The Hateful Eight

hateful eight

They’re pretty vile, I’ll give you that.

Tarantino’s Hateful Eight are a horrible bunch of misfits, ne’er-do-wells and sociopaths dressed up in a folksy Western cloak. They’re vile, they’re murderous and they are without any discernible moral compass.

They are, in other words, the standard cast of any Tarantino movie and perhaps that’s why I found it hard to buy into The Hateful Eight. Do I really want to be watching endless Tarantino reworkings of Tim Roth or Samuel L Jackson, no matter how entertaining I might find them? Do I not need to be challenged? Should I really sink into my Tarantino bubble and relax into my dose of gratuitous graphic violence, secure in knowing that it has been delivered by the Greatest Living Cinephile?

Would it not be a wonderful thing to enjoy The Hateful Eight in the certainty that Quentin Tarantino has probably peppered it it with hundreds of knowing insider jokes? Many, many filmic homages?  Countless intimidating arty allusions?

No. It wouldn’t. I just want to be at the pictures.

I’m a bit of a philistine. I’m one of those people who like to just see a  movie and enjoy it. In other words, I’m one of just about everybody.  I just like to enjoy a movie without people trying to turn it into Art.

It’s a picture. Enjoy it or don’t enjoy it. That’s up to you. Never mind the Big Art.

So what about The Hateful Eight?

Well, we can say that it’s definitely Tarantino. It’s brutal. It’s cartoonish. It’s gratuitously violent, which is not normally a thing I’d object to, except that it really is gratuitously violent.  Really. It is. Do not go to see this movie if gratuitous violence upsets you.

If you enjoy vast biblical expanses of bleak, beautifully-executed 70mm cinematography and magnificent orations by Samuel L Jackson, go to this movie. If you enjoy absurd, unnecessarily graphic violence, go to this movie. If you like knowingly-staged tableaux, or even tableaus, go to see this picture because when it all comes down to dust, this is a stage production. Once you disregard the introductory hour, this is a mannered, carefully considered play with all the action taking place in  single room. This is Agatha Christie in Wyoming.

Who else wrote about Wyoming in the modern era? Of course it was Annie Proulx who produced the defining collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range, and all the essential elements are here, apart from the blood bay: the man-eating horse.  What a shame Tarantino didn’t think of putting a man-eating horse into a story that contains every other single absurdity, including the magnificent Bruce Dern as an ancient, embittered Confederate general.

Bruce Dern!

Nobody in this film is likeable. You want them all to die and they do their best to satisfy your wishes. They genuinely are a horrible, bunch. You find yourself wishing that movies could become truly interactive so that cinemas could hand out virtual guns along with 3D glasses and you could simply murder your most detested characters there and then. But in the case of The Hateful Eight, things could turn a little ugly. Not only would you want to murder the entire cast of the film with your virtual gun, but you’d probably want to track down the director and give him a couple of virtual slugs in the virtual skull while you’re at it.

What did I make of The Hateful Eight?

I don’t know. Violence porn, perhaps. Tarantino self-gratification. Geek cinema. This film probably contains more cinema references than a hatful of PhD theses, but all I want is a cinematic experience.

Did I get it? Yes. I got a cinematic experience.

Was it rewarding? Well, that depends how you frame the question. I saw a film that contained many arresting images and events. I did not see a film that made much sense to me.

To that extent, I suppose, The Hateful Eight has to go in the bin, for me at least.

Naturally, you’re free to enjoy it and to tell me what a fool I am for thinking otherwise.



Star Wars – the Force Awakens

I can’t tell you anything about Star Wars – The Force Awakens, in case I accidentally give you a spoiler. I’m not even sure if it’s ok to tell you that I went to it with my young lad in case you might deduce something. Cross-generational appeal, therefore this, therefore that, damn you Bock for spoiling the film, that’s it now I won’t bother going thanks very much for ruining it.

What I can tell you is that it has actors in it, there was a director and when you go to the cinema, they will project it on a large reflective screen for you in return for a modest amount of money.

star wars force awakens

I suppose it’s all right to tell you that Star Wars involves protagonists, antagonists, dramatic devices, obstacles to overcome, conflicts and resolutions but I can’t go further than that in case you come to my door and impale me with a light-sabre for spoiling the story.

Naturally, there are Stormtroopers wearing spiffy white armour that does absolutely nothing. The Stormtroopers fall down dead just like everyone else does when they’re shot, forcing us to ask very hard questions about the evil people who control them.

Why do they spend good money on armour that does nothing? Are they all about the style?

Do they not realise the armour is useless? If so, what does this say about their technical standards?

Why don’t they buy better armour for their Stormtroopers? It can’t be cheap to train these guys so why lose them so easily in battle?

But enough of trivial matters. I’m only talking about this because I’m afraid to tell you anything about the actual story in case I spoil it for you. I can’t even tell you the name of the main actors in case you accidentally figure something out so instead, let’s stick with minor irrelevant matters. Forget the Stormtroopers. We all know that Stormtroopers are as dispensable as Bond henchmen, so let’s turn our thoughts to other improbabilities, such as winged spacecraft having to bank in order to turn in the vacuum of Space.

Or noise. X-wings and TIE fighters making noise in a place where sound doesn’t exist. Bah! That’s all right too. It’s a movie. If I can believe a death-star exists I can surely swallow the idea of a screeching, banking fighter howling through the empty void. After all, I have no huge complaint about The Force, so why would I strain at the gnat of incorporeal sound?

Is there anything at all I can tell you about this Star Wars without giving away the plot?

Well, there are some famous people in it and people still battle with swords made of coloured light which does seem a little silly. Never bring a knife to a gunfight, as the old saying goes, but they seem happy enough with the well-worn trope, presumably because the knightly thing needs to survive. And that reminds me of something I can tell you. Brienne of Tarth is in it, but only as a person in a shiny mask. Still, it’s Brienne of Tarth. You just know it. Maybe.

There are cute droids. There are drunken aliens. There are huge explosions, there are battle scenes and there are light-sabre fights as you would expect. There are gigantic planet-disintegrations and evil masterminds saying Gaaaahhh! and Bring them before me!

There is no irritating and borderline-racist Jar-Jar Binks, you’ll be glad to know.

Apart from that, I can tell you very little for fear of being light-impaled, and therefore I’m left with very little to say apart from this: I loved it. My offspring, watching it again, loved it even more than he did the first time. I’ll probably go back and see it again.

That’s all I’m authorised to say apart from FN 37.


PS. Sceilig Mhichíl looked amazing but I hope they did all the shooting they needed to while they were on the rock. They won’t be getting up there again.


Crime Film

Escobar – Narcos Season One

I don’t know what it was. It could have been the busy weekend, it could have been laziness or it could have been straightforward getting old, but for some reason I began to feel tired and drowsy, an overwhelming sense of lassitude enveloping me and I realised there was nothing for it but to go for a snooze.

Not a power nap. I needed a real, full-on sleep though it was only 7 pm.  Snoring, sweating, the full nine yards.

I hit the sack and slept like a dead man for three full hours until my eyes popped open like Dracula with a stake poised above his heart, temporarily undead and unlikely to sleep for the foreseeable future.

What ya gonna do?

What else can you do?

narcosI started watching the first episode of Narcos, a treat I’d been holding in store for just such a moment.

Now, I did actually know about Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. I knew what a smart operator he was. I knew about Escobar’s posturing as a Robin Hood figure and I knew that, on a certain level, his activities benefited the poor in his own comuna. I knew he made vast sums of money by smuggling cocaine to the USA where he found a ready market and I knew he was a violent, ruthless criminal.  But I didn’t realise how vast his fortune was or how extreme his capacity for violence. I didn’t fully grasp the sheer scale of his activities, almost, though not quite, rivalling the power of a sovereign state.

I knew about the US government’s involvement in South and Central America, or some of it, at least.  I knew, for instance, about the influence of National Fruit and Nabisco on the murdering elites of Nicaragua and El Salvador. I knew about Ollie North’s adventures with the Contras and I knew about the CIA killing of Chile’s democratically elected president, Allende.  But I’m not sure I knew quite what a ferment of anti-communist paranoia the Reagan-era US embassies were, to the exclusion of all other considerations. Despite the manifest stupidity of US policy south of the border, I’m not sure I realised quite how dim-witted and ham-fisted it was, though later examples, most notably in Iraq should have reminded me.

Narcos is narrated by a US spook in Colombia, a DEA officer operating in an extra-judicial capacity, usurping the role of police in a sovereign country. It traces the tensions between the American embassy and a Colombian government determined to protect its autonomy despite US pressure. It illustrates the utterly insane Reaganist obsession with communism in the face of genuine threats like the vast coke trade that was destroying the American streets. It shows how the administration chose to sacrifice its youth to drug addiction rather than divert its focus from a spurious political bogey-man.

Escobar wasn’t a monster and the show properly doesn’t portray him as one, since monsters only exist in comic books. Real people do monstrous things. Real men like Escobar, who love their children, their mothers, their wives, their cousins, do dreadful things and Escobar was undoubtedly a ruthless man willing to carry out cold-blooded murderous acts in order to protect the  empire he’d built up. But to call him a monster would only relieve us of the responsibility to think about what he did. It would allow us to retreat into a world of cartoon certainty populated by cartoon bad guys and cartoon good guys. In other words, the cartoon world of current US foreign policy that has brought us Afghanistan, Iraq and latterly Syria.

Escobar wasn’t a monster. Escobar was a murderous, violent criminal but he had moments of compassion, moments of generosity and moments of love along with moments of savagery, cruelty and barbarity, exquisitely portrayed by Wagner Moura, who not only had to gain 40 pounds for the role but also had to learn Spanish, though that was probably easy enough for him, being Brazilian.

Narcos invites us to consider the parallels between Pablo the Colombian drug dealer and the great geo-political forces he barely realises he’s provoking. He sees himself as a monarch. He sees himself as a benefactor to his people. He regards himself as a feudal prince and everything that follows is directly as Nicolo Macchiavelli might have advised him.

Pablo Escobar would have prospered very well in 15th century Venice or in 20th century America, if only he had been born into the Patrician ruling class of that classless society. After all, the only difference between Escobar’s brutality and ruthlessness and that of the USA has been a matter of scale, as Narcos makes clear to anyone watching with an analytical eye.

But of course, you can watch it on a different level and just take it as pure entertainment.  It’s up to you.

Leave aside the parallels and the allegories, strip out the analysis and Narcos still stands up as one serious heap of but-gustin’, chair-grippin’, breath-holdin’ shoot-em-up fun.

I love Narcos.

But now, suddenly, it’s five in the morning and power-naps mean nothing. Shit.



Review. The Martian – spuds in space

Watching The Martian won’t rot your teeth.  Despite the sugary sentimentality, all the sweetness is artificial, derived scientifically from Martian potatoes and it’s just as well the sugar isn’t real, because otherwise this film could single-handedly cause a pandemic of obesity and diabetes.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with The Martian. It’s engaging, it’s entertaining and it offers a welcome break from the clichéd stereotype of technologists as one-dimensional, socially-dysfunctional obsessives. It’s exciting, it’s gripping and it’s visually magnificent.  Even the cheesy 70s disco soundtrack works, though it comes across at times as a bit too self-aware, a bit too knowing, but it doesn’t offend and sometimes it provides a little chuckle of mild amusement.

Remarkably for Hollywood, the science is real, most of the time, and when it isn’t that’s because Scott chose to depart from reality as, for example when he decided not to bother replicating the low Martian gravity. He was right.

Matt Damon’s portrayal of Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut, is deadpan and laconic, as it should be. His video-diary – a good solution to the problem of an actor alone and strangely reminiscent of Spencer Tracy’s Fish – keeps us entertained until it doesn’t. Nobody wants to soldier through another Silent Running, with Bruce Dern (a botanist, of all things!) becoming ever more gloomy on his solitary journey into the void, but Watney’s relentless wise-cracking and the interminable joke about the bad disco music eventually grow as predictable as the endless Martian  sands.

The problem is director Ridley Scott’s unremitting determination to make the viewer feel good at all times, using every cheesy plot device, every wise-cracking dialogue cliché and every grouchy-but-likeable Chief of Complicated Stuff.  Not to mention the implausibly sympathetic Chinese space agency.

We didn’t know any of these people when the film ended. We didn’t even know Mark Watney, the central character, despite his existential predicament. We start out learning how smart he is, how tough and how resilient.  He’s the first man to grow spuds on Mars. He’s a space pirate. But he doesn’t evolve, he doesn’t develop, he doesn’t change, apart from the spectacular physical wasting Matt Damon underwent.

None of the other characters is more than a cipher.  The hard-ass PR lady. The gruff but kind-hearted head of NASA. The nerdy geek who sleeps all night in his office trying to think up a mathematical solution to the problem.

There wasn’t even a crudely-drawn bad guy to provide some dramatic tension.

It’s probably no accident that The Fonz pops up in the middle of the film for some added light relief because in the end that’s what the Martian is:  Happy Days in Space.

The Martian fonz happy days



Film Religion

Dracula is dead

Say what you like about Count Dracula.  He might have had his faults, but a lack of good manners was not one of them.

And by Dracula, I mean of course the effortlessly aristocratic Christopher Lee.  The one.  The only film incarnation of the world’s most beloved vampire.
Christopher Lee

I know there were other Draculas, including that fella in the BBC series that the internet forgot, and of course there was Kinski who contributed the avatar here for quite a while until it turned out he was just another pervert.

In an interesting re-casting of the Muslim mantra that there is no God but God, I have to tell you there is no Dracula but Dracula, and that Dracula is of course Christopher Lee.

I’ll forgive him his ludicrous prancing around in a dress in the Wicker Man.   I’ll forgive his outrageous over-acted Saruman.  I’ll even forgive his geriatric snit when he found out that he wasn’t going to be in the final film of the trilogy, largely because I was on his side there and thought Peter Jackson was completely wrong to omit him.  As if Peter Jackson gave a rat’s arse what I thought about anything.

None of it matters.

Christopher Lee, to people of my vintage, is Dracula, despite many other credible representations, many other Draculas, in some ways more terrifying, but none as satisfying as Christopher Lee with his magnificent baritone and his imposing physical presence.

If we could have a popular vote for the satanic vampiric presence we’d most want to be terrified by, I think we’d probably elect Christopher Lee.

Let us cast a gentle veil over his roles as Bond villain and as Tolkien wizard.  Let us pass by his career as a heavy-metal performer.  Long before he accepted these jobs, he had already done his finest work and established himself as the quintessential, the one, the only lord of darkness, a demon of impeccable manners and implacable evil.

Tonight, we all mourn the loss of Christopher Lee for giving us heathens a tiny frisson of the fear experienced by true adherents to The Faith.

Imagine how scary it would be if you actually believed in this religion stuff.


Favourites Film

American Sniper: An Inglorious Bastard

Seth Rogen has walked himself into serious trouble by doing what American right-wingers hate most of all: pointing out the obvious.  All he did was observe, correctly, that American Sniper is the same story as Stolz der Nation,  the Nazi propaganda film within Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but that was enough for the non-thinking stratum of American life to rise up and attack him for hating the military, as if armies are above reproach.



There isn’t, or shouldn’t be, anything to argue about.  American Sniper is about a soldier who kills hundreds of enemies during a war of aggression, while Stolz der Nation is about a soldier who kills, eh, hundreds of enemies during a war of aggression.  Both soldiers become national icons.  Both are obsessed with killing and both are glorified to justify the actions of their governments.

Stolz der Nation depicts sniper Frederick Zoller as a hero, a killer of Germany’s enemies, while American Sniper does precisely the same for Chris Kyle.

Both films, the real and the fictional, are set in a context where the snipers kill on behalf of the aggressor nation, and both depict people who lived by the gun and died by the gun.  Both characters are murderous psychopaths.  The quasi-real-life Zoller dies when the French Jewish girl he becomes infatuated with shoots him in a cinema.  In a life only slightly more real, Chris Kyle was shot dead on a Texas shooting range.

All Rogen pointed out was that he saw similarities between Stolz der Nation and American Sniper,  but that was enough for thousands of chest-thumping NRA rednecks to descend on him like the Bible-bashing fools they are. What did Rogen do to deserve widespread abuse from people who consider shit-for-brains a valid form of intellectual discourse?  Nothing. He didn’t even say what I’ve said here.

And these are the people who think the Middle East is full of dangerous religious maniacs.

So much for the Land of Freedom.



Apparently, some clowns have attempted to put words in my mouth,  suggesting that I called everyone who fights “fundamentalist Islamic terror” a murderous psychopath.  However, in the absence of a definition of “fundamentalist Islamic terror”, I decline to engage with idiots.

On the positive side, it’s gratifying that the same clowns are regular readers of this little website.  How else, after all, would they know what I’ve been waffling about here, and even more perplexingly, why would they care? Maybe I have more influence with clowns than I thought.

The reality is that I called  Chris Kyle a murderous psychopath because that’s exactly what he was, no matter who he thought he was fighting.  In a previous life, he’d have been slaughtering Indians.


Killing Ragheads for Jesus

What Iraqis think of American Sniper



North Korea Shuts Down The Interview

They’ve really done it now, those pesky North Koreans, who didn’t exist until they were occupied by the Russians in 1945.   Not to mention those serious-minded industrious South Koreans who also didn’t exist until they were occupied by the Americans in 1945.

Before that, they were simply Koreans, even though they’d been occupied by the Japanese for the preceding 35 years and of course, if nobody had invaded them, the chances are that North Korea wouldn’t now be ruled by the latest iteration of a family of lunatics started by Kim Il Sung, a Soviet Army officer and puppet of Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s detested secret police head.

team america

That’s geopolitics for you.  It’s hard to figure out, but as they say these days, we are where we are.  Kim Il-Sung begat Kim Jong-Il who was even crazier than his dad.  As crazy as a bag of rats on acid. This was the character, back in 2003, who threatened to fire nuclear missiles at Japan, and the thing that made his threat credible was that everyone knew he actually had nuclear missiles, unlike that other despicable despot, Saddam Hussein who turned out to have nothing.

So, faced with a choice between an unstable lunatic who possessed weapons of mass destruction and a completely sane dictator who did not, the decision was obvious, wasn’t it?  The USA and Britain invaded the guy with no weapons but who had loads of oil.  That’ll show ’em.

One thing it showed Kim Jong-Il is that the badly misnamed West would walk a wide step around him as long as he continued to rattle his metaphorical sabre, much as you’d avoid a crazy with the thousand-yard-stare who was accidentally served in your local.

As a huge movie buff, Kim Jong-Il must have been deeply hurt by Team America but to his credit he kept the pain inside although he clearly wasn’t able to hide it from the latest Dear Leader, Kim Jong Un, the newest in a short line of lunatics, though this isn’t necessarily all bad, I’ll have you know.

Somebody hacked Sony’s computers.

And somebody has issued a threat to everyone who attends showings of The Interview, though we’re not sure this is the same somebody.

We also know that Sony has caved in to threats from persons unknown and withdrawn the film from release, even on line, presumably for fear somebody might bomb the internet.

What does all that add up to?

In the first place, it amounts to complete stupidity by Sony, even if they now sit on a guaranteed cast-iron classic that will sell out when they finally release it, even if it turns out to be a heap of shit.  But what could you expect from a Japanese company anyway?   They’re not Murkans.  They don’t have Bruce Willis, Christian Bale, Stephen Seagal or Jake Gyllenhaal to kick those gook midgets’ asses.  Sony are not part of Hollywood and besides, they’re the ones with the nuclear missiles pointed at them, just as they were in 2003.

Maybe they’re thinking, Here’s Dear Leader III.  He’s as mad as a box of frogs, he’s holding a six-shooter full of nuclear bullets and his hand is twitching.  And besides, we did occupy his country brutally, all those years ago.

Hollywood meanwhile is thinking, Fuck you, Sony.  That’s our hard-ass heroes flushed down the toilet. So what if a couple of movie-theaters get blown up?  We can make a movie about it and send in a crew of fearless bad-guy killers.  And make a gigantic fortune from even more jingoistic fervor.  And maybe invade somewhere!

Who knows?  Maybe Sly Stallone will come out of retirement to defend America against this undemocratic attack on popular entertainment.

On the other hand, as I said, North Korea’s intervention in popular culture is not necessarily a bad thing.  Do you think we could convince Kim Jong Un to do something about Kanye West?



Film war

At the Movies : Fury

If your head explodes, is that still technically decapitation? mused my son, Bullet as we left the cinema.

I suppose if you’re left headless at the end of the incident then yes, technically and factually it’s decapitation, since you are now without  your head, whereas before the gruesome event you had a perfectly good working head, complete with jaws, teeth, eyes, brain, ears, nose and possibly a little facial hair.

True, he agreed, as we continued to ponder the experience that was Fury.

You know what I’m wondering?


Why?  Why did they make that film?

Good question, said Bullet.

I mean, it’s another standard WW2 movie .  

True, agreed Bullet.

With heroic Americans slaughtering ineffectual Nazi troops by the hundred.

Ah now, Father, protested my son.  I think you’re being a little hard on it.

brad pitt fury

He’s right, of course.  I was being a little hard on it, but not much.  It’s true this was no Kelly’s Heroes, featuring a tank crew of misfits including a wisecracking Telly Savalas clown, led by an anachronistic hippie.  Instead, we had a tank crew of misfits with names like “Gordo” Garcia and “Coon-Ass” Travis, led by Brad Pitt playing the same character he revealed to the world in Inglourious Basterds, except that in Fury, he doesn’t play Aldo Raine.  His character is called Wardaddy, making him sound like some insane 1940s hip-hop dj, and leaving open the possibility that this was some sort of insider-joke hat-tip to Donald Sutherland’s eponymous hippie.  However, that’s probably where comparisons end, since the characters in Kelly’s Heroes are comic-book cartoons whereas the characters in Fury are, well, comic-book cartoons but with an overlay of darkness and an almost complete lack of any moral compass.

For that matter, very few people in this film have any moral standing at all, and maybe that was the point of making it.  Maybe, as Leonard Cohen once wrote, there is no decent place to stand in a massacre.  Certainly there is a little frisson of realisation that the Yanks in this story are now the invaders, destroying pretty little German villages and towns, ruining the lives of real people because that’s what total war is, and yes, it’s true that they’re burning their way across Germany because Hitler won’t surrender, but on the other hand, who would not fight to the death to repel an invading army?

I did like all the graphic violence, and especially the very satisfying and frequent head-explosions as people are struck by large-calibre lead in the countless firefights that punctuate this movie.  And it sounds and looks the way a war movie should look and sound, with lots  of deep thudding as heavy machine-guns pound away at the enemy.

The German tanks are positively terrifying, not to mention almost invincible, and the  sound department have come up with a truly intimidating scream as the high-velocity 88mm cannon rounds whang past the American tanks like giant, evil, armour-clad, explosive wasps.  The Americans, on the other hand, have M4s, or as the Brits called them, Shermans.  The film is careful to point out at the start in Courier typeface so you’ll know this was a long time ago, that Shermans were no match for the German tanks, but at least Brad has a Firefly, which was a Sherman fitted with a heavy cannon for destroying those pesky Krauts.

I must say I liked the thoughtful way David Ayer, the director, decided to include tracer rounds, even in daylight.  It certainly grabs your attention when you can actually see the stream of bullets, and in a way it must be an acknowledgement that for years now, we’ve become used to seeing intergalactic armies fighting each other with laser cannons, so that an invisible hail of bullets becomes an anti-climax.  Apart from the lethal whizz, obviously, and the exploding heads, and the shattered limbs, and so on and so forth unto total horror.

There’s lots to like about Fury.  I could have done without the get-outta-here-ya-big-galoot schmaltz in some of the scenes, but on the other hand, it’s a compelling depiction of men hollowed-out morally, desensitised to human suffering or even to human feeling after unremitting exposure to three years of war.  This is a firm step away from the traditional narrative of kindly GIs handing out chocolate bars and nylon stockings to the grateful kinder and Fräuleins.  These Americans are brutes who shoot prisoners in cold blood and treat the women of the conquered country like dirt.  Their objective is to defeat Hitler, and in doing so, they loot, they murder, they destroy and they move on, leaving behind a huddled population of terrified victims, but the screenplay tries too hard to make Brad Pitt the living embodiment of all these conflicting tendencies.

This is Aldo Raine with an education.  He’s a cold-blooded killer.  He’s a selfless hero.   He’s a thug. He’s a gentle soul who loves animals.  He’s a linguist.  He’s a bible scholar. He’s a respecter of women.  For me, at least, it doesn’t work.

Naturally, Brad gratuitously gets his kit off at some point in the movie, perhaps to prove that there’s life after 50.

You know, says Bullet, if I looked like that, I’d never wear a shirt.

But somehow, Brad’s face seems to have grown bigger.  He just has a lot more face than he used to in, for example, Legends of the Fall.  Lots and lots of face.  Oh well, I suppose he needs it for all those battle scars and worry lines.

Verdict?  I was never bored.  For much of the film, I was gripped by the tension of battle.  The combat scenes are downright scary, though in a different way to Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, since Ayer didn’t opt for the 24-feet-per-second cinema verité sepia graininess that characterised the battle scenes in both of those, preferring to go for visceral impact with the subliminal thud of heavy weapons fire, the tracer-lit whizz of high-velocity projectiles and of course the unheadings.  Lots and lots of unheadings and dismemberments, but remember, these aren’t real people.  Just a few dummies and some illegal immigrants..

Yes, I liked it, but not to the extent that I’d hoped for.  I won’t be raving about it to my friends, but as a good solid action thriller it’s worth going along for a look and anyway, who doesn’t like a film with real tanks in it?  Well, maybe the Germans, for a start.  I think if I happened to be German, I might find myself becoming a little sick of seeing yet another war movie showing how the Yanks smashed my country to rubble.

And yes, I know all about that Nie Wieder stuff, but this isn’t  a movie about the Holocaust.  This is just a film about World War 2.

Maybe it’s time to say, enough already?








Going to the Movies: Fury or Interstellar?

There are two films in the cinema at the moment that I want to see, and you can probably guess what both of them are if you happen to be a semi-regular here.  I said it to my beloved son Bullet but he was so up to his neck in commitments,as well as having a severe chest infection, all he could do was grunt.

Hmmmm.  What to do?

Fury can’t be missed.  It just can’t, and I won’t.   If it has tanks in it and a lot of  realistic violence, I’m there.  No apologies to bleeding-heart liberals.  Graphic violence in a war movie is my thing, for the obvious reason that war is about extremely graphic violence anyway, so what exactly is the objection?

I look forward to seeing how Brad Pitt expands his ludicrous reinterpretation of the ultra-macho Apocalypse Now Kilgore figure beyond the point he reached in Inglourious Basterds, with his utterly OTT Aldo Raine character.  Admittedly,  I might be a little previous in suggesting this, since I haven’t read any of the reviews, for the avoidance of spoilers.  For all I know, he doesn’t play Kilgore / Raine.  For all I know, he’s some sort of non-Nazi Michael Wittman, with the bulletproof craziness but without the ideology.  Or maybe he’s actually no different from any SS tank commander.   That”s the great thing about anticipation.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a movie about knitting techniques, with Brad Pitt, tanks, Nazis and explosions.

I don’t care what anyone says.  Tiger tanks were cool.  It’s true that they were killing machines, but what weapon isn’t?  Tigers were self-contained, motorised, mobile medieval castles, terrifying in every way and yet hiding an awful truth.  Tigers were deeply ill-conceived.  They were over-engineered, under-powered, fatally dependent on petrol and were only built that size to carry the truly terrifying 88 mm  cannon that could devastate any opposition in a one-on-one confrontation.  They consumed vast industrial resources compared to the American M4, or the Sherman as the Brits called it, a tank half the weight of the Tiger just like the Russian T34, 84,000 of which were churned out by  the Soviet war machine.

In many ways, you could say that the  German obsession with engineering excellence cost them the war.

But still, the Tiger is cool, and I like tank movies with Tigers in them as long as there’s no Telly Savalas.   In movies,  I also like psychopathic killers, Nazis and general murder, so what’s not to like?

Now, Interstellar threatens to be an entirely different matter.  I’m not looking for any sort of violence, stylised or otherwise.  I want to wallow in the sort of galactic speculation that animated much of my adolescent life, when I dreamed of being a cosmologist.

Hey, come on.  Who couldn’t stare up at the splash of our galaxy across the firmament and not dream of being a cosmologist?

Where’s your soul?

Who could not stare out into the void and want to know what that thing is that they’re staring at?  It’s right there in front of you:  countless billions of galaxies, each containing countless billions of stars, and every single one of those stars is like the sun, but not only that: you’re looking at them as they were millions of years ago because that”s how long it took the light to reach your eye.  You’re looking into the past, an unimaginably remote past before the first twitch  of proto-life on this rock and there it is in front of you right now.  There in front of you is a time when nothing at all lived on this rock wheeling around an insignificant minor star on the edge of an insignificant galaxy.

Out there, it’s impossible  to imagine that not only civilisations, but entire eco-systems emerged and disappeared, from sludge-life to apex predator, from slime-form to philosopher, over and over and over and over again, through the billennia.

And yet some people still think we’re the reason the universe exists.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, even though we have not the slightest inkling of how the whole thing works, we can in some way begin to understand that there is a commonality to the whole baffling melange of galaxies and dark matter.  We begin to see that perhaps what’s true for here is also true for there.  We know that, even though we are displaced from each other by unimaginable gulfs of space and time, still our galaxy and the ones on the other edge of the void are made of the same stuff because there is no other kind of stuff to make stuff from.  There are no other rules to make things work.  We still are bound by the recitation that never leaves us if we know what it means.

And so, as surely as I can recite the Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.


Just as surely, and without hesitation, I can say to you

Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium
Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen
Fluorine, Neon,Sodium,  Magnesium
Aluminum, Silicon,Phosphorus, Sulfur

These are things we drill into ourselves at an early age, and so we should since they reveal to us  the nature of our  humanity, whether it involves a desire to understand the fundamental nature of our physical substance, or the fundamental nature of our human absurdity.

Having a laugh or having a poke around reality aren’t all that different.

At this point, it seems appropriate to pause for a song from the wonderful Tom Lehrer.


But enough of this nonsense.  All I’m trying to tell you is that I hope to see two good pictures in the coming weeks and that can’t be too bad, can it?

I’m glad to say Bullet is feeling much better and we have a plan to see both of these movies before long.

Banking Film

Fat Cat Bankers Animation Crowdfunding Campaign

Now this is a crowdfunding campaign I could get behind.

Chris Brigdale is a decent enough skin who got shafted by the banks and he wants to make Fat Cat Bankers, a full-length animation about the rip-off merchants who robbed the entire world.

Here’s a trailer.

He needs £60,000 (that’s right, GBP) and he needs it fast, before the Indiegogo campaign runs out on the 30th September.  S0 far, the campaign has raised precisely zero.  Not a sausage.

I wonder if there’s enough time left to change that?

If it works, why not do another film about the Irish bankers who wrecked the economy?  They’d love that.


fat cat banker