Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Truth Accepted, Traveller

Having more than adequately established my nerdy credentials over here (on pretty much a daily basis, let's be honest), it should come as no surprise to anyone that, as a youth, I was a fan of the children’s show, Knightmare. For those of you who don’t remember it/were never exposed to it, it was basically a weekly version of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure in which a group of school children guide their blindfolded friend through a series of rooms in order to complete a quest. Along the way, they must defeat enemies, solve riddles, pick up items to help them and replenish their food in a knapsack before their life force ebbs away. 

It was cheap (this was 1980s UK children’s TV, after all) and cheerful and perfect nerd fodder. It was also surprisingly harsh for a kid’s show - in the first episode alone, the kids fail to pick up a lantern and so, three rooms later when they need it, find themselves trapped in the dark and die. No going easy on the youngsters in this show!

Why tell you all this? Well, at the moment, the Southbank currently has its annual Udderbelly Festival of music, comedy and cabaret and part of this festival was…

Knightmare Live
It’s part loving tribute and part comedy show and works very well. Audience members can nominate a friend in advance of the show to be the adventurer (I wisely decided to steer clear of the stage for this show) and helper goblins take objects from the audience to use as part of the quests so there’s an element of improv to it, meaning that the shows will never be quite be the same twice.

There’s a makeshift ramshackle air to the whole thing which adds to the fun and a general feel of audience participation - it was clear from some of the comments shouted out that quite a few people had been to see the show before. It’s nerdy but it knows it and frequently comments upon the fact (there aren’t many shows where the audience cheer a knapsack and the phrase “you’re in a room” is a shout-along catchphrase). Although based on a kids show, it’s not overly a show for kids - as evidenced by them pulling a last adventurer out of the audience at random who happened to be very young thus making some of the jokes somewhat less appropriate (but probably funnier for it).

Definitely one that’s worth a watch if you can get along (there’s one more performance of it in July) and just keep telling yourself it’s only a game…..isn’t it?




Friday, 15 June 2018

Ladies And Gents, This Is The Moment You've Waited For

If this blog were a musical, this would be the point of the post where the introductory number begins to swell, the camera pans and your humble baldy narrator swings into view, opens his mouth and bursts forth into song. Don’t worry, this won't be happening for two reasons. Firstly, this is a written blog so it’s literally impossible for me to start singing at you through it (do you not get how this whole reading thing works?). Secondly, even if that were possible, I am an absolutely atrocious singer with a voice that sounds like someone is committing murder against the very concept of music.

Despite this, I do love a good musical. Preferably something a bit weird or sci-fi-ish (Little Shop Of Horrors and Rocky Horror Picture Show, I’m looking at you) but I’m not averse to a good, old-fashioned, full-on cheesy musical. Which brings us to today’s post…

The Greatest Showman
In A Nutshell:- The life of PT Barnum told via Hugh Jackman and song
Any Good? I’m not gonna draw out the verdict on this one - I loved it. It had me hooked right from the off and kept me caught up in it right to the end. Yes, it’s very much an unashamedly old school musical (and I’m sure that it’s historically dubious) but that is nothing to be ashamed of. 

The last high profile musical was La La Land which received rave reviews largely across the board. I wasn’t won over by it. In fact, I found it boring. The story lost my interest well before the end but, most importantly, the songs were just dull and did not stick in my head. La La Land is a musical for people who are either ashamed of liking or out-and-out don’t like musicals. The Greatest Showman is a musical for people who love musicals and is all the more joyful for it.

The songs are catchy and the musical numbers are staged with an infectious energy. I knew within a few numbers that I’d be listening to the soundtrack repeatedly once the film had finished (a prediction that has since proved to be true). If you like musicals, you’ll love it. If you don’t like musicals, well, give it a try anyway as I know a couple of people who aren’t big musical fans and were completely won over buy it. It could be that it works at the moment as a reaction to our current grim and gritty times where the political landscape is immensely depressing and even superhero films can be dark and horrible (yes, DC Comics, I’m talking about you). Whatever the reason, why not enjoy a film that’s designed to make you tap your toes and smile? Exactly. Now pass me my top hat and cane…




Thursday, 14 June 2018

CrashBangWallop

There may well have been a six year gap where I didn't keep up this whole blogging thing but I occasionally jotted something down in an (unsuccessful obviously) attempt to kick myself back into doing it again. Here's one I wrote down (very) shortly after being run over by a car about four years ago (spoiler alert - I lived).


March 2014
It is 4 a.m. and I am lying in a hospital bed. Now there's a dramatic hook to pique your interest. Fear not, Gentle Reader, for your Humble Narrator is not in grave peril. No, the key to this unexpected sojourn is one of observation. The old noggin has taken an unexpected pounding and the professionals of a medical persuasion would like to ensure that all the interior grey bits are suitably interiory and grey.

How did I come to be in this decidedly unenviable position? Well, I contracted a rather sudden case of being-hit-by-a-car-whose-driver-wasn't-looking-while-I-crossed-the-road-itis. It is hopefully the sort of thing that is not recurring and, in this instance, did not result in the breaking of any bones*. It did result in me being flipped bodily through the air; however, my nose and face had the foresight to try and stop my fall (which has resulted in my nose occupying rather more facial real estate than before; slightly disappointing when it had a substantial enough holding to begin with).

It's a curious sensation when you're in a car crash. It's somewhat of a cliche but time does appear to slow down whilst still all running much too quickly for you to do anything about. I could see him indicating, I could see him suddenly step on the gas even though I was halfway across the road, I knew with certainty that he was going to hit me and yet I just couldn't move myself out the way quick enough. Then suddenly on ground, face hurts, hang on, face wet, blood pouring, oh it's mine.

Fortunately, the local citizens are a decent bunch and a small crowd of people were calling the emergency services, passing me tissues, gathering my stuff (including miraculously unbroken glasses) and even getting me an ice pack (courtesy of a lady who lived a couple of doors down). Community spirit in action.

In fact, everyone I dealt with was rather splendid, passers by to police to paramedics. I’ve come out of it pretty well - I literally walked away, albeit creakily and shakily. The hope was that I would go home but the CT scan showed some very minor internal bleeding and they don't take chances with head wounds so, after six hours in casualty, I was passed upstairs into a bed for observation.

This is only the second time I've spent the night in hospital and it's for the exact same reason as the first - head trauma. Different circumstances, mind - first time round, I was playing It in the playground, tripped over my own feet and knocked myself out. I was kept in to make sure there was no concussion. It was one of the most terrifying nights of my 8/9 year old life. Strange people, strange sounds and a distinct lack of sleep. The terror has gone but the other elements are all there…

They're checking my blood pressure and so forth every two hours so sleep is not overly likely but even if they weren't, my fellow inmates... sorry, patients... are more than up to the job of keeping me from the Land of Nod.

There's Snorey to my right. Now I can't really complain about that as I'm sure that, on the few moments I am drifting off, I'm more than giving him a run for his money (especially with my newly redistributed nasal passages). To my left is Mr Orgasm Noise. Every now and then he starts making a noise like he's right in the middle of Happy Fun Time. He's definitely not (at least I hope not) but to the aural only visitor, they could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

The cream of the crop, however, is Bloody Hell Man. Now, he is obviously in some discomfort but it seems that this absolutely has to be loudly and swearily announced to the room every five to ten minutes. "Bloody hell" is the most common but we've also several "fuck mes", "bloody arses", "fucking hells" and my personal favourite "Jiminy Cricket".

One and a half hours to next checkup. I fear sleep may be unlikely....


Historian's Note:- I did in fact sustain a broken bone - a big toe which did not become apparent for about a week or so due to the general discomfort of walking around after being hit by a car anyway. I did not really sleep much for the rest of the night but very much enjoyed the selection of both strong and very strong painkillers that I was supplied with which made everything go all sort of soft and pillowy. I don't know what became of Bloody Hell Man; we didn't stay in touch.




Wednesday, 13 June 2018

WatchSeeLookView - Film Style Vol 02

More taking in of story-based entertainment composed of moving pictures with accompanying sound. Details below.

The Babadook
In A Nutshell:- Single mum struggles with difficult child but is there something more going on?
Any Good? I was pleasantly surprised by this one. From the trailer I saw some time ago now, I was expecting this to be a fairly standard “creepy child plus creepy monster” schlocky horror film. What it turned out to be was more interesting than that by far - as well as being an examination of how grief continues to impact people’s lives long after the event, it’s also much more of a psychological horror (is there a monster or she suffering from a mental breakdown?). A surprisingly good film which also veers away from your traditional horror film ending.

Pacific Rim - Uprising
In A Nutshell:- Robots vs monsters - Round 2
Any Good? Look, I’m biased towards this sort of film. I love a good Godzilla (and also a very bad Godzilla film*) and I like things with robots in too. This film, like the first one, has both of those. It takes quite a while to get into the monster v robot action though and, disappointingly, feels like the middle film in a trilogy which is unlikely to be completed now. It’s OK - John Boyega is on good form and clearly enjoying himself - but it likes the stylish feel of Guillermo Del Toro’s original which helped paper over the thinness of the whole thing. Still, monsters smashing robots is good. Smashy smashy.

It’s Alive
In A Nutshell:- Murderous baby goes on a rampage
Any Good? I grew up in the 90s watching a lot of gross out, schlocky, comedy horror films like Bad Taste and Braindead (both early films directed by Peter Jackson of Lord Of The Rings fame), Basket Case and Re-Animator, etc. etc. While this film doesn’t really have anything in the way of humour, it certainly does feel like the precursor to all of those films - it has a low-budget, almost homemade feel to it (although it does feature creature work by Rick Baker of American Werewolf In London fame) and makes the occasional leap in logic/judgement that these films require. I’m not sure if I’d say it was a good film but it was intriguing. (Side Note:- the music was by Bernard Hermann, responsible for Psycho, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver, The Twilight Zone and many more)

Alright, that’ll do, move along now, nothing to see here.




* But not a middlingly bad Godzilla film like the 1998 American one with Matthew Broderick which is basically Jurassic Park Lite.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Your Starter For Ten

OK, having told you yesterday that I don’t write about work, I’m going to slightly break my rules and tell you about a social addition that I perform at my workplace. For you see, in addition to being [CENSORED] at [COMPANY IDENTITY UNKNOWN], I have another role. One that I have conferred upon myself, true, but one that has grown in popularity over the last few years. Yes, on a Friday, I am not just [JOB WITHHELD], I am also… the Quizmaster!

For a couple of years, I have been sending round a quiz every Friday (membership is now up to about 40 people every week) - a simple Google form with a themed quiz for the team to complete. There is no prize, merely the knowledge of knowing that you are superior to your colleagues and, if you resort to Googling the answers given that it’s an email quiz, you are only cheating yourself (and cheats never prosper*). I really enjoy doing it - sometimes they might be picture rounds, sometimes sound clips and sometimes just good, old-fashioned questions. There’s something satisfying about the rounds that I manage to judge right in terms of a balance of trickier and easier questions - make it too easy and people get bored, make it too hard and people stop playing.

So, in honour of my secondary role as office quizmaster, here is a simple true or false quiz for you to digest. Answers at the bottom of the post…

That Baldy Quiz

  1. I started losing my hair at the age of 21.
  2. Raw tomatoes are my favourite food.
  3. I nearly got arrested by an armed response van whilst crammed into a Ford Fiesta with five other people and holding an illegal replica gun.
  4. My middle name is Beverly, a family tradition.
  5. I once had a conversation with a Bulgarian policeman about the history of the Ottoman Empire at 6 am standing next to a man covered in fake blood.
  6. If feasible, I would live in a house with twenty cats
  7. I went to school with Benedict Cumberbatch
  8. My middle name is Hilary, a family tradition.
  9. This is the last question.




That Baldy Answers

  1. True - saved a fortune on haircuts.
  2. False - they are the devil’s fruit and must be stopped.
  3. True - as mentioned here.
  4. False - not telling you what it really is
  5. True - remind to tell you about that.
  6. True - standing up for the crazy cat man
  7. False - but one of my school mates looked a bit like Ian Beale off Eastenders
  8. False - still not telling you.
  9. True - I’m getting bored of this now. Now check your scores. If you got less than 2 right, you’re no longer allowed to read this blog. Go on, off you go. The rest of you can stay, though.



* Except in elections, eh, kids? Eh? Eh? SATIRES.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Impersonal

It may not be immediately obvious but I do have a couple of guidelines for what gets written about in this here tiny corner of the internet (with its readership edging into the tens). In general, I don’t write about friends or living family and I don’t write about work. The second one is largely out of a healthy sense of self-preservation; this may be a tiny, mostly unread corner of the internet but it is published and public so, much as I might love to write about [EXCISED] and his [CENSORED] and the time that [REDACTED], those parts of my life will remain undocumented in order to ensure that I still get paid money on a monthly basis in return for doing things at the unnamed company at which I work*.

This does create a little bit of a restriction - it cuts out big chunks of my life in terms of potential blog material. There may be the occasional small mention of someone in passing, either in relation to an event that we may have been to or due to a shared interest or if it’s something that we’ve done publicly (as evidenced in the blog posts on filmmaking way, waaay back at the start some 450-odd posts ago) but I try to refrain from discussing other people on here. Why is that? Well, it’s simple - it’s their personal life too and they didn’t ask to be written about so it doesn’t seem very fair to make it public when they might not want it to be. Also, my friends are all boring.**

What does this mean? Well, it means you get posts about things and stuff and random musings. Sometimes it means you not only get posts about nothing but you also get posts that highlight the fact that they’re about nothing. Yep, you’ve guessed it - I’ve decided to try and post something every weekday (no one looks at this at the weekend) and I had nothing today. So I’ve told you all about having nothing today. And you read it. I think that means that i won. You’re welcome.***


* Yup, I have never named the place at which I work on here. If I did, I would have to kill you all. Only joking. Or am I? Yes, I am. But am I? Ok, enough of that.

** Not really, I don’t mean that. You know I don’t mean you anyway, I mean the other ones. Yeah, you know which ones. You were always my favourite anyway.

*** Alright, I’ll try and write about something tomorrow. Well, at the very least, I won't wrote about nothing. (Is that the same thing? Probably.)

Friday, 8 June 2018

Film Review Week - Day 5

And so the end is near, and now I face… well, Friday, really. Let’s finish of the week with a brief round up of a few other flicks what has passed in front of the peepers and been lobbed in the lugholes.

The Square
In A Nutshell:- Meandering Swedish satire on modern art
I’m in two minds about this one. I watch quite a few foreign language films as you tend to get some intriguing that wouldn't come out of the Hollywood system (and I am occasionally very poncey too). This did hold my attention through to the end and had some amusing and occasionally disturbing moments but I’m not sure if it all came together for me. I preferred the director’s other film Force Majeure (examining the fallout from a father who, at the moment of a suspected avalanche, abandons his family, only for the avalanche not to hit).

Radius
In A Nutshell:- Man awakes from car crash to discover he kills anything that gets near him
In a similar fashion to the above, I also like a good low budget indie film (appeals to the former filmmaker within me). This one has an intriguing concept and starts well enough but is hampered by some sub-par acting and a less interesting conclusion (despite the addition of a twist to try and spice things up). Sadly, not one I would recommend (not a bad film but doesn’t live up to the premise).

Everything Beautiful Is Far Away
In A Nutshell:- A boy, a girl and a disembodied robot head wander a post-apocalyptic desert landscape
Another low budget indie film but this one I really enjoyed. It looks great and the three person cast (well, two people and a voiceover) do a good job of carrying this through its brief running time. It’s a film where very little happens but it’s charming enough to carry that off.

The Greasy Strangler
In A Nutshell:- I don’t even know where to start
This is the first film by the same director of An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (which you can read about here). I genuinely don’t know how to describe this. It’s weird, revolting and almost deliberately designed to be nearly unwatchable. Something kept me watching through to the end, though, as there is a part of me that perversely enjoys willfully repugnant cinema. It’s provoked in me a similar reaction to Meet The Feebles, Peter Jackson’s filthy version of the Muppets. Would I recommend it? I don’t think I could in good conscience recommend it to anyone (which may well be a recommendation in a weird way for some of you, I guess!)

Alright, that’s enough film-y chat for this week. Go on, go off and have a weekend. I’ll hang out here and see you back next time. Can you switch off the light on your way out? Ta.





Thursday, 7 June 2018

Film Review Week - Day 4

Let’s bring it back one of the latest releases today with the other big hitter floating around the cinemas at the moment (and “floater” seems like it would be an appropriate word to use in a review of a film like this). 

Deadpool 2
Dir. David Leitch
In A Nutshell:- Like the first Deadpool but probably a bit more Deadpool-ier

Superhero films are everywhere. DC’s films take themselves really far too seriously and suffer for it. Marvel’s films strike the balance between action and humour (in general). The X-Men films are an odd hybrid of the two, possibly leaning slightly more on the dour side at times. Deadpool is definitely on the humour side.

If you watched the first one then this will come as no surprise. It’s more of the same - if anything, it’s upped the comedy levels to make it a full on action comedy film (the first film still had the occasional moment of trying to keep it reasonably straight laced). It’s a gag-laden, fun film that breezes through its running time without stopping for much of a breather. There are a few surprises in the film  that for once the marketing has managed to disguise rather than reveal which makes a nice change these days.

To say much more would be to spoil it; not in terms of plot as the plot that is there is relatively paper thin (and anyone going to watch a Deadpool film for its dense plotting has somewhat missed the point). No, it would spoil some of the gags and that’s the whole point of a film like this. There are also some nice nerdy deepcut references for the old school comics fan too (which, of course, I picked up on).

Is it worth watching? If you liked the first one, absolutely; it’ll tick all of the boxes you’re expecting it to. If you didn’t like the first one then this one won't win you over any. It’s a daft superhero film that’s happy to point out the overall daftness of superhero films in general. There’s definitely room for a film like that.




Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Film Review Week - Day 3

Time to pull out a themed double header to get us through the mid-week slump. (“Hump day.” Eurgh. There’s just something unappealing about that phrase, isn’t there? “Hump day.” I’ll just leave that lying there like a stinky word turd for you.)

The theme? Stop-motion animation.

Early Man
Dir. Nick Park
In A Nutshell:- Stone Age meets Bronze Age in the world’s first football tournament

I love Aardman animation. Ever since I first saw A Grand Day out on Channel 4 many, many years ago, I was hooked on their style and humour. I’ve always had a fondness for stop-motion animation, probably starting with early exposure to Ray Harryhausen classics like Clash Of The Titans, etc. (and Harryhausen gets a nice little reference in the opening of the film, too, courtesy of a pair of familiar-looking fighting dinosaurs, named in the credits as Ray and Harry) and Aardman have really cemented that. Their films always have a combination of appealing character design, sneaky moments of more adult humour and a hefty dollop of heart. Early Man is no exception but, for me, there was something lacking in this one. It doesn’t have the over-the-top silliness of The Pirates or the manic inventiveness of Wallace And Gromit; to be honest, the whole “underdogs going up against the arrogant champs to win back their home” story felt fairly hackneyed.

This may make it sound like I didn’t enjoy it - not the case as there’s still plenty to enjoy. It’s just not up to the very high bar that they themselves have previously set. However, even a sub-par Aardman is still head and shoulders above your average animated fare. Worth a watch, certainly, but unlikely to go down as one of their finest.

Isle Of Dogs
Dir. Wes Anderson
In A Nutshell:- A boy searches for his cast-away dog on an island of exiled canines in future Japan

Having turned to the world of animation for Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson clearly loved it enough to head back there for a second go-around. It’s very much a Wes Anderson film - symmetrical framing, stylised on-screen titling, quirky characters and a selection of the usual casting suspects (Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman) - and if you enjoy any of his previous films, the likelihood is that this will be up your street too. It’s probably a bit more overtly comic than his other non-animated works but, much like Fantastic Mr Fox, I still wouldn't describe this as entirely a children’s film as there’s plenty in there that would go over the average kid’s head.

As I am a Wes Anderson fan, this one definitely went in the “worth watching” column.

More filmy goodness to come, same time, same blog...





Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Film Review Week - Day 2

This weekend just gone saw the London Sundance Film Festival at the Picturehouse Central near Piccadilly. I only really spotted this on Saturday so, as a Picturehouse member, decided to use up a few on my free membership screenings to go and spend the lovely sunny Sunday in a darkened (gloriously air-conditioned) room watching a selection of images on a flickering screen. One of the films wasn’t strictly part of the festival so I’ll talk about that with another film as it’s more thematically pleasing (yes, I’m not above a spot of review-based pretension). 

First up was a talk by American stand up comedian Bo Burnham (probably most recognised over here for his portrayal of one of the stand up comedians in The Big Sick). I enjoy listening comedians talking about their craft (as previously mentioned here); I think partly because they talk for a living so tend to make engaging interviewees. He started out as a YouTube star around 12 years ago before breaking into the mainstream American comedy scene and had some interesting musings on the current state and impact of social media. What I hadn’t realised was that he was also talking about a film showing at the festival that he had written and directed (Eighth Grade). Unfortunately, I hadn’t booked to see that one which is a shame as it sounded pretty interesting from the discussion around it. The main event, however, was this…

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
Dir. Jim Hoskings
In A Nutshell:- Nope, no nutshell for this one

This was very much my sort of film. An oddball, highly stylised film peopled by a cast of known comedians (including Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry and Craig Robinson) and bizarre character actors, it’s a tricky one to describe. Strange hairstyles, weird 60s-70s-80s mish-mash clothing, mannered speech patterns, a robbery, grunting, wig-based disguises, cheesy onion rings, a magical evening, extended over-the-top coughing and tartan are all elements mashed together in this strange comedy which could well possibly be described as a romantic comedy but only in the loosest and oddest possible sense. I would try and describe it in a bit more detail but I genuinely don’t think I can. I suspect that trying to detail the plot would make the film seem more conventional and mundane than it is. It’s the sort of film that may well exist in its own genre.

Is this film for everyone? No, definitely not. I strongly suspect that this film will have a Marmite effect on many people but I absolutely loved it and found myself laughing quite a bit. It’s certainly the unique vision of a possibly deranged director (while the film is set in America, he is very much English - he came out for a Q&A at the end). Would I recommend it? I would but don’t blame me if your response is, “What the hell did you just make me watch?” At the moment, it doesn’t have a confirmed UK release date - when it does, I strongly suspect I may be going to watch this one again.