15 July 2016

Nice

At least 84 people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Nice involving a truck being driven into a crowd.

Can we please stop killing each other for stupid reasons?

14 July 2016

Well, I won't be calling the refund department (Review: 'Ghostbusters', 2016)

Now I've made my moans about remakes in the past and I'm going to take them back. While some remakes are unnecessary wastes of time, this one most certainly isn't.

****
When a female-led remake/reboot of the 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters was announced, it was controversial to put it mildly. I won't go into all the sordid details here; Google will be able to help you.

I decided that I would wait until the reviews came out and decide whether to see it at the cinema or wait for a video release. The reviews have been pretty positive from many quarters, so I made my way to my 'local' (Vue Cinemas in Romford) on Wednesday to see it.

****
Ghostbusters revolves around Erin Gilbert (Kirsten Wiig), a professor who discovers that her old friend Abigail 'Abby' Jones (Melissa McCarthy) has published a book that they wrote five years earlier on ghosts without her permission. When she goes to confront her about this  she finds herself teaming up with Abby and her nuclear scientist friend Jillian to investigate a haunting at an old mansion. The trio, teaming up with a subway worker, find themselves facing the threat of a paranormal invasion of New York.

****
One thing that went through my mind while watching this movie is 'this is a femcom'; the film does feel very much aimed at women in its overall tone and depiction of the male characters. It also might explain the gender divide in the reviews.

Anyway, the plot is rather different from the original as the Ghostbusters find themselves having to deal with internet trolls, bureaucrats a hostile media and sky high property prices. Not to mention a crazed man out to unleash chaos on the city.

The movie in itself takes a little while to get fully going, but once it does, it's a real (proton gun) blast. I had a big grin on my face throughout much of the film, especially the action packed finale, which features stuff that wasn't possible effects wise back in 1984. There are also a set of wonderful cameos from the surviving leads of the original film; as well as a nice tribute to the late Harold Ramis (Egon) who died in 2014.

The four leads are not carbon copies of the original team; each is their own original character.

Erin is the 'straight woman' of the piece; managing to keep her cool despite everything that gets thrown at her, including a large quantity of slime. She also wears the world's smallest bow tie. Bow ties are cool and I like her hair as well.

Not being familiar with Melissa McCarthy's work, I found her pretty funny in this film; she handles the physical comedy very well and has just the right amount of frustration in her performance.

When I saw the first promo picture of Kate McKinnon (currently on Saturday Night Live where she does a great Hillary Clinton) as Jillian Holtzmann, with a shock of blonde hair and chewing gum, I thought 'I'm going to like her'. Looking like Egon, but acting like a crazier version of Venkmann, the gun-licking bit from the trailer isn't the goofiest thing she does in the film; she's a scene-stealing ball of irrepressible adorable energy and Jill is my new favourite Crazy Lady of STEM. Sorry, Root, please don't taser me.

Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) is the weak link in this film. Criticised for being a black stereotype (although the role was originally intended for McCarthy), she's the 'street smart' member of the team with a strong knowledge of NYC history, but to be honest, I just found her character too shrill for my tastes.

Finally, there's Kevin, the ditzy male receptionist played by Chris Hemsworth, known for playing Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's really good here and if it wasn't for the presence of McKinnon, he'd steal the show.

Conclusion

While not exactly an Oscar-winner (although you never know, it may get nominations in the technical categories), it really doesn't matter. This is 116 minutes of great fun.

And I mean 116 minutes; make sure you stay right to the end of the credits.

8/10

13 July 2016

Prime Minister Theresa May

A very interesting speech; now to see if her words on social injustice are matched by her actions.

Her time as Home Secretary wasn't great, but she may have been constrained by others. Now she has no such constraints.

The state of the Labour Party

Is, simply put, a complete and utter mess.

We have a leader who lacks the support of even 20% of his own MPs, a set of rules for the contest that are effectively forcing new members to pay twice and a culture in which those who voice genuine disagreement are accused of treachery.

In fact, I am at the moment not planning to renew my membership when it expires later this year because I am sick of the whole thing.

The Labour Party is long ceased being a party of actual labour; where are the factory workers, the call centre staff, the train guards in our Parliamentary party? Labour does not listen to its voters (who are more right-wing than some members think) anymore; it arguably hasn't since the 1980s.

One blogger, TSE from Political Betting, has said in his normal cutting way, that Labour couldn't "organise a pregnancy on a council estate".

To be honest, a council estate has fewer arguments.

Please, please, sort this out; the only people this ultimately hurts are the ordinary people of this country.

10 July 2016

Corbyn vs. Eagle

So, it appears that we are going to have a second Labour leadership contest in the space of two years.

I will have to vote for Eagle in this, because I do not feel that Corbyn has led this party at all effectively. He has made unforced error after unforced error, handing ammunition to the Tories. His activity during the EU referendum was at best misdirected (swing voters don't go to rallies, they have better things to do with their time).

Outside of London, Labour has gone backwards in electoral performance; we need the suburbs and Middle England as Scotland is lost to us. Many of his ideas are good; but he is the wrong man to put them into practice and I have serious concerns about his foreign policy.

I want a united party, but I cannot follow Corbyn to what will likely be the destruction of the party.

And this will probably come to pass. If he gets on the ballot, he probably wins and Momentum, an organisation who has not done anything to deal with vile abuse from its members against those who disagree, will go after the 172 MPs who voted for the no confidence motion. That splits the party.

If Corbyn is not on the ballot, his supporters (and possibly some MPs), will probably form their own party.

Eagle has many problems, but she is better than Corbyn

The only way to avoid this is for Corbyn to stand down and for us to find a new leader acceptable to both camps. Sadly I doubt that will happen.

06 July 2016

Thoughts on Chilcot

Knowing in 2003 what I know now, I would not have backed the UK involvement in Iraq.

It is clear that the invasion itself was massively mishandled and could have been put back at least a year.

That said, Tony Blair and George W Bush,   the former of which appears to have  had good intentions, are not solely responsible for the chaos in Iraq.

Saddam himself created a toxic cauldron of sectarian hatred that the Coalition opened. Iraqis who should have been working together to make a better country engaged in corruption and score settling instead. Terrorists decided to attack civilians instead of actual troops.

There was no conspiracy (I could have done a better job at organising it) but instead a massive chain of failure by many people.

And the innocent, as always, suffered for it.

Pray for your leaders that they do not make more mistakes like this.

03 July 2016

Don't be fooled by the Ankh that she's got, she's still Jenny in Half a Frock (Review: 'Logan's Run', 1976)

Jenny Agutter, to me, is Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife. I'm somewhat surprised she's only 63, because it seems like she's been a part of British media for longer than I can remember, most notably in The Railway Children.

So, watching Logan's Run via Amazon Video, it was a bit of a surprise to see her as a twenty something starlet... in an outfit less Call the Midwife and more Call the Cardic Nurse, Stat!

Anyway, more on that later.


****
Logan's Run is loosely based on the 1967 novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, albeit with some heavy changes.

In the year 2274, the remnants of humanity live hedonistic lifestyles in a sealed city run by a computer. It's a idyllic life if you like free love... but the drawback is that you die at 30; either by vaporisation in a strange ritual or if you try to run, via the Sandmen, the city's human law enforcement.

When one runner, Logan-5, hears of a rumoured safe home for runners 'called' Sanctuary via a woman called Jessica-6, the computer assigns him to find it and destroy it, making him a Runner as well in the process...

This review contains some spoilers.

****
I'm going to start this review in depth by making a comment on the BBFC's way they reclassify old movies... or indeed how they first classified this one. This was rated A, meaning that children over 5 were admitted but it wasn't recommended for under 14s. When the current system came in, it was rated PG...which today means that children under 8 could be brought into see it with a parent present.

This is a movie that features a fair bit of sexualised nudity, especially when Logan and Jessica are escaping through a place that seems to be where one goes to have a spot of 'Orgy-Porgy' to quote the classic dystopian work Brave New World. How on Earth was this not rated 15?!

The lead role of Logan is played by Michael York, who sadly doesn't really elevate the character much beyond a generic square-jawed 'hero' - he does very little of any moral ambiguity; he merely taunts a Runner early in the film with his comrade, later sent to find him, actually doing the killing. If he had been more 'evil' then the story would have worked better. York has worked consistently since 1976, but has very little of major note except for playing Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers series.

If this film was being remade today (in fact, a remake is at script stage), the role of Jessica would probably go to someone like Keira Knightley, a posh upper class pretty lady... with a penchant for gratuitous disrobing. A quick glance at the IMDB discussion forums - aka Perving Central (seriously, any discussion forum on any female actor of note will likely include discussions on her sexual attractiveness) - has given me the distinct impression that Jenny Agutter had a reputation for getting her kit off back in the 1970s... as far a cry from Sister Julienne as you can imagine.

Anyway, Agutter does the job of being a haughty sidekick and love interest well... with the kit indeed coming off. Her barely there dress gets ripped and ends up wet as well, which would have been sure to please the teenage boys in the audience - not to mention a couple of nude scenes. Again; how on Earth was this not rated 15?!

Pride of place in an mostly forgettable supporting cast - bar the late Farrah Fawcett, then credited as Farrah Fawcett-Majors as she was married to Lee Majors, as a beauty shop technician - is Peter Ustinov, whose long and distinguished career saw him gain a large number of awards and a knighthood, being known for playing Hercule Poirot six times around this period. Here he plays a reclusive old man who has set up shop in the former US Senate Chamber with a large array of cats - don't say that's an improvement. Agutter and York, Agutter in particular, do a great job of playing complete and utter surprise at seeing someone with grey hair.

Second place goes to Roscoe Lee Browne, a black actor known for avoiding stereotypical black roles and a deeply eloquent voice, as a robot with a rather interesting method of acquiring fresh stock for his larder.

Logan's Run looks very 1970s and this shows in many of the effects that wouldn't generally stand up today; remember Star Wars had yet to arrive. This said, there's some quality model work here - something that I like in contrast to CGI as it requires more care... and blows up better.

There's an interesting story here, but I feel that far more could have been made of it. The climax, in which the whole city collapses because of an error someone made in the initial stages of building the thing, is really quite ridiculous to me; I've seen stuff like this in Doctor Who, but generally more convincingly.

Conclusion

A good film, but very much of its time and its age is showing. Points also docked for the rather silly ending.


7/10

24 June 2016

Further thoughts on Brexit

1. A lot of the tone of the exit negotiations is going to be determined by who takes over as Prime Minister. Boris Johnson is probably not the best leader to ensure they go smoothly.
2. There will have to be a tradeoff between access to the single market and any controls on EU immigration. A contribution to the EU budget may well be needed.
3. The EU needs serious reform and quickly if it is to avoid more people leaving.
4. Jeremy Corbyn needs to go for the good of Labour. He is toxic in our traditional heartlands.
5. There remains a fundamental disconnect between the Establishment and ordinary people in this country.
6. 28% of voters didn't vote. That is a problem.
7. A rejoining is theoretically possible but politically impossible for at least a generation.
8. The political culture in this country is far too toxic.
9. Scottish independence must now be considered a strong possibility.
10. The polling industry in this country managed to do even worse than the General Election.

 

The UK votes LEAVE

Well, that happened. Now all of us - the whole  world - will have to deal with the consequences and adjust appropriately.

I'm disappointed but philosophical. Burgundy isn't a nice colour for a passport anyway.