Bridesmaids

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAnd a week after I saw it I finally do a blog post. Sorry about that. Things have been hectic with the end of term, extra-curricular activities, buying a car, moving house and so on. So without any further ado, the only film I had a chance to catch last week:

Bridesmaids

“I’ve seen better tennis playing in a tampon commercial.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: aging spinster is chosen to be head bridesmaid for a friend’s wedding – a friend who has recently garnered a new “best friend” who tries that bit too hard to impress.

See it if you like: A bit of off-colour humour in an otherwise by-the-numbers rom-com.

Basically, this was the only film left that I’d not already seen. The trailers make it out to be The Hangover with fallopian tubes and in small segments, it’s getting there. However, overall it’s far closer to being a standard chick-centred rom-com, only with some bad language and fart (and shit and vomit) jokes thrown in.

As a result, it was actually a bit better than I expected but still had issues. It’s got quite the running length and, frankly, could have done with a bit of a pruning. A couple of scenes are uncomfortably annoying to watch, the joke in them being stretched that bit too long. Key amongst these is the scene where Annie (played by co-writer Kristen Wiig) discovers that her childhood friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) has a new “best friend”, Whitney (Jessica St. Clair). Their back and forth attempts to get the last word in pass “humorous” after the second bout. By the fifth, it’s just plain annoying.

This is typical of a couple of the scenes, and it’s a shame. With a bit more judicious editing, the film could have been that bit better and those sliced segments would have bolstered a “director’s cut” on DVD.

The performances are pretty good across the board and it’s got some really good laughs. Definitely better than I expected it to be, but nowhere near as gut-bustingly funny as the first viewing of The Hangover with which it is trying so hard to be compared.

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Bad Teacher

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsDue to illness, lack of sleep and a hectic weekend we only managed to catch the one movie on Saturday. So sadly (or perhaps not) we forewent Bridesmaids and opted for the following instead. There’s nothing else new out this week at all that I could spot. Pretty unusual these days.

Bad Teacher

“Hold my ball sack?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Crap teacher passes time in class while saving for a boob job

See it if you like: slightly gross-out and marginally edgy humour. Not to be confused with Bad Santa which was way funnier and far less politically correct.

The reviews for this were generally OK, which surprised me after seeing the trailer. Call me disaffected, but I’ve seen so many trailers where every joke in the film has been crammed into 2 and a half minutes that I’ve given up on a lot of comedies before I’ve seen them.

It was better than I’d hoped for, but not as good as some of the reviews have made out. Part of this is due to the trailer effect and partly as some of the jokes just aren’t that good. It’s also rather predictable. Cameron Diaz is well cast as the uncaring, dope-smoking, swearing, money-grabbing teacher who’s just looking for a rich sugar daddy. However, she’s well matched by Lucy Punch as the opposition – Miss Amy Squirrel who’s so nice you wonder why the kids haven’t ripped her apart and beaten her to death with her own dismembered arms.

Justin Timberlake makes another movie appearance and the best thing about this is it means we’re less likely to get another of his shitty albums if he spends time on screen instead. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with his turn in Bad Teacher – he was much better in The Social Network.

Jason Segel as the unwanted PE teacher and Phyllis Smith as the naive older teacher who just wants to be liked are both very underused characters. The scenes with Segel produce a lotof the best dialogue, while Smith’s indecisive flustering makes for some amusing viewing.

On the whole, a decent film even if it does give away a lot of our teaching secrets. Like the fact that the real reasons for getting into the jobs are the long holidays…

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Stake Land / Green Lantern

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsDespite my feeling somewhat under the weather, we managed to squeeze in two films this evening before I collapsed into a snot-soaked lump, coughing and feeling pitiful. Yes, it’s man-flu’… I sincerely hope I didn’t annoy the people near us too much. I did try to reserve my coughing and sneezing for the noisier segments of both films.

Stake Land

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A drifter adopts a young boy when his parents are killed by roaming vampires in a collapsed United States

See it if you like: bleak, post-apocalyptic movies without huge set pieces

Comparisons first of all. Stake Land is like a cross between The Road and Zombieland. It has more of the dark, depressing feel of the former, but the constantly stalking monsters of the latter – albeit vampires rather than zombies. It’s a good mixture as well. With the cast being relative unknowns (with the exception of a very well played part by Kelly McGillis – a far cry from her Top Gun days) you never know who’s going to get it in the neck – so to speak – next.

There’s no long drawn out introduction. We’re dropped right into the middle of the story, the US already in tatters and people trying to make for a mystical “new eden” in Canada. No explanation is ever given for the vampire rising, the closest we get to a back-story is the occasionally-glanced newspaper headline.

The vampires themselves are more like fast-moving zombies. In fact, I’d say they’re nearer the monsters from the 28 Days Later franchise with an added inability to face sunlight. Feral, unintelligent and all the more dangerous for it.

The never-otherwise-named “Mister” (Nick Damici) takes Martin (Connor Paolo) under his wing when the young boy’s parents are killed, and together they head north. Along the way they encounter nice people in townships which are holding out… and The Brotherhood, a collection of religious nutbags who believe the vampires have been sent by God as a means to cleanse the planet. Or somesuch.

Between these two sets of villains and the environment itself, the journey unfolds and the characters develop well. It’s not a fast-paced adventure, but neither is it as slow as the incredibly dull The Road, mentioned earlier. Certainly, we both enjoyed it and would happily recommend it. If you think it sounds like you’ll like it from what I’ve said, then you probably will.

Green Lantern

“Ring. Finger.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: jet pilot gets will-powered green ring from dying aliens and associated superpowers. Saves world (sorry if that’s a spoiler)

See it if you like: amusing superhero stories with decent special effects and tongue-in-cheek dialogue.

Green Lantern has never been a superhero I knew much about. He’s green. And he has some kind of magic (no, it’s not magic, sorry) ring which lets him fly and create stuff from the air. And his secret identity is Hal Jordan. That came in useful in a pub quiz once.

What I didn’t know is that there are 3600 Green Lanterns, one for each galactic sector. This means there are a lot of aliens in this film. Which means a lot of CGI and creativity. In fact, a fair few of the characters in the film are 100% CG constructs with the actors related to them just being vocal pieces – Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog and Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re being two examples.

The story is a typical “origins” one, being the obvious start for a franchise. I’m sure it will annoy a huge number of purists as they’ve taken many strands of Green Lantern history and interwoven them. For the layman ( that would be me), it’s resulted in a decent enough film that was worth going to see.

Ryan Reynolds is good enough in the lead, and Gillian’s main reason for going to see it especially as you see him dressed in nowt but boxers twice, and there’s a decent enough supporting cast. The effects are well done, the story decent enough and the dialogue never gets too cheesy. In fact, there are a handful of scenes with genuine laugh-out-loud moments.

A couple of points – and you could argue they’re spoiler-y but only to the tiniest amount:

1) Why do intelligent overlords always imprison evil beings instead of executing them? You’d think a group of all-wise immortals would have learned from the Zod episode that Superman went through in Superman II.

2) One moment Hal is saying “how do I know all this?” about the Green Lantern Corps (apparently the ring’s “higher functions” fill him with this background knowledge), and then three minutes later he’s having said background explained to him anyway by Tomar-Re? He already “knows” it, so what’s the point? Yes, I know the audience need to be filled in, so in that case drop the “higher function” thing and have hi know nothing at all.

Anyway.

Taken as it is – a silly superhero movie – it’s a pretty decent one. Certainly DC’s best effort outside of the Batman canon, and hopefully open to a sequel or two. In fact, hang around to the middle of the credits. Predictable though it is, that’s definitely an indicator that Green Lantern 2 may well be out in 2013.

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Review: Road Trip to Hell

Road Trip to Hell: Tabloid Tales of Saddam, Iraq and a Bloody War: Tabloid Tales of Saddam, Iraq and a Crazy WarRoad Trip to Hell: Tabloid Tales of Saddam, Iraq and a Bloody War: Tabloid Tales of Saddam, Iraq and a Crazy War by Chris Hughes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. A personal view of the Iraq conflict from before the US moved in up until the first elections over the course of approximately a dozen visits.

Hughes is a journalist, at the time working for the Daily Mirror, which got him access to a lot of places many people couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go. The book really gives you an insight into the work of a journalist and the newspaper industry as well as Hughes’ own views and opinions on the conflict itself.

It is a very easy read, well paced and with virtually no fluff or padding. It’s rare for me to go right through a book without skimming occasionally, and I read every single word of Road Trip To Hell (enough so to spot the three typographical errors).

What happened, and is continuing to happen, in Iraq is very important – to the people there and to the rest of the world. Road Trip to Hell is highly recommended as a way to balance the tabloid press and governmental viewpoints.

WARNING – one or two of the photos included are rather graphic. Don’t leave it lying around where youngsters could flick through.

View all my reviews

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An open letter to Mike Russell

Curious to see if I get a reply:

Mr Russell,

I would be glad if you would clarify your statement on STV this evening that, I quote, “‘The actions of the Government and Local Government along with the new deal with teachers will ensure there are more jobs next year.”

I ask as your own figures state that there will be a drop of 1057 jobs this year. Far be it from from me, as a Computing teacher, to tread on the toes of the Maths or English departments to argue numbers or semantics, but I usually associate a “drop” with a lessening, i.e. resulting in a lower number. Not an increase, as the word “more” implies.

Or, dare I say it, are you just lying to the public in a bid to gain support while you destroy our education system?

Many thanks, (etc.)

If you want to ask him yourself, he’s available at Michael.Russell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

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