Transformers : Revenge Of The Fallen – A Movie Review
As the surprise package of summer 2007 Transformers delivered one of the most entertaining actions blockbusters in years. With a worldwide box office taking of $700,000,000 a pulsating, gaudy, eye piercing, action packed extravaganza of a sequel was pretty much a no-brainer. In 2009 Michael Bay armed with a reported $200,000,000 budget has re-animated the franchise once more. The fallen will rise for their revenge once more.
The Transformers franchise translates well to the big screen for the simple reason that the filmmakers understand its place and purpose and never try deviate from fulfilling its objectives. Yes, the acting is hammy, but this is to be expected. Any performance that pertained to be profound would be deemed pretentious. Yes the storyline is fast paced and simplistic, however if the story endeavoured to invoke some deep-seated emotional repression with the audience it would confuse, bore and distract the audience from gigantic, menacing robots incessant duelling with our very existence at stake.
With the Transformers universe having its own mythology, complete with dedicated followers it was of paramount importance for the filmmakers do not disappoint the ‘fanboys’. These dedicated and obsessive followers are a significant amount of your potential audience and their opinions are of vital importance to ensuring the commercial success of the movie. As with the first Transformers adaptation the sequel secures the admiration of the ‘die hards’ making sure they achieve the correct feel, which they have achieved. The Transformers personas are well developed and accurate thus ensuring they are portrayed as three dimensional characters. The visual characters are a testament to the advancement of special effects over the last decade or so and the overall feel of the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. In general they treat Transformers with the respect they demand according to the comic books and the additional stories told.
The story picks up neatly from the conclusion of the first film. Optimus Prime and the remainder of the Autobots are hunting down the rest of the Decepticons on Earth, whilst seemingly aware under the surface there is a war brewing. An ancient Decepticon is intent on returning to earth with potentially catastrophic consequences. Sam Witwicky, portrayed by the jester Shia LeBeouf is off the college and agonising over leaving his ridiculously attractive girlfriend Makayla, portrayed by Megan Fox behind.
Transformers : Revenge Of The Fallen initiates the visual assault from very early in the film and the onslaught rarely ceases through its entire three hour duration. The fight sequences are laid out one after another with every intentional cinematographic trick is deployed to make each offensive seems fresh. As expected the CGI and special effects on display are of the highest
standard perhaps ever seem on film with the interaction between humans and robots appearing seamless, the transformations eye popping and the fight scenes most certainly contradictory to anything mechanical.
However, the story is unnoticeable in all the explosions, battles and bright colours. The movie is all about the robots which in essence is all it should be about so therefore is forgivable. The other complaint to be pernickety is the acting is somewhat lacklustre. Yes, in this type of movie the acting is of secondary importance to the special effects and CGI demonstrations, though it is difficult for the audience to truly engage with their human counterparts when they appear more mechanical than the machines. Shia LeBeouf to his credit does prove himself a more than capable leading man with solid comic timing. However, the rest of the actors are merely props employed the move the story along to the next action showpiece. Megan Fox is the other reason most male audiences would be willing to pay the admission fee. As expected she is as visually stunning as anything CGI technology can create.
Transformers : Revenge Of The Fallen delivers on all the levels you would expect it to. Despite its long running time it was entertaining and does live up to all the pre-release hype. It is bigger, louder, and more motorized than its predecessor and after all that is the fundamental purpose of any sequel. It is the type of movie which doesn’t require any thought at all, just sit back, strap yourself in and enjoy. A highly entertaining showpiece.
The Bell Jar – A Book Review
‘The sickness rolled through me in great waves. After each wave it would fade away and leave me limp as a wet leaf and shivering all over and then I would feel it rise up in me again, and the glittering white torture chamber tiles under my feet and over my head and all four sides closed in a squeezed me to pieces.’
The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel, originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas it is a semi autobiography novel, often regarded as a roman a clef and details the decline into mental illness of the central protagonist Ester Greenwood. The Bell Jar draws stark parallels with Plath’s own experiences in dealing with what appears to be either clinical depression or bipolar disorder and is an enthralling read from both a literary and psychological standpoint.
At the time of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s execution in the early 1950’s Ester Greenwood is an intelligent and talented young woman from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts who has gained a summer internship at a prominent New York magazine. Having been thrust into the hedonism of big city life she feels frightened and disorientated in her environment. She admires the piety of her friends though appears unable to connect with anyone on a deeper emotional level.
As the story infolds she describes numerous seriocomic events that occur during her internship. She describes her relationship with Buddy Willard a young man whom she considers worthy marriage material and her experiences with Doreen a carefree hedonistic girl who seems to epitomise the glamorous lifestyle accompanied with big city living.
Having been rejected to attend another writing course with a world famous author she returns to Boston with the intention of writing a novel. It is in this environment that her mental state deteriorates significantly. Ester discovers her entire identity is comprised of academic achievement. Without this sole focus in her life her world begins to crumble. She struggles to find a place and purpose and demonstrates symptoms of depression.
Upon following the narration the reader begins to suspect that something is very wrong. Ester is struggling with her mental state. Her writing is lucid though her thought processes are not. She begins to describe the different ways in which she could commit suicide, such as swimming as far out into the ocean as she possible could. In one passage she describes, ‘I had meant to cover my legs if anyone came in, but now I saw it was too late, so I let them stick out just as they were, disgusting and ugly. That’s me I thought, that’s what I am.
On her mother’s insistence she seeks therapy. She sees a psychiatrist whom diagnoses her with a mental illness and administers electroconvulsive therapy. This has a profound effect on Ester and leaves her traumatised. She sinks further into depression and describes a feeling of being trapped under a metaphorical bell jar unable to breathe. We follow Ester’s plight, her struggle to retain her sanity until the story reaches its conclusion.
The Bell Jar is set in the early 1950’s and was written before the feminist movement of the 1960’s. Ester’s frustration and unhappiness is made clear immediately. She feels stifled by a culture in which a women’s freedom is limited. She feels strained by the expectations those have around her and paradoxically shows condescension when asked by her mother to formulate a back up plan for her career. Her feelings of frustration are palpable and yet she knows she is talented. Ester is a complex character and simultaneously an extremely human one. She continually displays the strain of too much thought process and the hindrance this bestows upon the individual. She refuses to be labelled a ‘mental patient’ and feels consistently misunderstood.
The story is narrated entirely from Ester’s perspective. We become a voyeur intruding in her life and her own personal thoughts and emotions. All other characters are described in entirely the manner she perceives them and the audience are left to decide for themselves whether to agree with Ester’s perceptions or not.
Sylvia Plath has written a roman a clef, a novel based on her own experiences. Although the novel was written in the 1950’s it still has just as much relevance today. The central themes still exist in society today. American culture stresses high achievement and therefore places pressure on young people to strive for often, unrealistic expectations. There is an ever-present sexual tension between sexes in many social environments, especially with young adults that exists today. The relationships between family members are often complex and have their ups and downs. All of these issues resonate with the reader and ensures the relevance of Plath’s novel in today’s literary sense.
This is a sombre and melancholy novel though through Path’s wit and intelligence she manages to captivate the reader. Even when describing her most desperate and self destructive moments her sardonic humour and wry narration ensures the audiences attention is firmly fixated on the details of the story. We become completely engrossed and emotionally invested in the story through intelligent and edgy writing and this is a must for any bibliophiles collection.
Terminator Salvation (2009) A Movie Review
The Terminator franchise has been re-charged with a frantic, post apocalyptic jolt and is here to terminate your every sense with a barrage of mechanical mayhem.
Having taken over at the helm from James Cameron and Jonathon Mostow McG has given fans all they have craved since they first saw a metal foot crush a human skull two decades ago.
The year is 2018. Post Armageddon the world is engaged in a seemingly futile war with the machines. John Connor (Christian Bale) is the supposed prophet tasked with leading the ‘resistance’ against the unrelenting cybernetic organisms who’s sole aim is the extinction of all human life. With Skynet assembling a massive army all hope seems certainly lost, though despite seemingly insurmountable odds a small resistance stubbornly oppose to be eradicated by artificial intelligence.
The plot is central to the Terminator mythology, however after twenty five years it seems somewhat antiquated. In 1984 when Arnold Schwarzenegger stalked a petrified Linda Hamilton the concept of an indestructible machine sent back through time to terminate it’s arc nemesis (or, at least the mother of it’s nemesis) seemed entirely revolutionary, however today this concept seems tired and derivative.
In an attempt to compensate for the distinct lack of originality in the story the filmmakers have crammed the film with over two hours of eye-popping special effects and elegantly crafted cinematography. The film thunders along at a relentless pace leaving the audience barely enough time to catch their breath between sequences.
The Terminator franchise has long been considered a benchmark for science fiction special effects in true keeping this latest offering does not disappoint. The T-600’s looked polished for 2009 and as deliciously malicious as ever whilst keeping the essence of the original designs. The hydrobots appear intimidating and the larger designs daunt and overwhelm the small band of rebels whom dare to oppose them.
Terminator Salvation does deliver some of the most spectacular cinematography ever seen on film. The effects are non more noticeable than at the beginning of the film when John Connor takes off in his helicopter, only to be downed within seconds. The position of the camera in the rear of the helicopter follows the action inside and the audience feel the full force when it crashes to the ground.
McG seems totally committed to his vision of the bleak world John Connor, Kyle Reese and company are existing in. The desolation of the world is reminiscent of Cormac MacCarthy’s visionary apolocaptic novel ‘The Road’ and the audience are left with little doubt to the destruction this ongoing war has already inflicted on the earth. Indeed the barren landscape of the Skynet headquarters totally encapsulated the sterile wasteland that is the future.
The main criticism of this movie however is levelled squarely on the shoulders of the central lead actor, Christian Bale. He appears to have utterly misinterpreted the character of John Connor. He failed to personify the attitude and essence of his character so spectacularly that whilst on screen he is nothing more than an irritation. In contrast however, Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright was everything that Christian Bale’s character should have been. The audience was able to utterly connect with him on an emotional level and his plight seemed entirely more memorable than the supposed savour of mankind. Newcomer Anton Yelchin gives a heart warming performance as a young Kyle Reese, father of John Connor and immature kid bravely standing against the oppression of the machines. The talent of Bryce Dallas Howard was unfortunately under used. Her appearances only seem to cement the character as simply another subordinate to Christian Bale’s John Connor and surely an actress of her talent should have been accredited with more significance.
McG is gracious enough to nod to previous Terminator offerings that have built the movies into the revered franchise it is today. The renowned Guns N Roses soundtrack from T2 is present as is some all too familiar dialogue. As for the supposed Arnold Schwartznegger cameo I will not disclose such technical data, suffice to say fans will not be disappointed.
Terminator Salvation is a welcomed addition to the franchise. It suitable adds to the mythology whilst maintaining its own individuality. Whilst not without its flaws, most notably and incoherent story and dreadful performance from the leading actor, the movie is fun, fast paced, entertaining and visually stunning. This is all in all the essence of a summer blockbuster.
ROPE (1948) A MOVIE REVIEW
A journey into the macabre world of Alfred Hitchcock is a journey into the uniquely multifaceted, voyeuristic, intellectual and psychological world of the ‘master of suspense’.
Rope is a complex, intriguing and entertaining picture worthy of consideration with the finest of Hitchcock’s works such as ‘Rear Window’, ‘North By Northwest’ and ‘Vertigo’.
The story of Rope was adapted from the stage play ‘Rope’s End’, which in turn was inspired by the real life Leopold and Loeb murder case. The story presents the audience with a tale of two boys Brandon Shaw portrayed by John Dall and Phillip Morgan portrayed by Farley Granger, whom influenced by Nietzsche’s theories of the superman murder a fellow socialite. They believe his life to be of little importance as in their opinion he does not posses the same intellectual prowess as themselves. They regard themselves as supermen whom on account of individual inherent superior qualities exemption from the laws that govern the rest of society. They are motivated to commit the crime to demonstrate to one another the relevance of their philosophy.
In a macabre twist they dispose of his body in a large wooden trunk and in order to demonstrate their philosophy they hoax an elaborate dinner party with a select group of invitees. Janet Walker, portrayed by Joan Chandler the victims fiancée. Mr. Kentley, portrayed by Cedric Hardwicke, the victims father. Mrs. Atwater, portrayed by Constance Collier, the victim’s aunt. Kenneth Lawrence, portrayed by Douglas Dick the victim’s best friend and finally Rupert Cadell, portrayed by James Stewart the perpetrators teacher and mentor from their adolescent days spent in school. The invitees are served the dinner as a buffet all the while the audience is aware the body of the victim is decomposing in the trunk.
As the party progresses throughout the evening the tension builds, especially when Phillip’s nerves begin to get the better of him. With Rupert’s inquisitive and increasing suspicious nature the audience are treated to a game of cat and mouse and a jostling of intellects between the teacher and the former students to deem who is the intellectually superior. The sharp minded Rupert is meticulously connecting all the pieces of the puzzle leading to a thrilling and suspenseful climax before the night is over.
The original British stage play ‘Ropes End’ was adapted by Hitchcock and Arthur Laurents for a more mainstream audience as they decided certain aspects of the story too risqué. The homosexual undertones were severely downplayed due to the constraints of the production studio at the time. It was acknowledged that the character of Rupert Cavell was said to be a homosexual and had an affair with either one or both of the students, however no overt mention of this relationship appears in the film. Additionally, the emphasis placed on the dominant and submissive roles of Brandon and Phillip implies only friendship.
James Stewart was reportedly unhappy with his performance in Rope. Though given the homosexual undertones of the film and the fact that it is implied that both of the characters of John Dall and Farley Granger were indeed homosexual it could be well assumed that Stewart felt in unfamiliar territory. In contrast however, Dall is positively delicious in his performance as Brandon Shaw. Dall delivers a subtly gay performance that is truly frightening in its intensity. Farley Granger, who would work with Hitchcock later in his career in ‘Strangers On A Train’, (1951) also gives a noteworthy performance as Dall’s weaker antithesis. His emotional deterioration and paranoia throughout the course of the film is sublimely evident for the audience to see and his unpredictable behaviour only intensifies the tension.
Rope should additionally be praised in the pioneering manner in which Hitchcock chose to shoot the picture. Hitchcock conceived the idea to shoot the film in real time, in other words the film was shot in the order the story unfolds on screen. Hitchcock was attempting to heighten the tension of the actor’s performances and by asking them to consistently hold back he was able to assure the heightened tension needed to proficiently tell the story.
The action is continuous with the mobility of the camera and the movement of the actors, uniquely bringing the stage experience to the medium of film. The camera is able to vary the shot size of the image in relation to its emotional importance, such as the close up of the actors face to convey emotional importance. By choosing to shoot the film in this manner Hitchcock is able to utilise the point of view shot and place us inside the room with all the characters. In addition, the fluid mobility of the camera in Rope allows the voyeur within us to be placed in the small claustrophobic environment of the apartment. This technique stays very true to Hitchcockian style allowing privy information to the audience without affording the actors on screen the same luxury.
Hitchcock’s direction was unique, ambitious and creative in this picture. With the knowledge that all the action would centre in one set he took the decision to both cut the film and change the reel every ten minutes. With the continuation of the dialogue imperative to the narrative of the story he devised methods to continue the action whilst he changed the reels. For instance, a cut in the film is noticeable as the camera zooming in on Kenneth’s back and emerging in the conversation between Phillip and Mrs. Atwater. It should be of note today that many auteurs including, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese utilise long continual takes in their narratives, though the circumstance of this picture suits this technique effectively.
With so many technological challenges Hitchcock was said to have referred to Rope as a ‘stunt’. However, this is an ingenious and accomplished film. The story is straightforward and the characters well developed. Though generally not considered with the same prestige as ‘Psycho’, or ‘Rear Window’, there is still much to admire here.
No Country For Old Men Review
“It’s a mess ain’t it sheriff”, Bell’s deputy asks him. “Well if it ain’t it’ll do till the mess gets here”, Bell reply’s knowing full well that hell has arrived in Texas.
‘There is no such thing as life without bloodshed’, said Cormac McCarthy in a rare interview thirteen years ago. A sentiment which echoes the plight of his character Llewelyn Moss in ‘No Country For Old Men’.
The recipe for a thriller needs only a limited number of ingredients to spark a readers’ interest and hold their attention. No Country For Old Men’ is a simple story of greed, revenge, violence, doubt and fear showing the full implication of one simple snap decision.
These are the most primal of human emotions. Ones which we can all comprehend and are able to identify with.
Whilst out hunting antelope near the Rio Grande Llewelyn Moss stumbles upon a transaction gone horribly awry. Finding bullet ridden corpses, several kilos of heroin and a caseload of cash he faces a choice that he knows will change everything. Should he leave the scene as he found it or cut the money and run? Choosing the latter this begins a chain of events that will culminate in each participant asking the question, how does a man define his destiny?
Cormac McCarthys’ first novel since the acclaimed ‘Cities Of The Plain’ is a taught mesmerizing modern day western which tackles important philosophical questions with the brute tenacity it’s central antagonist displays throughout the story.
The punchy dialogue thrusts the reader forward at a relentless pace hurtling at a tremendous speed to the inevitable bloody climax.
Cormac McCarthy’s traditional retrospective prose has been completely abandoned here in favour of vibrant dialogue which reads as much like a screenplay as a novel will allow.
At times this unconventional novel seems to transcend genres, it is a neo-noir thriller western drama with aspects of satire and dark humour. It is truly uncharacterisable in the modern literary sense.
All characters appear fully formed and with very little back story revealed. In the case of Chigurh, the primary antagonist, he is solely described as someone without racial or religious characteristics. McCarthy describes him as someone who could have quite logically originated from anywhere, even the bowels of hell itself. Moss is a capable and resourceful man. He is a returning Vietnam veteran, though nothing in any great detail is explained of his experiences in the novel. Suffice to say he is more than capable of looking after himself. Much of Ed Tom Bell’s personality is deduced from his musings. He is a third generation lawman, that we know as much and now in the twilight of his career he appears bemused by much of the country around him. However, each character is central to the story as they complete ‘the three points of the triangle’. Chigurh is inherently evil. He has achieved an ambient state of grace that none of us will ever know. He is an individual whom applies his twisted logic to make sense of the world he perceives. Moss is the humanistic character, one whom everyone can identify with. He has both the light and the dark inside him and acts in his own best interests depending on the situation at hand, whereas Bell has become a pacified watchdog, not an attack dog whom is content overseeing his remaining days in a melancholic and lethargic fashion.
Despite the novels diluted format McCarthy’s bleak, violent fundamentalism is profoundly evident. The cynical tone of the novel allows the reader to fear the worst at the conclusion. McCarthy draws the reader into open gunfights on city streets, crude makeshift weaponry and agonising self medication and dressing in obscure motel rooms. The inevitable never seems too far away.
Such unrelenting sinister high hokum might be ridiculous if not for McCarthy’s insistence on pushing the reader forward at a relentless pace leaving very little, if any time to pause and digest what has just been described. Like Bell the exchanges between Moss and Chigurh leave us breathless and only able to sit back and watch in horror.
McCarthy guides us into an inevitable world of violence, it is an utterly absorbing and chilling tale. It is a heated story that brands itself on the readers mind as if seared by a knife heated on campfire flames.
The Dark Knight – A Movie Review
Our obsession with comic book movie culture began in 1978 when a little known actor called Christopher Reeve donned red spandex briefs and transformed from mild mannered and bubbling Clark Kent to the man of steel from Krypton in an instant.
Three decades of well-coiffed demigods, speed, light and destruction commenced and we arrive in 2008 with ‘The Dark Knight’ Gotham City’s own vigilante, ready to stand up against corruption, believe in good and fight for justice in a lawless city.
As far as superheroes go Batman/Bruce Wayne is quiet lacklustre. He certainly isn’t faster than a speeding bullet, or disappointingly he is not other worldly, though he does have a vast array of toys, including an armoured tank, a turbo motorcycle, numerous gadgets and makeshift weaponry and what appears to be a pathological dedicated to an insufficient amount of daily shut-eye.
However, he is also a paradigm. His alter-ego, the arrogant, self absorbed, trust fund brat Bruce Wayne seems to nonchalantly stroll around Wayne Enterprises without much care of how his trust fund is replenished once the coffers have been exhausted. This incarnation of a suave, insensitive playboy is redeemed however by his obvious affection for his childhood friend Rachel Dawes and his business acumen which ensures that Mr. Wayne won’t be fighting evil do-ers in a hand-me-down bat suit anytime soon.
It is safe to assume that the persona of Bruce Wayne/Batman suggests one of a tormented split personality. He cannot decide on who he wants to be, or where his responsibilities should lie, Gotham’s dark knight, or Rachel Dawes knight in shining armour?
In contrast however, Heath Ledger’s ‘The Joker’ is a potent, sadistic and terrifyingly unpredictable. He is utterly disparate from Christian Bale’s Batman. From his initial appearance Ledger is so deliciously terrifying that he makes the audience horribly nervous. With his face a peeling façade of clown paint and his mouth a blurred slash The Joker is the embodiment of anarchy and terror. He is the hero’s anti-image. The world judge them as freaks. They need one another to co-exist.
Ledger is so deliciously terrifying and unpredictable that his very presence on screen makes you feel nervous. From the very introduction of his character the atrocities he visits upon his victims are bloody and vile minded. He is sporadic and unbiased in his crimes and preys on our sense of violation which makes it impossible for Batman to protect us from him.
Transfixed on Ledger’s performance it is difficult to fully appreciate other characters in the film, however Aaron Eckhart’s avenging prosecutor Harvey Dent is noteworthy of significant praise. Dent is the moral core of the film and with his beliefs in fate and fairness his destiny is plausibly journeyed from the light to the shadows.
The genius of ‘The Dark Knight is that director Christopher Nolan and writer Jonathon Nolan have delivered a stunning comic book movie, complete with gadgets, gizmos and pageantry steeped in reality. It professes and intellectual heart and a tough unresolved message and at 152 minutes long it is enveloping rather than arduous. The action is engaging with rapid-fire guns denting the cinema auditorium, car chases are conducted with teeth chattering velocity and buildings are demolished to make way for the Batman and The Joker’s climatic confrontation.
However, in the midst of this devastation the question pontificated over is whether Batman’s presence brings more safety and security for the people of Gotham or danger itself. Is it his responsibility to preside over justice?
The Dark Knight will mesmerise and delight. It is truly an awe inspiring movie one to be viewed on numerous occasions if only to appreciate the performance of Heath Ledger. This is his epitaph.
PARAMORE @ THE APOLLO MANCHESTER (FICTIONAL)
Whoa, Let’s Start A Riot! Paramore are in town!
By far the highlight of a somewhat lacklustre night at The Apollo where more experienced bands such as New Found Glory failed to impress, Paramore’s jovial emo pop punk sound united a somewhat divided audience with their ceaseless energy and faultless performance!
With the flame haired pixie Hayley Williams, lead vocalist of the Tennessee band belting out anthems such as Misery Business, All We Know and That’s What You Get for a jubilant crowd of onlookers even the seemingly most cynical of observers (myself included) were revelling in the infectious atmosphere by the climax of the fifty minute set!
It isn’t hard to believe why this band have progressed so rapidly over the last two years and now with the solid Much Like Falling album followed up with their hugely impressive sophomore release Riot! Their future looks exceedingly bright.
With the flame haired master of ceremonies so angelically vocalising the trials and tribulations of kids of her generation, complemented perfectly by the tight ensemble of a band unified as one the excitement and exhilaration enthralled all those in the audience!
The set listing was intelligent ensuring die hard fans were not disappointed through effectively blending sounds from the slightly harder first album All That We Know Is Falling with newer emo pop tracks from Riot! all the while simultaneously introducing novices such as myself to their sound. With the lead vocalist Miss Williams consistently encouraging the audience to participate in the band’s festivities I left the gig with the full intention of immediately visiting iTunes upon my return home.
Within the short space of two years Paramore have progressed extensively to the point where they are now teetering on the edge of superstardom and international acclaim along the lines of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance beckons.
I must admit as a pessimist to Paramore’s blend of pop, punk emo amalgamation I am pretty optimistic to where their future is heading! An excellent gig from an excellent band!
Withnail and I (1987) Review Summary
“I demand to have some booze!” barks Withnail (Richard E. Grant) before downing a bottle of lighter fluid, giggling hysterically, collapsing and finally barfing all over I (Paul McGann). Ladies and gentleman we have a cult classic.
Withnail and I is utterly unique in its depiction of two elegantly wasted, unemployed thespians as they struggle with life, booze and a Camberwell carrot (6 inch spliff). The story unfolds during the tail end of 1969 where we meet Marwood and Withnail whom inhabit a wretched cold and meticulously filthy flat in Camden. Surrounded by such squalor and the unenviable problem of “forking the rats” Withnail mentions he has an uncle, ‘Monty’ (Richard Griffths) whom he assures Marwood would be gracious enough to lend them his cottage in The Lake District for the weekend.
Upon arrival their heaven is abruptly interrupted with torrential rain, peculiar locals and a particularly randy bull that takes a shine to Marwood. Worst of all they’ve run out of booze! Retreating to the only hostelry within miles Withnail tangles with a local poacher and his eels when offering to buy the one he has in his trousers. Withnail, being firmly rebuffed retreats to the cottage. Their sense of paranoia increases when not long after thy spot him skulking nearby and become convinced that he’s there to psychotically do away with them.
The following evening luckily Monty arrives to visit ‘his boys’ and catches them both in a somewhat compromising position! He treats them to food hampers and the finest wines from his bountiful cellar and explains his love for a ‘firm young carrot’, much to the surprise of Marwood. It seems the weekend is only getting started.
‘Withnail and I’ has grown into a cult classic. The perennial student film and one of the most quoted of all time. Writer and director Bruce Robinson encapsulates the timely demise of drug addled 1960’s with more gags than you could poke a stick at. Richard E Grant flawlessly portrays the drunken, abusing debauchery of Withnail and Paul McGann, who plays ‘I’ gives a career best performance as his much persecuted friend cruelly overshadowed by Withnails’ hubris.
Simply put this is one of the most quotable, likable and talked about films of all time and is an absolute must in any film connoisseur’s collection.
THE PRODIGY RETURN and INVADERS MUST DIE!!! (COOKING VINYL)
After five years of obscurity The Prodigy return to their roots with their nostalgic new release ‘Invaders Must Die’ an album Mixmag hailing ‘As devastating as you could hope for’.
It’s easy to forget that The Prodigy have given us some of the most memorable tunes of the rave era with seminal classics such as ‘No Good’, ‘Firestarter’ ‘Poison’ and ‘Outer Space’ forever embedded in the conscious of a generation.
Throughout the 1990’s The Prodigy wore the crown of mainstream techno, punk, jungle pop, dance mash up despite valiant efforts at deposition by The Chemical Brothers and Underworld. However, the release of 2004’s Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned was received with indifference.
Despite this over the last ten years The prodigy have achieved what very few bands succeed in achieving – a state of notoriety that inspire iconic tabloid headlines. The Sex Pistols attained this the morning after their today programme appearance in 1976 when The Daily Mirror shrieked ‘The filth and the fury!’ Twenty years later with the release of ‘Firestarter’ The Prodigy infuriated The Mail On Sunday to such an extent that they trumpeted ‘Ban this sick fire record’. The consequential effect allowed The Prodigy to cement their mark on the social fabric of this country.
Invaders Must Die is forty minutes of having your senses violated, your serotonin levels warped and your head generally assaulted by the unique genre contorting sound of ‘The Prodigy’. It is the musical equivalent to forty minutes spent on the dodgems.
With the core members, Liam Howlett, Keith Flint and Maxim united the groups creative balance is restored. Within the commencement of the first thirty seconds a sampled voice declaring “We are The Prodigy” initiates us into the bass pumping, guitar driven, crazy video game reality gone amok style fitting of The Prodigy.
At times you find yourself smiling incredulously when the best bits from previous offerings over the years are shamelessly flaunted. ‘Warrior’s Dance’ echoes the landscape so effectively with ‘No Good (Start The Dance) that a gleeful smirk inevitably invades your mouth.
‘Take Me To The Hospital’ and ‘Thunder’ so distinctly echo The Prodigy’s 1992 offering ‘The Experience’. The former with Maxim’s dance hall raga, big beat kicks and low synth lines and the latter’s snarky rave slabs adding a nice touch of déjà vu to the record.
‘Run With The Wolves’ is a concentrated shock of electro rock and by a significant margin the most pioneering track on the album. It features an ultra heavy guitar riff provided by none other than Dave Grohl synched to a banging bass line. Combined with heated vocals from Keith Flint it is one of the bands coolest offerings ever.
Howlett has also additionally concocted in ‘Stand Up’ a feel good party in the streets number. With it’s proud bass and trashy drums it leaves an indelible imprint in The Prodigy catalogue and a welcome addition to this superior album.
At heart The Prodigy have always been an electro dance act with a rock and roll demeanour and by embracing this philosophy they have resurrected the elements that place this band atop the mantle once more. With a malevolent wink and a nod to their roots they manage to avoid the typical back to old school method and simply rock some tooth rattling bass beats with all manner of other aural bombardments and heavily accented vocals.
Marley & Me – Life And Love With The World’s Worst Dog By John Grogan
A Book Review By Miller Brooks
‘Let’s get together and feel alright’. Marley, a Golden Labrador so named after the Reggae legend, has the power with one glance to melt the most stonehearted. However, this pooch is neither mellow nor chilled, but a neurotic, mischievous, hyper energized canine intent on domineering his owners at any and all possible opportunities. This is John Grogan’s heart-warming frolic through the life of the world’s worst dog.
John Grogan’s bestselling book is the story of a young family journeying through life. His accounts of their trials and tribulations are intertwined with the memories of the family pet and his recollections will have you laughing out loud one minute and reaching for a box of tissues at the next.
Initially when this book was recommended to me I was instantly dismissive. Why indeed would I be interested in reading an entire book based on the behaviour of a dog. It seemed so mundane and having never owned a dog personally, I felt that this would be one of those books, you’d just ‘give a go’ to see what all the fuss was about. However, I was gleefully mistaken.
It begins with a heart-warming account of a small boys’ bond with the family pet, a mongrel named Shaun. This is merely a prelude as within a short few pages he establishes all the ways a pet can enrich a family’s life and how a small boys memory is linked with his experiences with his canine companion.
Hastily we move forward where we find the author married and along with his new bride, living in Palm Beach, Florida. He describes their idyllic existence. They are deeply in love, with good careers, a great house and not a care in the world. Though something is missing. Both John and his wife Jenny want to start a family of their own. With the prospect of children seeming so daunting they collectively decide upon a puppy to test the waters, so to speak. Little did they realise just what they were getting themselves in for!
Marley’s entry into John and Jenny’s life is a whirlwind of disaster. He rampages through screen doors, devours jewellery, especially watch straps apparently a canine speciality, destroys all the carpets and sees all the chairs as his personal chew toys. However, despite all the boisterous behaviour his loyalty and love is unquestioned.
Throughout the book John Grogan takes us along for the craziest adventures. Surely the casting of Marley as the ‘typical family dog’ in a local commercial was a catastrophe of epic proportions just waiting to happen! The story of Marley being thrown out of obedience school is pure hilarity, eloquently told and executed. Without divulging the events, lets just say it is a moral victory for all canine’s whom have ever had their dignity expunged by a hard nose trainer. Marley certainly had no intentions of taking orders from her.
One of the most memorable stories is that of the Grogan family attempting a night out for dinner with Marley in toe. The decision of a ritzy Florida restaurant is soon one they lament. With Marley secured to the cast iron dining table drinks are served and the ambiance is serene. However, when Marley spots another dog strutting along down the road he charges dragging the metal dinner table, clearing all in his path with John and Jenny frantically sprinting in hot pursuit.
In summation, Marley & Me is an exquisitely written journal of a burgeoning family’s life together. John Grogan uses his canine companion almost as a metaphor to say exactly what are his own opinions on life. He documents all the family’s life from his own deep rooted concerns for the family to Jenny’s bout with serious depression. The book is primarily comical and light, though he is not afraid to confront the darker moments that beseech all of us.
Marley & Me is a novel that most certainly is not ‘one for the dogs’, but a sincere and gratifying demonstration of the rich tapestry that is life. Marley reminds us that life should be lived to the fullest, and no matter what love and loyalty come for free.