PAUL FOOT’S HOVERCRAFT SYMPHONY IN GAMMON SHARP MINOR – COMEDY REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

PAUL FOOT’S HOVERCRAFT SYMPHONY IN GAMMON SHARP MINOR  (7/11/2014)  REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

“I decided to have a go at stand-up comedy in a little bar. I did not have any jokes.  Amazingly, it went well and I resolved on the spot to become a professional entertainer. 17 years later, I became an overnight success.” *****PAUL FOOT*****

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Friday just gone began a busy time of watching comedy shows for me. It wasn’t planned that way but many of the funny people and shows I wanted to see happened to be on in the same period.  First off was surreal jester Paul Foot, then on Sunday, Tottenham’s abject loss to Stoke in the Premiership provided much mirth.  Not. Tonight, I am going to see the brilliant Stewart Lee; tomorrow, theatrical extravaganza Book of Mormon and finally, on Friday, bitter comic misanthrope Andrew Lawrence.

Paul Foot burst on the comedy scene many moons ago winning one of the BBC New Act Talent Thing Competitions and that.  I recall there being someone called Peter Kay who finished second in the competition but not sure what happened to him? Then when I started doing a bit of stand-up comedy myself I ran my own night at the aptly named Comedy Pub near Leicester Square. It was a very small new materialish night and the wonderful Paul Foot headlined on a couple of occasions. I was a crap promoter really but had some fun nights and always wondered why Paul Foot wasn’t on television more as he genuinely has – what is known in the business –  “funny bones.”

That was in say 2009 I think but more recently though he has appeared on a few panel shows such as Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Would I Lie To You plus the wonderful Alternative Comedy Experience. Further, his constant gigging and secret shows have allowed him to build up his own audience of fans; or as he calls them “connoisseurs”.  Thus, I was pleased to see his latest show at the Bloomsbury Theatre and experience more of the hilarity I saw at the Comedy Pub but on a much bigger stage. Well, it actually had a stage; unlike the Comedy Pub.

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Paul Foot is a marvellous, clown, eccentric, misfit who plays himself in almost every show he’s in and very funny he is too. From the moment his voice squawked from off-stage I was laughing; opening the show with a poetic chaos that breaks with the conventions of the traditionally slick club comedy night.

Humour comes from all directions:  his surreal flights of fantasy; his low-to-high pitch Home Counties drawl; his silver-shoed, mullet-haired appearance; plus the way he prances around the stage resembles a dressage horse on hot coals or a featherless bird flapping, yet failing, to take off. All told Mr Foot is a verbal and physical joy to behold.

As he gambols around the Bloomsbury stage he surprises the front row with some break-the-ice “mounting” a fan’s chair; before unleashing some brilliantly silly observations, stories and what he calls “disturbances”.  To those unfamiliar with Foot’s work it could seem like the mad ranting’s of a fool and in some ways it is but at its’ heart his comedy is very well designed and structurally sound.

Indeed, within the flights of fancy there are some excellent observations around religious chancers; landlady bed and breakfast etiquette; and the perils of platitudes which may leading to snake invasions.  What I love most about Paul Foot is his absolute conviction and passion to the routines; in his mind these events are real and thus I believe him. Overall, I genuinely nearly pissed myself laughing during this show so do try and catch him if you can in your lifetime.

***(Quote/photos from: http://www.paulfoot.tv/biography/)***

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THE PRESTIGE – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

 THE PRESTIGE (2006) – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**YOU KNOW THE DRILL – SPOILERS!**

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With Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) orbiting the cinemas this week I thought I’d look back at the film which he made in between breathing life into the Batman franchise.   No doubt Nolan is an important genre filmmaker and as his budgets have got more grandiose then so have his ideas.  I just love that he is interested in attempting to make intelligent blockbusters where ideas, character and theme lead the story rather than rely simply on action, explosions and special effects (no offence Michael Bay.)

Memento (2000) was a stunning and complex low-budget noir which dealt with obsession, murder and memory and Nolan continued these themes in superior cop thriller Insomnia (2002). Having delivered a cracking origins film in Batman Begins (2005) the director followed this up with a story about battling magicians based on Christopher Priest’s novel called The Prestige (2006).  For me it confirmed him as a force-to-be-reckoned with director. Following on the themes and tropes established in his prior films, The Prestige is centred around two obsessives brilliantly portrayed by the always excellent Christian Bale as Alfred Borden and the never-been-better (until Prisoners (2013), Hugh Jackman, playing his bitter rival, Robert Angier. thePrestige1The story starts at the end with Borden facing the hangman for Angier’s murder. After which the narrative flashes back to a time when the pair were freshman trick-smiths learning the ropes from mentor Cutter (always solid Michael Caine). When the cockney and cocky Bordens’ actions accidentally lead to the death of Angiers’ wife (Piper Perabo) – during a particularly complex and dangerous trick – the two go their separate ways. This sets in motion a story full of bitter twists of active and reactive vengeance. Each protagonist becomes so obsessed outdoing the other –  with the ultimate trick – they are prepared to sacrifice the ones they love in doing so.

The film is rich in plot, character and theme and investigates thoroughly the very human aspects of obsession and revenge. The double or doppleganger trope is also integral to the story as the writers Jonathan and Christopher Nolan literally dissect the characters’ souls. The gritty, dirty period of Victorian London is wonderfully evoked and the fascinating world of magicians and their mysterious secrets is expertly represented. At it’s heart the story begins by showing us the cons of the magicians and the lengths they will go to amaze and astound an audience. By the end though the film becomes something much different with a chilling and fantastic turn which you think you see but ultimately don’t see coming.

Brilliantly directed by Christopher Nolan The Prestige is inventive, intelligent and ingenious. His cast does not let the magical screenplay down with the gorgeous Scarlett Johannson and – albeit briefly – pretty Piper Perabo bringing some glamour to the gritty proceedings. Rebecca Hall is also on commanding form bringing a subtle pain to the role of Borden’s wife.

Overall, it’s a challenging big-budget tale in which you never quite know what is real or what is a con. It keeps you guessing to the end, leaving you with a jaw-dropping final act as the story moves from sleight-of-hand tricks to science fact and finally science fiction. Ultimately, the film successfully combines fantastical, existential, and scientific elements. The film gives us a kind of magic but asks whether it’s worth the damage it causes to lives? THAT, for me, is The Prestige’s greatest trick.

 

 

 

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC  REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

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Set in the picturesque Bayou from the stable HBO,
Dead as night; black as a murder of crows,
Southern Gothic of the police procedural persuasion,
True Detective’s a compelling, gripping, televisual sensation,

Sacrificial kill of a woman begins the murky plots,
As past and present collides, grips and clots,
A gloopy broth ensues of which there’s little filler,
As Louisiana cops pursue a nefarious serial-killer,

True Detective dials many a pulp-fictional cliché,
Yet we’re always wrong-numbered by Harrelson and McConaughey, Portraying mis-matched partners both with darker sides,
Suffering addictions, obsessions and existential slides,

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Writer Nic Pizzolatto delivers a corrupt vision of humanity,
Amidst the Cajun swamps we’re in David Fincher territory,
Standard cop stuff like the Chief screaming “you’re off the case!”,
Is deftly masked by Cary Fukunaga’s directorial style and pace,

McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is post-modern Sherlock,
He will never cease until the mystery is unlocked,
Allied with Harrelson’s Watson the two just won’t stop,
Title may say True Detective but it should be Existential Cop,

Meth-head rednecks, biker gangs, Southern whores all feature, Alongside pederasts, tattooed maniacs and crazy preachers,
All travelling together down a path undoubtedly well-worn,
Nonetheless it’s a delicious slice of murder porn.

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GONE GIRL (2014) FILM REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

GONE GIRL (2014) FILM REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

**BEWARE – SOME SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS**

Gillian Flynn, David Fincher, the cast and production team have carved out a superlative, rug-pulling, amoral, misanthropic and bloody suspense thriller which ghosts between several genres from romance to police procedural to thriller to Grand Guignol splatter film. Given the nature of the well-orchestrated and devious plot I will not be giving anything away other than it is essentially about a marriage in crisis and then some.

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We begin in North Carthage, a picturesque town in Missouri as our anti-heroes Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) are established. Flashbacks reveal a lustful romance but as money troubles affect them they are forced to leave New York and move back to Nick’s hometown. The story kicks off with a weary Nick bemoaning his lot to his supportive sister (excellent Caroline Coon) before he finds out Amy has gone missing. Then the fun really starts.

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As the plot unfolds we are led a merry dance as to where sympathies lie as the story twists and turns allegiances from Nick to Amy and back again. Having lived through a couple of acrimonious relationship breakdowns myself I felt the pain of the characters trapped in a marriage where the spark has been dampened by familiarity, financial worries and narcissistic deficiencies. Although, given the size of the house they live in I didn’t feel too bad for these over-privileged sociopaths.

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Ben Affleck is very effective as the trouble-plagued yet spoilt WASP, however, Rosamund Pike steals the acting honours with a sparkling star-turn. Throughout she demonstrates the many facets of an emotionally complex, intelligent and physically adept human. I sensed this was writer Gillian Flynn’s fantasy; acting out her devilish desires on page through this beautiful yet dangerous character. Pike’s Amy took me back to the age of fantastic ’40s femme fatales played with aplomb by: Barbara Stanwyk, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner et al.

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David Fincher, with his wonderful pallet and great eye for a script, is carving himself out a terrific raft of movies which look into the dark recesses of the American dream. He dissects and delivers a scathing commentary on the flaws and weaknesses of the middle, upper and wealthy classes. He not only incorporates obsessive characters but also muddies waters between good and evil and hero and heroines as witnessed most recently in The Social Network (2010), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2012).  While Gone Girl could have been shaved of 10 minutes to make it punchier, for me, Fincher is a post-modern Hitchcock; making fine films about damned unlikeable characters but somehow pulling us into their tawdry lives.

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There’s a fantastic episode of South Park from season 17 called ‘Informative Murder Porn’ which satirises the rise of scurrilous, scandal-mongering TV shows which “celebrate” salacious murders, crumbling marriages and missing people. Gone Girl is essentially a high-end version of such shows; the likes of which feature cleverly within the film’s plot. Indeed, the film also condemns the poisonous nature of such programmes which take joy in other’s misery.

 

Overall, Gone Girl is a masterful B-movie which is very gruelling to watch from an emotional perspective. Aside from the cops investigating (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) Amy’s disappearance and Nick’s sister the majority of the characters are borderline sociopaths. Indeed, when one of the more likeable characters is the media-hungry-lawyer-snake-oil-salesmen-come-showman (Tyler Perry) then you know you’re dealing with an extremely opaque vision of humanity.

 

FROM HER TO MOD-ERNITY: MY WEEKLY REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

FROM HER TO MOD-ERNITY – MY WEEKLY REVIEW  BY PAUL LAIGHT

Here’s a written round-up of some of the stuff I’ve been watching, tele-viewing, cinema-going, generally experiencing, listening too, visiting in the last few weeks or so.

ALTERNATIVE COMEDY EXPERIENCE – COMEDY CENTRAL

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Pedant-king and all-round comedy god Stewart Lee picks the acts and overlords the 2nd season of The Alternative Comedy Experience.  It features many comedians arguably TOO off-mainstream, surreal, political or whimsical to be considered for a show such as Live At The Apollo; yet, there are mostly wonderful comedians on view.

I winged through the whole season pretty quick and my favourites included:  Stephen Carlin, Bridget Christie, Michael Legge, Tony Law, Paul Foot, David O’Doherty to name but a few.  Lee himself only appears in interview form but it’s a fine showcase for some of the more alternative comedy minds on the circuit.

 

DR WHO – CATCH-UPS 

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The Horror Channel – SKY CHANNEL 319 – often shows some questionably poor films but it also shows some classic Dr Who’s from yesteryear.  I’ve watched a couple of the TOM BAKER stories — HORROR AT FANG ROCK and CITY OF DEATH – and maybe it’s nostalgia for my youth but I think he IS the perfect Doctor: manic, emotion, performance, eccentric, dark, yet funny too. And that booming voice has real authority. He just makes everything – however far fetched – seem so real believable. His delivery is Shakespearean.

Having watched all of Eccleston and Tennant’s episodes recently I’m now onto the youngest Doctor ever – Matt Smith!  The stories are great and while his assistant Amy is bland yet lovely, I’m warming to Smith. He’s like an excitable Tigger on speed with a quirky energy and a hint of darkness. I want to see him really go dark the way Eccleston did at times but in the episode AMY’S CHOICE we got a hint of a darker side in the form of the Dream-Lord played by fine actor Toby Jones so I look forward to more of that element in future, past or present episodes. Also, I loved the VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR episode in which the Doctor meets Van Gogh; artistry, depression and a beastly blind being is hellbent on destruction in a very touching episode written by Richard Curtis.

 

DRAYTON MANOR THEME PARK

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Me and my son Rhys (13) love going to theme parks. My motion sickness seems to be getting worse but I braved the 130 mile journey and drove to Drayton Manor near Tamworth in the hope of holding my breakfast down. It was an overcast but occasionally sunny day and thankfully off-peak so we avoided legions of people and massive queues for the rides.  It was a fun day out and we went on most of the rides and visited the zoo they have there. It’s no Thorpe Park or Alton Towers but it’s still a great place to visit.  While my stomach turned over a number of times I kept my lunch down so a winning day all-round.


THE EQUALIZER

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Denzil Washington is probably the best movie actor around as he has a knack of turning average scripts into something very watchable and this is no different. I can see why he was attracted to the character of Robert McCall as he is a Robin Hood type who uses his special training to assist those in the neighbourhood and eventually turns his brutal killing abilities to something more global.

This is nowhere near as good as the Fuqua/Washington double-teamed Training Day (2001) for which the actor received the Oscar for Best Actor or the equally brutal Man On Fire (2004) which is something of an underrated classic in my view but while instantly forgettable it’s still unashamedly entertaining and had me gripped throughout the slightly overlong running time.

 


HER

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Spike Jonze eccentric “love” story follows a similar path story-speaking to an episode of Big Bang Theory I saw where Raj fell in love with Siri his Iphone voice system.  Of course, Jonze develops the theme of technological romance further over the running time with a beautiful, funny and at times very human dramedy.  Indeed, while many people reach for the Internet to find “love” either through pornography or online dating the brilliantly named Theodore Twombly actually falls FOR his computer itself.

I loved everything about the film: the look, cast, design, direction, performances and above all else the cute and always surprising screenplay. Joaquin Phoenix is full of hangdog desperation at the break-up of his marriage and subsequent loneliness. Scarlett Johansson provides the alluring voice of the “Operating System” he reaches out for as their relationship takes some surprising turns.  It’s a perfect “first world” piece of cinema which charmed me and almost melted my icy heart.


NATIONAL MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM

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My son Rhys has expressed an interest in motorbikes recently and as we were in the Midlands I thought why not check this place out — in Solihull — on the way back to London.  It’s a wonderful place if you love motorbikes with hundreds and hundreds of two-wheelers from the earliest days of industry to the modern age.   I’m not a petrol-head myself but I was impressed by the array of different bikes on show and felt proud that the country I came from had produced so many beautiful machines and many which had served us during the wars and set many a world speed record. My son  was disappointed there were no Harley Davidsons on show so I reminded him in was a “National” and not and “International” museum. Kids eh!?!

http://www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/


OLD BOY (2013)

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Overall, it’s not bad entertainment but if you haven’t seen the original then do watch Park Chan Wook’s classic instead.  While Josh Brolin in the lead is great Sharlto Copley’s ridiculous English accent ruins much of the tension in the latter part of the film.

It’s still a great story of a dislikeable guy imprisoned against his will and much of the power in the story derives from the mystery of not knowing why he is held captive.  The first half of the OLDBOY (2013) remake directed by Spike Lee was pretty decent but the 2nd half seemed as if it was cut to pieces ensuring loss of dramatic impact during the sick twists at the end. It’s slick and a bit silly but the original remains an utter classic of World Cinema. WATCH THAT INSTEAD!

  

SPURS LATEST (up to 22/10/14)

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After Spurs scrapped to a 1-1 derby draw with Arsenal in the Premier League I went to see them play Besiktas at White Hart Lane in the Europa League. Harry Kane put us  a goal up but Besiktas did well and only some fine saves from Hugo Lloris kept them at bay. To be honest the Turkish team were the better side in the 2nd half. Indeed, they grabbed a penalty equalizer after a silly handball from Chiriches. Ba made is 1-1.

Spurs have since been defeated by Manchester City in a game which had 4 penalties – two of which were missed by Soldado and Aguero.  The Argentinian did however, score the four goals which put us to the sword.  The referee was a disgrace really with some dodgy decisions and while we played okay in patches we were outclassed really.  I have low expectation of this season but can see glimpses of what the new manager is trying to achieve so we will see what the season brings us.

SLEAFORD MODS

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I suffer from arrested development where music is concerned.  I have very specific rock and roll roots on the whole and my favourite kind of music is what some might say is 80s/90s/00s “indie” rock.  I do like a bit of rap, heavier rock, dance, electro stuff too though.   I do listen to new music but I’m firmly entrenched in my preferred genre and only occasionally does a new band capture my imagination.

My new favourite musical thing is SLEAFORD MODS. A Nottingham-based duo who combine sparse keyboards, drum loops and angry, yet humourous, lyrics spat out from the mouth of Jason Williamson.  He is an authentic Midland council estate voice (reminiscent of Mark E. Smith) who rants against media phoneys, social media and delivers poetic rhymes about everyday struggle. Before the Arctic Monkeys became hipster pricks I had great hopes for them. I doubt Sleaford Mods go the same way and become complete Camden cunts.  Check out Divide and Exit – it’s a brisk-sweary-real-down-to-earth-shopping-trolley-in-a-canal-treat.

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD**

This pulpy, yet efficient remake of the 1980s ITV “classic”  features Denzil Washington on decent form as a humble blue-collar worker with both a conscience and mysterious past. It’s a brutal and fun film which runs the gamut of film clichés featuring:

  1. Russian gangsters called Sergei and Vladimir sporting more tattoos than skin.
  2. Young tart-with-a-heart in distress.
  3. The “hero-surveys-the-scene” POV shots before a fight as seen in Downey Jnr’s Sherlock Holmes.
  4. Aerial and time-lapse shots of the city to a brooding guitar soundtrack.
  5. Corrupt cops, politicians and Russian Oligarchs as nemeses.
  6. Hero attempts to overcome the loss of a loved one by turning his back on his violent past.
  7. Hero with insomnia reads Hemingway and drinks tea in the same café every night.
  8. Hero with OCD turns out to be a shit-hot former CIA operative who decides he can’t change and kicks some gangster’s arse!

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Despite such bog-standard features genre director Antoine Fuqua    and Denzil Washington deliver a bone-crushing and tense thriller. It contains some cracking over-the-top violence notably in the final showdown where Denzil takes down the bad guys at the B & Q where he works.

Special mention though goes to Martin Csokas who gave his Russian villain a breathtaking menace which lit up the screen whenever he appeared. He was a highlight along with some very well-orchestrated action.

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Denzil Washington is probably the best movie actor around as he has a knack of turning average scripts into something very watchable and this is no different. I can see why he was attracted to this character: a Robin Hood type who uses his special training to assist those in the neighbourhood and eventually turns his brutal killing abilities to something more global.

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This is nowhere near as good as the Fuqua/Washington double-teamed Training Day (2001) for which the actor received the Oscar for Best Actor or the equally brutal Man On Fire (2004) which is something of an underrated classic in my view but while instantly forgettable it’s still unashamedly entertaining and had me gripped throughout the slightly overlong running time.

 

 

THE ROCK ‘N’ DROLL EXPERIENCE – SHORT FILM BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE ROCK ‘N’ DROLL EXPERIENCE – DOCUMENTARY BY PAUL LAIGHT

This year I did a little comedy show at the Brighton Fringe Festival with fellow comedian GWILUM ARGOS.  I also thought it would be fun to film the whole process and edit it into a, hopefully, funny documentary.  The editing process was long and laborious but I have finally finished the bastard and here it is.  It is not intended to reinvent the wheel formally speaking but I hope it will be something amusing to look back on in year’s to come.

THE PITCH

PAUL LAIGHT and GWILUM ARGOS star in a humorous documentary filmed and edited in 2014 as they prepare, rehearse and perform their comedy show at the Brighton Fringe Festival (2014).

This is a mixture of sketches, podcast, trailers, interviews, stand-up performance etc.  The video is intended for promotional and non-profit making purposes.  It is a historical document recorded for a laugh and posterity and possible insight into the creative process.

 

THE FILM

 

THE CREDITS

Comedy material written by Paul Laight and Gwilum Argos. Original songs written by Gwilum Argos.

Other songs/music used by kind permission.

The Rock and Droll Experience was shot and edited by Paul Laight.

Thanks to everyone involved for their assistance including http://www.laughinghorse.co.uk and the audience who supported our show etc.

A Fix Films Production – http://www.fixfilms.com

Thoughts on Cinema, TV and Life!