Stuff that pops into my head. Innit.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rock 'n' Rolla

It's been a little while since I've done one of these, so here's another film for you all to watch if you haven't already seen it.

The screen bustles with gangsters, vixens, double-crossers, drugs, cons, cute nicknames, tattooed villainy, "ladies of the pole" and a snitch who loves "Remains of the Day." Somehow, there's even room for Ludacris.

The Wild Bunch

There's also a pointed comment about Americans - American crayfish, actually, who are said to eat up everything around them and then devour each other. I don't know if Ritchie knows any Americans particularly well, but possibly there's some sort of message in there.
A snarly Tom Wilkinson hits the bulls-eye as Lenny, a vicious London crime boss ("There's no school like the old school, and I'm the fuckin' headmaster"). Before the credits are even finished, Lenny has swindled a less advanced criminal named One Two (an excellent Gerard Butler) on a deal to buy a building. He's also agreed to take a 7 million euro payoff from a Russian real estate lord in exchange for greasing a politician to get a development approved. As the bribe is being delivered to Lenny, though, it is stolen - by the same guy Lenny just cheated.

Johnny Quid

Also in the mix are a feline accountant (Thandie Newton) and Lenny's crack-smoking rock-star stepson (Toby Kebbell), who has died three times this year but still manages to be a nuisance. Every one of these characters, and then some (such as the rocker's managers, played by Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), wants to find a lucky painting - unseen by the audience - that serves the same purpose as the mysterious briefcase in "Pulp Fiction."
No need to mess about with plausibility, given the anarchic comic-book feel. Why would the Russian voluntarily give his prized painting to Lenny? And while it may be possible that two unarmed accountants would be given 7 million euros in cash to transport, but I refuse to believe they would be listening to "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" while doing so.
Things get even more febrile in a blistering good chase in which One Two marvels at the Rasputin-like indestructibility of two thugs trying to recover their boss' loot. There's also a very Tarantino scene in which
The Indestructibles threaten to get medieval on One Two's ass

*Warning; this scene contains Russians dancing in theeir underpants*

Yes, I've seen these men in their underwear. Many times.

Tarantino's tendency to get speechy, though, is largely avoided in favour of cockney playfulness that Ritchie finds irresistible: There's "He just needs a few hours with a right rotten tart and then he'll be in there like swimwear" and "All she got there was a hot bath and a cold razor" and "Think before you drink before you drive me mad."
Ritchie has a dry wit, too. I particularly loved this one: "Keep your receipts 'cause this ain't the Mafia."

This isn't by any means an arthouse movie, but it's a whole heap of fun

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Paul The Octopus 2008-2010

At some point in the early hours of yesterday morning, Paul the 'psychic' octopus floated wearily over to two boxes containing mussels. He briefly scanned the first box, which depicted a grinning octopus celebrating its seventh birthday. He turned away slowly and opened the lid on the second box – coffin-shaped and depicting a gravestone – and ate the arsenic-laced mussel inside. He died shortly afterwards, a shadow of the octopus who had blazed on to the world stage earlier this summer.

Born Paul the 'normal' octopus in a garden in the shade near a cave, he was the son of a lady octopus and a man octopus. He shot to fame at the 2010 World Cup by predicting some team or other would beat another team. Paul quickly proved popular, particularly with websites desperate for cheap hits on slow news days and Sky Sports News, which didn't have the rights to show any actual matches.

Paul's apotheosis came when he predicted Spain would beat Holland in the World Cup final although, in fairness, even Alan Shearer the rubbish 'pundit' was on to that one. But fame was a heavy burden. Despite commercial enterprises ranging from special clothing lines to a mobile phone application, he only got some new rocks and a miniature castle for his tank. Although he had an outstanding knowledge of football – Jonathan Wilson was a close friend – he wasn't taken seriously as a pundit.

"The care provided for him by our dedicated displays team could not have been bettered," said Stefan Porwoll, the manager of the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany that Paul called home. Paul is survived by 983 children. An additional 211 predeceased him when they were eaten by a hungry turtle.

• Paul the 'psychic' octopus, clairvoyant cephalopod, born 2008; died 26 October 2010

RIP Paul, Tru Soulja

Not Paul, yesterday.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Short thoughts

California is going to vote on whether or not to legalise pot -as well as other, duller things- a measure letting anyone 21 or older grow and possess marijuana, and allowing local governments to license and tax retail outlets selling it.
The measure, if it passes, would offer legitimacy to growers who for years have operated in a grey area of the law, and raise a potentially huge new revenue source for recession-hit states.
Sounds good to me.

"Who you callin' a pothead?"

In the week when the UK government has announced public spending cuts on.......well, everything, young Mr. "Tabloid" Wayne Rooney has kept the government of the front pages of said tabloids-and indeed the real newspapers by having a bit of a hissy fit.
Tabloid Wayne wanted out of the self-styled "biggest club in the world" (Real Madrid anyone?) because things weren't going quite to his liking. Diddums.
So what did they do?  Did Fergie and his band of Glaswegian hit men tell TW to get on with it and stop his incessant moaning?
They gave him a new 5 year contract worth £200,000 a week. Double his previous salary.
He's in Dubai right now, recovering from a mild case of ankle-ouch. I'm glad to see it wasn't too traumatic a time for the poor bloke.

United fans understated reaction to TW being moody

And finally, my youngest daughter is down in the big smoke (well alright, Edinburgh) to see her favourite band tonight. 

Tell me, would you pay money -and quite a lot of it- to listen to these guys?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Staffies and babies

It's been a while since you guys have had a puppy/grandaughter update and,  as I have a couple of new pictures of them both I thought you might like to see how they're doing.

Hope is 8 months old and just about starting to crawl and eat solid food. Chi is 7 months old, huge (the same height as her mum!) and just starting to eat the entire house.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Several hundred years ago when Metallica were first formed, they were merely a footnote in a heavy rock scene dominated by the likes of Motley Crue, Poison and Guns 'n' Roses. The memories of that trio alone almost make me cry -and not in a nostalgic "good old days" way, either- but at least the aforementioned either had the good grace to split up, die or just fade out of my musical consciousness.

Metallica, however, they kept going. And they kept getting worse. Much worse.
Although Kill 'em All, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets weren't my thing, they are regarded as the peak of Metallica's career and amongst the best (by those who like this sort of thing) of the Thrash metal era.


Somewhere along the line, things went wrong.

Mild mannered, baby faced drummer Lars Ulrich turned into a snarling, metal face pulling gobshite. The whole napster thing didn't help -I understand musicians wanting money for the stuff they've produced, but multi millionaires threatening to sue a bunch of teenagers is ridiculous- and he was responsible for the worst drum sound ever, thoughout the whole of St Anger.

Ah yes, St Anger. It's a great name for an album isn't it?
It might be the worst rock album released in the 2000's. Yes, worse than anything by Dragonforce, Linkin Park or Bring me the Horizon. Don't believe me?
Here's a lyric from one of the lead tracks on St Anger, Frantic.
Please bear in mind that is is a biting social commentary on the brevity of life.

"...Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock 
 Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock
Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock
Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tock..."

Magnificent, Muse would be proud.

Metallica - crap.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Short thoughts

The Chilean miners' rescue has confused me somewhat. Not the actual freeing of the pit workers, obviously, but the fact that many of them gave a lot of the credit for their rescue to God.
As a non-believer, I am astonished by the humility of those who would give God the credit for their own man-made deliverance, but also confused by it. The miners were in some respects lucky – they had space to move around in, a natural shower to wash in, and they weren't trapped in a coalmine where methane gas might have killed them. Such good fortune they may well have attributed to God. But what do they think God was doing when nearly 500 people died in a Chilean earthquake early this year? Was he on holiday? Doing the washing up? The seemingly random nature of God's mercy is something I have always had trouble with.
And you can forget about that "mysterious ways" bullshit too if that was going to be your response.

"Now...reach for the stars"

The Commonwealth Games have just finished, and it seemed like no-one cared that they were on. Certainly not the majority of elite athletes who could have competed if they had chosen to. And certainly not the majority of the Delhi public, who were kept away by the high (relative to earnings) price of tickets, the lack of the aforementioned superstars, and almost certainly the fact that India were playing test matches against Australia at the same time the games were on. Knowing the love the Sub-Continent has for cricket, that's a stupid piece of scheduling by someone.

"Good this innit?"

Pizza Express, a national restaurant chain here in the ever sunny UK, is going to teach it's staff to flirt with customers. No, really, I'm not making it up or anything.
The family-friendly restaurant, famous for serving up "bambinoccinos" – a cappuccino without the coffee for kids – has recruited classically trained actor Karl James to teach flirting and the art of chit-chat to staff to help them to butter up the restaurant's customers.
Great. Who wants to be flirted with by a teenager covered in acne? 
I feel a rebranding is in order here. Pizza Distress? Pizza Depress?

"Hey baby, fancy a calzone?"

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Kung Fu Hustle

Ok, as no-one seemed particularly interested in my post about Spark (below), I'll tell you about another film I love that you might not necessarily be familiar with.

Kung Fu Hustle is such a jumble that it doesn’t seem possible the film should even work. Is it a love story? A tale of gang warfare? A comedy? An action film? A story of one man’s ascent to his highest potential? Well, it’s all of those things and, to its credit, the film never really slows down long enough to show you the seams that keep all those disparate elements together.

Set in Shanghai in 1940, Hustle tells the story of Sing, a small-time hustler with dreams of grandeur who accidentally starts a war between the vicious Axe Gang and the residents of a slum called Pig Sty Alley. What should be over very quickly turns out to be pretty complicated: when the Axe Gang come to the Alley to wreak havoc, they run into three reticent Kung Fu Masters. The tailor (Chiu Chi Ling), the Coolie (Xing Yu), and a baker named Donut (Dong Zhi Hua) all come from different schools, and the gradual introduction of each style ramps up the film’s first major fight scene.

All landladies wear rollers.

It’s not long before the Axe Gang, with their tails between their legs, hire talented assassins—first a pair of deadly musicians, and then a killer known only as the Beast—to do their dirty work for them. While all this is going on, Sing is coming to terms with his true nature, becoming a kung fu master known as the One. There’s plenty of humor and the fight scenes are, above all else, graceful and imaginative.

It’s a film rich in allusions and references, so much so that it’s tempting to call Chow Hong Kong cinema’s answer to Quentin Tarantino. The look of Pig Sty Alley is based on a Chinese TV Show (and later Shaw Brothers filme) called House of the 72 Tenants, a chase between the Landlady and Sing turns into a tribute to Coyote & Roadrunner cartoons, and Sing even has a blood-drenched vision straight out of The Shining. On a more subtle level, many characters are named after characters in famous kung fu books and movies of the past.

Gnarly 'tache, dude.

In the film’s neatest nod to the past, though, many of the characters are played by actors from earlier eras of Hong Kong film, some of whom hadn’t been in front of a camera in decades. The Landlord is played by Yuen Wah, most famous for his roles in Eastern Condors and Dragons Forever, and for his work as Bruce Lee’s double. Yuen Qiu’s scowling, chain-smoking Landlady marks her first appearance since she played a teenager in 1974’s James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. Leung Siu Lung, who plays the Beast, hadn’t been seen on screen since the ‘80s. Choreographer Yuen Woo Ping and two other Hong Kong directors also show up in minor roles.

Knowing that isn’t necessary to enjoy Kung Fu Hustle‘s action, though. We’re used to seeing people doing impossible things courtesy of wires and computers, but several sequences in Kung Fu Hustle are notable even by those standards. The initial battle in Pig Sty Alley (choreographed by Sammo Hung, before he dropped out for health reasons) is a visual lesson in each master’s style and also shows these middle-aged men moving with surprising grace and power. A later battle in the Axe Gang’s headquarters involving the Landlord, the Landlady, and the Beast—drawn up by Yuen Woo Ping, who replaced Hung—is a mixture of cartoonish humor and raw power. By the time we get to the final showdown between the Beast, the One, and countless Axe Gang members, we’re practically drunk on kung fu fun—and it’s a good feeling.

Our hero battling the axe gang

It’s hard to watch Kung Fu Hustle without letting a smile creep onto your face. Whether it’s from the extravagant characters or the action sequences, there’s a love of movies and of kung fu evident in this film, and it’s pretty infectious.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Alain Johannes - Spark

At just under 30 minutes long, Alain Johannes' Spark is one of the rare cases where guitar-geek fussiness yields magnificent results. Johannes, who founded the '90s hard-rock group Eleven and has worked for Queens of the Stone Age, plays all manners of unusual stringed instruments, ranging from a homemade cigfiddle to a harmonium and a contrabass guitar. But this instrumental diversity is more than just technically impressive.
Conceived and recorded after the 2008 death of Natasha Shneider, Johannes's wife and former bandmate, Spark is a musical illustration of the grieving process, what Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme calls "the examination of figuring out what you do when someone's gone." The album's turbulent tracks ache with audible sadness. "It's killing me that I must go on living," Johannes wails on opener "Endless Eyes," and the album progresses gradually from this dark point, hopping evenly from racing, emotional statements to shattered ballads and back.

"Aaaaaaaargh, my head is on fire!"

But Spark is far from funereal or drab. That first song accepts living as a perfunctory, mechanical activity in the face of immediate tragedy, but later ones find Johannes regaining his footing through a kind of bitter acceptance, his grief solidifying into something manageable. "Laughing with God at this unfinished plan," he remarks wryly on "Unfinished Plan," a strange, airy track that closes the album far from where it began. Earlier on, the whirling-dervish tone of the Middle Eastern-influenced "Make God Jealous" suggests a lively, mystical acceptance which eventually leaks into other tracks, both in terms of its inspired exoticism and noticeable sense of joy.

As an album-length evaluation of grief, Spark works on both an intellectual and visceral level, its broad guitar sounds both soothing and technically ambitious. "Speechless" is a ringing, roving song that incorporates Indian elements and undulating chants into a mesmerizing final product. Musically and lyrically intelligent, with an instrumental depth that would be impressive even it weren't so cohesively incorporated, Spark feels like a success on all fronts.

This is one of the top 5 albums I've heard this year, I just wish it was longer.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Kings of Leon

First, Muse felt my wrath - now it's the turn of another band I can't stand, The Kings of Leon.

Do you remember when this lot first assaulted your ears? For me it was "Molly's Chambers", an unexceptional and frankly dreary piece of Lynyrd Skynyrd inspired southern rock which looked and sounded as if it was performed by some partly shaved simian like beings from the wilds of Tennessee (does Tennessee even have wilds?). So far, so forgettable.
A couple more singles followed, and I -along with almost everyone else, apart from a junior Rascal- was equally unimpressed with them too. The one thing I did notice however, was the gradual humanisation of the lead singer -a man resplendent in the name of Caleb Felafelwaffle or something similar- his hair had been styled, his facial furniture removed completely.


We spin forwards a couple of years, and as she regularly does, the other junior Rascal is watching the music channels on the TV.
"Waaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, Essex is on fi-ugh" screams the lyric. Guessing this isn't a newsflash, I look at the TV.

"Who's this?" I ask.
"Kings of Leon"  is the astonishing reply. I look at the TV and see a guy who looks like Ashton Kutcher singing.
"New Singer?" I ask, incredulous that the chimp from before has become the man I see in front of me.
"No, same one. He's had a shave" No shit.

I've heard "Sex on Fire" described as the best song ever, Mr Felafelwaffle as a sex god and a genius -although not at the same time- and I know it's a matter of personal taste and all that, but KOL are well, crap.
They're Take That with guitars, the male equivalent of Girls Aloud.

"This Sex is on Fire" Really? Sounds painful.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Beautiful Game. And Evo Morales

Or not. Watch Bolivian president Evo Morales (that's Evo with the hair) knee an opponent in the nadgers during a game of footy. All presidents should be like this, he'd get my vote.

Monday, 4 October 2010

From Dusk Till Dawn

When the film opens, Richie (Quentin Tarantino) has just sprung Seth (George Clooney) out of jail and they have engineered a bloody escape. With the proceeds from a series of increasingly bloody robberies they are planning to make it across the border to Mexico where they can retire on the proceeds.
It is on this journey that the brothers bump into the Fuller family - Dad Jacob (Harvey Keitel), daughter Kate (Juliet Lewis), and Scott (Ernest Liu). The family are on a holiday to get away from their life. The lady of the house has been killed in a car crash, and Jacob (a preacher) has left the church after losing his faith. Unfortunately, the Gecko brothers decided to take the family hostage in order to help them get across the border.

Benny's World of Blood?

From Dusk Till Dawn is a most schizophrenic little movie. It begins as a criminal on the run drama, with tight pacing, close editing, and a focus on character and dynamics. Then they cross the border and arrive at their venue for the night, the “Titty Twister” bar. At this point, the film takes a rather dramatic turn, moving into over the top violence as it turns out the locals are not quite what they seem.
It is this refusal to conform to any kind of cinematic convention that makes the film so satisfying to me. It is almost as if Tarantino and Rodriguez sat down and decided to make the most anarchic, most strangely structured film ever - and they really do succeed. From Dusk Till Dawn has always been one of my favourite films, and a cult success, quite simply because it has a gleeful sense of fun when rendering the destruction on screen.
There is no sense of fun in the opening scene however. A store clerk is talking to a local cop in an out of the way convenience store. The tension is racked up here in a very clever way. We are on the edge of our seats, but we do not know why. I have seen this scene many times over the years, and I still think it's beautifully constructed and shot. I cannot put my finger on what the filmmakers do during this scene to achieve this, but it immediately raises the film above the pulpy, exploitation flick that you might expect. Of course, your instincts are right, and all hell breaks loose within the first five minutes. And then it just doesn't stop until the credits roll.

And it is this dichotomy that to me makes the film such a success. Rodriguez is a brilliant filmmaker, and Tarantino a great writer and this means even when making a schlocky venture like this, the result cannot help but to raise itself to a higher plane. The talent behind the camera is matched with that in front of it. Clooney, as we know now, is a fine actor but at the time he had an awful lot to lose by choosing such material. However, he approaches the material in a serious way, never treating the role in a condescending manner He is matched in this by the other talent. Tarantino is a little over the top in his portrayal of Richie, but even he shows a surprising amount of talent here. Just look at the scene when Seth returns to find Richie has allowed his perversions to get the better of him. This could have been an exploitative scene, but due to the way the actors and director approach it, it is surprisingly moving.

Nice forehead Quentin

It goes without saying that Keitel provides excellent support too. A preacher who has lost his faith may be a little clich├ęd, but in the hands of this fine actor the character jumps out of the screen and really makes you feel for him - a man who has to be strong in order to save his children at a time when he has never felt weaker. Now, it should be clear here that none of these performances are oscar-worthy or anything like that - but for the genre they are certainly very believable.

The beginning scene may well be full of tension, but as the film goes on the sense of fun ratchets up. Once they reach The Titty Twister, the level of humour increases. It may not be high class, clever humour - but again within the scope of the film it works really well. You can be simultaneously laughing at the dialogue, and grossing out at the events on screen, so again the sheer schizophrenia of the film shines through. Admittedly, the effects are extremely low budget, but this just doesn't seem to matter. That is part of the film's charm. And here, nothing is sacred. Gross, naked vampires, sexual parts grossly emphasised, poking fun at a characters 'Nam experiences, everything is fair game here - and the anarchy just drips off the screen.


Of course, the film is not to everyone's taste, and for the most part it does lack the sparkling dialogue of vintage Tarantino scripts, and the abrupt change of pace about half way through does not sit well with a lot of viewers. But if you like your movies to defy tradition, to just simply gleefully tell a story without caring who they offend, and to back this anarchic style up with strong performances from respected actors (and Quentin Tarantino) then this is the film for you. It has become a big cult hit, and it really is not hard to see why. Take the above ingredients, add in one of the sexiest onscreen dances of all time courtesy of Salma Hayek, and simmer with a really strong bluesy soundtrack - and this is an absurdly enjoyable two hours of fun.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

St George Win!

And for everyone who's ever used the word "choke" in relation to the Dragons, choke on this.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Short thoughts

Myleene Klass, a not unattractive British z list "celebrity" has a revelation that "could bring down Hollywood".
Wow. Must be something big then, eh? I wonder what it could be, revealing shots of George Lucas dressed as a nazi whipping a Filippino boy? A secretly taped conversation with Angelina Jolie who reveals that she used to be a man?


Apparently a Hollywood star wanted to have sex with her. So, a presumably older, wealthy man wanted to bone an attractive younger woman. Wow, what a revelation, I bet that's never happened before.

"Desperate for publicity to revive my flagging career? How dare you"

Didier Drogba has had the new stadium of Paris club Levallois SC named after him. "This is a great honour for me," he said from the Falls On His Arse With No-one Near Him Arena

"I can fly, I can really fly"

Photographer Johan Rosenmunthe has produced a series of stills which combine the world of animals with a sense of urban decay.  Empty cities are host not to humans, but exotic wildlife from giraffes to apes and otherwise.  The Isle of Human is a stunning set of imagery, a collection that inspires a sense of wonder about what would become of the world after man is no more

More here

And finally, in the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time, my beloved St George are in the Nrl grand final against the Sydney Roosters, and with a bit of luck and a fair wind, we might just aabout sneak a victory.

"I don't always look this miserable, honest"