Thursday, 12 July 2018

Crowhurst (2017)

When Crowhurst, in the depths of manic insanity, wraps himself up within a Union Jack flag like an anxious babbling infant with their precious security blanket, it says more about the nature of the man and his thwarted ambitions than the whole of The Mercy. This is not the Donald Crowhurst that Colin Firth could ever play...Justin Salinger makes this version uniquely his own; a small man totally out of his depth against the mighty, endless oceans. His Munch-like screaming direct to the camera is as powerfully compelling as that of any victim in a horror movie. In the end, Crowhurst is a horror movie – the monster is the mind.

Read my full review at The Geek Show

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

We Almost Made it...

Ah balls.

It was not the result we wanted. Football didn't come home.

But you know what? Yeah there's a lot to be sad and pissed off about, there's a lot to feel deflated and heartbroken for, but at the same time, there's a lot to celebrate too.

I never really bought into 'football's coming home'. I didn't dare hope and anyway, what's home about it? I'm not going to kid myself that we, as a nation, invented kicking a ball. But it's worth remembering that when Baddiel and Skinner joined forces with the Lightning Seeds and wrote those words back in 1996, they were writing about the 'thirty years of hurt' since our national team last played in a World Cup final.

Tonight, our national team broke another near 'thirty years of hurt' since we last played in a World Cup semi-final and that is a great achievement. That they did that when no one dared dream or predict it is even more of an achievement and we should feel proud, not defeated. Proud. We beat the odds to get here, and we've still the third place play off to win.

Out On Blue Six: Baddiel and Skinner and The Lightning Seeds

It wasn't going to be any other song today was it?

Because's coming home

End Transmission

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Housemartins

We're into the year 1986 in BBC4's repeats of Top of the Pops and it kicked off on Friday with the documentary Top of the Pops - The Story of 1986, which featured an interesting tidbit from the Housemartins' Paul Heaton, about their single Caravan of Love

Released in time for the coveted Christmas number one slot in '86, Heaton claims the band were right on course for achieving that accolade and were even told shortly before the charts were released for that week that they had made it. However, the number one that year proved to be Jackie Wilson's Reet Petit - a rank outsider that came out of nowhere.

So what happened?

Well, Heaton claims it's all to do with the band's politics and, specifically, a disparaging comment they made regarding Margaret and Dennis Thatcher, that ultimately nixed their chances.

Did the chart people and the BBC really do the dirty on the Housemartins in the same way they fixed it for Rod Stewart to be number one instead of the Sex Pistols during the Silver Jubilee week?

Who knows - but I don't see any reason why Heaton would lie, and it's public record the song was hotly tipped racing up the charts that week, ahead of all the competition. All I do know is that Caravan of Love is a cracking song and that it is perhaps for the best it didn't get the top spot over the festive period. It's far too good a song to have the 'Christmas song' albatross around its neck, with a message that is for all year round.

End Transmission

Yellow Submarine (1968)

"Liverpool can be a lonely place on a Saturday night, and this is only Thursday morning"

It could be argued that it’s a shame that the Beatles didn’t see the possibilities inherent in Yellow Submarine; animation did not have the same restraints that even Dick Lester found himself butting against to get the Beatles distinctive talents and imagination to the screen, and the film received  a kind of widespread critical acclaim that their other film ventures failed to reach. The casting of Lance Percival and Dick Emery, as Old Fred the sailor and Max/The Lord Mayor and Jeremy Hilary Boob respectively, showcase the Beatles affection for British comedy of the seaside postcard and music hall tradition, just as much as the charabanc nature of singalong tracks such as When I’m Sixty-Four, All Together Now and the eponymous Yellow Submarine do.

Read my full review at The Geek Show

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Smith's choice was to win the race or to run it, and he couldn't do both. Running - with its obvious connotations of the freedom Smith otherwise lacks - asserts his independence and the self he has discovered from the sport and his innate talent. Racing, or winning the competition, is to conform and sacrifice his independence.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Hard Men (1996)

There ought to be a word for that feeling you have when you can't tell whether you have seen a movie or not. That's the feeling I have watching Hard Men. I certainly recall it coming out in '96 but I didn't think I'd actually seen it. After watching it tonight, so many scenes rang a bell, that I think I may be mistaken. It feels like the eighteen year old me might have seen it with a kebab and a bottle of White Lightning and, given the brain killing properties of 'Quite Frightening', is it any wonder I can't be sure?

Then again, maybe I could be forgiven for thinking I'd seen it before because Hard Men isn't exactly original. In this tale of three lethal, sharp suited cockney hoods out on the town, chatting shit about the etiquette of oral sex and the merits of Abba over Blur whilst plotting a betrayal against one of their number, it is clear that the French born, London based writer/director J.K. Amalou is heavily influenced by Tarantino. But, despite some pretty high praise from the likes of Loaded, Maxim and Marie Claire, his low budget film struggled to find an audience, which is sadly ironic when you consider he had the jump on Guy Ritchie who would do the exact same thing to incredible acclaim just two years later, opening the floodgates of the genre for several imitators to follow.

The film concerns a trio of hitmen and debt collectors; the sensible Tone (Vincent Regan), the professional Bear (Ross Boatman) and the hothead Speed (Lee Ross), who each work for gangland boss Pops Den (played by real-life South London gangster 'Mad' Frankie Fraser). When Tone's ex girlfriend reconnects to tell him he's father to a baby daughter, he decides it is time he should retire and takes his friends out for one last carousal to announce his plans. But Pops Den isn't the kind of person to condone such a resignation and suddenly Tone's last night with the lads is potentially his last night on earth, with Speed and Bear now charged with not only offing him but also with delivering his amputated hand to Pops Den by 9am the following morning.

Amalou has a very arresting and stylised eye for the seamy side of London and outlandish violence that makes Hard Men quite a visually strong addition to the British gangster film, with a cool colour palette combined with an interesting sound design, but he's ultimately weak on getting the audience to truly engage with his characters thanks to their overall unlikeability and some occasionally poor dialogue. It's a shame though to see that his subsequent career has of late consisted of a couple of straight-to-DVD Danny Dyer flicks. For someone who beat Ritchie to it, he deserves more than that.

As for the cast it's easy to see why Vincent Regan went on to become an actor who straddles both a variety of British TV productions and the odd Hollywood blockbuster like 300, as his potential stands out in the role of the sensitive and mature Tone. Ross Boatman, marking time between leaving London's Burning and becoming a rather handy professional poker player with his older brother Barny, is perhaps even better, quietly convincing as Bear in a way that makes me grateful that he's returned to acting in recent years with his great performance as the brother in the BBC2 sitcom Mum. Lee Ross is an actor I normally admire a lot, but here I think he gets a little carried away with the opportunity to overplay Speed's character's jittery coke-fuelled intensity and cockney swagger. Someone like Marc Warren would have perhaps been a more natural and convincing fit. The stunt casting of real-life villain 'Mad' Frankie Fraser as Pops Den is again - when you consider how Guy Ritchie went on to cast Lenny McLean in Lock Stock -  another example of Amalou predicting what was to come, but it is also a deeply contentious one; the showbiz glorification that began to occur in the '90s of once genuinely violent enforcers and murderers is one that has always sat uneasily with me, and I fail to see why the production saw it fit to try and enhance his natural menace with several obviously fake facial scars. There's also an appearance from Ken Campbell that is unforgiveably all too brief - what kind of idiot employs a one-off like Campbell for such a small and insignificant role? That alone should have sealed Hard Men's fate.

Perhaps the best thing about Hard Men is the strapline; You Call. They Deliver. It Ain't Pizzas, but even that doesn't bear much scrutiny, much like the film itself. I am now fairly sure I've seen it before, but I'll mark it as a first watch nonetheless. Perhaps this inability to pin down whether I have or haven't seen it says all there is to know about Hard Men. It's not truly atrocious, but it's nowhere near great either. It's just really rather forgettable.