Saturday, 26 February 2011

And The Winner Is...The Oscar Nominees - Part 2

Ok...lets finish off with the remaining five contenders for this year's best picture award.

Small town boxer defeats odds (poor background, disruptive family, being a former member of the Funky Bunch) to become Heavyweight Champion of the World. Uh, hello...Didn't they make Rocky 30-odd years ago?

Any Good?

To be fair there is just enough plot variation to differentiate this from the classic Rocky franchise. But only just. The dynamic between stepping stone fighter Micky Ward (Mark Walhberg)and Christian Bale's Dicky the drug addled brother who-could-have-been-a-contender is the core of the film. The action when it comes is more realistic then Rocky but it is secondary to Walhberg's day to day struggle to succeed despite the odds being stacked against him.

I have to say all the Oscar talk is exaggerated. Bale as usual puts his all into the role and plays a convincing crack addict but two supporting actor nominations for Amy Adams and Melissa Leo? Do me a favour. The Fighter is nothing more then a solid underdog movie with a premise that has been done a hundred times or more.


Dicaprio plays Cobb, a mind thief who gets into the dreams of the rich and powerful in order to steal secrets for big corporations. He is persuaded to do one final infiltration but for this he has to go deeper into his subconcious then ever before.

Any Good?

This film is a complete mind fuck. In a good way. I genuinely left the cinema in a bit of a daze after seeing it and not knowing if I was awake, asleep or in a dream. Genius director Christopher Nolan's grand vision is perhaps the most complicated set piece in cinematic history. A dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Seriously. Those of you who persevere through the maze-like plot will be richly rewarded by some mind blowing visuals and a totally engrossing story that had me literally open mouthed as to where it was going next. Original, complex and thought provoking this is a bona fide classic and my choice for best picture. It won't win though.


Teenage children brought up by lesbian parents seek out their sperm donating biological father causing familial who-haa. Warning: may contain cunnilingus.

Any Good?

The other one I haven't seen. Trailer looks pretty good though. 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and an award nomination for Annette Benning can't be bad. But i haven't seen so it could be a massive turkey..but...probably..isn't.


Spunky old-before-her-years Mattie Ross' (Hallie Steinfield) father is murdered by some low down varmint over some moonshine and she sets out to hire the toughest law man in Arkansas, grizzled alcoholic Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track the murderer and get her revenge.

Any Good?

Moving, dark and humourous it is another Coens classic in the mould of Fargo and No Country For Old Men. Beautifully shot and with fabulous performances by Bridges, Steinfield and Matt Damon as a snobbish Texas ranger it beats the original hands down. If you liked Unforgiven you will love this. Outside bet to win.


George IV (Colin Firth) had a stammer. Problem is, as air to the throne he has to do loads of public speaking and with no opportunity to hide behind a Powerpoint presentation or some interesing looking graphs has to seek the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to cure him of this ghastly affliciton.

Any Good?

Twelve nominations!!!! (one for best depiction of a tongue tied royal, another for most marbles inserted in mouth) it seems the Academy has gone The King's Speech crazy. The depiction of an upper class toff struggling with his social graces must have been quite a stretch for Firth. I mean he never plays those kinds of characters does he?

Personally, I don't see what the fuss is about. I'm not a big fan of period dramas per se and whilst Geoffrey Rush is amusing as no nonsense aussie Logue who manages to get uptight "Bertie" to loosen up the whole thing smacks of an extended episode of Pride and Prejudice. After the initial odd couple akwardness is played out the film winds down into a dull story of royal obligation. I am in a minority however as the Yanks love this Royal nonsense and the cinemas are packed with old people reminiscing about ration books and when this country actually had power in the wider world. Looks likely to get the nod.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Charlie Sheen is an Asshole

I just had to post this. I recommend it is shown to all first time actors who enter the business as a warning to keep your feet on the ground no matter how successful you become.

Whilst Charlie has a certain charm and I have enjoyed his sporadic movie roles (who remembers Hot Shots Part Deux?) not to metion the unexpectedly funny Two and A Half Men I cannot ignore that he has turned into A COMPLETE ASSHOLE. He currently is the dictionary definition of pampered-actor-who-thinks-the-world-revolves-around-him.

His dad Martin seems like a genuinely decent guy so it must be embarrassing to see his son like this.

Here he is sounding off against the world with sycophantic radio host Alex Jones laughing falsely at his non-jokes. He needs a slap.

N.B Looks like thigs have moved on a pace. After calling the show's creator Chuck Lorre a "little maggott" and a "stupid little man" he has been given the boot and production of this seasons Two and a Half Men has been shut down. Now Sheen can devote his time to his true passion: snorting cociane off a porn stars breasts.

Now have a listen at his meltdown.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

And The Winner Is..The Oscar Nominees Part 1

So the Oscars are here? Big fucking deal. You may think there are more important things to worry about in the world. But rememeber, after a day's hard slaughtering even mad genocidal maniacs like Gaddafi like nothing better then to uncork a nice Merlot, kick back, relax and watch Hot Tub Time Machine.

Usually the Academy succumbs to the usual combination of shameless promotion and peer pressure to pick an undeserving winner but this year's short list is possibly one of the best in Oscar history so even a bad choice is going to have some merit.

I was suprised to discover that I have watched 8 out of the 10 films nominated for this Sunday's 83rd Academy Awards so who better to give you a quick run down. I obviously have far too much time on my hands.


Natalie Portman is a mentally and dietary imbalanced ballerina desperate to attain perfection as the lead in Swan Lake whilst copping off with all and sundry. Contains a memorable lesbian scene with Mila Kunis that all film connosieurs will appreciate for it artistic merits. 13 year old boys will appreciate the multiple jugs.

Any good?

Fantastic if at times fantastical, this is a strong contender to win as Portman has already picked up a Golden Globe. Director Aranofsky's leaves you guessing as to whether the demons plaguing Portman are real or imaginary. Vincent Cassell provides great support as an OTT bastard with his own version of the casting couch.


James Franco plays an egotistical climber who gets stuck down a hole for 127 hours and then chops off his arm. The end.

Any Good?

Visually this one of the most interesting nominees powered by the two man dynamo of director Danny Boyle, squeezing the last drop of claustrophobia and suspense from the paper thin plot (criminally he did not get nominated for best director) and Franco's acting masterclass ensuring the film is more then a novelty amputation tutorial.


Buzz, Woody and the gang find they are surplus to requirements when Andy goes to college to take massive amounts of drugs and to have sex with as many drunken freshers as possible before settling down to a life of domestic drudgery. Probably.

Any Good?
There is no doubt that Pixar has changed the face of animation forever but a "cartoon" winning an Oscar? The Actors Guild would choke on their smoked salmon. Along with Up it might the greatest animated film ever made with and ending that will leave a lump in the throat of even the hardest of bastards.


Grim thriller set in a bleak Missouri backwater sees a young girl try to find her drug dealing hillibilly father or face being evicted from her home. Viewing not advisable for those on anti-depressants.

Any Good?

I'll be honest, I haven't seen this. I've just watched the trailer. Looked alright. With a greenhorn director and a cast of unknowns this is the Acadamy's nod to the indie scene. Chances of winning? When Helena Bonham Carter skates over the surface of hell this might have a chance.


Subtitled Even Nerds Can Be Bastards When There is Money Involved this is the sexed-up version of how Facebook evolved from a childish tool rating the "hotness" of Harvard undergraduates to the uber-succesful refuge for nosey/bored/needy workers/housewives/students (delete as appropriate)

Any Good?
Funny, interesting and very now it is a strong contender for the Oscar thanks in no small part to the not unconsiderable lobbying by industry heavyweight Scott Rudin. Even Justin Timberlake looks credible in this film. Would be a worthy winner if it does get the nod.

Part 2 to follow shortly...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Covers Corner - Paolo Nutini - Autumn

It's not often I feel the urge to record a track for posterity these days but I just felt in the mood. The original can be found on Paolo Nutini debut album These Streets. I recommend you grab a copy of that and Sunny Side Up. He is the kind of artist I can see being around for a long time.

Monday, 14 February 2011

TV Review - Toughest place to be a...Paramedic BBC2 9pm

A paramedic's life is a rum one. Unsociable hours, cleaning up alcopop flavoured sick and dealing with cretins are all part of the job description. However it's a cake walk compared to their Guatemalan counterparts.

In the first of a three-part series that sees British workers travel to far flung destinations to work in extreme environments, plucky paramedic Angie Dymott swaps the mean streets of Cardiff for the meaner streets of Guatemala City.

The capital of this central american backwater ravaged by decades of civil war has one of the highest murder rates in the world as a result of rampant poverty, a corrupt and ineffectual police force and heavy duty gang violence.

I was in Guatemala City in 2005 and it was so dangerous that at a brief stop to change buses the company actually locked the passengers in the bus station as we waited for the transfer to prevent us from getting robbed. Apparently things have gotten worse.

To say this lawlessness comes as a culture shock to Angie is an understatement. In six years as a paramedic in Cardiff she has never seen a gunshot wound yet for two weeks working with the local paramedics gangland killings and drive-bys shootings are the norm in her line of work.

Unlike the U.K, Guatemala combines both its fireman and its ambulance services into a combined "Bomberos". If that wasn't enough it relies heavily on volunteers and donations in order to run "effectively". One such volunteer is Archie who works by day as a sales manager and by night saves lives in the "red zone", the most dangerous part of the capital. He takes all the carnage in his stride with a smile and a shrug.

Angie stays with him for a week and what is noticeable are the precautions he goes through on a day to day basis. Archie is only able to volunteer as he comes from a rich family and therefore can afford to live in a high-security gated community (two electric gates, razor wire and armed guards 24-7). To go to the shops his wife has to remove all her jewellery else risk getting mugged. She says:

"it becomes routine like brushing your teeth or putting on your clothes"

Guatemala City's main problem are the drug gangs called Maras who extort and intimidate vast sections of the city effectively turning them into no-go areas. Angie is called out to treat a group of students who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite her valiant efforts two of them, both unconnected to the gangs, die as a result of their gunshots. The paramedics tell Angie that the incident is likely to be a gang initiation where new members are made to kill random strangers in order to prove their macho credentials.

Angie then attends a shooting where a young man has been dragged off a bus in broad daylight and riddled with bullets. Despite the many witnesses it is unlikely that the purpetrators will be caught as only 5% of murders reach conviction.

For the second week Angie stays with a full time paramedic, softly spoken family man Wilfredo, in a poor suburb 20 mins out of the centre. Whilst it looks pleasant enough during the day with kids running through the farmers markets at night the locals have set up their own vigilante police force that patrols the street in order to keep marauding gangs at bay.

On top of that Wilfredo has to play russian roulette as he is at daily risk of being robbed and killed by hijackers who pillage the buses on his commute to work. To show this isn't some amorphous threat Angie attends a bus shooting on her final day.

When asked why he does his dangerous job for a meagre £250 a month he says:

"The greatest reward for me is to wake up alive"

It certainly puts some perspective on what a comparitively easy life us Brits enjoy. Take a second to reflect on that the next time you complain that you can't get a free latte from the office vending machine.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Playstations, drugs and now the vote

A wave of surprise and pleasure washed over me (imagine Anne Widdecombe getting her end away) when I found an example of the House of Commons behaving in the public interest rather then a self interest.

Yesterday they voted with a majority of 212 to keep the blanket ban on prisoner voting, in defiance of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that deemed the century old exclusion to be illegal.

This, despite the fact that it leaves the government open to a potential black hole of lawsuits from opportunististic prisoners/lawyers hoping to make a few quid.

David Davis put the argument very succinctly:

"The concept is simple, if you break the law you cannot make the law".

It was interesting to note that Jack Straw in 32 years as an MP dealing with hundreds of complaints from his constituents had never received a single letter from an actual prisoner calling for the right to vote from prison. Yet here we are in this ridiculous position where our common sense stance is deemed to be contrary to human rights law.

It's fine to talk about prisoner's human rights but what about the human rights for the old lady getting mugged or the young girl raped? Did the prisoner think about those as he was doing as he pleased. All of the people in prison have unlawfully interfered with the rights of others, they have been convicted and when that happens it is only right that they forfeit some of the hard fought rights they enjoyed as law abiding citizens.

Sandal wearing, tofu eating lefties would have you believe that prisoners reintegration to society should not just happen at the point of release but should be a ongoing process. Fair enough. They have even suggested that giving prisoners the vote would make them less likely to re-offend.

This is complete nonsense. Allowing prisoners to vote doesn't automatically turn them into upstanding members of society. Only effective detterents or succesful rehabilitation will do that. I bet if you gave prisoners the vote less then 5% would even use it anyway.

If I were in charge of the prison system I would make prisons cold, hard, unpleasant places to be. Think Midnight Express. Luxuries would be non-existant and prisoners would have to work to earn enough money to feed themselves. I would encourage learning and skills for successful reintegration into society but I would make damn sure anyone entering the prison system would be left with an indelible impression of horror at the thought of returning.

Actually sod that. In this era of austerity perhaps as an additional way of funding their existance we should instigate some sort of Running Man style televsised competition with inmates running through a fiendish maze complete with wild animals and sadistic traps. Any inmate succesfully negotiating the maze with their limbs intact could be awarded luxuries, the vote or even a pardon based on a viewer phone-in sponsored by Millets. I'm sure they would show it on Sky. Failing that, Channel 5.

At the moment prisons are a glorified Pontins for all but the wettest white collar criminal. They are in need of spicing up. Aren't the tax paying public entitled to a bit of Saturday night carnage for their tax dollars?

As a result of some poorly thought out legislation and the steady liberalisation of the criminal justice system the balance of power is moving inexorably in favour of the criminals rather then law abiding citizens.

As for the prisoners being allowed to vote, under my regime the prisoners are going to have to earn it. How's that for reintegration?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Big Society = Big Boloney

On the good ship Coalition it seems Admiral Cameron's attempt to sell us the Big Society idea is lurching through stormy waters.

This week Liverpool council gave Cameron a huge slap in the face after it withdraw its support for the new scheme.

Council leader, Joe Anderson complained that cuts of more than £100m would threaten existing voluntary organisations.

"How can the city council support the big society and its aim to help communities do more for themselves when we will have to cut the lifeline to hundreds of these vital and worthwhile groups?"

It's a good point well made.

The UK has for years relied on charities and voluntary groups to plug the gaps that governement fails to fill. It's alright asking people to do "more for less" in the private sector but asking more from volunteers is frankly,taking the piss.

Cameron would have you believe that:

"Human kindness, generosity and imagination are steadily being squeezed out by the work of the state."

Of course this is all just a bullshit smokescreen for the swingeing cuts that have been unveiled. It does nothing for the coalition reputation when their own Big Society tzar Francis Maude was caught with his pants down on Radio 4's Eddie Mair show:

Eddie Mair: And what volunteering do you do?

Francis Maude: I do… golly, what do I do? Umm, a whole load of things. I’m involved in my local church. Um, gosh, that’s a really unfair question cold. But actually the point is…

Eddie Mair: I think that given we’re talking about volunteering and how important it is, I thought you might be able to tell me. And not least because in your manifesto it says quote: “Our ambition is for every adult in the country to be a member of an active neighbourhood group.”

Francis Maude: Err, well I’m involved in things in my local community… Well, MPs spend their time involved with voluntary groups, umm…

Eddie Mair: Well that’s part of your job, you get paid for that. What else do you do?

Francis Maude: Well, we do it seven days a week kind of thing, so… Well, I do various things. It’s a great question to err… drop on me err…"

Typically, it seems to be a case as do as I say not do as i do.

I can just picture the scene as this marvellous idea came into being (cue harps and a dream sequence):

A warming log fire is blazing. In the House of Commons bar George Osborne and David Cameron are relaxing in a couple of tastefully upholstered Chesterfields with a fine brandy. Osbourne flicks through some important looking ministerial documents.

GO: "Damn and blast David, it seems we are clean out of money! Those Labour scoundrels have spent it all, the rotters!" How are we going to pay for the schools and the libraries?"

DC:: Hmmm..tricky one. Can we not just privatise them all?"

GO:" I think a privatised library is called a bookshop David"

DC: "O.K. How about getting a boat load of foriegners from the sub-continenent to work for peanuts?"

GO: "Not sure that will wash with the back-benches David. They have only just got used to employing Polish cleaners"

DC: "Good point. Well don't worry old bean we'll think of something. (contemplates whilst swirling brandy in his glass) I know ! We'll just get the plebs to do all that filthy work for free. The trick is to get them to do all this out of the goodness of their hearts."

GO : "It sounds like a jolly good wheeze old chap but how are we going to sell it to the great unwashed?"

DC: " Hmmmm...Eureka!...we'll call it the THE BIG SOCIETY. We'll pretend this is a new altrusitic era of enlightenment where we all help our fellow man. Besides after we've made them all unemployed we will need to give them something to do anyway. Also helping others does wonders for your self esteem..or so I'm told."

GO: "Spiffing,...if the natives start to get restless we'll pass it off as Cleggo's idea...another Curvoisier?

DC: "Don't mind if I do."