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10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU #2 – MOVIE HAIR!! BY PAUL LAIGHT

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU #2 – MOVIE HAIR!!  

By Paul Laight

As a balding man I felt it my duty to raise my concerns about the desperately poor wig-work that has occurred down the years in the movies.  The wigs, actors chosen suck because they are so appalling and the filmmakers should have let the actor go natural to avoid discriminatory practices against baldies.

Obviously, for sci-fi, historical, and comedy films wigs are used in context and for humorous purposes so I have generally avoided picking on those but for the examples used there is NO EXCUSE!  They are a travesty and deeply hurtful to the bald community.  As Larry David says:  Baldism is a proper thing.


10.  IT LOOKS STUPID!

Okay, I understand certain characters require wigs especially if they wore them in real life like Phil Spector as played recently by Al Pacino but generally Movie Wigs look dumb.  It’s fine if it’s in the context of the character such as American Hustle (2013) where Bale’s character was shown to be vain but when an actor has what looks like a ferret stapled to his or her head then I’m thinking less of the movie as I’m too busy laughing at it.

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9.  IT’S DISCRIMINATION!

I started watching the decent-enough movie TransSiberian (2008) on Netflix and Woody Harrelson’s character is wearing an obvious wig.  Harrelson has played some fine bald heroes in his time most notably in the brilliant Zombieland (2009) but he’s let us right down in this movie.  His character was a nice guy in it so by giving him a syrup and spectacles are they saying that bald people cannot be pleasant and easy-going.  Either cast an actor with hair or don’t. It’s baldist! Come on Woody – you SHOULD know better.

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8.  WHAT HAPPENED TO TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT?

So I was watching a very disappointing blockbuster film about a massive lizard and I was so disconnected with the lack of characterisation or suspense I got distracted by the usually brilliant Bryan Cranston and his appalling wig!  Why not allow let the character have a natural hairstyle of the actor? Are they saying a character with a receding hairline or a bald character is less sympathetic?  All that money spent on special effects and incredible looking giant monsters in Godzilla (2014) and his hair-piece was so unconvincing I was embarrassed. Mind you not as unconvincing as the script.

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7.  KING OF THE WIGS – NICOLAS CAGE

I can’t stand wigs and plastic surgery and Cage seems to have had his fair share of both. It’s vanity gone mad.  Unless of course you have a tragic disfigurement or burns I see no reason to alter your body or face in ANY way via artificial means!  If you need to lose weight go on a diet don’t use liposuction. If you are bald don’t get a rat transplant on your bonce just deal with it.  The worst hair-cut he ever had was arguably in the terrific prison-escape blockbuster Con Air (1997). While the mullet had a certain magnetic quality it, in my opinion, it was laughable and took the piss really.

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Anyway, Cage — on his day — is an outstanding actor but he has been in some really sorry old tosh like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011).  Here’s a guy who could be a hero to all baldies everywhere with his receding locks so why not  allow his characters have Cage’s natural barnet.  His lack of locks worked well in Adaptation (2002) as it added to low-status nature of one of the brothers but this was an exception to the rule.

 
6.  BALD PEOPLE DEHUMANIZED AS THE BAD GUY!

Look all the villains over the years who have been bald: Lex Luthor, Voldemort, Ming The Merciless, John Doe (from Se7en), Bane, Gru, Don Logan, Darth Maul, The Baldies from The Wanderers (1979) and many more. Choosing someone who is follicly-challenged is an easy shorthand and detrimental to the humanization of bald people all over the world. We are not villains.  We are humans – just because we don’t have hair it doesn’t make us bad people. We have feelings you know.

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5.  THE BALD UNTRUTH! – JOHN TRAVOLTA

Why use wigs? Why can’t the character be bald – does it make them any less of a human being?!  At the very least why collude in the fact the character has real hair.  Try and be inventive with the syrups.  John Travolta has worn some horrific fringes in his time but at no stage does he send this part of his being up or make it part of the characterisation.  In Wild Hogs (2007) — a film about mid-life crises he spends most of it in a bandana rather than embracing his lack of hair.  Fair play in the dreadful From Paris With Love (2010) he is bald but he still has a compensatory goatee to take the bald sheen away from the role.

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4.  UNINTENTIONAL HUMOUR

I’m just going to say one word:  Surrogates (2009). This Bruce Willis sci-fi thriller is a dog of a film and the syrups are hilarious.  Humans are essentially lock-ins and rarely go out.  Instead they live their lives through virtual reality surrogates.  It’s not a bad idea and contains a reasonable social comment on technology displacing actual physical and emotional contact.  The problem I have with the film is the human version of Willis is bald whereas the computer version has hair.  So basically, Willis’ preferred setting is having hair. Why couldn’t it be the other way round!!   Plus the haircut is an absolute joke; much like the film as a whole.  Bruce Willis is a flag-bearing hero to all bald men and he has worn some dodgy wigs in his time but this is the most monstrous blot on his career.

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3.  BAD HAIRPIECES DEVALUE THE PRODUCTION

Films are SO expensive to make you would think they could spend a bit more of an effort to make the hairpieces more realistic.  Some films — even historical dramas like Lincoln (2013) — have incredible sets, amazing actors and a cast of thousands but when it comes to the syrups the whole thing falls down.  I found Lincoln a tough watch anyway as it was SO boring.   Has anyone actually watched this film and enjoyed it?   Anyway, despite a ponderous story the incredible production is let down by wigs so ridiculous they act as a Brechtian distanciation device and consistently remind us we are watching a movie.  I realise that movie God Spielberg may have been going for authenticity but it backfires in Lincoln and the wigs are an embarrassment.

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2.  IF THEY HAVE HAIR – WHY ARE THEY WEARING A SYRUP?

The worst thing is when the actor actually has hair and they STILL put a hair-piece on them.  It’s a travesty really because they could have cast a bald person in the role and given them a leg up in the vanity-led industry that is Hollywood.  Or at the very least use the actors real hair and style it accordingly.  If the film covers a number of years then for additional realism they should shoot the film in order as the hair grows.   The biggest culprit for this is Oliver Stone.  He has made some magnificent films but his career is littered with crimes against bald people. Just have a gander at these monstrosities:

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1. HAIL THE BALD HEROES!

We shall fight them in the barbers, the make-up chairs and film & sets. Hail the heroes carrying the fight against the vain, unreal and plastic harbingers of doom!  Stand proud the hairless and bald!  Fight the good fight to the last strand!

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ALIENS TO ZOO: MY WEEK’S REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

ALIENS TO ZOO: MY WEEK’S REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

As cockney comedian Micky Flanagan might say I’ve been DOUBLE BUSY this week from a cultural point of view. So rather write a lengthy movie review I thought I’d treat my fan (you know who you are) to a quick rundown of all the fun stuff I’ve been up to, watched, listened to and experienced this week.

 DOCTOR WHO

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As a massive fan of the Scottish actor Peter Capaldi I really want to watch the new series of Doctor Who! However I am bound by my rules of not watching any episodes of long-running dramas or comedies out of linear order.  Thus, I have had a massive catch-up in the last month from David Tennant’s Doctor onwards. Some brilliant episodes include The Idiot Lantern, Satan’s Pit, Gridlock, Blink and many more full of fantastical sci-fi ideas with Tennant performing miracles as everyone’s favourite Timelord. Ironically, Capaldi pops up in The Fires of Pompeii and I can’t wait for his tenure in the TARDIS once I’ve got through Matt Smith’s two seasons.

SIN CITY – A DAME TO KILL FOR (2014) – MOVIE REVIEW

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Roberto Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s sequel to the mind-blowing violent-noir-comic-book-digital-backlot-splatterfest SIN CITY (2005) was eagerly anticipated by myself. Yeah, I’m a sucker for hard-boiled Chandleresque dialogue, femme fatales, knuckle-headed masculine losers and bone-crunching, bloody violence.  Like the previous incarnation A DAME TO KILL FOR has some fantastic imagery and eye-popping brutality amidst the side-alleys, mean streets and smoky bars of Basin City.

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Yet, overall I felt a strange sense of disappointment combined with negative deja vu while watching the film. The first film was so memorable any sequel had to be bigger and more explosive but while a fine watch it was not as good as the first one. .  The cast are fantastic though notably the gorgeous Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mickey Rourke as Marv – the maniac-with-a-heart. The stories never quite take flight as they did in the first film and I’ll be honest the perpetual voice-over kind of ground me down. Still, if you’re a fan of the original there is enough in there to satisfy Noir addicts everywhere.

WHIPSNADE ZOO

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On Sunday me and the son and heir Rhys went to Whipsnade Zoo for the day.   It’s a lovely place full of animals obviously with a wonderful walk round of about 3 miles.  What I love about the place is the animals have loads of room to roam and it’s far more spacious than the claustrophobic London Zoo.  It’s not too expensive either so recommended for all the family.

BAND OF BROTHERS (2001 – HBO)

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I am deeply ashamed to admit that I only watched the first couple of these when it was first aired many moons ago.  However, I have finally caught up again with this sensational WW2 drama this week. The mini-serial covers the harrowing exploits of Easy Company — of the US Airborne — and their various campaigns including: D-Day, Operation Market Garden and The Battle of the Bulge.  It is high-end quality television par excellence with a massive cast and budget to boot!  The horrors of war that Spielberg and his team presented so viscerally in Saving Private Ryan (1998) are also represented here with savage aplomb as we empathise with these gallant men fighting for freedom against the Germans in grisly and murderous conflict.

TOTTENHAM F.C. v AEL LIMASSOL (3-0 – WHITE HART LANE)

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On Thursday evening I was at White Hart Lane to watch the mighty Spurs dominate possession and put three goals past their Cypriot rivals, and in the process, go through to the Europa League group stage.  I hadn’t been to the football in a few years and enjoyed the experience very much.  The White Hart Lane pitch looked stunning as Kane, Paulinho and Townsend (penalty) scored the goals that put Limassol to the sword.

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At times it was like a training game really but I was impressed with Harry Kane upfront – despite his penalty miss – and Brazilian midfielder Paulinho. Plus, the philosophy Mauricio Pochettino seems to be promoting is a passing, possession game involving patience and interchangeability of the three behind the striker. So, despite the lack of quality of the opposition I was pleased with the result and now look forward to watching Spurs on ITV4 as they travel the 10,000 mile journey to Outer Mongolia in the Group Stages.

WITHOUT FAIL (a JACK REACHER NOVEL) by LEE CHILD

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I finally finished reading a book that I started on holiday in July. It’s a Jack Reacher novel of which I understand there are many.  It was a very well plotted and designed thriller which pits an off-the grid-ex-military-anti-heroic-hard-nut on various missions against bad people.  In this case  a mysterious assassin who wants to kill the Vice-President for some unknown reason.  It’s a very long book of around 550 pages and I felt it could have been pruned here or there and while I didn’t really care too much about the Vice President, I empathised with his team of agents charged with guarding him.  Reacher is a military expert and it’s his intelligence, steel and mettle which makes the story interesting. In my opinion the novel gets slightly bogged down in police/FBI/CIA procedure but it’s very well written with some excellent twists and as potboilers go it is worth a read.  Reacher’s no Bond though; give me Ian Fleming’s lean, sinewy writing any day of the week.

KASABIAN – 48:13 – ALBUM REVIEW

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I don’t listen to too much “new” music these days and have somewhat lost touch with the up and coming rock and roll bands of this millennium. However, one band whose albums I always look forward to are Leicester’s neo-wave-electro-rockers KASABIAN. Their new album is another triumph of rocking beats, hefty basslines, rich synths and nonsense urban-meets-Lewis-Carroll-style lyrics. Covering very similar ground to their last record VELOCIRAPTOR this is a great party album which will no doubt work very well in movie soundtracks and in the big arena’s Kasabian are now playing in.  They don’t have much to say politically and could be argued to be style-over-substance but what a style they have!  Serge Pizzorno knows how to write a cracking tune and he more than proves that once again with tracks like: Stevie, Eez-Eh, Bow, Bumblebee etc…

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A TRIP DOWN WHITE HART LANE: MY FAVOURITE SPURS MEMORIES by PAUL LAIGHT

A TRIP DOWN WHITE HART LANE: MY FAVOURITE SPURS MEMORIES by PAUL LAIGHT

Audere est Facere: To Dare is to Do!

The new Premier League season is upon us and just to take a break from my usual cinematic blog nonsense I would like to write a bit about my ongoing support for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

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Spurs have a great history being the first Non-League club to win the FA Cup and the first team to do ‘the Double’ in the 20th century. Since those glory days they have successfully won the FA Cup several times, the Cup Winners Cup, the League Cup and UEFA Cup.  They have always prided themselves on playing sweet attractive passing football with a history for flamboyant flair players. In the 1976/77 season they suffered relegation but soon bounced back to the top division. Under Keith Burkinshaw they almost won the league title and enjoyed some league success and further FA Cup glory under Terry Venables stewardship in 1990/91.

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Since the 1990s they have had mixed fortune in the league and have flirted with relegation as well as having a bit of an open-door policy when it comes to managers.  Of late, Spurs could be classed as a ‘nearly’ club pushing the top four but usually cementing a respectable top six or so position. Under Harry Redknapp they reached the dizzy heights of the Champions’ League quarter-finals and were unlucky not to qualify again BUT Chelsea’s jammy Champions’ League win in 2012 prevented this.

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I have followed Spurs since the start of the ‘80s and while I have attended several games down the years , if I’m honest, I could be described as a classic “armchair/watch down the pub” supporter. Having said that I am very passionate about the team and while there are ups and downs I consider it a privilege to follow them as they have always been in the top division trying to challenge despite them not winning the league for some time.

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What’s great about supporting Spurs is the unpredictability. They are very much an “Icarus” team. They promise much and occasionally fly high only to somehow burn up spectacularly when they get too close to the sun.  The “Lasagne Gate” episode of 2006 is a case in point where Martin Jols’ Spurs were so close to finishing 4th in the Premier League; before an alleged batch of dodgy pasta knocked the team sideways. They would be beaten 2-1 by London rivals West Ham and get pipped to 4th by dreaded North London rivals Arsenal.

Anyway, I thought it nice to take a trip down memory lane and pick out my favourite Spurs moments, goals, matches and people.  They are in date order and of course very subjective but I hope fellow Spurs’ supporters enjoy these memories.

 

GLENN HODDLE – (1975-1987 – 377 apps – 88 goals)

Arguably the greatest ever Spurs player in regard to longevity and sheer entertainment value. So much skill, power and vision and I got to meet him recently at a Spurs’ supporter football event. This YouTube tribute says it all really.

1981 – RICKY VILLA – GOAL AGAINST WOLVES – FA SEMI-FINAL

This is my earliest Spurs’ memory.  Our mercurial bearded Argentinian midfielder cutting in from the wing and launching a thunderbolt left foot drive. Sweet!

 

1981 – FA CUP REPLAY SPURS V MAN CITY – 3-2

This is still one of the greatest games of football I have ever seen.  Both teams were up for it and the game was a see-saw classic.  Steve Mackenzie’s volley for City was spectacular but Villa’s goal that won it was pure genius.  And never forget a great tackle by Graham Roberts which helped set-up the winning goal.

THOSE GLORY GLORY DAYS – FILM (1982)

It would be remiss of me to have a blog piece without mentioning a movie and I loved this film when I was a kid. It concerns a group of schoolgirls who are obsessed with Spurs and the legendary Danny Blanchflower. It’s a sweet, touching and funny coming of age football story with a gender twist.

GARY MABBUTT – (1982-1998 – 477 apps – 27 goals)

If you cut Gary Mabbutt in half he would bleed white and blue and also most likely die. But this is a man who literally put his life on the line for Spurs given he overcame diabetes to become a Spurs legend. Mabbutt was an incredibly consistent defender who led by example and was deservedly capped by his country too.

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1984 – TONY PARKS SAVES PENALTY TO WIN UEFA CUP

The UEFA Cup was a big deal then and Spurs had won through some tough rounds including beating Bayern Munich. The final against Anderlecht went to the wire and Tony Parks stepped up to save the last penalty and become a Spurs hero!

1986-87 – CLIVE ALLEN SCORES 49 GOALS IN ONE SEASON

Despite scoring so many goals, and with a midfield including Hoddle, Waddle and Ardiles’, Spurs trophy cupboard was empty at the end of the year. They finished 3rd in the league and lost to Coventry in the FA Cup Final. Yet, Clive Allen, playing up front on his own, had the mother of all purple patches under manager David Pleat scoring a shedload of goals in one season.


1991 – PAUL GASGOIGNE  V ARSENAL (FA CUP SEMI-FINAL)

Gazza was one helluva player for Spurs. An electric, skilful and powerhouse of a performer on the pitch. Yet, his Spurs career came to an abrupt end when he lunged at Gary Charles in the 1991 Cup Final. He had some stunning games for Spurs but his legendary free kick against Arsenal is ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff; a belting exocet missile which smashed the corner of the net and broke Arsenal hearts. Terry Venables’ led Spurs were outstanding on a day to remember at Wembley.

PETER COOK – (1937-1995)

Peter Cook was one of the funniest people that ever walked the Earth.  Satirist, comedian, writer, actor, drunk, raconteur and famed Spurs fan he formed a wonderful double act with Dudley Moore after rising to fame as part of the Cambridge Footlights including Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett.  His very rude and naughty ‘Derek and Clive’ tapes were essential listening while I was growing up as they took filth to a whole new level of piss-up artistry.

1994 – KLINSMANN CELEBRATORY “DIVE”

Oh, Spurs fans were never more optimistic than this season. We saw Klinsmann, Sheringham, Dumitrescu, Barmby and Anderton going forward; however, we also had Calderwood and Nethercott at the back. So, for all our attacking prowess we could not defend for toffee and struggled under Ardiles. Klinsmann’s celebration was wonderful though; sending up his reputation as a diver gained during the World Cup.


DAVID GINOLA (1997-2000 – 100 apps – 13 goals)

The word mercurial was invented for the likes of Ginola. Spurs were a pretty ordinary team from the mid-90s onwards. One of their shining lights was flashy Frenchmen Ginola who played so well in a struggling team 1999 that he was awarded the Writer’s and Player’s Footballer of the Year. Without him Spurs could’ve gone down. He was outstanding and it was such a pleasure to see him twisting and turning on the Gallic flair for the Lilywhites.

2006 – LEDLEY KING tackle against ARJEN ROBBEN

Loved Ledley King. Loved him.  The Lane has seen some great defenders and Ledley was definitely one of the best.  Pacy, intelligent and a great tackler, he read the game brilliantly.  Sadly his career was blighted by injury but Sven Goran Eriksson rated him so highly he took him to the World Cup even though he only had one working knee.  Such a lovely guy too.  This tackle on speedster Robben just demonstrates how good he was.

2008 – SPURS BEAT ARSENAL 5-1 in the CARLING CUP

Spurs have kind of closed the gap on Arsenal in the last decade and results like this really brightened up every fans existence. We didn’t just beat them we wiped the floor with them. Of course, Arsenal have got their own back on us since but we don’t remember those.

2008 – SPURS CARLING CUP WIN OVER CHELSEA

Our last bit of silverware was won by with manager Juande Ramos in charge. Alas it turned out to be his one and only glory as he was sacked early into the next season with the team floundering at the bottom of the league. It was a battling performance from the team and a Berbatov penalty and Woodgate header late on sealed it following a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper. Ramos went to Real Madrid temporarily afterwards but then got banished to Siberia or some other godforsaken place.

2009 – ARSENAL 4-4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (2008/09)

Aahh… for every great player Spurs have had they’ve had their fair share of those who have ultimately failed to deliver. David Bentley was one of these. I felt he had SO much potential — as seen in his wonder goal against Arsenal. This was Harry Redknapp’s 2nd game in charge and what a game it was! An 8 goal thriller!  In Robert DeNiro’s film The Bronx Tale (1989) one character said, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Sadly Bentley fits into this category but Spurs fans will always have his thunderbolt against the Arse.

GARETH BALE (2007-2013 – 146 APPS – 46 GOALS – many assists)

To think the Welsh wing wizard played 24 games for Spurs before being on the winning team and he almost got loaned out or even sold to Birmingham or Nottingham Forest. Thankfully Spurs persevered with this incredible talent and he went from left-back to left-wing to all-out attacking phenomenon becoming a force majeure for Spurs and one of the most exciting players we have ever had.

Without him the team may have gone out of the 2010 Champions League early doors. Moreover, under Andres Villas-Boas he almost single-handedly dragged us into the 4th place spot just missing out to Arse again. Spurs would get a massive fee from Real Madrid and last season he at times lit up La Liga the way he lit up the Lane.

 

LEST WE FORGET…

Since supporting Spurs’ from the 1980s we have had so many great players play for us and I haven’t been able to mention them properly in the piece but much kudos goes to:

Ray Clemence, Steve Perryman, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham, Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Allen, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gary Lineker, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe, Chris Waddle, Garth Crooks, Graham Roberts, Ossie Ardiles and many more. Plus some right jokers who I’d prefer not to mention: Paulo Tramezzani anyone?

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2014/2015 – ????

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Who knows what the new season will bring? But under Mauricio Pottechino I just hope for some consistency of performance and maybe a bit of flair. A good top six finish and decent cup runs at least is required I would say. If we can build a team around Eriksen and perhaps hang onto our star performers rather than sell them off over the next few years who knows – we could get into the Top Four again. However, misguided it may be I always have blind optimism with regard to Tottenham Hotspur F.C. After all, it is better to aim high and burn in the sun than keep your feet on the ground. Or is it? To dare is to do!  To dare is to do!

(At time of writing Spurs are 0-0 away to West Ham…)

http://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/home/

http://www.tottenhamhotspur-mad.co.uk/league_history/tottenham_hotspur/index.shtml

 

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THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD**

“Hence, once again, pastiche: in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles… means that one of its essential messages is… the failure of the new, the imprisonment in the past.”

Frederic Jameson – POSTMODERNISM & CONSUMER SOCIETY (1983)

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I loved this film for so many reasons.  It’s a nostalgic rush and push of music, action, fantastical creatures, space operatics, zinging one-liners, knowing humour, spectacular effects and in Chris Pratt — a new cinema star (lord) for the millennium is born.  Let’s be honest there isn’t an original bone in its body but the fleshy pastiche and meaty cultural references Guardians of the Galaxy wears proudly on its sleeves take the audience on one hell of a journey.

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Marxist and cultural theorist Frederic Jameson spoke of the rise of the “Nostalgia” film and postmodernist movies such as Star Wars (1977) and American Graffiti (1973) in his seminal essay aforementioned above.  The Nostalgia film harks back and references the past drawing influences not from reality but rather cultural artefacts such as films, comics, radio, TV and music etc.  Guardians of the Galaxy involves an orphaned hero — with mysterious father — who must do battle against an evil empire, save a “damsel” in distress, all the while accompanied by a motley crue of intergalactic misfits.  Sound at all familiar?  Yes, finally the kids of today have their Star Wars. They have a new hope, kind of; a pastiche of a pastiche of a pastiche based solely on the cultural fossils of yesteryear.

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Watching this film on IMAX 3D at Wimbledon Odeon Screen 4 (my favourite cinema screen by the way) made me feel nostalgic in so many ways. It felt more like the comic books I read as a child than any film I’ve seen recently. Further, I felt a surge of history as the film opened taking me back to 1977 when my Dad took me to see Star Wars (1977).  I recall the massive queues waiting to go see Lucas’ classic and the giddiness and excitement I felt as a youth rushed through me; even more so when the film started and my consciousness was treated to one impressive set-piece after another.  I felt young again and all because of a movie!

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In a major ironic twist I too felt nostalgic for my University days and my discovery of postmodern theorists such as Jameson, Baudrillard and Foucault while studying. While it served no purpose in the real world my academic life was a great time for me.  The knowledge of postmodernism I gained enhanced further this funky fusion of comic-book anti-heroes blowing stuff up to a 70s soundtrack. Indeed, I was at peace with the world.  A bomb could have hit the cinema and I would not have cared.  It was cinematic heroin. I was happy.

Guardians is the 10th Marvel Universe movie to be produced and is based on a lesser known product from the uber-comic overlords’ oeuvre. Young Peter Quill is not having the best day. At the beginning he suffers the loss of his mother. As he runs away from the hospital he is then kidnapped by a gigantic spaceship which airlifts him to a life with the Ravagers; a group of space cowboys and outlaws – led by Michael Rooker’s Yondu.  Flash forward some many years to a galaxy far, far far away and an older Quill (effortlessly charismatic Chris Pratt) is on the hunt for a mysterious orb in order to make a few intergalactic dollars.  Quill proves himself a decent dancer and well as fighter as he uses hi-tech weapons to outfox his foes.

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The opening action sequence is a sheer joy and essentially riffs on the opening of Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981) while using Blue Swede’s funky classic Hooked on a Feeling  also used in Reservoir Dogs (1992). Let’s be honest it is all very silly but I am not watching this as a fortysomething man but rather a young boy living in the warmth of the past bathing in the nostalgia of recalling Star Wars, Raiders, Reservoir Dogs and MIXTAPES!!   I used to do mixtapes and it was such fun before the devilish digital age took over.  Anyway, the orb Quill has stolen turns out to be one of those END OF THE WORLD plot McGuffin thingy’s and a whole host of benign and nefarious characters are after it notably evil Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), Kree mentalist Ronan (Lee Pace) and the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) etc.

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So, Quill consequently finds himself pursued and caught and thrown in prison by the Nova Corps (basically humans with funny hair.) He then unwittingly becomes part of a bunch of misfits including: Rocket (Bradley Cooper) – a feisty raccoon and weapons expert; Groot (Vin Diesel) – a tree-like humanoid; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – Thanos’s adopted assassin daughter; and finally Drax (Dave Bautista) – a giant blue alien muscle guy. Together these unusual suspects form an uneasy but at times hilarious alliance as they fight and argue and bicker and eventually accept each other and combine to overcome the villains before them.

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If The Avengers (2012) was a remake of The Magnificent Seven (1964) then this is a remake of the Dirty Dozen (1967) (minus seven). Moreover, the film follows the successful Marvel template of superheroes (or in this case anti-heroes) saving a very Earth-like world from destruction from said poisoned destructive orb (see Tesseract).  But what makes this Space-Western such fun is the oddball off-centre characters which director James Gunn and his fellow writers clearly gave a lot of time developing. While special effects reign over the production the likes of Quill, Rocket and Groot are given a humanity and humour which adds heart to story.  Indeed the script is full of empathetic backstories and themes including: fatherless, motherless and adopted children, genocide, slaves, nature v. technology, medical experimentation, grief, tyranny of dictatorship; all of which add some depth to the otherwise fluffy frivolity of the script.

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Gunn was an interesting choice of director as he had written some mildly successful screenplays and directed two low-budget movies: the hilarious horror Slither (2006) and anti-super-hero oddity Super (2010).  But he marshals the army of cast and crew with a great sense of timing and while Guardians is generic in structure, the delight is in the incredible visuals and action, character detail and witty dialogue splashed throughout. The tone almost tipped over into farce in a dance off scene near the end and Del Toro is disappointing underused as The Collector. Plus Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora is gutsy and kick-ass until she turns to type and is saved by Quill. Although I forgave this stereotype because the scene was so memorably rendered and realised in a kind of space version of Jean Vigo’s poetic classic L’Atalante (1934).

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The film finishes with a lovely post-credit kick in the nuts with an appearance of another comic-book-anti-hero. Marvel once again has delivered the goods and their standard template will continue to be a success if they choose off-centre directors such as Gunn, Whedon and the Russo Brothers. These are young (ish) guns like Lucas and Spielberg who while they wear their cultural influences proudly on their sleeves, jackets and underwear they paradoxically retain some originality amidst the pastiche and intertextuality. Thus, Frederic Jameson’s theories seem even more valid today. He himself argued that postmodernist culture was linked to the rise of late capitalism from the 1960s onwards and as the Marvel money-making monopoly marches on who can disagree with him.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**SPOLIERS AHOY**

Film great. Humans crap.

In my last review I compared going to the cinema like going to a restaurant.  For this review I am going to use another tenuous analogy and say going to the cinema is my equivalent of going to Church.  The director/writer/filmmakers are in my eyes GOD!  The actors are the Priests spreading the word while the popcorn is the body of Christ with Tango or Coca-Cola as the blood. Not that I drink fizzy drinks or sugary  any more as I am currently winning an ongoing dispute between my will power and several unhealthy food addictions.

Anyway, what I’m saying is the Cinema is my holy sanctuary — it means THAT much to me. So if you want to use your phone (texting or going online) or talk about something on your phone such as the latest photo of your own arsehole then I will strike down upon thee with furious vengeance! Well I will ask you to shut up or get out!

In the war between humans’ and apes I was already on the Apes’ side following the excellent blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (2011) and even more so after witnessing its’ superlative sequel. Indeed, with the insane ongoing wars, environmental issues, pollution, fracking, plane crashes, arms dealing, dodgy press, corrupt governments, genocide and other disasters such as selfish phone wankers talking at the cinema perhaps it’s time for a change on Earth; a clean slate maybe?  Maybe the apes and other animals deserve a chance of owning this planet and giving peace a chance; something humanity seems incapable of sustaining.

If you didn’t know the Planet of the Apes franchise originated from Pierre Boulle’s wonderfully conceived 1963 novel La Planete des singes  and spawned a plethora of films, merchandise, TV shows, comics, novelisations, comic books, posters and even an animated series.  In the late 60s and 70s they didn’t just milk the cash cow they drained the blood and sold off its’ organs and body parts to an ever hungry audience thirsty for another instalment.

Irrespective of the sloping quality of the various guises it took the intelligence raised in the original source and gave us some serious action and brain-food encompassing themes and historical events such as: Darwinism; dystopic and apocalyptic future visions; civil and social unrest; slavery; man’s inhumanity to animals; medical experimentation; the Vietnam and Cold war; civilisation versus savagery; anthropology; The Frankenstein myth; space and time travel; and many other socio-political and science fictional motifs.  It’s a conceptual and cultural phenomenon. And Dawn of the Planet is a wonderful addition to the series.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins a few years AFTER Caesar led the apes’ escape from captivity depicted so entertainingly in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He, his wife and children are now living in reasonable harmony in a huge commune of orang-u-tan, gorillas and chimpanzees.  As suggested at the end of the first movie humans have succumbed to a virus which has wiped them off the planet leaving only those with vascular immunity still alive.  These are lead by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus; a man — who like many others — has lost his family to the virus and subsequent societal breakdown. The dramatic meat of the story begins to cook when the apes are disturbed by a party of humans looking for a new energy source via a Dam in the forest.

The film is a real slow-burner as it establishes the rivalry between the apes and humans as they initially form an uneasy truce before outright war eventually begins.  Indeed the first hour or so is very much given to establishing character dynamics with Caesar’s (phenomenal Andy Serkis) leadership of the apes questioned by the scarred Koba (brilliant Toby Kebbell).  This too is reflected in the more peaceful Malcolm seeking to avoid war and co-exist with the apes as opposed to Dreyfus who sees them as nothing more than savage beasts.  Thus the four main protagonists are very rounded and keenly drawn although one criticism of the film is the lack of a powerful female character and one may say, Oldman aside, the humans are a little bland overall. An accusation I cannot say about the apes who are rendered incredibly by the massive special effect team at WETA.

By allowing the slow build up characters, spiked by some in-fighting in each of the camps, the tension rises and anticipation of the battle rises to fever pitch.  It is Koba who precipitates the war as he is driven by his anger at being experimented on by humans’ years before.  While Caesar leads with majesty and quiet authority, Koba is driven by revenge, pain and hate and this passion drives him to attack the humans with full ape force.  What follows is one of the most memorable set-pieces I have seen at the cinema this year with apes smashing down the human compound with violent abandon.  The image of a dual-gunned Koba rampaging on horseback as fire burns behind him is a cinematic moment which will stay in my memory for sometime.

Matt Reeves is an excellent genre filmmaker and he maintains the great standard set by Rupert Wyatt from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Reeves, the writers, cast and his battalion of special effects people have produced an intelligent blockbuster which keeps the drama burning throughout culminating in a stupendous battle sequence at the end.  The film is a portent telling us once again that humans will reap suffering if they continue to tamper with nature in the name of progress.  It also reflects the importance of family, acceptance and tolerance of others in order find peace; war and in particular gorilla warfare (sorry) is not the way forward.  There’s one soppy and jarring bit of script coincidence where Caesar goes back to the house he grew up in but that was not enough to ruin another excellent film inspired by Boulle’s literary classic. Those still haunted by Tim Burton’s atrocious 2001 effort will be very grateful for this entry in the franchise. Altogether now: Hail Caesar! Hail Caesar!

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THE GREENE AND LAIGHT SHOW – CAMDEN FRINGE 2014

THE GREENE AND LAIGHT SHOW – CAMDEN FRINGE

3RD, 4TH, 5TH AUGUST 2014, THE CAMDEN HEAD – 9.30PM

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A quick plug for the comedy show I’m doing on the Camden Fringe at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street, NW1 0LU on 3rd, 4th, 5th August – starts at 9.30pm.

I’m never that comfortable with self promotion but here you go.

A FLYER:
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A FACEBOOK INVITE:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1515017938728489/?fref=ts


BUY TICKETS HERE: 

http://www.camdenfringe.com/detailact.php?acts_id=428

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PRESS RELEASE

Londoner PAUL LAIGHT is a semi-pro comedian, film blogger, screenwriter and filmmaker.  Paul’s a but miserable but tries so hard to be positive and it’s this dynamic which propels his comedy.  He did his first comedy gig in January 2008 and performed at many gigs both as comic and compere. His set is gag-heavy with jokes based on personal experiences including: family, marriage and work. He’s both bitter and sweet as he examines his life. Despite his complaints he prefers to hang onto the positives and see the funny side of life.

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“Affable host!” http://www.chortle.co.uk
“Splendid!” http://www.londonisfunny.com
“Responsible, funny and not a wanker.” Pear Shaped Comedy Club

 ADAM GREENE  is an up-and-coming comedian from South London. With a mix of observation and surrealism, Adam has earned plaudits from audiences, critics and fellow comics who describe him as “endearingly funny,” “surprisingly alright,” and “definitely OK”.

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As a former frontman in a Punk band in the mid-noughties Adam developed a stage presence and confidence that made the transition into stand up smooth, winning competitions as early as his fourth gig. Preparing to make his Edinburgh debut in 2014 as part of the show Dancing with the Inflatable Colonel there is a bright future ahead for this comic.

“Next big thing – don’t quote me on that!” – Robin Banks, Promote

 

PROMOTIONAL VIDEO

Hope you can make it along to THE GREENE & LAIGHT SHOW – be seeing you.

THREE DAYS TO KILL (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

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THREE DAYS TO KILL (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**CONTAINS SPOILERS – ALTHOUGH NOT MUCH TO SPOIL AS THE FILMMAKERS HAVE DONE THAT ALREADY**

For me going to the cinema is very much like going to a restaurant: the trailers are the starter; the movie is the main course; the director is the chef and the popcorn and sweets are dessert. To continue the analogy I would describe 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014) as a complete dog’s dinner. Given I have witnessed by chance a dog eat its own vomit and horse excrement – different dog on different occasions – this is probably the nicest thing I can say about the film.

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3 DAYS TO KILL is another of those EuropaCorp B-movie action genre thrillers from the Luc Besson stable which have proved very popular to audiences seeking heady thrills, explosions, testosteronic fist-fights, car chases, post-ironic-tight-clothed femme fatales, dastardly bad guys plus the added whiff of xenophobia  thrown in.  Some of which, such as The Transporter (2002), Taken (2008) and District 13 (2004) are actually very entertaining. Yet, Eurocorp have also produced some excellent genre movies giving inexperienced directors a foot up in the industry e.g. Tell No One (2006). But like many studios for every hit there is big fat turkey.

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Talking of turkeys this movie is one severely undercooked bird.  The ‘chef’ McG, who killed the Terminator franchise reboot and ruined the well-cast Spy v Spy romantic action thriller This Means War (2013), has to be one of the most consistently poor directors around.  Because he takes two very familiar plots –

1)  Dying Secret Service Agent/hired killer (Kevin Costner) is given a chance to live longer by super-sexy but plastic Amber Heard if he does one last job in Paris.

2) Dying Secret Service Agent/hired killer (Costner) tries to redeem his past failings as a father by rebuilding his relationship with his ex-wife (Connie Neilsen) and teenage daughter (Hailee Stansfield) who lives – guess where?!?!  Paris is where!!

– And fails at every stage to bring them to the boil satisfactorily. The tone of the piece was all over the shop. One minute I think I was meant to be laughing and the next minute I think I was meant to be adrenalized and the next minute I was meant to be sad.  But I felt nothing. Added to the plot elements mentioned was a sub-plot involving an African family squatting in Costner’s apartment. But this only slowed down the story even more and was an extraneous redemptive device Costner’s character didn’t need.

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Now I love a good spy movie. I also enjoy familial dramas. But it takes a skilled writer and director to make this work together. In fact 3 Days to Kill is one of those films where you genuinely wonder whether the filmmakers knew what they were doing.  Frankensteinian in concept with bits and pieces nicked from different genres and films, yet like Frankenstein it’s disfigured, falling apart at the seams and essentially a dead film walking.

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There are positives about the film and one of them is that the film ends. Having said that the opening set-piece is pretty good and Costner is dependable in the kind of role Liam Neeson has made his own in recent years. There’s an amusing scene with a stereotypical Italian Accountant in a rare moment when the family and spy plots actually worked well together. Plus there are a couple of well-choreographed car chases too.

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However, in between the action we suffer long dull scenes between Costner’s father and his daughter played by Hailee Stansfield. To be honest I doubt a Bergman or Kubrik in their prime could save this rotting fetid stew of a script which the writer’s cooked up in less than the 3 day’s it takes to kill McG’s career. Here’s hoping anyway.

 

 

Writer. Filmmaker. Semi-Pro Comedian. Wageslave

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