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since 21/02/2004


The Running Man (DVD) 04/12/2006

The future is SO 80s!

The Running Man (DVD) Directed by Paul Michael Glaser Running Time: 101 Minutes THE BACKGROUND: In the tradition of 1980s super action hero, the bloke who was Starsky out of 'Starsky and Hutch' (I kid you not) brings you Arnie in 'The Running Man'. Amazing to think: the uberman of mindless action movies in an adaption of a Stephen King story and a good one at that! The Running Man loses its' Kingesque ending - after all it is an Arnie movie (hint: the goodies prevail, obviously), but retains the theme of the book. The action is set in the year 2017, and a totalitarian government of sorts controls America. In order to keep the people distracted, the television networks run violent game shows such as 'Climbing for Dollars' - where a man attempts to ascend a rope pursued by rottweillers whilst snatching as much cash as he can. The biggest show of the lot is 'The Running Man': a show where convicted criminals (the 'runners') have to cross several city blocks chased by psychotic killers (the 'stalkers'). Add into the mix a bunch of Pans People dancers, the American Bruce Forsythe and a 'Price is Right' kind of vibe and you have a combination of kitsch and killing which is extremely popular. THE HERO: Arnie plays Ben Richards, a square jawed soldier, a leader of men and an obvious charismatic figure who his colleagues obviously admire. The funny thing is, you really couldn't get further away from how Richards is portrayed in King's book, where he is a skinny, desperate, angry man. Arnie as ...

Flight 93 (DVD) 28/11/2006

The finer details of a story we all know

Flight 93 (DVD) Directed and written by Paul Greengrass Run time 111 minutes Let's face it, there won't be any spoilers in this review, we all know what happened on September 11th 2001. The director here tries to personalise the events of United flight 93: the 757 laden with 33 passengers and crew which crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania en route to a slightly more high profile destination. 9/11 has rightfully become such a major, profound event in peoples' minds' throughout the world and real objectivity has become very difficult. Greengrass has neatly sidestepped all the questions which such a significant event raises in a way Oliver Stone's JFK ploughs straight through. Essentially therefore, Flight 93 plays as a straight drama: something more familiar to watchers of The Hallmark Channel as opposed to anything grander. A distinct lack of any names adds to the no frills effect: an ensemble cast of worthies including seemingly half the cast of Law and Order. Visually the movie doesn't look that cutting edge either - the cabin and cockpit interiors look on show are not much further advanced than in the Airplane films of twenty five years previously. Even though military and aviation controllers were used for authenticity, the air traffic scenes look identical in calibre to any straight to video disaster movie extravaganza. By rights Flight 93 should be considered as par for the course at best. The acting is ok, the 'plot' is passable and it looks like any 'real life' ...

Donnie Darko (Director's Cut) (DVD) 23/11/2006

Debuts don't get more accomplished than this.

Donnie Darko (Director's Cut) (DVD) I watched this on video a couple of years ago and REALLY didn't get it. To say it went over my head is an understatement: I spent weeks scratching my head in bewilderment thinking 'What the hell was THAT about?' Still, help is at hand with the Donnie Darko Directors Cut double DVD set: a hefty package that the fanboys and girls will drool over. With the real cult movies you tend to get a whole load of extra goodies and DD is no different. The only gripe I could have about this set is the analysis is a little too deep, for instance the B-roll of shooting quite honestly made my eyes glaze over.. there are only so many shots of 'genius at work' you can take without falling asleep isn't there? Despite this you do get some genuinely interesting stuff: DD inspired an urban art exhibition in London and you get a short film a film about that. Plus a sneak peak at some of Donnie Darko's biggest UK fans, assorted movie beard-strokers and pale anaemic looking movie buffs who look like they spend more time inside a movie theatre than out. The rest of it is pretty standard fayre, cast and crew eulogising about each other, the director, the shoot etc - but they always do don't they? To be honest, I gave the shooting documentary a miss, one for the real afficianados I reckon. The promo selection is as equally generous - trailers and TV slots which are pretty similar; dark and kind of enigmatic. The pun on the US trailer sums it up well [not spoiling too much here]: ...

Everything that starts with B ... 29/12/2005

Me bitter?

Everything that starts with B ... My B is for breakup. Good cheerful stuff hey? Before you ask, its ok... you arent intruding on any private grief or anything. Its just something I need to get out off my chest. Of course you've all been there before but here's my take on things. Will try to make it insightful and entertaining for you. Ok? Read on... Life is like walking down the street. Watch out for the obstacles - cracks in the pavement, the women brandishing pushchairs like deadly weapons all that kind of thing. They'll leave you battered and bruised, and if you fall over head first... lacking a few teeth too! But when fate conspires against you there's no chance. One minute you're walking along minding your own business, next minute Fate appears from behind a bush to kick you in the groin very hard. My kick was on 27th December, happy Christmas huh? My girl said it was over. She is travelling in Vietnam so I didnt really have the chance to persuade her otherwise. Damn.. Fate dealt me a good hard kick in the nuts there. Studded toecaps too for extra bruising - very nice! As I was lying on the ground in the foetal position, eyes watering slightly the sentiment struck home. 'Been feeling complacent and smug recently? Thought love would always be on the menu? Well it isnt! Here's a new recipe you'd best get used to: disillusionment, indequacy, sprinkle with resent and allow to simmer for a while. How do you like them apples?'. Fate did his job well, he left me prone at his feet, wished me a cheery ...

Metropolis (Silent) (DVD) 31/05/2005

Robot chicks and man eating machines

Metropolis (Silent) (DVD) Metropolis 1927 Length: Variable Dir: Fritz Lang Most people today brought up on a diet of CG and Will Smith Sci Fi will be totally bemused by this. They shouldnt be as it's absolutely fascinating stuff! 'Metropolis' is always cited as a major landmark of early cinema along with the likes of 'A Trip to the Moon' twenty years earlier and you can see its influence in everything from Blade Runner to Batman and Doctor Who. Film academics often delight themselves into discussing this movie in great detail - the commentary goes on about biblical references, virgin mothers and all that kind of thing. Nonetheless the story does hold up well enough for the average film punter such as you or I. I am amazed I hadnt discovered Fritz Lang earlier - if you search on IMDB you can see he made a number of film noir gems in the 40s and 50s starring the likes of Edward G Robinson and Ray Milland. Metropolis was one of his first ones - the plot revolves around the maker of the great city - a middle aged man named Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) and the relationship with his son Freder (Gustav Frohlich). Alongside this main narrative other stories do develop - the uprising of the workers who run the city, the mad scientist with a love for Freder's deceased mother, a love interest and all the rest. In short everything is thrown in - it'd just the lack of sound that makes things more captivitating. The score is on the verge of being operatic at times but this just adds to the otherworldiness ...

Bill Hicks - Relentless (DVD) 17/05/2005

He's Bill Hicks and He's dead now!

Bill Hicks - Relentless (DVD) Bill Hicks was an extremely funny guy. To get the uninitiated up to speed he was a comedian who showed up on the cultural radar in the US during the late 80s before becoming a (welcomed) regular fixture in the UK. He died tragically young, from pancreatic cancer at the age of 32 in 1994. 'Relentless' was the recording of a show he did in 1991, it ranks equally to 'Arizona Bay' in sheer comedic impact but lacks the philosophical impact and unrestrained vigour of the latter. Here Hicks certainly is playing to the crowd and his timing is as superb as his material is funny. I would love to have heard some of Richard Prior's performances (his autobiography was excellent) and reckon Hicks' material is similar - crude and extremely funny. You can tell Hicks is playing to his audience and being American they bay their gratification back at him. The best comedy sets out to shock and listening to someone in the crowd laughing in disgusted shock at his Jackie O rifle pendant gag makes you realise he was pushing the boundaries too. His material may be over a decade old now but still holds your attention thanks to the 'Gulf War Distraction' II and will continue to for the forseeable future. As Hick's best bud Kevin Booth states - when President Schwarzenegger is bombing Iran in 2010 the same themes will still be cropping up. When reviewing something like this it is so tempting to quote sections of dialogue verbatim just to illustrate how damn funny the guy was. This does him a real ...

Stupid White Men...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! - Michael Moore 28/04/2005

The Revolution is in safe(ish) hands!

Stupid White Men...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! - Michael Moore It would be a little simplistic to say politicians are crooks and in bed with Big Business. However I'd say it isnt ENTIRELY untrue, when you see the corporate interests lined up behind George Bush et al in 2004 you've really gotta ask - 'What's in it for them then?' Bill Hicks certainly had them on the ropes, he was a blistering Texan comedian of the late 80s and early 90s who railed against Big Bush and his cronies with devastating comedic effect. He died at the tragically early age of 32 in 1994 and we lost one of the finest minds in the business. Things went a litte quiet after that - it took a blatantly corporate Republican party and the goings on surrounding September 11th to make people start thinking things were not as they seemed and the ample poster boy for this new paranoid generation was none other than Michigan journalist Michael Moore. The eponymous 'Stupid White Men' of the title are of course the great and the good who hold political office and economic control in the US. You can tell Moore wont be looking to pull any punches as he describes them as 'pathetically stupid, embarrassingly white and disgustingly rich'... so no half measures here! His pedigree is certainly impressive - during the 1990s his series TV Nation ran on both sides of the Atlantic with considerable success, his portrayal of the little guy's struggles against 'The Man' was Emmy nominated in 1995 and '96 and won a slew of awards. This book propelled him to superstardom along with ...

Groundhog Day (DVD) 31/01/2005

Does Phil feel lucky?

Groundhog Day (DVD) Once in a while someone comes up with a movie premise which is absolutely ingenious - sometimes it works well (The Trueman Show) other times not as well (Memento). Groundhog Day is firmly in the first camp, it is based on a cracking idea, boasts a first rate cast and despite a slightly predictable ending still scores a big five stars from me! This film features a re-pairing of Bill Murray with Harold Ramis, a combination which worked to such good effect in Ghostbusters ten years before. For me this is Murray's finest moment, he is sardonic, eminates a vibrance which is missing from his later efforts like Lost in Translation. He makes the film as Phil Connors, a wisecracking ascerbic Pittsburgh weatherman who has no time for the world and holds the people in it in the greatest of scorn. His work colleagues tread round him carefully, trying not to provoke any outbursts just like one does with the office ogre. Connors is the master of the venomous insult when provoked, he brings new dimensions to the putdown 'hairdo' when verbally jousting with a news anchorwoman. Ever wished you could make someone wilt with a carefully chosen word or two when annoyed? Murray's character can - a quality I admire in spades. Trouble is, Phil's career is starting to flag a little, covering the Groundhog Day festivities for a fourth consecutive year is not his bag and during the course of the outside broadcast he lets everyone know it. For the uninitiated the Groundhog Day festivities revolve ...

Mothman Prophecies, The 24/01/2005

X Files a la David Lynch

Mothman Prophecies, The The Mothman Prophecies is a 2002 film based on the book of the same name written by John Keel about the events which unfurled during the year of 1966-7 in the sleepy rural town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Keel has spent forty years chasing aerial lights, big hairy beasties and other freaks and the book covers countless examples of weirdness which makes fascinating reading. The film condenses the many streams in the book down to one - the 'Mothman' a seven foot tall humanoid with bat wings and bright red eyes which scared the bejesus out of the local townsfolk. The 'prophecies' in the film are not covered in great detail, Keel was supposedly in contact with assorted 'space people' who's clairvoyant skills were mixed to say the least. The film glosses over this, focusing on the main protagonist's (unsuccessful) struggle to find out what is going on... It stars Richard Gere as John Klein, a successful political journalist with beautiful wife (Debra Messing) who seemingly has everything until fate intervenes and takes her away from him. Cut to a year later, Klein has rebuilt his life, the wounds are still healing but his career is still riding high. However, fate conspires against him again, following a late night drive he ends up in Point Pleasant, a town on the Ohio border in the middle of some strange goings on... I wont say any more... Ever the sucker for a good story, Klein dives in to try to suss out what is going on. The eponymous Mothman makes a showing, it ...

Thinner - Stephen King 05/01/2005

Romany Weightwatchers?

Thinner - Stephen King Nowadays Stephen King has a fixation with things like beams, dark towers and crimson kings. This book was written when he was more firmly rooted in reality... well a darkly amusing reality where dysfunction and pain bubble under the surface waiting to be discovered. I have always loved Stephen King's work, his tales often have a companionable quality about them. You could almost imagine him at your shoulder chummily imparting his tales of American horror to you whilst you read. Unlike a previous reviewer I think he is head and shoulders above Dean R Koontz who is formulaic and resorts to chucking some smut in to get your attention - King always gives the everyday stories a bit of a twist in only the was he can. 'Thinner' is no different, it was written in the early 80s under King's pen name (Richard Backman) and concentrates on the trials and tribulations of Billy Halleck. Halleck has it all, great job, wife, kid, country club membership - the works. However things start to go a bit pear shaped when the gypsies come to town - Halleck is bemused how the townsfolk hold them at arms length, people have their fortunes read, gamble and when they've spent their money get the authorities to kick the outsiders out of town again. Giving nothing away King leans on the 'pariah' theme heavily throughout, he happens to run over and kills one of the elderly members of the gypsy troupe - lets just say his attention is otherwise engaged and leave it at that. As he is one of the town's ...

Everything that starts with S ... 09/06/2004

Sun, sea, sand, scuba

Everything that starts with S ... When asked the reason he climbed Everest Sir Edmund Hillary famously said "because it was there", now I don't go for all that macho bullshit but you got to try everything at least once (well not everything!) I guess that's what I was thinking whilst reclining on a sunbed soaking up the Indian Ocean sunshine: it was encouraging to know that you can stay in a dump in Mauritius and still be 250 yards away from the most idyllic, picture postcard settings on the planet. I can clearly recall the ambience of the place, the mundane stresses and strains of life being washed away by the senses:“ the welcoming warmth of hot sunshine on the skin, pure white sands, cerulean blue water and the sound of waves lapping up a few yards away from my feet. Kind of like being in one of the old Bounty ads on the telly but without the coconuts! Anyway, Im digressing here, after a short walk up to the pier advertising tourist diversions I spotted the scuba diving and decided "Ill have some of that" and signed up for the princely sum of 1400 rupees (about 30 quid). Forget the name of the place, it was something French though and about 10 minutes drive out of Grand Baie. Shash's father in law dropped me off at the diving centre - an unassuming building attached to the swankiest hotel I have ever seen. I was residing at Roach Motel and was now standing in the car park of an opulent palace the likes of which Id probably never see again! The tropical splendour of the place was topped ...

Championship Manager 2 (PC) 06/06/2004

Where did my life go?

Championship Manager 2 (PC) This review is of Championship Manager 97/98, a game from Eidos that hit the stores about six and a half years ago. The very first day I bought this I only managed to tear myself away from the PC screen at 4.30am and things have followed a similar course since then. Through a tremendous act of will I finally deleted this game from my laptop on Sunday 6th of June 2004. The proccess of going cold turkey now awaits! Firstly I can state this game ruined my life. CM has broken up relationships and even been cited in marriage breakups. For me it was just the grand demotivator - me and my student chums would discuss tactics, canny player purchases and glorious victories in European football competions. Going out for a few beers on a Friday would just be a couple of hours padding before the next CM sesh' and I remember several times sitting in front of the screen when the first rays of summer sun lit the horizon. I'm sure you're thinking 'get a life!' by about now and you'd be right - but this game franchise offers unprecedented soccer trivia geekiness which us true nerds could not get enough of. We even used to exhibit our knowledge of the European football stage in relation to the players we had bought and sold in this game! CM9798 is a very easy game to master when compared to the later versions of the title - the realities of football were not built in as they are in later versions. This gives your management efforts a slightly unreal air - Ronaldo to West Ham on a free? Of ...

Vertigo (DVD) 31/05/2004

A heady mix of dysfunction from an Old Master

Vertigo (DVD) ‘Vertigo’ stars James Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Del Geddes, the film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. By 1959 Hitch was at his peak. The Englishman’s star had been on the rise throughout the fifties with such films as ‘Dial M for Murder’ and ‘Rear Window’. This was the second of three pictures (North by Northwest and Psycho the other two) which are widely admired as being some of the finest films of the period. If you havent seen the other two – please do, you wont regret it! PLOT SUMMARY (in brief): James Stewart plays John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson, a retired cop with a fear of heights. The story is based around an old school friend who cajoles him into getting back into business again with an intriguing case. Gavin Elster has a young wife by the name of Madaleine who is acting very strangely, he fears she is obsessed with a long dead female relative and will try to emulate the poor woman’s tragedic demise. Scottie and Madeleine fall in love, and things start getting strange from there. I really cant tell you anymore than that without giving the game away! The plot is broken into two halves and the conclusion to each part is equally shocking. The ‘boy meets girl and falls in love with girl against all the odds’ plot in part one of the film is garnished by Hitch in only the way he can. Is Madaleine possessed by the spirit of long dead Carlotta? There is an inkling that the story is turning that way early on – Bernard Hermann’s creepy, unsettling score follows Mrs Elster ...

Twin Peaks 15/04/2004

Wooow, Bob, wow!!!

Twin Peaks Twin Peaks was the TV series that spawned countless pale imitations, David Lynch took the small town weirdness theme and gave it his own distinctive twist which the likes of Northern Exposure and American Gothic aped at but did not come close too. David Lynch's world is all about a wafer thin layer of normality over a bubbling cauldron of weirdness and obsession. 'Lost Highway' is similar, average guy with average problems finds out the world is WAAY stranger than what he first thought. TP stretches this experience over nearly 30 episodes, introducing a wide range of characters who seem homely and mundane at first glance but turn out to be far from that on closer analysis. The story follows an FBI investigation into the death of 17 year old high school girl Laura Palmer, whose body is discovered washed up by the local lake. The Bureau send in one of their finest - Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McClaughlin) 'COOP' - I was 13 back in 1990 and 'Coop' really appealled to me. Just like all the characters in Twin Peaks he is a multi-faceted creation, he is the consumate Bureau pro, immaculately dressed, a crack shot, perfect in his conduct and with almost Holmesian powers of deduction and observation. However, he is a textbook study of Lynchian dualism, to be quite honest the guy is a bit weird too! He carries a dictaphone around with him and records even his most intimate moments on it to 'Diane' someone we never see but who Coop drops tantalising hints as to her ...

Greatest Hits - James Taylor 05/04/2004

MOR rock/ country at its finest

Greatest Hits - James Taylor JT was the guy my folks put on the record player when they wanted to have a smooch (horrible thought that) and when rooting through their back catalogue I was intrigued by the all white cover and thought Id give it a try. A few days later I bought the CD for 5.99 from Argos, I was smitten and I'll tell you why. 'Greatest Hits' chronicles the high points of his early career till the mid 70s, including a couple of collaborations with Carole King (his girlfriend at the time) and a cover of Holland, Dozier and Holland's 'How Sweet It Is (To be Loved By You)' Listening to this album is the musical equivalent of being wrapped in cotton wool by your gran: relaxing, reassuring, unoffensive and something you'd never admit a liking for in polite company. He sits atop the MOR colussus with the likes of Phil Collins and Elton John: a fine musician with little cutting edge cred today. The recordings spread less than a decade but still vary little in tone and style. There is something bittersweet about Taylors voice in 'Something in The Way She Moves', almost wistful and reminiscent of loves lost. The accoustic guitar comes into best effect on 'Carolina in my Mind' - a real country sing-a-long This is only equalled by his rendition of 'How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), a tune of unabashed happiness which he has not matched since. There are a few weak links, the porno movie sax used in 'Dont Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' giving the song a slightly pitful tone and the album drops ...
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