THE LAIGHTOLOGUES: A CULTURAL REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

THE LAIGHTOLOGUES: A CULTURAL REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

The last month or so I have been out and about doing bits and pieces from a cultural perspective and jolly good fun was had by all. Here are some of the highlights.

DEMONOLOGUES – COURTYARD THEATRE

Having tasted the greasepaint of such theatrical productions, Oppenheimer and View From The Bridge earlier this year I took in a lower-budget- off-off-Fringe production written and directed by Wendy Metcalf. It was performed by a talented cast of the Boxroom Theatre Company including such thespians as: Rosie Angeni, Tyrone Atkins, Asif Channa, Enid Gayle, Kim White, Mike Stewart and Rob Widdicombe.

Structured within seven magnificent monologues the piece was delivered with palpable conviction by each performer as they embodied the various characters with impressive commitment.  One hears of horror stories of indulgent plays which go on for what seems like days but this theatre production rattled by with energy, humour and pathos in equal measure. I would have loved each monologue to somehow be linked in a narrative sense; however, thematically it was very powerful as a series of outsiders contend with matters relating to:  death, obsession, performance, existential crisis, age, abuse, homelessness and rather peculiarly boxes.  Overall, the writer conjures up some memorable dialogue and characters as the piece delivers moments of humanity which stay with you long after the stage lights have dimmed.


ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS (1994) – JOHN LYDON (with KEITH & KENT ZIMMERMAN)

John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten WAS and still IS one of my heroes.  The working class lad from the deepest darkest London would emerge from the crumbling council houses of Finsbury Park and wreak havoc on the “Establishment” and sacred cows of Western Capitalism; firing a rocket into the cultural vacuum of the late 70s music industry.  This book charts — in his own and other individuals’ words — Lydon’s progress from sick young child to enfant terrible as he became the face and guts of the movement that would become known as PUNK!  No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs is structured in linear fashion via a set of interview transcripts as Lydon and the likes of Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Billy Idol, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Branson and many more give their perspectives of the lies and times of the era.

Lydon doesn’t mince his words in attacking those — notably The Sex Pistols manager Malcolm Mclaren — who he feels done him wrong and that anger propels the book. What struck me was the fragmented set of events and shattered points-of-view which spat and crackled at the time; making one realise that punk rock was not a movement of harmony. Instead it was a splintered faction of ideas, styles, influences that exploded from the depressing financial and social climate of the United Kingdom.  There was no fixed plan or collective movement or love or heroes but a detonation of unrest and youth in revolt and above all else a spark; and the chief spark being Lydon. You may not agree or even like the warts-and-all personality he presents in the book but one must respect Lydon for his vicious honesty. He’s forever the angry iconoclast and one of the great heroes/anti-heroes of British culture; at times infuriating but above-all-else bloody entertaining.

PEAR-SHAPED COMEDY SHOW – FITZROY TAVERN

This comedy night mixing pros, semi-pros, newcomers and general nutters has been going for donkey’s years and proclaims itself to be the “London’s 2nd worst comedy club”!  Despite this P-S has always been one of my favourite and dreaded places to perform comedy.  I have been funny there and also died a few comedy deaths as well but that was part of the fun too.  Run by the legendary comedy duo Brian & Krystal, Antony Miller and a whole host of comedians down the years it came to an end at its current home: The Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street. I went along to say goodbye and thank the club for supporting my comedy ramblings over the years. Safe to say it was all done it the best possible taste and it was a brilliant send-off.  There have been some desperately empty times in that room but this was not one of them as hosts, performers and audience (yes – it had an audience!) all joined together for a fantastic last hurrah. Well, until it starts up again in another room (here’s hoping!)

POLESDEN LACEY, SURREY – NATIONAL TRUST

This gem of a place has all the desires of a lovely afternoon out:  beautiful grounds; pretty gardens; impressive stately home; and over-priced gift and coffee shop.  It’s also got some leg-stretching walks where you can almost taste the serenity. What’s great too is it’s not that far from London either. So you can drive a reasonable distance from the fuel-spluttering-gaseous-urban-corporate-city-poisoned-capital and find yourself in a place of relaxation and historical value. My teenage son said it was “gay” so clearly not a place aimed at kids of his age but younger children, adults, ramblers and history buffs will find something pleasant in this beautiful space lovingly maintained by the National Trust.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – ROYAL HOSPITAL CHELSEA

I knew very little about Rufus Wainwright when my American girlfriend suggested we go to his live concert. I had heard of his musician-father Loudon Wainwright III and became aware that he was a young musical protégée and in a way a member of American musical royalty, so to speak.  Thus, having brushed up with a “Best-of” album bought on ITunes we headed to the impressively staged outdoor venue set-up at the home of the Chelsea Pensioners: Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Despite the heavens opening and rain bleeding onto a sea of plastic-covered bodies Mr Wainwright delivered a sterling set of beautifully constructed songs from his current and back catalogue. He’s a nervy, neurotic character with a wicked laugh, eager to please and a divine twang in his voice which would suggest he could probably be a great musical comedian too. While containing humour, lyrically, his songs bare his soul while wrapped in a mournful voice which quivers with emotional depth. Safe to say his piano sings a haunting melody although Mr Wainwright certainly picks up the pace with his faithful guitar in hand.

It was a fantastic and memorable performance in the London rain which had scattered by the time he sang the trusty classic Hallelujah.  I have since found out Mr Wainwright’s life had it’s fair share of troublesome situations including drug addiction  and while I didn’t not know this at the time, the way this soulful troubadour sang his heart out you knew. You just knew.

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #5: MADS MIKKELSEN by PAUL LAIGHT

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #5:  MADS MIKKELSEN by PAUL LAIGHT

You know the drill.  I pick an actor and have a gander at some of the finest roles in their cinematic/televisual Curriculum Vitae.

For my latest tribute I have a look at the mercurial Mads Mikkelsen; a Danish actor who has impressed me more and more in each role I have seen him in.  Here’s FIVE of his finest moments.

***CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS***

CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Mikkelsen was an awesome Bond villain in Daniel Craig’s first outing playing the shifty-banker-come-gambling-addict Le Chiffre.  A fantastic Ian Fleming creation, here he’s visualized with classic bleeding tear duct, pitch black hair, and shark-eyed deadpan stare. Mikkelsen’s ability to convey a callous cold demeanour provided a perfect counterpoint to the free-running energy, muscularity and snarling passion of Craig. Furthermore, Mikkelsen’s intelligence, angularity and range allow him to play striking villains and ALMOST have you rooting for them.

 

FLAME AND CITRON (2009)

This is a thrilling Danish WW2 story charting the exploits of Danish Resistance fighters/assassins codenamed Flammen and Citron.  Mikkelsen portrays Jorgen, the latter of the partnership as he and compatriot Bendt laid waste to Nazis and their Danish collaborators amidst the German occupation.  Mikkelsen is very good at playing smooth characters but here he’s nervy, dirty, sweaty and living-on-the-edge. He brings his classic mournful look to a character fighting inner demons, traitors and Nazis; all the while trying to cling to the family he loves. War brought the worst and best out of people; sometimes at exactly the same time as this film ably illustrates.


HANNIBAL (TV – 2013 – 2015)

It took me a couple of attempts to get into Gaumont/NBC’s lavish adaptation of Thomas Harris’ iconic characters and indeed I bailed watching it the first time round as I didn’t get it.  However, buoyed by fan-boy admiration for Mads and also encouraged by my American girlfriend I tried again and have just whipped through the first two seasons of a killing, cooking and bloody-curdling TV feast. Mikkelsen plays an elegant, urbane and vampiric Hannibal Lecter far removed from the over-the-top-grand-theatrics of the brilliant Anthony Hopkins.  His pursuers are once again Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) as they attempt to track down a number of serial-killers all knocking about the United States of Annihilation.

There is death and blood galore in this series all presented via a beautifully shot and very artistic editing design full of surreal imagery and Rorschach-style montage.  Mikkelsen as Lecter is a delight as he kills and grills his victims with epicurean aplomb. If you like gory imagery, psychological mind games and gothic narrative then this is the show for you. Mikkelsen excels as usual as he can convey a moment of pure evil and black humour with a single look or gesture.  He’s also no stranger to cannibalistic characters having played a sympathetic yet murderous meat-man in the Danish black comedy Green Butchers (2003).  Bring on Season 3!


THE HUNT (2012)

This is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long time.  Mikkelsen is a well-respected Primary teacher in a middle-class Danish village. Following a seemingly innocuous incident with a young girl he is suddenly accused of being a paedophile.  The matter escalates and escalates as he is shunned by those around him and he becomes isolated while protesting his innocence.  Mikkelsen is incredible as this tortured pariah who is terrorized by the equivalent of villagers with torches and pitchforks pursuing a monstrous Frankenstein creation to its doom.  The genius of this challenging film is creating an antagonist out of a kindergarten child’s blurred memory subsequently fuelled by fervent and fundamentalist mob rule. It’s arguably Mikkelsen’s finest performance; full of nuance and pathos as his character Lucas suffers a kind of modern day Kafkaesque ordeal.  Deservedly he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.


PUSHER (1996)/PUSHER II (2004)

Mikkelsen’s debut was in Nicolas Winding Refn’s gritty drug drama Pusher where he played the scumbag Tonny; a lowlife mate of dealer Frank.  He certainly made an impact because when Refn made a sequel he put forth Tonny as the main character of the story.  Pusher II is even more relentlessly grim than the original featuring all manner of dumb, lower-class hoods trying to scrape gold from Copenhagen streets paved mainly with smack and dog-shit. It’s an unglamorous and honest realisation of criminal-life with a lot in common with Scorcese’s Mean Streets (1973), as low-level pushers fuck one another over on a regular basis.

Mikkelsen’s Tonny is a tragic character who is left rudderless by a manipulative father and just cannot cut a break due to both his own lack of intelligence or positive role models.  Tonny’s portrayed like a blind dumb bear chained to a metal stake swiping at those around him as he attempts to find the means to escape or redemption only to realise he’s all alone in the dark.  Never has there been so much sympathy for a movie thug like Tonny as Mikkelsen extracts every bit of humanity he can from the poor beast.

 

 

BEST OF BRITISH TV: REVIEW #1 by PAUL LAIGHT

BEST OF BRITISH: TELEVISION REVIEW #1 by PAUL LAIGHT

Having grown up with three (and then four channels) on British television I was always used to a high quality viewing experience.  As a kid TV shows were an event and something to look forward to and plan an evening’s routine around.  British shows from my youth that I loved were:  The Comic Strip, The Young Ones, The Singing Detective, Fawlty Towers, BlackAdder, Edge of Darkness, Play for Today, Pennies From Heaven, Doctor Who, Only Fools and Horses, Monty Python, Boys From The Blackstuff, Dad’s Army, Steptoe and Son, Prime Suspect, Spitting Image and many more. But with the subsequent invasion of high-end overseas televisual product and the introduction of digital and satellite channels I have at times lost sight of some best shows around at the moment.

Thus, I took a break from watching loads of US imports and movies (still watching Game of Thrones as it’s amazing!) and had a trawl through 4OD (called All 4 now), Netflix, YouTube and other outlets to catch up some of the current Best of British TV shows you can watch online or DVD. Obviously there are hundreds of other great British shows available but here are some of the ones I’ve watched recently:

BLACK MIRROR (CHANNEL 4)

Black Mirror is a dark, horrifying and mind-bending drama which gets into your mind and under your skin; tapping into the perils of technological advancement and effect the media could have on our future lives.

FRESH MEAT (CHANNEL 4)

I watched the first season of this University-based comedy and there’s an attractive young cast, fun performances, knockabout humour but also a bit of heart too as our Fresher’s come to terms with life on and off campus.

FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER (CHANNEL 4)

A simple premise of a Jewish family dinner but a lot of laughs as Mum, Dad, their boys and weird neighbour get into all kind of scrapes.  Hilarious stuff especially from eccentric father played by Paul Ritter.

GARTH MARENGHI (CHANNEL 4)

This is an absolute stonewall comedy classic. I watched this under-appreciated gem again for inspiration for a comedy script I’m writing and it fantastically parodies horror and sci-fi TV of the 70s and 80s.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (BBC)

This Dickens adaptation from 2011 starred Ray Winstone as Magwitch plus David Suchet, Paul Ritter and Douglas Booth.  But, the standout was Gillian Anderson as a spectre-like Miss Havisham ghosting through her scenes with eerie grace.

INBETWEENERS (CHANNEL 4)

I watched all 18 episodes of this and then the films and while I used to think it was just rude, smutty, uncultured, lowest-common-denominator comedy it is also hilarious with great comedy moments plus the occasional bit of pathos.

INSIDE NO. 9 (BBC)

Cracking, dark and funny half-hour stories from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton who once again craft some fiendish narratives with a sting in their tale. All episodes are great but I loved the dialogue-free (pretty much) one A Quiet Night In.

LAW AND ORDER (ITV)

A very good adaptation of the American show. I watched the first two seasons and the formula follows the Police and CPS crime process from arrest to conviction (or not depending on the case.)  Some great British character actors pop up throughout and compelling social commentary too.

LUTHER (BBC)

Idris Elba as Detective John Luther prowls the screen like a caged lion enacting furious justice on the killers of London town. Ruth Wilson as his cold-blooded sidekick is also a treat in a formulaic but compelling crime show.

NATHAN BARLEY (CHANNEL 4)

Go http://www.trashbat.co.ck/ and check out the original hipster prick as this hilarious TV satire parodies the Shoreditch gang-star fashion victims in all their gory!   Still well Jackson even ten years down the line. Peace and fucking. Believe!

PEEPSHOW (CHANNEL 4)

Two blokes share a flat.  Oh, and they are romantic and social fuck-ups!  That’s the premise in this brilliantly written classic sitcom from Jess Armstrong and Sam Bain.  I rewatched all 8 seasons in close proximity and it just gets funnier and funnier making great use of the Mitchell and Webb humour-chemistry-combo.  Genius.

THE THREE DOCTORS: A CULTURAL REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

THE THREE DOCTORS:  A CULTURAL REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

I’ve kind of cheated a bit with the title of this little cultural review as technically there are only TWO proper doctors Dr Who and Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer. However, for me the mastermind behind The Prodigy — Liam Howlett — is a Professor of hard-beat-dance-music. Plus, there’s always a lot of medication knocking around PRODIGY gigs, I imagine, so there you go,THREE DOCTORS!   Of course, Dr Who is NOT a medical Doctor either but he has cured the end of the Earth many times before so that counts as well. Even though he isn’t real. But, who cares!

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE – CARDIFF

Doctor Who is a cultural phenomenon.  The character and show have been on BBC Television (aside from the mild 90s hiatus) for 50 years, yet, in between that there were still audio recordings and novelisations of his adventures.  Over half-a-century he has become a worldwide sensation and one of the most adored and recognised cultural icons; and he’s completely fictitious. Dr Who does NOT exist!  He is a story; a myth; a character who has risen and regenerated from the grave many times; a character who performs miracles; has disciples and is an imagined hero who is worshipped by many followers all around.  Now, Dr Who has a Church!  It’s in Cardiff. Who knows how Dr Who will be seen in 2000 years?  Stranger things have happened.

TheDoctorWhoExperience_Paul_Dalek TheDoctorWhoExperience_Paul_Monsters

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay is a wonderful pilgrimage for fans of the show.  I heartily recommend it if you want to see a plethora of old Tardis’, sets, costumes, monsters etc.  The setting is a huge aircraft hangar which houses everything Whovian from past to present and I just felt a wonderful sense of nostalgia plus wonder at the imagination and work which has gone into creating the TV show and Whoniverse as a whole.  I heartily recommend the Dr Who Experience if you love the show. Even the silly, little interactive tour you get at the start where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor himself guides you through a perilous journey is a laugh.  Great fun for big and small kids of all ages!

TheDoctorWhoExperience_Asylum TheDoctorWhoExperience_InnerTardis_2

OPPENHEIMER – VAUDEVILLE THEATRE 

Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer:  a father of peace or maker of death?   One would argue that he’s both!  Indeed, this wonderful piece of theatre attempts to answer this complex and many other fascinating questions about the man whose work led to the United States unleashing nuclear hell on Japan during World War II.  Being about physics and science stuff this could have been a very dry and dusty play but it was produced with such verve and energy as it collapsed a key period of Oppenheimer’s life into a brisk few hours of performance. But it wasn’t; quite the opposite in fact.

oppenheimer Oppenheimer John Heffernan as oppenheimer ben allen as edward teller

The production bounced and sang with some wonderful scenes explaining the physics, politics and personalities of the time.  The many Scientists and Military personnel are shown struggling with the logistics and ethics of the time; none more so than Oppenheimer himself. I mean he wanted to be remembered as a pioneer but he knew it would be to some cost; and so it proved. On the other hand, from another perspective, his and his teams’ actions COULD have saved lives.  John Heffernan as the genius, philanderer and bon vivant Oppenheimer is incredible. He lights up the stage like a firework bursting with sparkle then darkens it with shadow as he battles both his doubt and demons.   Of course, I know the physics were far more complex but I congratulate the writer for making the subject interesting again and hanging it all on such an intriguing and complex character and period of time.

 

THE PRODIGY – ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON 

Life is an interesting experience. I’m not looking forward to death. And I certainly won’t be able to look back on it. Also, some people don’t like the idea of getting old.  I don’t mind it. Because as I have got older I have started to like loads of things I didn’t used to like OR was indifferent of.  Coffee is one of those things. I love coffee. The Theatre is another thing I really enjoy now.  And the dance-electronica-hard-beat-kings-of-Essex The Prodigy are another cultural phenomenon I used to dismiss but now recognise as great music!

the-prodigy-4f6281b971542

I have my son to thank for my new found admiration of The Prodigy.  He started listening to them a few years ago and while I knew of their existence I have firmly — aside from a couple of Chemical Brothers albums — been a straight guitar-based-indie-listener as a rule.  But having bought Their Law: The Singles, The Day is My Enemy, Invaders Must Die and the under-rated Always Outnumbered – Never Outgunned I became very impressed by the group.  To create pulsating, punkish and heart-racing music of their kind and last from the late 80s to now I think shows a great level of ability and commitment to creation.

The gig at Ally Pally itself rocked and the crowd loved every moment of the brilliant lightshow, crunching guitars, pounding drums/beats, driving basslines and frontmen Keith Flint and Maxim screaming and goading the crowd into euphoric submission. Special praise for the architect of the operation — Liam Howlett —  who has found a very successful formula and has a tremendous back catalogue of tracks to work with. Howlett bleeds, sutures and threads the sounds together with the skill of a musical surgeon. If that doesn’t make him a kind of Doctor I don’t know what does!

 

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – MAY 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – FILM REVIEWS – MAY 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

I didn’t watch that many movies in May as I have been theming my viewing to British TV productions, so it was quality rather than quantity this month and with a big Antipodean feel.

As usual Marks out of Eleven follow the little review.

***MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD***

 

BLACK SEA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE

Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, David Threlfall, Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley and a motley crew of Russians go down into the deep, dark recesses of the black ocean in search of Nazi gold.  This effective B-movie is essentially The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) set underwater. The cast are excellent plus there are some thrilling and suspenseful scenes as greed and nationalist rivalry poisons the water amidst a series of disasters which strike the crew. This is perfect viewing for a damp Tuesday evening while eating pizza and drinking a beer.  (Mark:  7/11)

 

CLOUDS OF SIL MARIA (2014) – SKY MOVIE STORE

This is the kind of intellectual-artsy-actor-fest that middle-class viewers and critics wank themselves lyrical about in the broadsheet press and online.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the triptych of performances from Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moritz and the filmmaker Olivier Assayas tackles some interesting themes about identity, modern culture, death, aging, and the nature of performance. However, it’s pretty one-paced and has a head-scratching Bunuelian turn at the end of the second act which made no sense; I imagine that was the point.  I didn’t even care enough to be perplexed as it just washed over me on the main with neither enough drama or comedy to get my teeth into. Some beautiful vistas and scenery though.  (Mark:  6.5/11)

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) – CINEMA

Apart from the moron-head who decided to eat crisps really loudly in the seat near me during the opening 10 minutes, I really enjoyed this wonderfully shot romantic drama from impressive filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg.  Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel it stars Carey Mulligan as the fiercely independent Bathsheba who goes against the social tide of the time and attempts to run a successful farm despite the backward sexual politics.

This is a romantic period drama that even blokes can enjoy as the subject matter eschews the fluffery of Jane Austen for the harsher side of rural life.  It’s Thomas Hardy-light with a brisk 120 minutes run through the narrative as Bathsheba is courted by three men of varying social standing and characterisation.  Performances are top notch, notably from Michael Sheen as the pained William Boldwood and ever-sparkling Carey  Mulligan. Matthias Schoenaerts, a striking Belgian actor, is also outstanding as the sturdy Gabriel Oak.   (Mark:  8/11)

 

GALLIPOLI (1981) – BFI – CINEMA

I grew up watching this film; usually on a Sunday evening on BBC2 and when I saw it was screening at the BFI I jumped at the chance to watch it. It is a heart-wrenching World War One story concerning the Western Australian men who left their families to fight against the Turkish army during the brutal conflict.  It follows two lads portrayed by Mark Lee and cusp-of-stardom Mel Gibson who at first are rival sprinters and then brothers-in-arms as they venture overseas to fight.

The screenplay is sinewy and powerful yet with much humour,  as it builds their friendship from the outback to the trenches culminating in a truly tragic final reel. Peter Weir announced further his credentials as a filmmaker of high quality and the cinematography by Russell Boyd is a wonder.  I also loved the use of music here which employs both modern synthesized pieces from Jean-Michel Jarre and marries it to more classical compositions by Strauss and Giazotto/Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor.  This is up there with my favourite Anti-War films of all time; majestic cinema at its peak. (Mark:  11/11)

 

MAD MAX (1979)/MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981) – NOW TV

I watched these kinda back-to-back with my teenage son and despite their age and low budgets both films stand up to further viewings.   In fact, George Miller’s seminal violent-explosive-car-chase-revenge-punk-urban-westerns are best watched as a double bill.

In the first film Max is a hardened road cop who wants out so he can be with his young family.  The roads have become a deadly place full of psychotic punks and sociopathic maniacs who rail against society without cause or reason.  When Max is left a shell-of-a-man he goes after the gangs which done him wrong with rage-in-his-eyes and hell in his soul.  This is an awesome film with more imagination, energy and pace than most bigger-budget blockbusters.

With Max’s character established so well the second film Miller throws an Apocalyptic curveball into the mix as we find future Max — a lone road warrior (aside from his Dog) — fighting even crazier road punks over ever-decreasing amounts of petrol.  Mel Gibson really shines as the amoral leather-bound-petrol-head who gets dragged into the outback carmegeddon between a group of settlers and baddies led by the helmeted Lord Humungus.  This film rocks big-time and is one of the greatest action-come-road movies ever and one which confirmed Gibson as a major movie star of the 80s! (Double-bill Mark:  10/11)

 

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – CINEMA

Tom Hardy takes on the iconic Max Rockatansky role in this revved-up-mega-budget-future-shooting-guitar-flame-throwing-blood-draining-crash-smash-and-burn epic.  Haunted by past failure Max drives round the wasteland trying to survive. Suddenly he’s whisked away to be a mobile blood-bank at The Citadel and used to keep the cancerous War Boys alive with his pure blood. Enter Charlize Theron’s kick-ass Furiosa who is on a mission of her own to protect those she cares for from nefarious Immortan Joe; the Citadel Overlord!

There isn’t really any plot to speak of on the Fury Road but what you get is an incredible visual feast with carnage galore and some incredible stunts in a barren yet beautiful desert setting.  Hardy and Theron share great chemistry within the action and Miller executes some mesmerising moments of dialogue-free pure cinema. One may argue that it is style-over-substance but the style IS the substance. The concepts on show such as the flame-throwing guitar; moving blood-banks; mud-people on stilts; assorted pimped-up cars and souped-up weapons are what impresses. As such George Miller proves himself a visionary filmmaker who owns the post-apocalypse on screen making it a terrifying and stunning experience.
(Mark: 9.5/11)

 

MR TURNER (2014) – BLU RAY

I love Mike Leigh films.  Most of them anyway.  His unique slice-of-life style is quietly confident and steady and even if not much is happening one is often awestruck by colour, mood, composition, character and performance in his work.  Indeed, Timothy Spall is on terrifically grouchy form as celebrated painter J. M. W. Turner and the supporting cast is equally brilliant.

I was mesmerized by the film’s composition and the glacial pace worked in the films’ favour as Leigh paints (sorry) an honest picture of Turner’s later years, artistic process and his relationships.  I was surprised that the old dog was quite a philanderer but then again I didn’t know much about Turner if I’m honest.  This is like walking round a beautiful-looking moving gallery and just breathing in the genius of Turner, Spall and Leigh.  (Mark:  8/11)

NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) – BLU RAY

For my full review see here: https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/?s=nightcrawler

But to recap: this is a sensational pitch black character piece that allies a powerful script with violent social satire; all glued together by an Oscar-worthy lead performance from the ever-excellent actor Jake Gyllenthaal.   Indeed, he should have got AT LEAST a nomination for his performance as news-media-ladder-crawler sociopathic Lou Bloom.  On re-watch this film is just as powerful and I was in awe of the incredible script, great acting, cutting direction and black humour throughout.  Highly recommended.  (Mark:  10/11)

OUIJA (2014) – BLU RAY

This film is a terrible movie; probably the worst I’ve seen all year.  It follows a vague Final Destination structure as a series of college kids are wiped out by a demonic force that has “escaped” a Ouija Board. There are no redeeming qualities whatsoever and the most interesting fact I can tell you is that the original Ouija Board was in fact a game.  No, I didn’t know that either. Yeah, and the rights to the board game were owned by Parker Brothers and now Hasbro.  It was only in 1930s/40s onwards America that it was used by occultists and spiritualists. Who knows: perhaps people will one day be contacting the ‘other side’ using Transformers? You never know on this crazy planet!  (Mark 1/11)

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: A RETROSPECTIVE by PAUL LAIGHT

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: A RETROSPECTIVE by PAUL LAIGHT

Hey-Oooo! Bitches!  With Season 10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia now catapulted from FFX onto Netflix I thought I’d look back at the previous nine seasons and pick out my favourite episodes of the series.  Thus, I have picked out ONE from each season PLUS a “Wildcard” too.

How would I describe the show to someone who has never seen it before:  imagine Friends but the polar opposite.  It has the most unlikeable, unattractive, insane, narcissistic characters who do all manner of god-awful things to themselves, each other and total strangers. If you haven’t ever seen this show then you should . It is frantic, sick, irreverent, disgusting, manic, hyper-real, cartoon-like, politically-incorrect, satirical and incredibly hilarious. Indeed, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is arguably the closest you would get to a live-action version of South Park.

Set in the dismal Paddy’s pub in Philadelphia it initially concerned four (in Season 1) then five (when Danny DeVito joined) individuals who are each in their own way complete fuck-ups and whose main existence generally aims to scheme and out-do the others for personal gain or egotistic one-up-man-woman-ship.

THE CHARACTERS

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RONALD “MAC” MCDONALD (ROB MCELHENNEY)

Mac is a delusional tough guy, bouncer and devout Catholic who thinks he’s hard but ultimately is a moral and physical coward. Occasionally he’ll come up with some words of wisdom but on the whole he is a brainless yo-yo obsessed with remaking Lethal Weapon.


DENNIS REYNOLDS (GLENN HOWERTON)

Dennis is the group’s amoral Ted Bundy figure: a vain, arrogant, would-be-handsome-if-he-wasn’t-so-psychotic-lady-killer. While not actually a murderer he is a low-life scumbag and arguably is the stupidest of the group because he thinks HE is the most intelligent.

CHARLIE KELLY (CHARLIE DAY)

Charlie is an idiot savant with the onus on the idiot part of that; notably in his stalking of “The Waitress”.  He is the most innocent and does all the dirty “Charlie Work” in the bar like unblocking toilets and killing rats. He is also the most unpredictable sniffing glue and dressing up as alter-ego Green Man!


DEANDRA “SWEET DEE” REYNOLDS (KAITLIN OLSON)

Dee is a failed actress and stand-up comedian and often ridiculed by the others for “big-bird” looks, lack of talent and her boyfriend choices.  Thus, she will often over-compensate and compete with the guys, especially her twin-brother Dennis, in an attempt to prove herself.  Her plans mostly end in humiliating failure and loss of dignity.


FRANK REYNOLDS (DANNY DEVITO)

Frank is Dennis and Dee’s father – or is he? – and joined the group in the 2nd series when he bought into Paddy’s Bar because the gang were broke AGAIN!   Frank’s great at making money  but eschews the corporate world  to live like a feral tramp at Charlie’s place revelling in the insanity of his new-found freedom

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THE EPISODES

**SOME SWEET SPOILERS BITCHES!!**

 

SERIES ONE – CHARLIE WANTS AN ABORTION

This was hilarious for a number of reasons as several storylines converge revealing the desperate lengths the gang will go to achieve their low-level goals. Charlie uses his “long-lost son” as a emotional bargaining chip to get closer to his obsessive love-target:  The Waitress. Meanwhile, Mac and Dennis use Pro-life/Anti-abortion rallies to try and score with women. Safe to say all of their plans blow-up in their respective faces.

 

SERIES TWO – MAC BANGS DENNIS’ MUM

In this wonderfully plotted episode the Gang basically does a low-rent version of La Ronde.  Precipitated by Mac sleeping with Dennis’ mum (Anne Archer) a series of sexual revenge schemes backfire with sick hilarity.  For once Charlie ALMOST gets the upper hand until the horrific pay-off; while the highlight is — much to his amazement — Dennis being turned down by Mac AND Charlie’s mum when he attempts to have revenge sex with them.

 

SERIES THREE – SWEET DEE’S DATING A RETARDED PERSON

This is awesome because we get a peak at Charlie’s  crazy musical ‘talent’.  Plus, Dennis sends Dee into a spin by casting aspersions on her new rapper boyfriend — a dopey version of Eminem — by saying he is mentally backward.  The episode stands out for the awesome song Dayman — based on a dream — which Charlie wrote while sniffing spray paint. Later, Charlie and Dennis getting heckled off stage when performing it live is a particular highlight. Personally, I think the song rocks!

SERIES FOUR – WHO POOPED THE BED

The gang does Agatha Christie-meets-Sex-in-The-City style in this well structured yet disgusting episode. Indeed, Dee tries to become more classy with her girlfriends and the others attempt to discover who pooped Frank and Charlie’s bed.  The two stories intertwine as Dee’s theatrical friend Artemis eventually ditches Dee finding the “poodunnit” more interesting.  Highlights include: The Waitress falling off the wagon and laying violently into Dee plus Artemis’ final Poirot-esque summation in determining the suspect. An episode that’s full of crap — but in a fun way!

 

SERIES FIVE – THE DENNIS SYSTEM

Dennis just goes full “Ted Bundy” in this one with a breakdown of the system he uses to score with women.  It is a disgusting litany of dehumanizing manoeuvres which sums up Dennis’ scummy character and satirises brilliantly the sexist masculine “pick-up” industry.  Moreover, it is just hilarious as the gang both ignore AND follow his “expert” advice with a succession of dreadful dating endeavours.  As a fan of Acronyms I also admire the malice aforethought and linguistic logic of the system too.

SERIES SIX – THE GANG BUYS A BOAT

Often the episodes will find the gang will do something mildly normal — like buy a boat —  but their various actions will splinter into events which completely undermine the plan. Indeed, in this episode Dennis suffers his usual delusion of grandeur, with Mac in tow, believing owning a boat will help him achieve greater social status. Meanwhile, Charlie, Frank and Dee attempt to clean the boat but ultimately work against each other culminating an explosive end result.

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SERIES SEVEN – FRANK REYNOLDS LITTLE BEAUTIES

Frank’s energy for money-making schemes knows no bounds but it backfires when he decides to put on a beauty pageant for kids without realising the pitfalls surrounding such events.  Thus, Frank spends the whole episode keen to point out he’s NOT a paedophile and with face-paint troughed on by a funeral make-up artist he resembles the living dead.  At the same time Dee and the others attempt to live vicariously through the kids to make up for their own personal show business failures.

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA: Danny Devito in IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA airing Thursday, September 29 at 10pm e/p. . CR: Patrick McElhenney / FX

SERIES EIGHT – THE GANG GETS ANALYZED

Even though the Gang generally screw each over with their many schemes much joy can be found with their altercations with a variety of third parties notably:  Lawyers, Government officials, Doctors, Police, Health and Safety Officers and the general public.  In this one they visit a Dee’s Therapist  and end up being individually assessed as the group has broken down over who should be doing the washing-up.  Charlie and Frank’s analyses are off-the-chart funny but I loved that Dennis, believing himself to be an equal with the Therapist, is proved to be just as nuts as everyone else.

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SERIES NINE – THE GANG BROKE DEE

Dee’s failure as a performer due to suffering stage-fright is a delight because having done a bit of comedy myself it’s great seeing someone else crash and burn at that artistic endeavour.  In this episode she gives up completely on life and her act. Then, incredibly she has a major breakthrough as a comedian and the episode delights in sending up the nature of stand-up and how you climb the ladder. The final twist in the tale is also a joy and sums up the lack of compassion the group have toward Dee.

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WILDCARD – SERIES FOUR – E13 – THE NIGHTMAN COMETH

In tribute to the “Wildcard” Charlie I’ve picked this episode as a little addition because it is packed with ridiculous music and humour.  The gang put on a rock opera/musical for no reason at a proper theatre to boot!  To say it is bizaare is an understatement and the joy in seeing them perform a series of weird songs in amongst the insane story is a treat.  Charlie parodying the stressed director/artist is hilarious as he takes it all far too seriously. Let’s just say Stephen Sondheim need never lose sleep.  Unless he’s dead:  is Sondheim dead?

THE PRODIGY IN PICTURES: ALEXANDRA PALACE 16TH MAY 2015

THE PRODIGY IN PICTURES: ALEXANDRA PALACE 16/05/2015

I often use this blog to bang on about films, cultural things and stuff. So, in this piece I’m just going to let the pictures tell the story.

Safe to say the The Prodigy absolutely rocked and raved Alexandra Palace last Saturday and here’s the evidence.

Myself and my son Rhys had a cracking time seeing the big beat chart-stoppers who are clearly in a class of their own!

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Writer. Filmmaker. Semi-Pro Comedian. Wageslave

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