Friday, March 12, 2010

'Open Graves' live blog

So I watched this horror film, 'Open Graves', and it was terrible. Many films are terrible, but only a handful are bad enough to make you grab your phone and live blog the stupidity being presented to you.

Below is the Twitter blog I did as I watched the film, in order from minute 1...

Currently watching 'Open Graves'. This is a very, very odd film. Also terrible, which somewhat makes up for it. Ahh, Eliza Dushku... *swoon*

I think the budget of this film was roughly that of a few postage stamps.

Cops find body without skin. Skin hanging next to body. "I'd swear he's been skinned alive" says one cop. Geniuses. This film is AMAZING!

I'm fairly certain this film was shot on an iPhone.

Guy meets girl for FIRST TIME in the film. They have NEVER met before. 3 lines in she says "It's good to see you again"... *confused stare*

People are being killed by a BOARD GAME! This is a bit like Jumanji, except it's not awesome. Ooh, wait wait wait...

I knew it! Death by dragonfly! SO saw that coming...

It's just downright unpleasant now. And apparently everyone at this SPANISH coast is either American or a Cockney.

"Crabs are this primal force. These mindless things, driven by instinct". You got that right, baby ;)

"I don't think I've ever known anybody that lived in a lighthouse". Yeah, because THAT'S the sort of thing you wouldn't be sure about!

Insanely hot girl in bikini doing photoshoot. What's the obvious thing to do? Give her powertools and gardening gloves. Duh! OBVIOUSLY!

Now someone's being chased by a snake that can slither at 50 MILES AN HOUR! Glad they're keeping it based in fact.

"This kid was killed by a snake. A Black Mamba. How does that bite you, huh?". This line was NOT said as a joke...

"I don't believe in superstition, this board game isn't killing people...Wait! I found it on Google... You were right all along!"

Girls hair starts falling out, she's bleeding from her eyes... Boyfriend says "Let me make you some soup"... Best film EVER!

Man with NO LEGS shows up again in the film. He now HAS LEGS. This is NOT addressed. AT ALL.

Girl has car crash. She swerves very gently. Instantly cut to: Car flips over EIGHTY TIMES.

By the way, I'm not ruining this film for any of you. The filmmakers did that before I got anywhere near it.

"What do you take me for, some kind of fucking idiot?"... It's always good to have at least one character speaking for the audience.

At least Jumanji had monkeys and lions and bears (oh my!). This board game has no sense of humour whatsoever.

"Something's gonna happen to me in the ocean. Let's go to my lighthouse, we'll be safe there"... I PROMISE I'm NOT making this up!

Hey, they just stole a shot from Batman Forever... Of ALL the films to steal a shot from, I ask you!

I... I... LITERALLY have no words for what just happened onscreen... No joke I could make would justify this LUNACY before me... None...

Dear Director of 'Open Graves': You owe me 1hr 24mins. I will accept this via voodoo or in monetary form if needs be.

Even the end credits are ludicrous. There were WRITERS on this film?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Albums Of The Year 2009 - Numero Uno!

Something strange happened to me musically in 2009. While I've never been opposed to it, that was the year that it struck me; The kind of electronic/dance music being made was far more interesting than what guitar-based bands had to offer. It was more original, more exciting, and it was breaking down barriers between chart/D&B/dubstep etc. It was creating an entirely new genre. From Miike Snow to Calvin Harris, 2009 was the year Dance Music took a massive leap forward.

Easily the best dance album since Leftfield's debut, or The Prodigy's 'The Fat Of The Land', Fuck Buttons came from nowhere to deliver a record of such beauty and intensity, it gives a different experience every time you listen to it. And they're not pulling punches either; rather bravely for a debut, most songs are 9 minutes plus. Yet each track has its own story, its own emotional journey, and - crucially - it's entirely at the listener's discretion what you make of it.

'Surf Solar' is an absolute beast of a song; a 10 minute gentle assault on the senses, with more layers in it than you'll ever notice. 'Olympians' is a true thing of beauty, again employing 10 minutes with gorgeous, emotive sounds that change just as you're getting used to them.

I cannot rate this album highly enough. In a year of great music, Fuck Buttons delivered a real sucker punch, from a genre I didn't expect and simply made me re-evaluate how I listen to music. This album, quite simply, made me more excited about music than I had been in years.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No. 2!


I first heard the gorgeous Emmy during Adam & Joe's Glastonbury radio show. Sitting in a noisy field, she strummed away on an acoustic guitar and sang the single 'First Love'; a tragic yet comic account of a relationship that was saved by a love of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'. The sound was ramshackle at best, marred by wind noise and rowdy passers by. And I was in love.

The true brilliance of Emmy is not the best/most powerful voice you've ever heard, or the cleverest guitar work. It's the absolute honesty and use of storytelling in her work. She uses humour like other artists use a paintbrush or a guitar solo, then suddenly undercuts it with the harsh realities of daily life. And she is keenly aware of the humour you can find when looking back at your toughest times, yet isn't afraid to wrap it all up in music so beautiful that it becomes her greatest weapon - it catches you off guard.

'We Almost Had A Baby' is a chilling assault on a former lover who "didn't stop" and resulted in a pregnancy scare, but it's given to us in a 50's doo-wop style that wouldn't be out of place in Grease. 'Dylan' tells of feuding brothers, but in an upbeat bluegrass tempo. And in the afore-mentioned 'First Love' she name checks the song 'Hallelujah' but even takes the time to make sure we know she's talking about "the original Leonard Cohen version". In an age when awards are being chucked at every female solo artist, it's refreshing and important to find one that actually deserves it.

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No. 3!

The xx

Beautiful, haunting, solemn, possibly the most romantic record of the last decade... Yep. All superlatives, all cliches, and all accurate. I'd never heard of this lot before New Music God Huw Stephens started championing them on the radio, and I was immediately hooked.

Calling them lo-fi is selling them short, as the craft in the songwriting is immense, but there's no denying their sounds defines the phrase 'stripped down'. Barely using more than a plucky guitar, bass, occasional drums and call-and-response male/female vocals, the music they create tends to float around your senses until it truly becomes something tangible to your mind-brain.

Even more incredible, for what I truly believe is an out-and-out romantic record, it never becomes hackneyed. In fact, at times The xx seem unsure whether love is a good or bad thing. At moments, this album will make you think love is the greatest thing in the world, at others it'll make you wonder why people bother with it. Yet it's never saccharine or cynical. It's just totally, brutally honest. And that's why it's the best debut in years.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No.4!

It might be a predictable choice, as I usually always put the newest Matthew Good release in my top 5. And as he's my favourite recording artist, this probably won't change as long as he's putting out records of this quality. But I should state first, this album's ranking at #4 (the lowest I've ever placed a Matt Good record) is in no way a reflection on it's comparative quality, more a comment on the standard of the albums yet to come in the list.

2007's 'Hospital Music' was a landmark record for Matt. Marking the end of a dark period, and the start of a new beginning, it was a sublime piece of work. But even a huge fan like me can recognise it was a sometimes challenging and stripped-down album. 'Vancouver' is a return to form of classic status from the 'Avalanche' era. Big, epic, stadium-sized anthems abound, and Good's voice has never been in better form.

Equal parts a love and hate letter to his long-term home city, 'Vancouver' is uplifting, damning, but more than either of these, sees Good easily at the top of his craft. The man is such a naturally gifted songwriter, that when he's as inspired as he clearly was in the process of making this album, the end result feels so effortless and enjoyable.

Albums Of The Year 2009 - No.5!

I have to be honest, I never really rated Jamie T before. He emerged onto the UK music scene two years ago, with what can only be described as shouty, wannabe chav hip-hop. It wasn't bad, exactly, it just didn't really grab me.

I was wrong. Although his first album still isn't brilliant, I'm happy to admit that it was simply me that didn't get it. The man is talented, and has an original gift for urban storytelling in a totally original style, with a completely natural ability for vocal deftness.

Which brings me to this new album. Jamie still has his rough-edge lyrics, but he's also crafted some stunningly subtle and low-key music to balance it out. 'The Man's Machine' expertly blends some of the best, most rhythmic spoken word I've heard with gorgeous music behind it. Album opener, '368', uses samples and re-balanced vocals to great effect while Jamie tells a story of a London council estate.

All in all, I was wrong. Jamie T is a fantastic new talent and has made a blinder of an album. Consider me now a fan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Furlong Collective Presents: The Top Quotes of 2008!

Simon Smith
(upon nearly missing a car that was joining the motorway):
"Filthy minx of a slip road. She knew what she was doing."

Andrew Hockey
(during a visit at my workplace, after a strange silence)
"Sorry, I've made a smell. It's quite bad."

Simon Smith
(down the pub, indignantly)
"My crotch has been quite popular in it's time!"

Andrew Hockey
(god knows)
"There's nothing like mining a Badger's semen."

(upon receiving a vodka and coke at t'pub)
"That's a lotta lemon for your money!"

(self explanatory)
"I'm never happier then when I'm watching Showgirls."

(dismissing an annoying man at t'pub)
"I think you should take the penny, you need all the luck you can get."

Andrew Hockey
(again... who knows)
"You leave my pants out of this!"

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Top 5 Films Of 2008!

5: War, Inc.

An unofficial sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank. The same writing team, same actors and same biting yet lovingly crafted sardonic tone.

Set in a future where major corporations own third-world countries and run the world's wars (the U.S Military 'Snickers' tank, or 'Taco Bell' air rifles), the brilliant yet reluctant hitman, Brand Hauser, is sent to Turaqistan to kill a world leader. But he's sent there under the guise of producing a live music concert featuring theMiddle-East's newest teen sensation; Yonica Babyyeah.

During the countdown to execution, Hauser gets sidetracked by an imposing journalist (Marisa Tomei) and nearly seduced by the loopy Babyyeah (an almost unrecognisable and brilliant Hilary Duff... yes, I know, but she's really good in this).

With Cusack firing on all sarcastic cylinders surrounded by an excellent supporting cast (notably Duff, Joan Cusack and Ben Kingsley), this is a comedy gem hitting a hard target. War is ridiculous, we all know that, but this film takes that over the edge without ever once falling into spoof territory. Smart, funny, and more than worthy of your time.

4: Burn After Reading

After last year's No Country For Old Men, a modern masterpiece of crime thriller and dark character exploration, the Coen Brothers return to their other favourite genre; the wacky, out-there, bizarre convoluted comedy.

Burn After Reading is the farcical tale of an ex-government agent (John Malkovich) who, angry at being fired, decides to write a tell-all memoir about his top secret job. This file falls into the hands of a middle-age woman gym manager (Francis McDormand) who's desperate for plastic surgery. Assuming the file IS a top secret document she enlists the help of her fitness-obsessed co-worker (Brad Pitt) and attempts to sell the file to the Russian Embassy. When this fails they decide to blackmail the writer himself.

Throw in George Clooney as a paranoid recent divorcee who starts dating McDormand, Tilda Swinton as the cold-hearted ex of Clooney, and J.K Simmons as the government boss tracking the case who just doesn't care, and you have classic Coen oddballness harking back to the Raising Arizona days.

And it works beautifully. The writing is sharp, and as it's a Coen film the acting is flawless. McDormand creates another weirdo in the style of her Fargo character. And Brad Pitt steals the show as the uber-hyper, energy drink addicted, nervy gym hand - once again stepping out of his movie star comfort zone to play something unlike anything he's done before.

3: The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Kind of a cheat, this one, as it's technically a 2007 release, but our shores didn't get it until January of 2008 so I'm going with it. This is gem of a film, and a labour of love for all involved. Originally scheduled for a 2006 release, the film languished in post-production hell with a studio unwilling to put it out. Brad Pitt not only stars as Jesse James but also produced the film, and stood by director Andrew Dominik, taking a huge pay cut and also funding it from his own pocket to allow the film to be completed as the director intended.

The result is amazing; a dreamlike yet gritty story, it never once attempts to portray James as a hero of the people but more of well-respected, if morally dubious, gun for hire. In fact, James isn't the main character at all. The focus is more on Robert Ford, the young upstart who read Jesse James stories as a child and grew up idolising him, as he joins the gang. He tries desperately to bond with his hero, but the sad truth is that James simply doesn't like him, and Ford's adoration turns to anger.

After striking a deal with the Sheriff to kill the infamous outlaw, this film focuses mainly on the last ten days of James' life, and how Ford copes in the aftermath of killing his hero. Brad Pitt inhabits the strangest of roles; a stoic, barely there leader of men who hardly says a word. It's a brave performance, but the stand-out is Casey Affleck as Ford who literally shows every emotion on his sleeve but never gets close to being hammy. The desperation to be liked, the elation of getting approval, the turmoil of rejection... it's a performance to be reckoned with. And the fact that, as far as known, this account is as close to truth as we'll probably ever know, makes it all that more heartbreaking.

A special mention needs to go to the cinematography too. There's a very famous photo of the real Jesse James' dead body surrounded by local lawmen, which was taken with a special lens; blurred edges, and an almost lithographic 3-D aspect to it which is recreated here in many scenes to beautiful effect.

Anyone expecting a rip-roaring western will be disappointed. But for a thoughtful, beautifully artistic and moving account of one of the greatest legends of history, look no further.


There's no doubt about it; this is Pixar's masterpiece. Toy Story may be funnier, Finding Nemo may look more gorgeous, and The Incredibles may be more crowd pleasing, but in terms of simple story telling Pixar has never done anything to rival the brilliance of Wall-E.

The first half of the film is essentially a silent movie. Pixar have said they don't see it that way, but apart from the words "Wall-E" and "Eve-ahh" there is no dialogue in the first half of the film. And it's the best characterisation they've ever done. In a scene where Wall-E sits silently watching an old musical, we learn everything we need to know about him; his hopes and dreams, his romantic side. Just from his silently collecting rubbish on an abandoned Earth we get to know his sense of humour and childlike wonder. Even his relationship with the silent cockroach who follows him around shows a clear friendship.

Eve-ahh's character arc is also staggeringly well done. She can say one word, but she goes on a clear journey from automaton droid to a thinking, feeling personality. And it's all in the simple, basic rule of good story telling.

Even the undertones of the 'save the planet' theme, which could have been hammered home to a saccharine level, feels natural and well placed. The barren landscapes of a deserted, littered Earth are striking and worrying. The reliance on technology is frighteningly true. And the romance is played out in a wonderful, organic way. And don't get me started on the Space Dance...

1: The Dark Knight

Yes, I know! You knew it would be Number 1 as well. Big surprise. Well, it doesn't matter because it's ace!

Three people are responsible for making The Dark Knight so fantastic. Yes, there was an entire cast and crew that made it what it is, but there's three people in particular that get the main praise:

The first two are Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan. The two brothers wrote a script so tight, clever and engaging that made The Dark Knight the first truly out-and-out comic book film that didn't feel like one. Because of their approach to the material, their respectfulness to keep the characters and situations grounded, they made this one of the smartest, most well thought out crime thrillers that just happened to have a hero and villain that wore costumes. It's almost coincidental, as the story is the main driving force. And Chris Nolan's directing was impeccable. I don't mean flashy or eye-catching, although it certainly was those too. You want to know the best scene in the film? It's not the truck flipping, or the swan-dive in Hong Kong. It's the interrogation scene between The Batman and The Joker. Two actors, one room, dialogue. You want to know the second best scene? The hospital scene with Harvey Dent and The Joker. Two actors, one room, dialogue. Chris Nolan also had the insight to cast the third person who made this film so spectacular...

Heath Ledger. Fanboys were up in arms when it was announced, early promo shots were scrutinized, and shouts of "That's not The Joker!" were bandied about message forums like self-aware tennis balls on a killing spree. Then they saw the trailer; the shouts turned into "Hmmm, pretty good". Then they saw the film, and "pretty good" quickly became Heath becoming the ultimate, the one and only Joker for fans and non-fans alike. To say he nailed the character is selling him short. The tongue-flicking, the endlessly changing back-story, and most of all the cruelness hidden as (bad) humour. If you want to see what The Joker should be, watch the hospital scene; it's ludicrous yet terrifying. Just like The Joker.

And the coda with The Batman deciding to make himself a public enemy, just so The Joker cannot win, is also pitch perfect. Of course, if Chris Nolan makes another one I'll lap it up, but after a Batman film this good I'm kind of okay with not getting another one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 5 Telly Of The Year!!!

I want to preface this by saying this year I could easily have filled a Top 10 list with shows I absolutely love, it's been that good. So if there's omissions, they were not easy to leave out. And here we... go!

The new brainchild of J.J Abrams, this brilliant sci-crime drama picks up where The X-Files left off, but has the sense to base itself not in the world of the paranormal, but rather the "almost possible" field of fringe science. Olivia Dunham is a disillusioned DHS detective assigned to investigate cases slightly outside the norm, and the only man that can help is Walter Bishop, a former government scientist who worked on top secret experiments. He's brilliant but also slightly insane after spending 20 years in an asylum. What sets this show apart is the violent, creepy cases (ever wanted to see a man cut to death by razor-winged butterflies?) and the outstanding casting. John Noble, in particular as the gentle but deranged Walter Bishop is a revelation.

After a first season that went from fun to addictive viewing, season 2 has been nothing short of compulsory. Lovable is a word bandied about a lot when it comes to this show about an unwilling spy and his two protectors, and the creators never seem to forget that it's meant to be fun. As before, the action is deftly staged, and the characters have been more fleshed out, but it's the interaction between the cast that really make this shine. These are actually people you like, and root for on a weekly basis, and in Zachary Levi the producers have definitely found a charming, funny leading man for years to come.


Now, this was a real find for telly. An original series from Alan Ball (he who wrote 'American Beauty' and 'Six Feet Under') set in the American deep south, True Blood takes place in a modern world where Vampires are part of society. Having "come out of the coffin" they live with us, work with us, refusing to feed on humans, choosing instead to drink 'True Blood', a synthetic substitute. It's here when Sooki Stackhouse, a young waitress who can hear people's thoughts, falls in love with 200 year old vampire Bill Compton and the problems it causes throughout the community. And of course there's some old-fashioned Vamps that believe in the old ways too. Being an HBO show there's sex, violence and F-bombs dropped throughout a gripping story filled with a fantastic cast. Ryan Kwanten especially, as Sookie's screw-up, meat headed brother is just astounding.

The telly that refuses to stop being amazing. Weeds' fourth season completely shook up it's whole world, burning down the entire neighbourhood that pot-selling Widow Nancy Botwin and family resided in, forcing them to relocate to the Mexican border. Albert Brooks was introduced as Nancy's father-in-law, who can't stand her, and stole every episode. Celia Hodes was back to her acid-spitting bitch best, and the stakes were raised higher as Nancy unwittingly became involved in a drug cartel. Son Silas was made part of the family pot business, and younger brother Shane finally stopped talking to the ghost of his dead dad. As always, Mary-Louise Parker was phenomenal every week as Nancy, making her the strongest, most sympathetic, yet sometimes completely selfish widow every portrayed on telly.

Bittersweet, this one. Coming off the back of a stunning, if cut short by the writer's strike, first season, this new season has been everything I loved about it but so much more. The stories have been better, the characters put into equal jeopardy and hilarity, and thrilling through-arcs laced into the big picture. And yet, thankfully, it's lost none of it's magic, the key factor that set this telly apart in the first place. If anything, the magic of the show is even more luminous than before, mixing beautiful and grotesque scenarios with killing one-liners and it's trademark 40's-style spitfire dialogue. The cast is better than ever too. Ned and Chuck continue their ill-fated romance with new obstacles, Emerson Cod is given more to do than simple droll put-downs, and we even get a companion for Digby the dog - Pigby the pig! Kristin Chenoweth steals the whole show though, a constant, hilarious, heartbreaking standout. The sad news is that after falling ratings (which every show has had thanks to the strike) ABC has not ordered a full second season of this wonderful telly, so this will be our lot unfortunately. But hell, when it's this good I'm glad for anything I can get. You'll be missed, Pie Hole!