Wednesday, 12 September 2012


We all remember the transformation scenes in various were-wolf and mad scientist movies, but are you aware of a transformation that occurs quite possibly, in your very street, perhaps even your house!  There is actually a distinct chance if you are male, that it happens to you but you just don't know it.  There are certain conditions required for it to happen and British weather being the way it is, it doesn't happen very often. Have you guessed yet?  If not, I shall draw back the vale obscuring this horror.  The average man becomes the BARBECUE MAN!!!
Last weekend was perfect for the average man to undergo this transformation: It was warm.  That's it.  That's all your average man needs to initiate the conversion.  It happens as follows...

1. The sun needs to be shining for the majority of the day, and no rain must have fallen.(This is important only      BEFORE the barbecue.)

2. He will ask the disguised question "Shall we have a barbecue?"  By disguised I mean he's reversed the "Shall" and "We" parts of the sentence to be polite.  He is insisting, do not try and dissuade him, it will not work.

3. He then begins the invitation procedure, whereby he starts with a list of household members which then swiftly progresses to friends, neighbours, old work colleagues and on and on until his pen runs out of ink.

4. As the transformation increases, the mathematical capabilities begin to revert back to that of neanderthal  man. He will try and calculate how much food to buy for the meal. "Eight adults, that's two burgers and sausages per adult and six children, so that's...." His voice will trail off and his eyes will become glazed as he goes to the car, drives to the shop and proudly returns with about 36 burgers, 40 sausages, 30 drumsticks, 3lbs of coleslaw, crisps and goodness knows what else.  Then he unloads the booze.....

5.  When the guests arrive he will greet them of course, but he will be secreting a small notebook about himself.  This is to record how much and what each guest has brought, if anything!  He may use these notes to determine how much food guests are allowed or even if they are invited again!

6.  He will now realise that he hasn't enough fuel for the barbecue and get to the nearest supplier of coal and similar fuel sources, where he will share his anxiety with other men who are suffering the same condition.  You can spot them easily: wild-eyed, walking faster than a jog from aisle to aisle in desperation. More often than not successful, he returns to his cave, sorry, home.

7. The barbecue is lit and burning well. He is ready to cook as the flames are licking two feet into the air. Yes, two feet.  We know this is too high, but remember he cannot control his actions.  A combination of the alcohol he has consumed, the degeneration of his cognitive functions and the flames drawing his gaze towards and yellow tongues tasting the air..burn, burn, burn..sorry, got carried away there...

8. The food is burning on the outside now and raw in the middle. He is unsure what to do. Several other males approach the area to assist their troubled friend and with beer (AND) or wine in hand, start making suggestions which suspiciously sound like grunts.

At this point the sensible, level headed members of this dining adventure may step in. Generally unaffected by this transformation, and as the inevitable rain begins to fall, females of the group will suggest "Finishing it off in the oven," purely because the "Fire will go out," and nothing to do with the fact that if anyone eats the food as is, the will contract food poisoning.  Whilst the food is moved indoors to be perfectly finished and cooked properly, the now fully-transformed infected men remain outside nursing their drinks and staring into the flames, muttering or is it chanting?

The following morning the average man rises after a fitful, indigestion-riddled sleep.  His head and stomach ache and there is a mess to be cleaned up, which of course due to the after effects of the transformation (not the alcohol), he cannot for the life of him remember from where it came.

Mess cleaned up, aches and pains gone he goes into the garden.  A bright light is reflecting off the ash dusted barbecue. He finds it almost hypnotic....the light is of course the sun, and it is warm on his face.......

Friday, 7 September 2012

The best film ever made.

The haunting, two-note theme.  The dark, seemingly endless ocean.  The perfectly evolved, almost unstoppable killing machine.  Most of you will already know from just these three details, which is my favourite film of all time. For those of you who don't (have you been with the Curiosity Rover somewhere?) the film I speak of is Jaws.
     "It's just a movie about a big shark eating people (and boats)", many will say.  So why is it my number one? Let me explain.  One thing that I think of that makes it different from any other film I enjoy, is that I can remember particular scenes at different parts of my life.  My earliest memory is the head floating underwater in the sunken boat when Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is investigating the missing vessel. It scared me silly and was all I could remember of the film until I watched it again, a bit older and not as fearful!
     Following that, it became the piece right towards the end as the original "sea dog" Quint (brilliantly portrayed by Robert Shaw) met his end by being bitten in half by the great fish, as it demolished the aft section of the "Orca."  So many more scenes joined these two as I gained more appreciation for this film, the more times I watched it: Quint checking Hooper's hands, only to state they hadn't done a days "hard graft." The fantastic scene which gives the audience a little rest from the anxiety of the shark's next attack: Hooper, Quint and of course Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), are getting drunk and comparing scars whilst singing "Show me the way to go home."
     It isn't just these favourite scenes which I like so much, it's also the production techniques used to have us on the edge and pull us back from being briefly relaxed.  Most people have a fear of the dark, we can't see what's out there.  A lot of us can swim yes, but If we were to be isolated in a vast ocean, we would panic.  The opening scenes are that of a girl, Chrissie Watkins, struggling in vain to fight off the great white shark which will not stop until it has its victim.  This happens during the very early hours of the morning, when the reassurance of sunlight has not yet begun to lay its blanket of hope on the sea.  She is alone, and it is dark.
    Director Steven Spielberg's often used, excellent use of a filming technique known as "Dolly zoom" draws us quickly into the shocked face of Chief Brody, as he sees the shark or whilst the local community of Amity celebrate the 4th of July in the water.  Due to regular failure of the mechanical shark or "Bruce" as it became known, Speilberg employed mere suggestion that the shark was near: barrels in the water being pulled under and use of the excellent music of John Williams.  Another great film, Alien, used this technique to great effect.  You didn't need to see the attacker, but you knew it was there.
     The interaction between the three characters is brilliant too, partially due to Dreyfuss and Shaw's on-set dissagreement but the majority is down to the excellent acting of course.
     The action rises like the peak of a wave and then smooths down into calmer waters (all puns intended). The interaction between Brody and his youngest son when imitating each other is a fantastic example of a relaxed moment.  The only things which detract from this great film are its sequels, as so often happens with blockbuster films. When you mention Jaws, inevitably conversation sways onto the second, third and fourth movies, when it shouldn't. Forget the half-breed second, I struggle to acknowledge the abomination third and
ludicrous fourth, we are talking about Jaws.  Not Jaws 1 or Jaws Episode 1 et.c, but Jaws.
    So there you have it, that is why Jaws is my favourite film of all time.  I haven't seen the Blu-ray version as of yet, but that will change and reviews suggest it is the best Blu-ray conversion yet. Oh and as for remaking or re-booting Jaws, if some studio or director really thinks he could, let me suggest this: Never mind a bigger boat, you'll need bigger everything if you even attempt it. You will fail though and it will bite you on the ass, and its a big bite with two rows of teeth.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Kids in Cars

It came without warning.  I should have known it would happen sooner or later, but I still wasn't prepared for the inevitable.  Six years it had been coming, creeping up on me, waiting to scar me.  It happened during June of this year.
     The car was all packed for a holiday trip; the kids, myself and my wife all secured and our destination programmed into the Sat-Nav.  Off we went, reversing off the drive and then forwards along the street when the noise came...."ARE WE THERE YET?"  I don't recall which one of the children said it as my brain had been numbed and everything was muffled, as though I had my hands over my ears. We hadn't been in the car for a one minute and the dreaded question had been asked which so many parents fear every time they get into the car with their children.
     It's not so much the question that's difficult, of course it's a straightforward question with a two-option answer:

1) NEARLY (Recommend this is used all the time until reach destination, then use option 2).

2) YES

The question is not the problem, it is the environment and atmosphere within the vehicle it brings.  The parent thinks "Not already, I cant do this for two or three hours!"  The child wait, the child doesn't think because they've seen the reaction to the question.  "Ha ha, I've got him.  How many times do I need to ask before he turns bright red, emits steam from his nose and ears and then explodes?"
     They ask again, and again.  Each time the answer becomes slighty louder, higher-pitched to a degree only dogs can hear it and more edgy. By now the child doesn't care about the answer, they wont stop until something else happens, perhaps bribery.  "Who wants a sweet?" Is the first piece of negotiating offered.  This may slow the questioning down by a minute or so, if you're lucky.  During this period the cars speed will also increase slightly.
     If you're lucky the questioning will peter out, either through boredom of the child or sleep inducing medicated sweets...I thought they were Fruit Gums, honest!  If you're not so fortunate then you will still hear the question in your head at night, when you're trying to fall into a peaceful sleep. No chance.
    I'm dreading the day we take them on a long haul flight somewhere and the questioning will start again.  I'll just send them to the cockpit and let fate be our pilot.....

Monday, 3 September 2012


I loved Alien and Aliens, hated Alien 3 and thought that Alien: Resurection was a lot better than its predecessor (almost impossible not to be). When I heard the rumours of Ridley Scott stepping once more into the Giger-inspired universe of Aliens, I was really looking forward to watching his up-to-date vision of his cult series.  Unfortunately it appears to me that the production of the film became too diluted with multiple stories, as a consequence none of which stand out enough to be the main gist of what could have been a modern epic.
     All of the tools were at his disposal considering the attraction such a movie would have on all parts of the movie production world.  The effects are fantastic, the 3-d works reasonably well. Effects can be great in any film and 3-d is commonplace these days. The characters are a bit wishy-washy also, with no specific one that you look for to save the day or enjoy the interactions between characters. The best actor is Michael Fassbender who plays the cyborg role as good as, if not better than Lance Henriksen did in Aliens.  I believe he could be the next James Bond, but that's another story.
     Where the film lets itself down is that it isn't clear what story it is telling.  Whatever Ridley Scott's original intention was with the storyline, I fear he has succumbed to studio pressure. I'm not that fussed about the plot holes as I think they were due to the story dilution.  I can see Scott explaining his story to the execs whilst they're constantly saying "Aliens, aliens, the public want aliens." I would have expected Scott to stamp his mark on this production and say "This is what I want this film to be about. This is the story I want to tell and this is how I am going to reference the predecessors."
     Okay, it isn't called Alien: Prometheus. But I certainly expected, and I know a lot of other people did too,  that the film would tie-up the space jockey query.  It did.  I expected it to say how the aliens started and it did.  But that is all. How we got to those answers could have been so much less complicated and the main story would have been much more solid.  Instead of ending as it did, with no doubt a further diluted follow-up, it could have been a film on its own, complete and worthy to be part of the Alien family.  As a consequence it is probably a good thing that "Alien" isn't in the title because it isn't worthy. It's okay, but that's about it.  A victim of over-hype, a victim of its predecessor's success.  Game over man, game over.