In which a Nicholas Cage film is compared to a motorway littered with dead people.

HUAaaRRGH! I mean- what? Hello? When is Up? What colour does red smell like? Hello?

Bollocks. It’s actually happened. After twenty-three years my mind has finally succumbed to madness, snapping like brittle twigs in an autumn park. Now, like Guy Pearce’s tormented amnesiac in Memento, I’ve had to spend the last two days trying to piece together what it is that led me on Wednesday night to tear off my clothes and race through the eldritch corners of Manchester, shrieking horribly that He Has Come.

And as it turns out my spiral into the undulating maw of insanity was not caused by drugs or the Higgs boson particle, or even Sunn 0))). It was Drive Angry 3D, the latest car-crash movie to star Nicholas Cage. Now, when I say ‘car-crash’ I mean that in two respects; the first is that you can only watch this thing with the same kind of startled, macabre awe that you may normally gift a rather unseemly seven-vehicle pile-up on the M6, splintered bones and bits of children smeared across the tarmac, the other respect is much more literal in that if you don’t notice a Dodge Charger smashing hood first into something at least every two minutes then you must have been stricken blind with stupidity.

Drive Angry is so nefariously dumb it almost comes across as a scientific experiment in movie excess, the abstract being: What would happen if we gave a director an unlimited supply of explosions, cocaine and Nicholas Cage’s weird, glowering face? The answer, you would be forgiven for presuming, would be for the Earth itself to rip itself in twain and belch forth a fiery porridge of concentrated evil, and in some roundabout way you’d be right.

Because somewhere below this great ocean of stupid slumbers the ancient coelacanth of a plot. I must admit I can’t remember very much of it, shocked as I was by the twin jumper leads of Cage and Vodka. However a quick perusal of the internet gave me some indicators. Nicholas Cage is ‘Nicholas Cage’, a hard as nails career criminal with a bad attitude and even worse hair. He has just escaped Hell in order to seek revenge on a Satanic cult out to ritually sacrifice his grand-daughter, because that is simply what Satanic cults do. The cult is led by Jonah King (Billy Burke) whose pure, inept malevolence oozes out of his every pore to soak into his ridiculous silk shirt. He reminded me of Peter Stormare’s equally daft role in 8mm, which also starred Nicholas Cage, cinema’s Litmus test of quality.

Along for the ride is Piper (Amber Heard) a sassy waitress clearly impressed by Cage’s ability to beat up her boyfriend and steal her car. There isn’t any actual reason why Piper is involved beyond what must have been a very important clause in the explosions and cocaine contract involving women and the inevitable ogling thereafter. Ah well, she does play a very sassy waitress. Finally, hot on the duo’s heels comes The Accountant, played by That Guy. Y’know That Guy. The dude from the bank robbery scene at the start of The Dark Knight and I think he was in Armageddon and possibly Black Hawk Down and some other things. That Guy is actually William Fichtner, who plays his part rather excellently as the Devil’s right hand man. In fact everybody seems in on the joke in this film, from the lowliest buck-toothed redneck to the, well, the lowliest trailer-trash slag bag. Everybody that is, except Nicholas Cage, who wears a mask of constipated annoyance throughout the film and refuses to take it off.

I was seriously hoping for Cage to go full retard in this film, howling and gibbering, cursing the devil through sloppy tears of anguish. Instead he gives a comparatively restrained performance, as if this entire film acts purely as a means to solve a costly tax problem. Fuck that though, this is Nicholas Cage, Man of Action, which, as a highly evolved race capable of space-exploration and cracking the atom, is what we all really care about. So, action. Once again I can’t really remember much of it except for the aforementioned Dodge Charger driving rather furiously down a seemingly never-ending highway with an entire police force chasing after it. I do recall it being pretty good in a fuck the environment kind of way, plus there’s a fabulous scene where Cage is able to foil an ambush whilst in the throes of (admittedly not very passionate) coitus, never losing his rhythm throughout. This would have been more impressive if it hadn’t already been done in the equally dopey Shoot ‘Em Up. I can’t remember what relevance this scene had precisely, but here it is in all it’s Completely Fine and Safe For Work Especially with the Volume Turned Up glory.

Oh, look’s like it’s been taken down for copyright infringement. Oh well here’s something else you may enjoy.

I don’t begrudge the film for taking my money, I was drinking vodka after all. Also if I’d downloaded it then I would’ve missed out on all the wonderful 3D, which I honestly can’t be dicked about discussing because I said most of what I wanted to say on that subject in my Tron: Legacy review. All that the extra dimension really did is make the person next to me flinch every now and then whenever a chunk of car or pellet of brain matter came flying out of the screen. I’m sure it would be cheaper for everyone involved if they just paid the ushers to throw pop-corn kernels at us instead. Whatever, bollocks to 3D.

And, now that it’s all said and done, what did we learn? Not very much actually, except that a sequel would be excellent, especially if they called it Drive Angrier, and included 100% more of The Accountant, who was shamefully underused. Aside from, that… uh. I think I left the cinema stupider which is probably what led to the pantless shrieking incident, and for me to daub all over my room in blood-black ink: ‘IT DOESN’T MAKE A LICK OF SENSE!’

The End.

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Skins goes rural

I know I missed my weekly post for Nick’s episode, but all I have to say on that is: I’m glad that the writers have recognised the blatant homosexual nature of rugby and proceeded to create a character and indeed an hour long show around that. We all feel better about ourselves now don’t we?

This week however it’s the turn of much more interesting character and ‘farm boy’ Alo. Apparently Bristol has whopping big farms in the middle of it now, it’s news to me, but I never was very good with geography. After a slightly bizarre series of wanking events, set to the only song ever to feature the sound of someone choking on cum, the story gets started.

I found myself wondering just how ‘special’ Alo was during in this episode and praying to god that he didn’t get together with Mini who is still in mourning over Nick, the bastard, who is still in mourning over Liv. It does seem like the last two episodes of this series could just dissolve into a primal rave/orgy while Franky takes the role of voyeur/pervert androgynous bi-sexual? teen. We’ll have to wait and see on that front I suppose.

Alo is an intriguing character though and he has what one could describe as a ‘banging’ dress sense, though he did appear to be naked for most of the 45 minutes of screen time. The music I found quite a strange mix for his character, the opening song by Furr was excellent and really quite captivating, but then it descended into a mass of dub-step and electronica which I found unbecoming for such an ‘alternative’ guy, clearly the young hip douche-bag who decides on the music, I believe his name is Kyle, knows something I don’t.

Skins is slowly getting into a pattern of letting us see the family more and while it may not be what the audience is used to it’s much better drama. The conflict between Alo and his parents was great TV and I almost cried a few times. I know, I do apologise, I’m young and don’t know any better.

Next week: Grace’y’ goes a bit thespian on us probably going crazy in the process, but hey at least Skins is delivering high-culture to the masses now-a-days.


Oscar time

It’s that time of year once again where the little Golden man rears his head and I thought I’d do a very rushed prediction of what I think will be the winners in the big categories tonight. I’m an idealist so we can just strike out The Kings Speech from being in this list right now.

 

Best Picture: The Social Network

Actor in a leading role: Colin Firth

Actor in a supporting role: Geoffrey Rush

Actress in a leading role: Natalie Portman

Actress in a supporting role: Hailee Steinfeld

Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Foreign Language Film: Buitiful

Original Music: 127 Hours

Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)

Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech

Sorry for missing out the technical awards I’m in a rush here to watch Outcasts, but I think it’s going to be a bit of a mixed bag this year. Anyway the wait is almost over and we are all excited to see what  one armed puns Franco delivers so get to it.

 


Now that’s what I call a Skins episode

Volume 5.

Sex, booze, drugs, teenage trauma, what more can a girl ask for from a Thursday night show?

Liv’s episode is by far the best yet, with some class-a music to match the drugs, and a strange appearance from the man we all know and hate from the Orange adverts of yesteryear.

Fashion wise I think it may have been a bit of a disaster, I’m not sure what ‘look’ Liv is trying to accomplish but it’s all a bit top-shop circa 2007 and frankly it falls short of the cultural definition we have come to expect from this ever so popular TV programme. Yes its not real. I know, I’m upset too.

This episode though was good for real reasons too, these being that we got to see how Liv’s life is affected by her family; rather than the writers just acknowledging that other people do exist in Bristol we actually get to see them interact and shape what others do. Liv’s sister in this respect was a lovely element to the show and she is a sci-fi geek too. Yay.

Alas! Hot mystery man is revealed to be, WARNING PLOT POINT COMING UP, Nicks brother Matty, in what is an interesting turn of events. Apparently he’s a mental too so buckle your seatbelts for that one folks and I’d get ready for some smouldering glances between him and Franky before they actually get it on, in the words of Marvin Gaye. That’s what this season needs, a bit more intercourse between the group. Remember when Effy and Co went camping well these guys need that episode and then they can learn to hate each other and get over it the way true friends should; having angry sex while wasted in a place where everyone else can hear. Skins teaching valuable lessons to kids since 2006.

I realise this is all a bit slap-dash, but to be fair I’m writing about Skins and apparently your reading it so its not like you care about intellect too much is it? If you ever wondered what it was like to see somebody down about 4 bottles of Vodka in 45 minutes then all your dreams have come true tonight as Liv proceeds to show us how to ruin your vital organs in style. Also Sherry? Are these people in 6th form or a bingo hall, not even my gran drinks Sherry.

Other things we learnt this episode: Mini is STILL a bitch. I reckon that’s not changing any time soon.

 


Skins of Lycra

This week in Skins world Kelly Brook visits and does absolutely fuck all. Which is a great point of reference for the entire episode really.

I think it’s safe to say the world was foaming at the mouth when the words ‘Kelly Brook is back on TV’ reached the nations ears and then all she did was stand around in her shiny Lycra pants and they didn’t even keep cutting back to her buttocks for the remainder of the show. Everything about the episode was a massive disappointment.

We got see a little bit more of Mini the big bad wolf of the series. Turns out she’s just a bitchy teenager who has never even had sex. Queue the OMGZ and self-loathing and puking on boy-friend in moment of abject terror scenes. Despite all this she still managed to be a bitch.

I had watched the American Skins just before and shockingly that made this seem like a Gus Van Sant drama. I can’t discourage you enough about NEVER watching that, ignoring the fact that it’s shot for shot the same as the British pilot it’s not a remake it’s a bloody massacre.

Mini yeah. Her episode managed to ruin the series thus far by making everybody involved seem like utter annoying dicks. Even Franky, who had the chance to get her own back, which any decent human would have, just asked for a light and a dance. The least she could do is turn her into a raging gay.

I think the main thing about this episode was that it lacked any substance, maybe as a reflection of the character, but still us children need entertaining or we’ll change over and watch some hard hitting politics with Paxman. Mini was just dull, other characters have a sense of inner turmoil that they project outwardly in some way, i.e. metal, Mini just ate seeds and used too much fake tan.

Even the music for this episode was quintessentially average mixing the terrible world of pop, Cheryl Cole and Lady Gaga, with cutting edge Skream and Crystal Fighters, and then throwing in some classics like Roots Manuva and Eddie Cochran for good fucking measure, because you know why not?

Oh there was also the most awkward sex scene in the world broadcast between Mini and her ‘boyfriend’ whose name escapes me, but do watch that because afterwards everything is in black and white for a bit. Rich lost his hearing and Mini apparently goes colour blind after shit sex.

Next week it’s the story of the other bint whose name also escapes me, but that looks harrowing and council estatey.


Skins proclaims “I am metal”

It’s that time of the week again when I do a slightly late discussion of Skins, but not so late that it’s no longer relevant, you best lap it up again kids (and grown men who are clinging onto youth.)

This week we met Rich and in doing so got the most metal episode of any show ever broadcast apart from when Cradle of Filth turned up in Coronation Street. We all knew then that metal and TV weren’t meant to mix. Skins has reaffirmed my faith in this fact by actually using the lines; “I am metal” and “This is who I am.” How not to write dialogue <—- just NO.

We did however get some interesting music and frankly it was quite daring of a prime time show to rely on Napalm Death and Slayer so much. Metal Heads the world over are rejoicing in acceptance, or more likely cursing that their favourite bands are sell outs. Fuck society they don’t understand you anyway. A rather unprecedented turn of events somehow led to Huey of The Fun Loving Criminals fame playing the record store owner, he was good on Buzzcocks and he was good here too. Shame about the music.

Skins has the idiotic ability to forget everything that has gone on in previous episodes between characters and just focus on the one they are showcasing to the world this week and while we did primarily see Rich they avoided this trap by inserting Grace as buffer between ‘alt-college’ and ‘Top Shop-college.’ Insert long winded and obvious boy likes girl, girl likes boy, but girls friends think boy is weird plot here and you have the synopsis of the episode and series.

It is lovely of this carnal teen carnage to finally show real alternative culture instead of just popular alternative culture for a change. Instead of a rave or out of control house party we see a gig and crowd-surfing. Sadly they make it all a bit cliché by playing Rage Against the fucking Machine and table dancing. The counter culture desperately needs a new anthem because if I hear that one more time in any sort of ‘official’ capacity I will be offering up my ears to Mike Tyson.

Rich is a great introduction to the show though and different to any character it has ever had before. If anything he is an amalgamation of a few males from across the series’: Sid and JJ come to mind the most. I just hope he doesn’t go through some sort of transformation now he’s had a near deaf, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get that in, experience.

Next week it’s that bitch who’s called Mini or something and I’m excited to see her vomit on her boyfriend, expectations are pretty dire if I don’t say so myself. As long as they play Rihanna it’ll be okay.


What’s in a name? James Blake and the curse of erroneous labelling.

God, is it February already? Either the years are getting shorter, or my faculties for temporal processing became mangled during the jabbering chaos of the New Year. I swear I’ve been writing a review of Harry Potter for about seven months, with nary a paragraph to show for it, and now I’m about to review an album which I won’t listen to for another three days. Have I finally become unstuck?

Probably, because it doesn’t seem like it’s been almost four years since the summer that Benga & Skream’s ‘Night’ brought dubstep wobbling and stomping into the mainstream and that dark winter that saw the release of Burial’s majestic second album, Untrue. Since then you can’t go to the shops anymore without being overwhelmed by the relentless whomp whomp whomp of a devastating soundboy riddim, to the extent that BBC news 24 now employs dubstep for their theme music. Hell, dubstep is old now. Digital Mystikz are so ancient they can barely twiddle their own knobs due to arthritis. What we need… is a prefix.

Enter James Blake, and what has been somewhat lazily called the post-dubstep movement. The internet being what it is, stars can now rise and fall in the time it takes a DJ to record their first bedroom mix-tape, which meant that Blake, with barely enough tracks released to constitute an ep, was named as one of the Artists To Watch in 2011 by the BBC, amongst many others. I can see why. His self-titled debut is a disquieting, sometimes beautiful effort. Whilst Burial’s music evokes scenes of dim-lit subways and hooded spirits haunting empty alleys, Blake delivers a much more personal but no less ghostly vision. His songs are fragile, fine wisps of smoke with often only the barest hint of a beat.

Blake first achieved popular appeal late last year with his cover of Feist’s Limit To Your Love, which appears midway through the album. It stands out rather tellingly as the most media-friendly track and also the least-nuanced. The clutch of songs preceding it are almost crushing in their melancholy, lending a sense of gentle despair which I think is sorely lacking from modern pop music. I’ve read hereabouts that it is a difficult listen, which I don’t really understand. Mournful lyrics and spare electronic bleeps sound like a warm bath to me compared to, say, Alec Empire. The sparseness can be jarring and almost challenging though, and the ambiguity of the vocals, garbled as they are by effects, means that you concentrate much more on the tone rather than the lyrics. Plus he can sometimes sound a bit like a robot cranking, which I suppose is not a good thing.

Hmm, yes. But is there anything here that we haven’t heard before? Probably not, but it is rare that something like this is given such mainstream attention. I don’t particularly understand the post-dubstep tag, and I’m sure Blake would much prefer to be described not by a clumsy genre but as an individual. employing his actual name is one signifier, as opposed to dubbing himself something like DJ JAMblak. I can’t imagine him dropping sick beats to screwed up faces at five in the morning in an Ancoats warehouse either, it wouldn’t even make very good come-down music. Instead what James Blake and his like, particularly Jamie Woon, have done is follow Burial’s footsteps by creating a musical form which can exist artistically independent from the scene from which it sprung, and as an example of miserablist electronica I can’t think of much better.

FINAL VERDICT: Yeah, it’s pretty good. Two Stars.