And the woman plays the part of the anchor
Sunday 27th April 2014
Updates back to their unpredictable infrequency. Abnormal service resumed and all that. Anyway, regular readers will be assured to learn that despite abandoning my habit of updating this website, I haven't abandoned my habit of collecting of cheap DVDs although I do have to admit to having a pile of them that are still awaiting a proper viewing. So, in strict alphebetical order, here's a little list, let none of them be missed.
- Alpha Papa - Big screen outing for Alan Partridge, erstwhile TV chat show host, now earning a crust at North Norfolk Digital Radio. When one of his colleagues goes a bit 'postal' after getting the sack, it's up to Alan to save the day. Which he does, in his usual bumbling fashion. The only problem is that that bumbling fashion has also been applied to the editing process and some parts of the film don't make much sense until you view the Deleted Scenes extras on the DVD. Apart from that, the film is pretty good. Well worth checking out, in fact.
- American Horror Story - American TV series that has spawned a couple of sequel series. Fractious married couple move to LA from Boston in search of a fresh start after his affair and her miscarriage. Their teenage daughter, dragged halfway across the country, is less than happy. They get a lovely house on the cheap because the owners were were murdered. Turns out the former owners haven't left and neither have several other previous occupants who also met various sticky ends (fnaar! fnaar!) and are determined that the new family should join them.
- American Mary - Troubled medical student takes part-time job as a stripper and gets involved in the world of extreme body-modification. (Haven't we all?) After being drugged and raped at a doctors' party she uses her body-modding skills to exact a gruesome revenge. The police are soon on to her but can't prove anything. In the meantime, the disgruntled partner of one of her body-mod clients is out for revenge of his own...
- Basket Case Trilogy - Oh yes, all three Basket Case films in a handy box set. The first is a simple tale of a young man and his hideously deformed, formerly-conjoined, twin seeking revenge on the doctors that separated them when they were kids. It's a tricky thing to pull off when your deformed brother lives in a basket, gets jealous when you chat up girls and kills anyone that disturbs him. It apparently ends badly. In the second film, the pair have somehow survived the sticky ends that befell them in the first. Offered refuge in the home of some similarly-afflicted people, their newly-peaceful way of life is soon under threat from a nosey reporter. It doesn't end well. In the final film, following the carnage of the second film, the mutant "family" take off, looking for another safe haven. Once again, someone decides not to leave them in peace...
- Berberian Sound Studio - Repressed English sound engineer travels to Italy to work on low budget horror and has a torrid time. The producers refuse to pay his bills, he becomes infatuated with the lead voice actress and the horror of the film itself starts working on his subconscious. For a film in which much of the action happens off-screen or in sound only, it's actually a fairly effective little chiller.
- Dangervision: The Dangerous Brothers - An assemblage of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson's Dangerous Brothers sketches for 'Saturday Live' back in the mid-1980s. The basic template for their 'Bottom' characters, the Dangerous Brothers bash the living heck out of each other in cartoon-stylee while having no luck with jobs, women and life in general.
- Dredd - The Karl Urban-starring version of the 2000AD comic bock anti-hero Judge Dredd. Is it better than the Sly Stallone version? In a word, Yes. It could hardly have been worse but here they've captured the ultraviolence of the comic and not tried to make Dredd a particularly likeable character.
- Filthy, Richy and Catflap - And lo! Mayall and Edmondson reprise the Dangerous Brothers template for this post-Young Ones sitcom. A mere six episodes long, it details the trials and tribulations of useless, deluded actor Richie Rich as he struggles to revive his career. Along the way he's aided, abetted and often hampered by his useless agent, Ralph Filthy and his thick, violent, minder, Eddie Catflap. Slapstick violence abounds, along with some surprising cameos and some well-aimed digs at the mainstream. The Rupert Murdoch piss-take seems especially prescient...
- Frankenstein's Army - You know, given the number of ways the Nazis apparently discovered to re-animate the dead and make their soldiers invincible, I'm starting to wonder how they managed to lose the war... In this instance, the obligatory mad scientist has been combining his zombie soldiers with industrial machinery and fetish outfits to come up with the ultimate killing machines. An unfortunate Russian platoon, complete with documentary film-maker, face a battle for survival, etc, etc, in this found footage mash-up..
- Fright Night - the original version with Roddy Macdowell, not the 2008 remake. Geeky horror fan Charley discovers his new neighbour is a vampire. When none of his family believe him, Charley tries to enlist the help of TV's "Vampire Killer", Peter Vincent. Vincent, an actor not an actual vampire killer, doesn't believe him either and only agrees to help when paid by Charley's girlfriend. Turns out that not only was Charley right but this vampire isn't going to lie down without a fight...
- From Beyond - There are things lurking in the nightmare dimensions beyond this world that are hungry. Very hungry. The last thing you want to do is build a machine that will open a doorway and let them in. Needless to say, that's what our mad scientist protagonist does. D'Oh! He gets chomped by the things from beyond and his assistant ends up in a mental hospital, accused of his murder. Brave assistant persuades his sexy doctor to accompany him back to the lab to see for herself and things go horribly wrong as the mad scientist, now much mutated, returns from beyond to take our hero and heroine back to the nightmare dimensions.
- Hear My Song - The sort of gentle rom-com that Film4 used to do well back in the day. Desperate Liverpool social club owner tries to impress his fiancee's mum by getting her idol (and brief romantic interest), tenor Josef Locke, to perform. After a number of false starts, he tracks down Locke in Ireland and persuades him to travel back to England, where the authorities are waiting to interview him over some outstanding tax issues. Can Locke give his performance and escape the police...?
- Life of Pi - The film of the book of the mathematical symbol. After a string of Top 10 hits with the band, cos Theta and the Radians, Pi decides to strike out on his own. The video shoot for his solo single - 'Noah and the Ark' - goes badly wrong when the Ark sinks and he ends up stuck in a lifeboat with Donkey from Shrek, Crash Bandicoot and Tigger. Hilarity ensues until the reality of their situation strikes. With no food and no water, they face an epic struggle to survive. Only two of them will make it back to civilisation...
- Near Dark - Classic vampire-western flick from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (not that she won the Oscar for this, of course). It's the age-old tale of boy meets girl vampire, boy becomes vampire, vampire gang tries to kidnap boy's sister, boy fights back, girl vampire saves boy's sister, and they both become human again by the end.
- Outpost 2 - Sequel to Outpost, unlike Outpost 11, which has no connection to either film or to Outpost 3, which is actually a prequel to Outpost. Hopefully there won't be 7 more sequels or there will, inevitably, be confusion... Anyhoo, here we go, with the undead Nazis (again), re-animated by some infernal reality-bending machine and determined to kill anyone who comes close. This time a bunch of unsuspecting NATO soldiers stumble on the horrors of the remote bunker and end up in the inevitable fight for survival.
- Paranormal Diaries: Clophill - I had to buy this as it was set in the village where I grew up. Well, it's set in the ruined old church just up the hill from where I grew up, to be totally correct. Based on some actual facts and lot of sensationalised distortion, this fictional documentary investigates the tales of black magic and hauntings up at the old church. Starting off like an episode of 'Most Haunted', it ratchets up the tension quite effectively as the team go hunting for ghosts. Unfortunately, it blows the tension completely with a bit of a daft ending. Even the effectively spooky coda can't save it, which is a shame because it's an interesting piece, even if it is hard to like a man in a hipster trilby.
- Paris, Texas - Some Wim Wenders' brilliance in a film in which not a lot happens and the ending is quite sad. A broken man walks out of the desert, is re-united with his brother and his young son, tracks down his ex-wife, makes his peace with her and reconciles her with her son, before leaving. Harry Dean Stanton is brilliant in the lead role, despite not uttering a word for the first 26 minutes or so. Natassja Kinski hasn't looked much better and Ry Cooder's haunting soundtrack holds the piece together beautifully.
- Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows - Second outing for Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as the eponymous detective and his sidekick, Dr Watson. Again facing up to old foe Moriarty, who is up to no good, trying to spark a World War in order to make cash by selling weapons to both sides. Needless to say, our heroes thwart his plans in the nick of time, but when Holmes and Moriarty have a final showdown, it all ends badly. Or does it...?
- Sightseers - Comedy horror in which caravan fan Chris takes his girlfriend, Tina, on holiday and things go horribly wrong. After Chris fairly deliberately runs down a fellow holidaymaker who has enraged him, the body count mounts as circumstances overtake the hapless couple. Tina starts enjoying the mayhem and things spiral out of control. It all ends badly.
- Sinister - Here's a thing, when you're an investigative journalist, writing about a string of strange murders, surely the last thing you'd do is move into the house where they were committed? And if you would, then surely, if you found some evidence that was, apparently, overlooked, you'd hand it over to the cops? No? Well, you deserve everything you get.
- Star Trek - Into Darkness - the Star Trek re-boot for the 21st Century stomps all over the original 'Wrath of Khan' story with all the subtlety of a drunk tramp. Of course, with this being the parallel universe Star Trek, they can play fast and loose with characters and storylines, without having to worry about continuity. And they can "re-imagine" entire scenes from the original film to utterly change the dynamic of the Spock/Kirk relationship. Humperdink Thundersnatch makes a convincing super-warrior/villain but frankly, the rest of it is a bit pants. I'm sure the young people that it was aimed at enjoyed it, but they've probably never seen Wrath of Khan. Khaaannn! KHAAAAAAAAAAAANNN!!!!!
- This is Spinal Tap - 25th Anniversary special edition, no less, which means more extras than you really need and some pointless voice-overs. Still, there's no denying that the film is as funny as fuck and if you don't laugh then clearly you are either dead or a member of Saxon, who inspired much of the ludicrousness, according to legend. One a scale of one to ten, this one goes up to eleven.
- Total Recall - The Colin Farrell-starring version of Philip K Dick's short story 'We can Remember It For You, Wholesale'. Is it better than the Arnie version? In a word, No. Neither film is particularly good but this largely looks like one extended video game sequence. Also, it remains very much Earth-bound, with Farrell travelling to The Colony (aka Australia) via an elevator sunk through the Earth's core.
- V\H\S - Cheeky little portmanteau-type horror where some oiks get paid to burgle a house and retrieve a videotape. (Yeah, I know, who still uses videotape these days?) Anyway, on entering the house they find there are loads of vids, so they have to watch some to find the right one. Clearly, they have never seen an actual horror film themselves, because they split up to explore the deserted house, leaving one member of the gang watching alone. One member who mysteriously disappears. As does the next guy left alone. And the next, etc, etc.
- Wings of Desire - From the ridiculous (see above) to the sublime. Wim Wenders' marvellous story of angels in Berlin, observing the living, comforting the lonely and helping the dead cross over. One, Damiel, tires of the endless routine and the certainty of immortality and falls in love with a trapeze artist. Becoming human, he experiences colours, taste and pain for the first time, and, with a little help from Peter Falk, gets by. He tracks down the trapeze artist at a Nick Cave gig (but of course) and they go off to live (sort of) happily ever after..
- The World's End - Simon Pegg's good-for-nothing slacker gets the old gang back together to have a go at the legendary pub crawl that they never got to finish after the last day of school. Leaving aside the vexed questions of why didn't they have another go during the following summer, why did they all move out of town in double-quick time and why do none of them talk to each other anymore, the gang are swiftly conned into the reunion by Simon and are soon back on the old stomping ground. Sadly, the pub crawl goes a little awry once they discover that most of the population has been replaced by robots and they end up facing a battle for survival.
And that, my pretties, is that, for this update. Next time, which may not be that far away given that the football season is almost over and I'll have nowt to do on the weekends, I may regale you with tales of Ted Chippington and my adventures following him. Don't get too excited though - I only went to two gigs. Until the next time, remember to do up your trousers and keep your shoes clean.
Unreliable Musical Memories
Tuesday 25th February 2014
In terms of both live gigs and albums, the last few months have been fairly quiet. There was the Crewe Live festival way back last May, as usual, and I've been out to see a few bands, although nowhere as near as many as I used to in my heyday. Time, distance and alcohol all dull the memories now, so I've probably forgotten something splendid. Anyway, here, in no chronological order are the highlights:
Wire - Contrary old art-rockers enjoying a bit of a renaissance. My friend Charlie and I went to see them in Manchester. They were supported by Xaviers, who are a free-form improvisational trio comprising of a couple of members of Japanese noise-niks Bo Ningen and their mate, visual artist Kenichi Iwasa. Whilst that might sound as exciting as having your teeth filled without anaesthetic, they were actually pretty good. In fact, they gave us a pretty intense 30 minutes or so as you can hear if you listen to Saint Mary on their Soundcloud page. Be sure to turn it up loud. Wire, by contrast, knew exactly what they were doing and gave us a pretty tight set mostly drawn from their recent album, Change Becomes Us. There were a few classics in there from the early '80s and some work in progress stuff that will end up on the next album (hopefully due ere long). They finished the encore by being joined on stage by Xaviers for a thunderous version of 'Drill'. Fantastic.
John Bramwell - I Am Kloot frontman, appearing at the Crown Hotel in Nantwich (just a short stroll from my house) as part of the Nantwich Words and Music festival. This small-scale antidote to the madness of the Easter Jazz Festival regularly attracts some interesting names performing intimate gigs. Last year, as I'm sure you recall, I saw Mark Radcliffe doing his Family Mahone stuff. That was good but, frankly, paled alongside Sir John of Bramwell, who had us spellbound for a good ninety minutes, armed with naught but his guitar, his songs and his witty banter. Quality. So much quality, in fact, that it encouraged me to pick up a couple more I Am Kloot LPs...
Elvis Costello - A summer evening's trip to the Apollo in Manchester to catch Sir Elvis of Costello doing his 'Spectacular Spinning Songbook' stuff. We arrived somewhat early and took advantage of the local chipshop to have some tea, and the local hostelry for some pre-match drinks. We were also able to take advantage of the O2 Priority queue and got into the venue in double-quick time. Dispensing with a support act, Mr Costello took to the stage with a three-piece backing band, a go-go dancer and the mysterious Josephine (who picked the audience members who got to spin the wheel) and gave us a rip-roaring stomp through his back catalogue. The random nature of the songs selected from the spinning wheel did make the set feel a little uneven at times, and there were a number of little-heard tunes thrown in, but his surprisingly strong voice and excellent guitar work made up for that. By the two hour mark he'd long abandoned the artifice of the wheel and was picking the songs himself anyway. Personal highlights were 'Alison', 'Pills And Soap' and 'Shipbuilding' but, you know, it's Elvis Costello, so it was pretty excellent all the way through.
BoxJam - The annual all-dayer at the Box in Crewe in aid of Oxfam. It features a variety of local and not-so-local musicians, all giving their time for free in aid of a worthy cause. With it being an all-day thing you can usually just dip in and out and catch the things you want to see and do something else in between times. This year though, all the bands I wanted to see were on consecutively. First up were Photo Booth Smile, who were good but didn't give the impression they were enjoying it much. Perhaps they'd been listening to the BoxJam's official poet, like the rest of us. Then there was a short, sharp, sweet set from new band Moving Moscow. The emotional Muscovites all have pedigree from other Crewe bands and the draw, for me, was Dan Parry, ex of Sgt Wolfbanger. It's about time he had a band on the go. Herewith, a couple of tracks from their Yuletide appearance on Radio Stoke to get a feel of what they are like. Last up, Was Roy Orbison tribute act, Orbisounds. I am a massive fan of the Big O (and Roy Orbsion, fnaar, fnaar) so was keen to see this. One bloke with a guitar and a backing track and he covered more than just the Big O's songbook. He was very good. The only weird thing was that every photo I took of him came out with his face distorted. He looked like a demon wearing Roy Orbison's body, to be honest. Perhaps he was...
Crewe Live Not sure there's much point in discussing this fest now - ten months on. I enjoyed it as usual, drank too much, as usual, and now barely remember the bands that were on. It's always a civilised festival, involving not much walking, no mud and proper toilets (even if the average pub bog does resemble the old Glastonbury long drop by late Saturday night). With a wide variety of bands and musical styles on show, if you don't like a band you don't have to go far or wait long to see something else. High points for me were a blistering headline set by Rolo Tomassi on Friday, the quirky delights of ilovecolour on Saturday and a strong set from Troops of Mafeking on Saturday night. Not sure there were any low points, although there were one or two bands I can live without seeing again. The only minor disappointment was missing the wonky pop of Benjamin Bloom. I guess we all thought we could see him at this year's fest. However, with the main organiser, Toby, having departed for pastures new, we've got an anxious wait to see if the festival will be on this year. Hope it is.
Anyhoo, here's a little musical treat for y'all - a complete set by Pere Ubu live at the Sons d'Hiver festival. Worth it even if you only fast forward to the 26 min 50 second mark and watch them do the fantastic 'Breath', which is one of my favourite songs of theirs. This is followed by an amusing slap-down for a persistent heckler who has been calling for 'Non Alignment Pact'. Musicians ARE scum, it seems.
And finally, I haven't been out to see Ted Chippington since I saw him supporting The Nightingales in a pub in Shrewsbury last year, but he is on tour, supporting The Nightingales (again) during April. I'm hoping to fix up to get to a couple of the gigs. In the meantime, here is a lovely interview with him on the Quietus website. Can't. Be. Bad.
Threesome from Hell
Tuesday 28th January 2014
Just a brief update to confirm that I am still alive, just, and planning a few changes to the old website. I've been thinking that I need to make changes here, there and everywhere, anyway. Getting up at six most mornings is wearing me out and I spend most of my evenings knackered and de-motivated, so don't do anything useful. I haven't updated this site for months, haven't followed up on any of the creative ideas I've had and I'm not putting any effort in to finding a new job, which is something I've been set on for a while. Even the trashy DVDs that I usually watch by the bucket-load are stacking up... Anyhow, as a result of the continuing ennui, I've missed the opportunity to fill you all in with the fantastic things that I've done on those rare occasions when I've managed to shake off the torpor and get out of the house. Never mind though, that will all come soon. Honest.