I tell the caller I received no bill, he checks my records and sees that I have called in a change of address and says the bill will arrive shortly. Still haven’t received it. Suddenly in January I get bailiff notices asking for unpaid funds, for two different amounts. I write a complaints letters to them asking for a proper bill. Still haven’t received it, just more threats. Eventually I just paid the two separate bills, I know for a fact I owe more, lets see how long it takes them to find that out.

Most annoying people of 2009 on BBC Three.

Ah yes, the BBC channel that spends more on making adverts about their innovative, chance-taking programming than at actually does making them. This depressing annual schedule offal is one of their favourites; a cheapo programme that fills a big gap in the schedule.

Besides being presented by Richard smug-without-justification Bacon, the quality of guest’s declines with each showing, and it was never high. The same mix of reality-show 15 minuters, failed pop starts and little known comedians and presenters, trying to give entertaining and knowledgeable opinions on people they’ve never met*** on a list they almost certainly had no say in putting together. Christ, I’d rather more repeats of Porridge and Only Fools (not Two Pints) than this sad case of depressing digital age filler.

Transport For London & Southern Trains

Well, whichever one of them made it more expensive to buy a return ticket into London from Croydon than it is to buy a travelcard with a young person’s railcard. It’s only 30p cheaper to buy a travelcard without one; it makes no bloody sense!

*I look forward to the follow up song where her bad boy gets her addicted to drugs, steals her money, rapes her and leaves her face down in a ditch.
** To be honest though love, you’d be more impressive if you took the broken heels off and wore some appropriate footwear.
*** Yes, I do appreciate there’s some irony here, but no one is required by law to pay for the witless bile I spit out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From Dave's News Place

Hirst's Nothing sells for 52 million

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Films I saw in December

My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999) James Belushi, Molly Shannon, Daryl Sabara, Liliana Mumy, Tress MacNeille. Dir: Isao Takahata.

The comic tales of a typical Japanese family. Pleasant animation made up of small sketches and vignettes, but without building towards anything. The humour is ok, but rather too familiar; it’s been done before, notably by The Simpsons. The watercolour animation is rather lovely.


Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 (2009) Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Gérard Lanvin, Olivier Gourmet. Dir: Jean-François Richet.

Still on the loose, Mesrine embraces his notoriety as an anti-establish figure. As eventful as part one, but with darker notions of how the media can influence events. Mesrine decides he’s a rebel after he is painted as one, justifying further acts of criminality. Dark but compulsive viewing.


The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Alfie Bass. Dir: Charles Crichton.

A meek bullion security supervisor comes up with a novel way to rob his own delivery. Delightful comedy caper; it has a warm gentle quality, but keeps up a strong pace. Guinness and Holloway are delightful as the unlikely criminals – you really want them to get away with it.


The Great McGinty
(1940) Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff. Dir: Preston Sturges

An aggressive street bum is groomed by a local crook, first as a debt collector and then as a political candidate. Smart comedy with a surprisingly cynical view of politics for its day – the likeable crooked duo are undone by an act of honesty! The dialogue is killer.


Wall-E (2008) Ben Burt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger. Dir: Andrew Stanton.

The last robot on the abandoned planet earth gets an unexpected visitor. A brave effort from Pixar, the first half of the film is close to silent comedy, and the themes are surprisingly dark. Not all kids will appreciate, but adults who don’t, should get their heads examined. Quite remarkable.


Up! (2009) Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo. Dir: Pete Docter.

After his wife’s death, an old man ties balloons to his house and goes on the adventure they never had. An irresistible, full-on charm offensive, with less weighty themes than Wall-E, Pixar has room to be more carefree and silly; a real heart warmer.


Hue & Cry (1947) Alastair Sim, Harry Fowler, Douglas Barr, Joan Dowling, Jack Warner. Dir: Charles Crichton.

A boy discovers crimes from his comic book being enacted in real life, but no one believes him. Superb boy’s adventure – fast paced, exciting, funny and smart. The story is original and the genuine post war London scenes are fascinating to see.


The Magnet (1950) Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh, James Fox. Dir: Charles Frend

A boy steals another child’s magnet, causing a chain of events that make him think the police are after him. A strong start, but this one peters out and unlike many Ealing films, it’s more for just kids. But it’s charming, something kids’ films today fail to be.


It came from Hollywood (1982) Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong. Dir: Malcolm Leo, Andrew Solt.

A mixture of film clips from low budget B movies, with linking sketches. Intermittently funny, but there’s no direction or any time devoted to the films themselves, which mostly remain unidentified. The linking material is completely forgettable.