My car smells of booze

Shattered Smirnoff Ice bottle on a boating acc...
Smashy Smashy

It’s been a while (again) since I had a non-review post on this blog, mainly as I post everything on Google+ and Facebook these days. In a bid to redress that balance, here’s a quick post about something that happened last night.

I’d popped out for the evening to see an old uni mate. Gillian asked me to pick her up a bottle of wine while I was out, which I duly did. The thing is, you can’t buy alcohol from the supermarket after 10pm up here so I had to buy it as I left the house, ferry it around and bring it home later on. Me being me, I also couldn’t just buy a bottle of wine. Not when Morrisons were doing cider on three for £5.

So I loaded the car up with my plastic bag containing one bottle of rosé, two Koparberg’s and a Bulmer’s for later.

I drove to Tom’s, stashed the booze in the boot for safe keeping, enjoyed my evening and headed home around 11pm. I even remembered, on the way back, to get the booze back out of the boot so it wasn’t slamming around when I went round corners.

Just as you get into our estate, there’s a single-lane humpbacked bridge. I waited for the lights to go green and drove over. Just as I went down the other side, a beautiful full-grown fox darted out in front of the car.

I jammed on the brakes.

The fox stopped, stared at me, pooped a bit of fox poop into its fox underwear and scarpered back off from whence it came.

The bag of bottles slid off the passenger seat into the footwell.

You know that “pop” sound that large bottles make when they are no longer bottle-shaped? Yeah, I heard that. As I pulled into the driveway I could smell the alcohol.

Thankfully, as everything was in a bag, there was no broken glass to dig around for. The three cider bottles had survived, but the wine was now only drinkable by a very desperate alcoholic who didn’t mind the mingled taste of carpet fibre.

So I now have a car that stinks of booze instead of stinking like “new car”. I am dreading being pulled over for something innocuous and then being forced to have a blood test because my car has been drinking and not me.

Thanks to those on facebook who’ve recommended something to get the smell away. Off to Morrison’s shortly to see if I can find any of the scary chemicals mentioned…

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Conan the Barbarian / The Guard

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 CommonsA little bit of a David v Goliath competition this evening with a dinky Irish film competing for my attention against a meaty Hollywood blockbuster. Which will win out?

Conan the Barbarian

“By Crom!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: barbarian loses family and swears vengeance on the baddie who killed them

See it if you  like: muscley men with long hair hitting people with things

If there’s one good thing to say about Conan the Barbarian, it’s that it isn’t a remake of the old Arnie films. Given the huge detailed history given to Conan by his creator, Robert E. Howard, and successive authors following on from him there is plenty to draw from. How, then, did we end up with such a dull and vapid tale as this one?

Jason Momoa is passable as the bulky Cimmerian, though his facial expressions seem to range from annoyed to angry and not an awful lot else. Mind, this is a little better than Leo Howard who plays Conan as a youth and who seems to have modelled his part on some kind of pissed-off wolf cub. With a pet lip.

The film shows its cheesy intentions from the opening sequence where Conan is born and held aloft on the battlefield. Well, a really shitty obviously rubber fake baby is held aloft anyway. While dad (Ron Perlman) roars. As you do on a battlefield when people are running around you with big bloody swords.

As far as plot goes, it’s about as deep as the 80’s versions. That is to say as deep as a thin film of water spilled on your worktop. It’s pretty predictable, the characters are just as shallow and the action sequences are about the only thing to alleviate the tedium. The “sand creatures” which appear in one sequence are particularly well done, although I swear the exact same piece of footage of a creature jumping in the air is used about five times.

Yeah, you may have guessed I wasn’t that impressed. Gillian summed it up:

“Even Red Sonja was better than that.”

The Guard

“I can’t tell if you’re really motherfucking dumb, or reallymotherfucking smart.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A member of the Garda comes up against some seriously nasty drug smugglers.

See it if you like: Good British (yes, I know, it’s Irish but the style’s the same) detective dramas with a heavy hand of quirk.

And here’s David. All set up with a large Irish sling with which to smack Goliath firmly in the temple. $6m up against $90m. That’s a big gulf to cross. How could it possibly hope to compete?

The most simple answer is – by having a far superior script. The Guard actually has a great story. And some wonderful characters, one in particular – Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson). The quote above comes from Don Cheadle‘s FBI agent shortly into the film and I was actually thinking this about Boyle shortly before the question is raised. He’s a wonderfully written enigma and portrayed perfectly by Gleeson.

So, what happens? Boyle is a police officer in the arse end of nowhere in West Ireland. Cheadle arrives with information about some rather nasty drug dealers in the area and things kick off. This isn’t Lethal Weapon in scale, and the humour is far darker than you’d get in most Hollywood movies. In fact, the closest I can think of offhand is In Bruges which, coincidentally I assume, also stars Gleeson.

If I have an issue it’s that the film seems to try too hard to be funny at the start with a bit too much in the way of bad language and forced humour. Once things settle down, roughly around the time Cheedle’s character appears, the humour settles in and becomes far more natural.

As well as the crime and laughs, there’s a lovely side-story relating to Boyle’s mother who is dying of cancer. There’s no real reason for this little splinter of a story to be there other than to develop the protagonist’s personality. And it works.

It’s films like this that restore my faith in cinema at times. Please, if you have the choice of only catching some stupid sword and sandals flick (even worse, the aforementioned crock in 3-flipping-D) and this little pearl, hand your coins to David so he can load them into his sling.

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The Inbetweeners Movie / Cowboys And Aliens

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 CommonsAh, Thursdays. Child-free and cinema-bound…

The Inbetweeners Movie

“Ow, gentle on the sunburned cock please.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Four boys just out of school head off on holiday for sun, sea, sand, sex, booze, sex, drinking, sex…

See it if you like: low-brow British humour about poo, vomit, sex and more sex.

Way back in the mists of time was a film about two boys going abroad with the hope of getting drunk and laid. It was Kevin & Perry Go Large and it was utter shit. Released around the time that Harry Enfield had slipped from comedy genius to being as funny as syphilis of the face, it smacked of desperation and had as many laughs as a funeral on the banks of the Ganges.

So, The Inbetweeners Movie doubles the number of boys and sends them to Greece. It also adds jokes, some cracking dialogue, a great poo gag and a decent story – the latter quite surprising given the otherwise low-brow nature of the film.

Oh, and yes, it’s based on the similarly-named Channel 4 show which I didn’t even know existed until tonight. I assume the cast and characters are the same. Out of our little group we have a nerd, a pretty-boy who’s just been dumped, a sex maniac and a guy with lower standards than I ever had. So pretty much your average bunch of 18 year-olds.

Off they go to Greece to stay in the worst hotel in the world, while the dumped kid’s ex is wandering around the same resort and they try to cop off with four girls they meet on the first night.

So a thin plot, but some excellent scenes and brilliant comic timing from the cast and director. There are really moments where I sat there thinking, “Yeah, well, that was going to happ… no, wait. He didn’t!” It is possibly the best comedy I’ve seen since the first Hangover film, and probably done on a fraction of the budget.

If you’ve even got the slightest smidgen of immaturity in your body, go and see it.

Cowboys & Aliens

“It fell off.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Aliens are kidnapping people in the Wild West, which makes the folk they don’t snatch even wilder.

See it if you like: to disengage the old grey matter and revel in some old-fashioned sci-fi with a novel setting.

I’d heard great things about this graphic novel adaptation and the trailers held my interest. It’s certainly got a damn good cast with Harrison Ford as the mean old Colonel, Daniel Craig as the mysterious stranger and Olivia Wilde as the slightly weird looking woman (not typecast at all).

Craig is introduced, suffering amnesia, in the opening scene and the revelations as to how the titular Aliens fit in is revealed through his flashbacks. It doesn’t take long for the action to kick off, and the back story supports the set pieces well. It’s still a little slow at times, though.

It’s always good to see Harrison Ford these days – he does “curmudgeonly” so well, but Craig is on fire here. Jake Lonergan could take on James Bond any day and leave him begging for his mother. Imagine “The Man With No Name” with a headache, taking it all out on everyone else. Only cooler. And with scarier eyes. That’s Lonergan.

The effects serve the film well, and the supporting cast are up for the job. There are a few mawkish scenes which do jar a bit (the scene where one character is buried and words are said over his grave, surprisingly, isn’t one of them) and Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde changes a little more over the two hours than seems believable.

It’s not the best sci-fi film of the decade, but it’s certainly a fresh take with some nicely slimy aliens.

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Super 8 / Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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 CommonsTwo films on our now-regular Thursday night. Wonderfully, no need to work around limited 2D showings as both films are being shown in NormalVision. We weren’t sure what to expect from either film – which is usually a good thing.

Super 8

“Production values!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: kids stumble upon USAF plot and fight the military might.

See it if you like: the idea of E.T. eating people

First up – Super 8 is not a kids’ film. Young adults, maybe, but definitely not the real youngsters. It’s a little grisly in places and it’s a monster film with lots of dark moments, violence and sudden shocks. On the other hand, this does mean that adults should get a really enjoyable ride out of it.

The film focuses around a bunch of school kids who are making a zombie film for a competition. During one of their late-night filming escapades, however, they witness a bit of a disaster and their town suddenly gets filled with USAF personnel who seem to be rather secretive about why, apart from the fact that everything is OK. Of course it is.

The aforementioned disaster is an incredible near-opening sequence and very loud indeed. Actually, the military sequences towards the end with tanks and things are also great. As are the smaller scene-setting moments. Oh, hell, the whole thing’s really well made.

J.J.Abrams has really harked back to the kiddie-films of the 80’s (Super 8 is set in 1979) and taken the general feel, while making the effects and story more suitable for a modern-day audience. The kids bicker amongst themselves, the adults don’t listen to them, the clothes are dodgy, the technology is huge and bulky… it does look the part. However, the special effects make it very much a film for the moment.

Credit must also go to the cast which includes a lot of first-timers. Joel Courtney plays Joe, our central character who develops a crush on Alice (Elle Fanning, Dakota’s sister). She, incidentally, is superb. Keep an eye on her.

This was a brilliant bit of entertainment. Huge explosions, great character interaction, a well-written story, nasty military types, impressive cast. Perfect popcorn movie.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

“Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: How did the world become as it did in (bother versions of) The Planet of the Apes?

See it if you like: animal-centric effects-filled movies that make you think a little bit. And prequels.

The trailer for this looked awful. Preachy, naff, and unoriginal. Sack the person who made it, please, as it almost made me decide not to bother. And I’d have missed a bloody good film as a result.

Hark back, if you will, to the Charlton Heston-starring original film (and ignore the Grud-awful remake from a few years ago). We all know the astronauts return to earth from their Mars mission (which is mentioned briefly a couple of times during this movie), but how did the planet become run by apes in the meantime? Well, the next two hours will let you know.

James Franco plays Will Rodman, a genetic scientist hell bent on curing Alzheimer’s as it’s destroying his father (John Lithgow). Experiments on chimpanzees are par for the course, but when one particularly important showcase goes awfully wrong, the project is brought to a halt and the apes destroyed. All but one, which he takes home and raises.

This chimp, Caesar – as referred to all that time ago in the original film – is played by the master of mime Andy Serkis and it’s really his story. From a secreted life to being “outed” and realising exactly how badly humans will treat animals, we see a lot through his eyes as he develops intellectually at a pace far outstripping an equivalent human.

The film has two distinct parts – the emotional side focussing on Caesar’s growth and the family environment he is within, and the more science fiction part featuring brain-repairing viruses and apes that can communicate and problem-solve well beyond their abilities. The scripting, though, merges these two elements perfectly so you are very much watching one engaging film and not two disparate selves as was the case with The Zookeeper.

The effects are stunning as are the costumes for the close-ups. It is genuinely quite tricky to tell when you’re watching a real ape, a person in a costume and a figment of a computer’s imagination.

As for the ending – X-Men 3 can take its Golden Gate finalé and shove it. RotPotA’s knocks it for six.

The story is very similar to Michael Crichton’s Next, which I really didn’t enjoy due to its overly-preachy nature. This film runs with similar ideas but is much better written and engaging. Far, far better than I was expecting.

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Batman – LIVE!

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15:  The new Batmobile ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I almost didn’t see this. The wonderful Gillian was going to get me tickets as a surprise after telling me it looked rubbish based on the posters. And then discovered that it was on a week earlier than she expected and had one of my facebook friends not mentioned it, would have been trying to book tickets a week after it had finished!

So, anyway…

Batman Live

I’m not sure what I was expecting as I’d deliberately kept myself in the dark. However, with one exception, all the feedback I’d had was positive. As it turns out, it was deserved.

The show runs for two 50-minute halves and includes acrobatics, tumbling, jokes, a good story, magic and incredible effects. Whoever designed the set deserves a stack of awards, as that (other than the drool-some woman who plays Poison Ivy) is the real star of the show. The stage projects out into the audience and the cast make full use of it. There are plenty of cool props, such as miniature buildings and so forth, but the most impressive permanent item is the huge digital screen.

This is used as a backdrop for every scene and the images thereon merge cleverly with the physical aspects. Doorways in the image are actual doorways for the cast (and other props) to move in and out of. The screen is also used to indicate transitions in sets with beautifully animated page-turning effects. It really is something special.

There is something in the show for everyone. Most of the well-known villains are present, fronted of course by The Joker, and our tale takes us from Batman’s beginnings to Robin‘s teaming up with him. Quite a lot to cram into a little under two hours, but it manages it without feeling rushed.

The cast are excellent, playing their parts with the right attitude dependent on their character. Many of the villains really play to the crowd in a panto-esque fashion. Feel free to boo, and to cheer Batman and Robin. The crowd watching my performance certainly did! It’s certainly more Batman & Robin than The Dark Knight as Tiff quite correctly put it. However, it manages the campness in a way that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. The stage can get away with this portrayal far better than the cinema screen could.

I found the fight scenes a little slow, showing the choreography a little too much but – hey – I’m nitpicking. There’s certainly enough going on, particularly in the larger ones with multiple combatants, to make it worthwhile seeing the show more than once so you can focus on another character. The same can be said of the circus scenes which are wonderfully busy.

Visually, though, it’s staggering. The sheer scale of the operation blew my mind. I was impressed by the end of the first half, but the best was definitely left until after the interval when things just got bigger and more impressive.

As a new way of enjoying one of the best (if not the actual best) superheroes out there, this is a top notch effort. Definitely worth the entry price and I’m very much hoping they do a sequel.

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