Throwback Thirty – Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Throwback Thirty – Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

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5_star_rating_system_4_and_a_half_stars When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything… Read more

Throwback Thirty – Beetlejuice (1988)

Throwback Thirty – Beetlejuice (1988)

I have a confession to make before we carry on with out weekly business of reviewing a random film from the year 1988. This wasn’t the film that I originally pulled out of my jar for this week. Yes, I have (kind of) cheated on my Throwback Thirty mission and we’re only 3 weeks in. Last week I pulled Short Circuit 2 out of the jar and was all set to do my usual thing. However, in an act of insanity I decided it was only fair to rewatch Short Circuit before the sequel in order to get the best viewing experience. As such, my week just got away from me and I decided I wouldn’t have time to fit everything in. In an act of utter desperation and reeking with shame, I pulled another name out of the jar. So, I will watch Short Circuit 2 in time for next Thursday. I, bizarrely, feel genuinely quite bad about having to cheat this week. It’s madness because it’s a format that I imposed myself and a series of rules that I, alone, am enforcing. I could do whatever the fuck I wanted and nobody reading this would know. But it means a lot to me for some reason… probably because I have so little going on in my life right now. So, unfortunately, my viewing this week has been a little tainted with my disappointment in myself. An immense shame considering my second pick from my jar of films is one of my favourites in there. It’s also the only time that I can think of that I’ve found myself attracted to Alec Baldwin. There’s something about the combo of those glasses, that hair, and his tan trousers that just gets me… but I digress.

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Book Review – The Power by Naomi Alderman

Book Review – The Power by Naomi Alderman

5_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars I have owned The Power since April this year but have only just got round to reading it. At first I was as excited about the concept as everyone else but it also worried me. The idea that Naomi Alderman has taken conventional gender roles and flipped them was inevitably going to interest me. However, I thought there was too much potential for this to go down a violent road that I wasn’t that keen on. I’m happy to describe myself as a feminist and think the fight for gender equality is an important and difficult struggle. I just don’t agree with the kind of militant feminism that exists in certain quarters that believes anger is the answer. I understand there has been a somewhat violent and extreme nature to the feminist movement but times have moved on. We’re not going to get real gender equality with an “eye for an eye” attitude. We don’t need to teach men what we’ve been going through by doing it to them; we just need to teach men to be better. The only people that a more aggressive fight for women’s rights is helping are the so called “meninists” who like to make out feminists hate men.

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TBT – Left Behind (2014)

TBT – Left Behind (2014)


I promise you that I definitely meant to write a bookish post yesterday but I’ve recently contracted the plague. My head feels like it’s full of sea water, aquatic life included, and I swear there is someone trying to jam a screwdriver through my right eye. There are various liquids slowly seeping from every available space on my face and my nose would come in handy on a foggy Christmas Eve night. Yesterday, during the worst day of my cold so far, I genuinely believe there were tiny pixies stabbing me in the head with tiny swords. So as you can see, I really wasn’t in any state to try and come up with a post for you. I am hoping to have recovered enough by tomorrow to manage something but we’ll see if I survive the night. In relation to today’s TBT post, I have to admit that I’m kind of ashamed that I watched this film but, again, in my sensitive state, I really wasn’t able to focus on anything too taxing. So I took to Netflix and searched for Nicolas Cage. Boy was I left with a myriad of shit. My friend and I always disagree about Nicolas Cage. She’s convinced that he has more good films than he does. I admit that there are a few decent ones out there but, let’s be honest, the ration is more in favour of the bad than the good. Still, I will say that his films are probably worth a watch just for how bad they are. I mean, I’m in no rush to see Drive Angry again but I’ll never fucking forget it.

I tried to describe Left Behind to someone I work with today and it just made me sound fucking mental. Starting with the words “it’s a film about the rapture” is bad enough but then you have everything else. It’s a film about the rapture starring both Nicolas Cage and Chad Michael Murray: two of my favourite guilty pleasure actors. It’s a film about the rapture that is actually based around trying to stop a plane crash. It’s a film about the rapture that sees the people that have been “left behind” immediately start looting, attacking each other, and just being general dicks. It’s a film about the rapture that neither promotes Christianity nor really criticises non-believers. It’s a film about the rapture that is so bad it’s not even funny. It’s fucking mental.

Left Behind is the big (ish) budget reboot of a previous film series from the early 2000s. This time starring Nicolas Cage doing, perhaps, the least acting he’s ever done in any film. He plays pilot Ray Steele who is flying from New York to London on his birthday. Why is he doing this? To get away from his overly relgious wife (Lea Thompson) and spend a dirty weekend in England with a sexy, young air hostess (Nicky Whelan). One of their passengers is investigative journalist Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) who, by happy circumstance, has just spent the last few minutes flirting with Ray’s daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) in the airport. Suddenly, a load of people, including several passengers on the plane, disappear leaving their clothes and belongings behind. Chloe loses her younger brother at the mall and is caught up in the chaos that ensues. She must find her way home safely and see if she can find her mother. When his co-pilot disappears, Ray must find a way to land his plane and save the remaining passengers.

Left Behind sounds like an incredibly parody that you’d see on some sort of sketch show. It’s that fucking ridiculous. But it’s based on a popular Christian novel about the end of days. It’s source material was produced to warn people about the dangers of ignoring religious teachings and not taking God into your life. This film? Well, I’m just not sure what it’s trying to say. All of the Christians depicted in the film are fucking mental so it’s not as if they’re even casting themselves in a positive light. Then, the a lot of the non-believers all seem like really nice people who don’t deserve to be left no Earth to face whatever punishment awaits them. If anything this film just seems to push the idea that God, as the Bible writes him, is a cruel and unfair master. I mean there’s a woman suffering from dementia who is left behind after her loving husband is saved. What kind of God would leave a confused, old lady alone on a plane that’s about to crash?

It’s also just a really bad film. Even when you ignore the preposterous idea at it’s very core this film is just plain bad. It’s badly written, poorly acted and the CGI is just incredibly shit. I mean even Geostorm looks like a technological success next to this film. The worst thing about Left Behind is that it’s not even so bad it’s funny. It sounds like the kind of camp nonsense that could have been played for laughs but everything is handled with such seriousness. There isn’t an ounce of self-awareness within it’s relatively short running time. I mean at least Geostorm has me laughing at it occasionally. I couldn’t do that here. It’d be like laughing at someone with a disability: unnecessary, cruel and immoral. Although, like every other Nicolas Cage film I’ve seen recently, it’s an experience that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I’m supposed to be reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead at the moment. I started in October and got about halfway before I decided it was time to read some more appropriate reading for the scariest month of the year. It might not be the first choice for a Halloween read but I decided it was about time to reread And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I always find it a bit weird to reread a crime novel because it has a completely different feel when you know whodunit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to know because you start to pick up on things that you didn’t the first time. I guess a more pedantic person might try and pick apart the plot knowing what you know but, for me, I think it’s just worth reading a classic Agatha Christie novel whenever you can. She is still the Queen of Crime for good reason. Something that I find worth celebrating as we reach the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel. I’ve tried to read contemporary crime fiction but, to be honest, I’m fucking bored of psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators and super dark themes. Every other week we’re being introduced to ‘the new Gone Girl‘ which would be fine if I’d actually felt that Gone Girl was actually worth finishing. I found it tired and predictable. It was obvious we were being played with but it wasn’t a good enough book for me to let myself be taken along for the ride. These days, it always seems like crime writers are just trying to one-up the last big sensation and it’s getting too out of control. Girl on the Train was not worth my time and every book I’ve read that tried to build off that was abandoned early on. I know classic novels like Agatha Christie’s seem tame in comparison but they are based on well-crafted narratives and not cliched plots. If you call yourself a fan of thrillers and you haven’t read anything by her then you’re really doing this reading thing wrong.

What is the greatest crime thriller of all time? It’s a difficult question and one that will, undoubtedly, have different answers depending on who you ask. If you look at numbers alone then I’d say that And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie has to be in with a shot. It is, using estimates of all time sales, one of the greatest selling books of all time and most probably the number 1 selling mystery novel. It’s certainly one of my top Christie novels trumped only by The Murder of Roger Ackroyd simply because I adore that novel’s unprecedented twist ending. Although, I have to agree that And Then There Were None is one of the best crafted mystery novels ever written with an ending that will keep first time readers guessing until the end. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

And Then There Were None brings together a group of 10 strangers on an isolated island and kills them off one by one. Each character is drawn to the island by a mysterious letter but, when they become stranded due to stormy weather, they are left fearing for their life when it becomes clear that one of their number has set them up for their murderous games based around a well-known nursery rhyme. Each guest is accused of committing their own murder on a dark stormy night and, moments later, the first of their party is found dead. With no sign of anyone else on the island, they have no option but to suspect each other. As their numbers dwindle the tension increases and it becomes harder to work out who can be trusted.

And Then There Were None is a deceptively simple novel from the outside. It is very self-contained with the list of characters sticking to the main 10 and the narrative taking place on the island over the space of a few days. There isn’t a great deal of action beyond a few searches of the house and there is a lot of sitting around waiting for stuff to happen. However, there is so much more to this novel. Christie’s narrative is so well-crafted that it will, genuinely, leave readers guessing who the killer is up until the last minute. You’ll forever be trying to second-guess everything and read too much into the little details. It’s a fantastically fun novel to try and unravel. It’s also incredibly tense and, in it’s own way, scary novel. Yes, it’s lost something over the years as we get used to authors taking horror further and further but this novel has enough atmosphere to keep you unnerved.

This mostly comes down to the sense of claustrophobia you get. Just as the guests on the island are stuck with nowhere to go as the weather rages outside, the reader is kept very insular. This is a novel that doesn’t venture further than it needs to. We barely get a glimpse of anything beyond the walls of the house and very little happens between the murders. Everyone is just sitting and waiting for the next strike and trying to figure out which of the party could be capable of such awful crimes. It has a pretty big body count in the end but And Then There Were None could hardly be described as bloody. Each death is described in a suitable manner for the period in which is was published. It all feels very British as the murder is swept under the carpet to keep the true horrors up to the imagination of the reader.

And Then There Were None is a very clever novel and is classic Agatha Christie. I don’t read her novels as much as I should anymore. Every time I do I get that familiar sense of joy and admiration. She remains one of the most loved mystery writers for a good reason and this novel is probably the perfect example of why. It can be a bit of mind fuck working out where to start with Christie. You’re tempted to start with a Miss Marple or Poirot story but that begs the question of where to start. Do you try and get them in the right order or do you just go with the most popular ones? I’m sure there are people out there on the internet who have found the perfect order but I can’t say that I’m clever enough to have worked it out. If anyone asked me where to start then I, at least for the time being, would probably recommend this one. It exists as it’s own novel but is such a Christie trademark. It’s pretty perfect… no matter how many times you read it.

TBT – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

TBT – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

It’s weird to think, especially after just watching Dead Men Tell No Tales, that Johnny Depp was nominated for a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for the first POTC film. Yep, Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was deemed so brilliant and original that it earned the actor his first Academy Award nomination. I guess it’s difficult to think about this now, particularly considering that Depp and Disney are basically just flogging a dead horse with every new outing for the pirate Captain. Sparrow no longer feels like a breath of fresh air but a pathetic attempt to cash in on families and super fans. I guess it’s not just the character either. Back I 2003 I was a huge fan of Johnny Depp. The man was the indie darling who had done so much great work with Tim Burton. His Keith Richards impression single-handedly made pirates sexy again and made it okay for men to wear eyeliner. He showed that he had what it took to be a big Hollywood star and that he could bring in the big bucks. Since then he’s gone further and further off the rails. Look at the films he’s made over the past few years. Loads of over budget passion projects, major flops that he should have passed on, and lots of other forgettable roles. Of course, there’s the accusations of domestic abuse on top of it but it’s not like that’s stopped him. He still managed to land a role in the Fantastic Beasts Franchise and is set to star in the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express even with that cloud over his head. I’m not about to make any moral assumptions about a man I’ve never met but it just sits ill with me that he got no negative feedback from it. Anyway, with this in mind, I think it’s time we go back to a time when Johnny Depp was still an actor that you could love.

Nobody ever expected Pirates of the Caribbean to be a success. I mean, let’s face it, a film based on a super old theme park ride was starting off in a bad way and then there’s the pirates. Prior to its release, there hadn’t been a decent swashbuckling adventure in forever. Then you had the fact that Johnny Depp wasn’t the bankable star back in those days. He was an indie kid who was never expected to be able to carry off a huge blockbuster. Nothing about this film was really playing it safe. Even Orlando Bloom, fresh off his LOTR popularity, was a risk in the lead role. However, as we all know now, the film became on of the highest earning films of 2003. It was loved by audiences and praised by most critics. My friends and I certainly adored it. I mean we were mostly 15 year old girls so the sight of Johnny Depp in eyeliner was something we could all get on board with. This and LOTR definitely helped me become pretty obsessed with men with facial hair.

So the film that was expected to flop ended up creating 4 sequels; most of which made an awful lot of money at the box office. However, none of those films captured the brilliance and fun of the first. The sequels tried so hard to be different but, in doing so, managed to steer away from what made the first one so good. Everything just became bigger, bolder and longer. The plots became even more of a stretch and the characters got lost in the action. Plus, Captain Jack, by then a money making machine, slowly started to edge away from the pack and become more prominent. He’s always been best as the comic relief that works alongside the lead roles. That has never been more apparent than when rewatching the first one.

After all, that film is still incredibly entertaining after 14 years. It is essentially the story of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) turbulent romance, which has to overcome other suitors and a bunch of cursed pirates. When Elizabeth is kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity by the Captain of the Black Pearl (Geoffrey Rush), Will teams up with recently captured Captain Jack to track the ship and rescue her. Turns out, the crew stole a chest of Aztec gold that has left them neither alive or dead and unable to enjoy any of life’s little pleasures. In order for the curse to be lifted a blood sacrifice must be made by all of the crew. Unfortunately, the pirates sent one of their crew to the bottom of the sea before they realised. So they’ve been searching for his child ever since. That’s where our lovebirds step in.

There’s no denying that the first film in the franchise is the best and most entertaining. It may have its flaws but it is the most consistent of the 5 films. I’ll admit that it goes on too long and there is a lot of unnecessary time getting to know supporting characters. I mean I love Jack Davenport and Jonathan Pryce but really don’t think they needed as much screen time as they got. There is too much bloat in this film and the narrative could definitely have been streamlined. There is also a problem with the swashbuckling side. It’s hardly the most exciting sword fighting that we’ve ever seen on screen. It needed to be more spectacular. Instead it’s just forgettable.

Still, there are moments in this film that are just superb. Elizabeth’s first night on the Black Pearl has one of the most entertaining sequences of the entire film. It’s also lovely to go back to a time when Geoffrey Rush actually seemed to be having fun in this role. I know his Captain Barbossa has died numberous times by now but it was just sad looking at how tired he looked in Dead Men Tell No Tales. In Curse of the Black Pearl Barbossa is a terrifying villain who you love to hate. But this film is in no way too scary for its younger audience. Yes, there are a lot of skeletons and references to death but there is much more in the way of humour to keep them on board. After all, this film was all about Johnny Depp unveiling one of the greatest pirates that we had ever seen on screen. Captain Jack is charming, sneaky and hilarious. It’s a shame he’s been worn so thin by every subsequent film that he’s become a sort of parody of himself. Rewatching Curse of the Black Pearl was a bittersweet experience because it reminded me how good this franchise can be but also showed how far it had fallen. I hope Disney have the good sense to just leave it be now but, if history has taught us anything, I highly doubt it.

TBT – The Borrowers (1997)

TBT – The Borrowers (1997)

There is something so wonderfully British about The Borrowers by Mary Norton. A small family who survive by, let’s be honest, stealing bits and bobs from the humans whose house they inhabit. Norton wrote a beloved series of books about thieves and managed to make it seem perfectly reasonable. It might have something to do with the fact that she finally answers the question regarding all of those random objects that go missing without a trace in your house. Ever put down a paperclip or something and gone back to find it not there anymore? It’s alright, a Borrower probably just used it to make some sort of climbing device. I don’t remember reading the books as a child but I do remember the BBC television series starring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton. That was definitely a British classic and something I was reminded of in my third year of university whilst studying a children’s literature course. That series was the second of two television adaptions of Mary Norton’s works but it wasn’t until 1997 that these tiny people made their way onto the big screen. Whilst writing my review of The Sense of an Ending I was trying to think back to the first time I would probably have seen Jim Broadbent acting in anything. I can’t remember for sure but I’d bet The Borrowers would definitely be one of them.

In December this year, The Borrowers will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. This makes me feel old. I’m not sure that I remember going to the cinema to see it but I do know that I watched it when I was young. It’s also the kind of film that is shown regularly during holidays on the BBC so children would have something to distract themselves with. I tend to look back on it with the same fondness that I nostalgically have for anything from my youth but, really, I don’t know how much I really liked this film. I mean, there was never anything wrong with it but it was certainly a stark contrast to the calm and gentle television series I remembered from 1992. The Borrowers took the characters from Mary Norton’s popular series of books and gave them the Hollywood treatment. Well, kind of. We don’t actually have to sit through a film where the Clock family speak with American accents and everything has been transported to an apartment in New York or anything. But, this is a big, brash and action-packed adventure.

It follows a similar enough structure to the novel but places the Clock family in far more perilous situations. In Mr and Mrs Lenders’ minds, things going missing is an everyday occurrence but their son, Peter, believes there is something in their house taking their stuff. We know he’s right, of course, because there is a family of Borrowers living under his floorboards. Head of the family, Pod (Jim Broadbent) is keen to teach his young children Arriety (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton) about the ways of borrowing and how to avoid being seen by humans; the dreaded Borrower squishing Beans. Their mother, Homily (Celia Imrie) has doubts about whether they are ready, which seem to be well-founded after Arriety manages to get herself locked in a freezer. Unwilling to live a life hiding under the floorboard, Arriety yearns for adventure and, on a nighttime stroll, manages to be spotted by Peter. Instead of squishing the tiny being, Peter befriends Arriety against her father’s wishes. When an evil lawyer (John Goodman) attempts to steal their home, Peter and the Clock family must work together to see the rightful owners get their property back.

The Borrowers is your basic good vs evil plot where both sides are trying to get their hands on something: in this case a will. There isn’t a great deal going on in terms of narrative but there is certainly enough action squeezed in to make it feel worthwhile. Whilst searching for the document, evil lawyer, Ocious Potter, discovers Arriety and Peagreen and swiftly calls in an exterminator. This leads to a frantic cat and mouse chase where the two humans seek to destroy the tiny children. There’s a lot of children’s movie violence on display here where nobody really gets hurt but the threat is clear. There’s potential gassing, electrocution, drowning, burning, falling and much more besides. Watching it now, it seems quite vicious for a kid’s movie but, I guess, 90s children like myself must have been made of sturdier stuff. The film keeps quite a good pace and is always moving from one big set piece to another. It is constantly entertaining.

I can’t necessarily say the film has aged well over 20 years but, for the most part, the special effects hold up. It’s one of those films that has a lot in there but it never really dominates. It is the overly CGI’d stuff that ages the worst and, thankfully, most of this is worked around using camera trickery. What is really wonderful about this film, though, is how charming it is. It may have been amped up for cinema but there is still a great sense of Britishness here. The films location is, when you really look into it, kind of confusing but, thanks to the set design, it doesn’t matter. This all just exists in a weird reality where Americans and English people live without any question as to where or when they are. This is just a storybook town where logic doesn’t matter at all. It also boasts an incredible, if truly 90s, cast. Broadbent and Imrie are wonderful as the Clock parents and, I must say, it never gets old seeing a very young Draco Malfoy get trapped in a milk bottle. Then you have cameos from the likes of Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie and Ruby Wax. There’s just something so lovely about this film that stays true to the original source whilst also giving a new generation of children the loud noises and danger they expected.

TBT – The World’s End (2013)

TBT – The World’s End (2013)

So, after my big spiel yesterday about a fresh start and uploading more content my bloody laptop has decided to have a huge breakdown. It means I’m having to find whatever means necessary to post today’s TBT whilst also figuring out I can put my questionable computer skills into good use to save it. At the very least I’ll do better than my University flatmate who managed to blow my PC whilst trying to save his own, pretty ancient machine. Anyway, enough of my technological woes. I’ve managed to get access to the internet without having to type a lengthy review on my phone. A prospect I really wasn’t looking forward to. It’s bad enough having to type the captions for my Instagram posts. I don’t know if I just have particularly chubby fingers but my iPhone keyboard clearly isn’t made for me to use. I honestly don’t understand how people can write anything longer than a tweet on a touchscreen. Now I realise that I’ve gone full Grandma pretty quickly here but, as I’ve mentioned a lot recently, I’m starting to feel my age a bit. It is exactly 5 months til I turn 30 but, in my head, I still believe that I’m 16. It’s not the ageing itself that I feel upset about; I’ve always been something of an old woman so am really looking forward to having a valid excuse to stay inside playing scrabble all day. It’s just that I’ve done so little in the last 30 years. I’ve had the same job since I was 16 and, if my recent applications are anything to go by, I’ll be hanging on to it for some time to come. I know I’m a fully fledged adult now but, surely, this is too son for a mid-life crisis? I haven’t even learnt to drive yet so I don’t know how I’m going to fulfil the necessary requirement of buying a sports car.

Perhaps it is my current mood of reevaluating my life that convinced me to watch The World’s End again? Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been pretty obsessed with Edgar Wright since I watched Baby Driver? Whatever the reason, I felt that I needed to give the film another watch. My love of the British director isn’t a new thing and I’ve been a fan of his work since I first watched Spaced way back when. I, like pretty much every living human being ever, adored the first two films in, what has affectionately been dubbed, the Cornetto trilogy. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two of the greatest British comedies of the last few years and have never really been equalled since. So I was looking forward to seeing what Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg came up with next. Unfortunately, back in 2013, I came out of the film fairly disappointed. I don’t know whether it was the darker tone or the increase in special effects but something felt off about it. As far as I was concerned I was never going to see it again.

As it turns out, I’m super glad that I did. The World’s End is an incredibly clever film that manages to be both incredibly funny and very shrewd about modern society. There is plenty of commentary about the “Starbucking” of the British pub and loads of digs at the teenage male ego that never really disappears. It feels incredibly different from the previous two films but it also feels like a natural end to the trilogy. This is about a group of men facing the realities of life and the very different ways that they approach it. I guess in my current state of introspection made it easier to relate but I can’t help but feel a little kinship with Simon Pegg’s Gary King. I mean I’m not going to face my current crisis by trying to sink 12 pints in one night but I get where the fear is coming from.

It is Gary’s realisation that his life peaked on a night in June in 1990 that prompts him to round up his old friends and finish the pub crawl they failed to complete as teenagers. Unlike Gary, the rest of the group have accepted their maturity and are all seemingly happily married with children or experiencing professional success. They take a little persuading but, as we come to understand, there is no point arguing with Gary. The five men return to their home town with the intention of drinking one beer in each of the 12 pubs on the Golden Mile. However, upon returning to Newton Haven they uncover a secret that’s set to derail their plans. What started out as a group of childhood friends reminiscing over a pint quickly descends into as science-fiction horror that invokes some great classic films.

The opening to The World’s End is the film’s main let down. The process of ‘getting the band back together’ takes a bit of time and messes with the pace. It isn’t until the boys are, literally, on the road that everything starts falling into place. Edgar Wright, as usual, is an expert at keeping things moving and manages to make even the most mundane things seem like events to get excited about. This film has the same Wright look and feel that keeps fans coming back for more. The World’s End is a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of underwhelming blockbusters. It is a film that is full of joy and has been made for the sole purpose of entertainment. Even with an added budget and greater scope, the film never manages to lose the heart and soul that has been such a key part of the entire trilogy.

Pegg and his co-stars, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, make a wonderful group and, despite all of the great action sequences, I found myself wanting some more moments of them interacting. This is a group of men who, in their own ways, are unhappy with their lots in life and haunted by their past. Their angry conversations around a pub table with a pint in hand are wonderful. Although, it is not something that is lost in the massive and incredibly impressive action sequences that come thick and fast towards the film’s finale. It is a film that never loses sight of what it is or what it wants to portray. It may be making broader commentaries but The World’s End is a film full of friendship and love. Like the Wright/Pegg predecessors, it is a wonderfully British film that tackles a traditional film genre in a unique but highly joyous way. I’m glad I gave this a second watch. It’s the kind of film that only improves with further viewings.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Mindhorn (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Mindhorn (2017)

I guess I’ve always had a bit of a weird sense of humour but, as I get older, it’s becoming more and more obvious to m that people are just nodding politely whenever I’m trying to be funny. Years ago, my twin sister prepared me to meet her boyfriend for the first time by uttering the phrase “don’t be weird”. There’s nothing quite like sisterly love, eh? So, yeah, you could say I’m a bit strange at times. I blame television. Okay, I blame the television I grew up watching. I was a huge fan of weird British comedies like Spaced, The Adam and Joe Show, Alan PartridgeThe League of Gentlemen, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Peep Show, and, most importantly for the purposes of this post, The Mighty Boosh. Now, and I feel super fucking old having to write this, it’s been 10 years since the final episode of the show aired and the pair have gone on to other things. Noel Fielding has entered the murky, innuendo filled world of baking shows whilst Julian Barratt has done bits and bobs in films, television, and theatre. Maybe its just his Northern charm but I have always absolutely adored Julian Barratt. I knew plenty of girls around my age who were major fans of Vince Noir’s face. Personally, I was always a bit in love with Howard Moon. So, when Mindhorn was announced I was beyond excited. Of course, being as useless as always, I never got round to watching it… until now.

From what I can recall, Bruce Mindhorn first made an appearance in The Mighty Boosh radio show as a poet taking part in a talent competition. Clearly, since then, he’s gone through a bit of an identity crisis and rebranded himself as the greatest law enforcer on the Isle of Man. Detective Bruce Mindhorn, gifted with a cybernetic eye that could see the truth, was the star of a hit 1980s tv cop show played by actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt). Caught up in the wave of popularity that came with his role in the show, Richard left the Isle of Man to make it in Hollywood. Cut to 25 years later and Richard is a shadow of the man he once was but, thanks to a handy murder, he is about to be given an opportunity to turn his life around. A young girl’s body has been found and the deluded prime suspect is demanding to speak to Detective Mindhorn. Can Richard get back into character and help the police capture their man? Or will his quest for fame hinder the investigation?

Written by and starring Barratt and Simon Farnaby, Mindhorn isn’t exactly what you’d call cutting edge. We’ve seen the basic premise of a washed-up former star getting one last chance for redemption countless times. The plot is hardly a stretch but it does provide some fun. It introduces us to the weird, slightly awkward and occasionally laugh out loud funny world of Richard Thorncroft and, despite being incredibly similar, it’s still ever so slightly better than 2013’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. A great deal of the humour comes thick and fast in the opening scenes where we learn the history of Bruce Mindhorn and the people associated with the show. The spoofs on classics like Bergerac and Six Million Dollar Man are spectacular and you can well believe, now more than ever, that a show that insane would have been broadcast. Throughout the film there are hints as the same kind of zany humour that filled all 3 series of The Mighty Boosh but, kind of, more rooted in reality. I’m not going to pretend the jokes hit every single time but there is enough comedic energy to keep driving the meagre plot forward.

What absolutely helps is that all of the actors tackle their roles with aplomb. Julian Barratt’s clearly doesn’t give a shit about anything but making people laugh. Up for anything, his portrayal of Throncroft is both hilarious and strangely touching. The obvious narrative wouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does if you didn’t, despite everything, actually give a shit about this guy. As he slowly realises what an arse he’s been, you’ll find all of that initial annoyance fading away. His co-writer is on less solid ground as Thorncroft’s ex-stuntman, Clive, thanks to a Dutch accent that is only marginally better than the one last heard in Austin Powers: Goldmember but you’ve got to give him props for happily walking around the Isle of Man topless and wearing denim short shorts. Russell Tovey puts every effort into his role as The Kestrel, the deluded young man who the police are chasing and holds his fair share of the laughs. Steve Coogan pops his head up as Thorncroft’s ex-costar who found insane fame thanks to a spin-off from the original show. It’s hardly Coogan’s best or most memorable work but it sure beats anything he did in the early 2000s (*cough* The Parole Officer *cough*).

Which, ultimately, is fine. Mindhorn is an uneven and kind of mediocre comedy that will appeal to fans of Barratt and those who miss the glory days of 70s cop shows. It is, in a way, a warning to the idea of nostalgia and fandoms that never quite finds its voice enough to relay its message. What is does, for the most part, is manage to be funny. Not as much as it would have liked but, you know, God loves a trier. And yes, it does have the whiff of a 30 minute TV episode that has been stretched out for the big screen but, aside from a few plot strands that do nowhere, it’s super easy to mask the smell. Mindhorn won’t be for everyone, I realise, but, after dismal big screen appearances from both Alan Partridge and David Brent in recent years, Barratt has managed to move his brand of comedy to film. Yes, this is very different from a Mighty Boosh movie but, maybe, that’s why it works as well as it does. This film isn’t trying to be fresh or relevant. It just wants to make you laugh and, goddammit, it occasionally will do.

TBT – Prometheus (2012)

TBT – Prometheus (2012)

I’m going to be honest, as much as I’ve defended Prometheus to people it’s a film that I had, until very recently, only watched once and that was just after it was released on DVD. Yes, I didn’t even watch it in the cinema. That, obviously, hasn’t stopped me feeling qualified to defend it and, if there’s one thing you can be absolutely sure of about me by now, I won’t back down in an argument regardless of how much I know/remember about a topic. Especially if I think I’m morally superior. And, when it comes to Prometheus, I am definitely on the moral high ground. A lot of people I know have unduly criticised this film because it wasn’t what they were expecting. It’s a similar situation to the time I nearly ruined an old friendship because of the film Hugo: they hated it because they thought it was going to be a kid’s adventure instead of a love-story to cinema. People were so desperate for another Alien that anything else was bound to be torn apart. It’s nonsense. Ridley Scott always made his intentions for the film super clear and warned audiences not to go in with any stupid expectations. Is it the film’s fault if they didn’t listen and just wanted another Sigourney Weaver type killed massive black alien creatures? No. Look, I’m not a stubborn monster who isn’t willing to listen to people’s reasoned arguments about why it’s a terrible film. I myself think it has a few major issues. However, if you’re only going to negatively compare it to one of the best films of all time… well, let’s just say, in my head nobody can hear you moan.

Prometheus had a lot to live up to when it was first released. It was Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise and it was our chance to finally understand more about the history of the alien corpse that the crew of the Nostromo discovered in the first film. It promised to set us on a path that would answer a lot of questions that have been raised over the years. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a prequel but a film that is related to the later films whilst being a story in its own right. It exists in the same universe but don’t expect too many moments of face-hugging or chest-bursting. Especially after Damon Lindelof got his hands on the first draft and erased as many Alien-isms as possible. Prometheus, as the name would suggests, deals with humanity’s relationship with their creators. Prometheus was the Titan who went against the wishes of the Gods and gave mankind fire. For that act of treason, he was banished and punished by the Gods. He gave humanity fire and was then forced to have birds eat his liver every day for eternity. So, if there’s one thing that the crew of the Prometheus ship should know, you don’t fuck with your God/Gods.
Regardless, the crew set out on a journey to discover where they came from. After discovering various cave paintings depicting mankind worshipping God-like figures and a mysterious star chart. They decide to follow the map and track the beings, who they dub The Engineers, to the distant moon LV-223. After receiving funding from the Weyland Corporation, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead the mission to try and find the creatures they believe created mankind. They are, naturally, joined by a whole host of staple sci-fi supporting characters. The gruff and distant Commander (Charlize Theron), the laid back but dependable Captain (Idris Elba) and the naive biologist and clearly destined to be the first to die (Rafe Spall).
Most importantly, in terms of both plot and scene stealing, is the mega creepy android, David (Michael Fassbender). He was created to be as human-like as possible and is more than capable of feeling those pesky emotions that most robotic creatures tend to avoid. It clearly spells trouble and, despite everyone else being unable to see it, David obviously has his own secret agenda. Fassbender is the breakout star of the show and brings a new level of fucking creepy to androids. Everything about the performance works to make David seem more inhuman and uncanny. It’s amazing. 
Less outstanding are the rest of the performances. I’m afraid, no matter how much I love her, I never really got behind Noomi Rapace in this role. She never quite sells the character or her relationship with fellow scientist Dr Holloway. I realise that we’re trying to avoid comparing this with its predecessors but, when you’re part of the franchise that invented badass, sci-fi women, Prometheus needed Dr Shaw to really pack a punch. She doesn’t. Equally, Charlize Theron is kind of thrust into a underwhelming role where she has little to do other than (SPOILER) die in the most unnecessary way possible, What is it with people not being able to run away from something properly? She and Rickon need to start a club. 
Anyway, that’s not to say that Prometheus doesn’t have some good moments. It’s not that the characters are completely underwhelming, it’s just that they don’t feel as developed as they need to be. And that’s not to say that we needed hours of background and context for them. We know basically fuck all about the crew of the Nostromo in Alien but they felt more like cohesive characters than a lot of these ones. The only one who comes close to Fassbender is Idris Elba’s captain but even he can only do so much with so little. Prometheus falls down under the weight of it’s own expectations. It wanted to do so much that the important details suffered. It was great that Ridley Scott wanted to explore the background of this universe and go a little existential. However, it was huge task. Somewhere along the way it became too much. 
The narrative shows promise but has so many twists, turns and unanswered questions that it feels a little shoddy. Now, I did like the open ending and the secrets that were left unrevealed but it still felt like it wasn’t enough. There is too much predictability at play here and a lot of the dialogue is just awful. There’s so much going on and it never feels like it all forms one major plot. It’s too fragmented and separate. There needed to be more clarity. The big action and horror set-pieces are great but, even with these bursts of excitement, there is no real momentum to this film. It doesn’t feel like it’s moving anywhere and it’s easy to get distracted along the way. It wastes more time on myths and legends that don’t matter than in answering the questions we wanted answers to. It’s still watchable, though. Of course, that is mostly down the fantastic design and Fassbender’s haunting performance. Ridley Scott can still pull some great sci-fi moments out of his hat but this film needed a much stronger script. I commend the idea of what this film should have been but Prometheus could never have achieved everything it set out to be… so it didn’t.