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Archive for February 2013

Middle Aged Spread

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Rambling. Poop. Scrabble. I do that. You do that. Messy. Overlong. Sketches stretched over a film? No, I haven’t gone mad that dear readers is a selection of notes that I scribbled down around one o clock yesterday morning after seeing This Is 40, which is basically a follow up to Knocked Up. Judd Apatow has been dismissed as a “purveyor of toilet humour.” I agree to a certain extent. But he wraps it up in heartfelt, honest story arcs. This film open up with Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) having sex in the shower. He admits mid coitus that he took Viagra to give her a special “birthday treat.”

I know not the smartest move in the world but it sets up this film pretty well. Now this scene has been the focal point of most of the “toilet humour” criticism levelled at the film and Apatow in general. I disagree. The Viagra joke is the set up to the fact that Pete and Debbie are having sex just because it’s her birthday. And he needs Viagra to maintain an erection which snowballs an argument in which Debbie feels insecure and not as attractive as she once was. Common issues once you look past the erection joke…. And the main narrative drive over the rest of the film.

The film deals with both parties turning 40 although Debbie tries to convince herself and everyone else that she’s 38. Their marriage is in a rut and the kids are driving them mad. Pete is haemorrhaging money on his independent record label by doing the music he feels passionate about instead of signing a “hot 16 year old girl.” A few of the problems which are pretty universal. They deal with them in various comedy set ups. This is one of my gripes with the film, the story takes a back seat to these skits and it sometimes feels like a series of sketches.

That being said the ensemble cast is great. And there are genuinely laugh out loud moments which revolve around more than blue erection pills and poop. And being completely honest, we were sitting there repeatedly saying “That’s us…. You do that…. You’re that mental.” None more so noticeable than when Pete looks Debbie dead in the eyes while they’re having a deep conversation and farts…. Three times. “It was the springs….” We’ve all been there… Surely?

 

3.5 / 5

 

 

Written by thepanch

February 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Good Evening

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People have been complaining. On social media. “Despite amusing moments, Hitchcock is disappointingly inconsequential.” (Rotten Tomatoes). “Unlike Hitchcock films, it disappears from memory almost immediately.” (Twitter User). Let’s back up here now. This is the same social media that practically fell over Spielberg’s Lincoln, great reviews across the board and universal praise for a film that was over long, over talky and ultimately for the majority boring. There I said it, fuck you social graces. A case of expectation surpassing fact? Being required to like a film because Spielberg made it? Or just overfamiliarity? Either way, Hitchcock has been unfortunately maligned in the “critic circles.” I adored the film from the opening scene with a knowing Hitchcock (played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins) casting a wry eye over one of Ed Gein’s murders and introducing us to the movie.

These moments of Hitchcock’s conversations with Gein were another highlight for me. They play out as dream sequences where Gein tells Hitchcock to make his movie and ultimately stick it to the man. The film in question is of course Psycho. A novel by Robert Bloch based on the gruesome murders of mummy’s boy and human lamp made of skin afficianado Ed Gein.

Hitchcock is fresh of the success of North By Northwest and is looking for a new project. He is read a few offers from his long suffering secretary (a ghastly thin, and quietly powerful Toni Collette). One of which is “the new Ian Fleming book, Casino Royale.” To which Hitch replies, “I’ve already made that, it’s called by North By Northwest.” Nice. He picks up a copy of Psycho and is instantly besotted, so much so he tries to convince his secretary by saying, “But my dear this is the man that murdered his mother and skinned his victims…. Boo!”

He approaches the studio, Paramount and they flat out refuse. So he approaches his wife, Alma (as always a brilliant Helen Mirren) and he asks her to mortgage the house to finance this film. She asks him, “Hitch why do you want to do this?” He replies, “My dear I feel I have been making money up to now. I want to make a film, my film.” She is almost in tears with Hitch’s heartfelt plea and drive for creative power and passion. And this is the crux of the film, the relationship between Hitch and his wife.

The wife who cooks, cleans and mothers him at home and at work cuts his scripts down, suggests the music for the shower scene, makes him off Marion in the first half hour instead of the end where Hitch wanted to do it. Behind every good man? Never a truer word spoken and when Hitch picked up his lifetime achievement award from the AFI in 1979 he dedicated his award he said this of Alma, “his love.”

I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement…and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen…and their names are Alma Reville.

The making of the film provides some interesting nods for film buffs and lovers of Hitchcock. Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) is brought in to play Marion’s sister and does not get along with Hitch and warns Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johannsen) of his penchant for blondes and that he “likes to watch the whole time.” I am well aware of Hitch’s disregard for actors and particularly women but I felt that Miles was just bitter she wasn’t the lead. As I do with Tippi Henderson who played the lead in The Birds. Her stories seem to get more vicious the more attention she receives for telling them. Just a thought.

The film gets made and Hitch retires to the editing room with Alma. He doesn’t want music over the shower scene, she does. “But why Alma?” “Because, Hitch you cannot scare people by just saying Boo!”. Wiser heads prevail and that infamous score is put in. But now the studio are only going to show the film in two theatres. So Hitch devises a clever marketing campaign by encouraging those theatres to hire armed guards in case people “find the film too terrifying and riot.” Genius. When the film is being shown Hitch waits outside for the reaction to the shower scene and when the strings make that all familiar screech they scream blue murder. Hitch dances to each swish of the knife and this made me smile. From ear to stupid ear, it worked. The film worked, Hitch is creatively satisfied and the house is safe…. As a house….

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and Hopkins doesn’t do an impersonation of Hitch, he plays him with more emotional depth than a simple cardboard interpretation of the portly genius. Mirren matches him scene for scene and they are the strongest links in a film that tells the story of a relationship trying to survive under the shadow of arguably the greatest horror film of all time and ultimately the first ever “slasher” film. Not bad for a film that couldn’t even get funding from a major studio.

A good time all round.

 

4 / 5

Written by thepanch

February 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Lincoln

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Liam Neeson could have been wearing the stove hat, but he felt he was too old by the time the film got to the production stages and he had been waiting too long for it to get there. So the honour fell to Daniel Day Lewis, who coincidentally is only five years younger than Neeson but closest in age to Lincoln in the film 55 and 56 respectively, and what a performance. Now awards for films never held any interest for me but I will wish Day Lewis all the best with his nominations, they are all richly deserved.
His performance and indeed the ensemble cast performances, in particular Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife, confidante and ultimately his weakness and source of strength are all outstanding. And the film looks absolutely gorgeous, with grey and black palates providing most of the backdrops for the looming 13th Amendment which will abolish slavery and end the Civil War that has been raging now for four years.
The film focuses on the months between the Bill going to the vote and Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theatre, January to April. I know four months? What could possibly happen in four months? In Spielberg’s long dreamt of telling of the story quite a lot as it happens. Lincoln manoeuvres his way through personal grief, the loss of a young son and the subsequent anguish and strain put on his family as a result. This story provides, in my opinion the best scene in the film where Day Lewis and Field argue again over how the other is dealing with the grief. Lincoln’s voice cracks when his wife accuses him of not “showing his face with grief”. He replies, “It’s too hard, it is too hard. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I wanted to be buried down there with him. And I still do. Every day I live. Don’t speak to me of grief.”
And in the middle of a personal traumatising struggle thousands are being murdered in The Civil War and his own cabinet doubts his reasoning for rushing this Bill through the house. The film raises an interesting question here during these debates. Did Lincoln push so hard to get the bill passed because he wanted to see the black race free of shackles and injustice or did he simply want to end the war so his son, who returns from college to enlist, and countless other’s mother’s sons would be spared a lonely death on some battlefield?
It never really sways you either way as Lincoln is portrayed as a loyal, family man who addresses black people in the same way as white people. But he never professes a great love for either race. It is also interesting to note that how those votes to pass the bill are secured are all played out as humorous and underhanded. His Secretary of State hires men who are effectively spin doctors to offer those opposed to the vote steady well paid internal jobs if they change their vote. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….
Overall I did enjoy the film. The performances as I stated were all first rate. Day Lewis in a rare turn out as controlled, barely audible at times gives Lincoln an everyman quality and shows him as a good father, he only raises his voice, or as Day Lewis is often described, “chews the scenery” the once. And at that it is not all that bombastic. He merely reminds his cabinet that he is indeed the President and for all intensive purposes “the man.” His way or the highway.
A mention must go to Sally Field also, her nuanced performance as a grieving mother, wife of a president and a woman is great. She is still grieving the loss of her dead son and it might have affected her mental state. Her exchanges with Day Lewis are at times fraught, loving, tender and angry. Dare I say it, their relationship comes across as one of a husband and wife having to deal with the pressures of running a country and maintain a healthy, loving marriage at the one time.
My one gripe is the length of the film. Normally films of this length (this runs just shy of two hours forty minutes) do not feel like the length of their run. This one did, it sagged in pace in certain places and if I am being honest it could have done with more battle scenes if simply to just break up the “talking scenes.” I love dialogue and acting, but this film almost has overkill at certain points. But as I said, the film looks beautiful and Day Lewis was mesmerising as Honest Abe, a good film, nowhere near great.
Before we part, dear reader a quick piece of advice if I may. If you plan on going to the cinema do not have a hearty meal before it. You know the ones that make you want to go for a nap after digesting? Myself and the good lady did we went to Cistin Eile in Wexford. A hearty meal indeed and between the heat and long talky bits I nearly dosed off twice…. FML. So go see Lincoln and dine out afterwards…..

3.5 / 5

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm

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New Year, Wha?

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The kids from Sandy Hook went back to school last Thursday. Alarm bells rang, mothers fretted, fathers grunted and reached for the paper, bread was buttered, cereals were wet with milk, shoelaces were tied, buses were chased, boarded and stopped at their destination, Sandy Hook Elementary School, where just a month earlier twenty pupils and six teachers were needlessly gunned down by Adam Lanza. Gunned down as they attended school, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was to go back to that place, that place that would have been full of laughter, finger paints and scraped knees. Now it will forever be associated with a monumental loss and a damning indictment of the gun law in America.
When news broke of the killings, I was physically disgusted. And my mind went back to the killings outside that cinema in Chicago around the time of the release of The Dark Knight Rises. I remember the cry of the ignorant and the right wing that a fictional character, a hero to many of the kids that lost their lives ironically, was responsible for their deaths. A character that does all he can to avoid death and gun violence in his crusade for justice and peace. Yea, it was his fault. Damn you, Bats.
The media whipped up a frenzy again after the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, looking for a scapegoat to pin the senseless loss of life on. No it wasn’t Superman, it was video games. Yes, those pesky pixelated devils. Adam Lanza was “obsessed” with first person shooters, namely Call Of Duty and Medal Of Honor. Senator Joe Lieberman said, “The violence in the entertainment culture – particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games – does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent.” There are two obvious arguments to this quote. One if the issue of mental health was more prevalent in the media and in health matters in general, would these young men be so “vulnerable”? And secondly, Senator Joe must not have access to a television set in his little bubble world. I watched Sky News for ten minutes yesterday and I saw four people blown to smithereens in a van bomb and a mother searching for her dead son in the rubble. At 4 o clock. In the day. In real life. Hey Senator Joe, the world is violent…
As stated earlier, the pupils and staff returned to some sense of normality last Thursday. A traumatic enough experience, so how do you help these people settle back in? A group in a neighbouring town, Organisation SOS, were offering gift vouchers in exchange for violent video games. These games were then subsequently burned, now to be fair the group did not say the games were directly responsible for the deaths, but they argue that “violent games and films desensitize children to acts of violence.” Turn on your television.
So they are burning what they believe are adding to the problems of violence, crime and unnecessary deaths in the land of the free. I begrudgingly commend them, personally I think they are a mile off, but they are entitled to their beliefs and maybe it will bring some comfort in the wake of the tragedy. Surely the US population would put some effort into a gun burning or ban on firearms? Ha, think again.
The number of FBI background checks required for buying a gun in the US has set a new record in the month of December. The Feds recorded a massive 2.8m background checks during the month, an increase of 2 million since November. Someone who passes a check is officially deemed “able to possess a firearm.” I wonder if one of the questions is “Do you own an X Box?” God Bless America…..

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm

99 Channels

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We’ve all been there. You’re full of turkey, spuds, ham, gravy the begrudgingly eaten brussel sprout, followed by ice cream, sprinkles and the cup of tea or whiskey, depending on your preference. You sit down in your favourite chair, take out the TV Guide. You grumble and you say, “Same oul shite, Coronation Street, Eastenders, Fair f***in’ city, Strictly Dancing On Me Arse. F*** this, I’m turning on a dvd….”. Well, dear reader, sit down and relax the kecks. I am here to guide you through what I feel are the five perfect films to watch over the festive period. We start in a building, well a plaza to be more precise:
Die Hard (1989)
Woah, hold the pony there Murphy. Die Hard, a chrsitmas film? Are you high? No, I am not. Let’s weigh up the evidence here. First off, the film takes place over the FESTIVE PERIOD!!, a blinding clue to anyone with a pair of eyes. Another one occurs when McClane is coming through the airport, he’s carrying a giant teddy bear. Now, it’s never fully explained but one could safely say he’s bringing it home to his young daughter. I know crazy right. That poor German terrorist that gets it in the lift is left with a sly remark on his jumper, “Now I have a machine gun, ho-ho-ho.”
When McClane lures Gruber into a false sense of security near the film’s climax, he straps his weapon to his back using fun festive tape. Then as our hero, John and his put upon wife, Bonnie leave the Nakatomi Plaza, they are met with a lovely white blanket of Christmassy snow. To add to the festive cheer, as they are carted away on the back of what looks like a golf cart, Dean Martin’s velvet tones ease into ear shot and he croons, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Die Hard, one of the best Christmas films ever, motherf***er!
Gremlins (1984)
The first Gremlins film is a black comedy set against a Christmas time back drop. The plot revolves around Billy’s (Zach Gilligan) father searching for a Christmas present for his teenage son. He stumbles across a creature called a Mogwai in a small antiques shop in Chinatown. The owner of the store warns Billy’s father that owning one is too much responsibility and refuses to sell it to him. But the owner’s grandson sells the Mogwai saying the family needs the money. And he gives him three rules for the Mogwai. Never expose ti to light, never get it wet and never ever feed it after midnight.
Gizmo gets accidentally wet when brought home and he produces five Gremlins. The most dominant is Stripe, who for some reason despises Gizmo. They go about rampaging the city and tearing up the place. The climax of the film takes place in a Montgomery Ward store and Gizmo lets up the blinds and this allows the light in that kills Stripe. The store owner returns to claim Gizmo claiming that the world is not ready for the Mogwai, a symbol for the over zealousness of the west to have material goods over the Christmas period perhaps? Could be, either way if you get one this Christmas, don’t let it get wet!!
Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom (1984)
Ok, there’s no real Christmas signs, symbolism or indeed back stories in this film but if I don’t see it at Christmas I feel it is a waste of a Christmas Day. So there, and It’s A Wonderful Life doesn’t have Indiana Jones in it….
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Hey, there’s that guy that used to be really funny and in great films. What’s he at now, oh yea he’s quitting his show because he’s an arse. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Chevy Chase. The cornerstone of this popular franchise and he also made Fletch. I liked it. This is the third film in the Lampoon Series and was written by John Hughes. And it has the distinction of being my favourite one in the series.
You know the story Clark wants to give his family the perfect Christmas. But he keeps getting obstacles placed in his way, namely a wayward Christmas tree, lights that will not light despite best efforts, a family bout of hypothermia, warring in laws and breaking the window of smug yuppie next door neighbours with a tree. Oh yea and Cousin Eddie, the greatest comic character ever created in my humble opinion. Take a bow Dennis Quaid, never has dog splatters been so funny.
The family end up warring, Eddie and his hick family tear up the sewage and destroy the front lawn, the lights finally work and Clark gets his holiday bonus, thanks to Eddie driving across town and kidnapping his boss. Uncle Lewis throws a discarded cigar down a storm drain, igniting the methane gas leaked thanks to the sewage Eddie ripped up and blows a Santa decoration onto the lawn. The family stand around as Aunt Bethany sings the Star Spangled Banner and Clark realises he has got his perfect Christmas. A sweet, yet slightly mentally unhinged story…. Just what you need at Christmas!
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
This is for my money the only film to watch at Christmas. Think about it, songs, chocolate, a warm message about family and greed is not welcomed, it is punished, all the ingredients for festive cheer. I won’t bore you with the plot details as I’m sure you are all well aware at this stage. The film is fun, bright, sad in all the right places and leaves you walking away with a smile on your face and a warm heart. That could also be all the chocolate though…
So there you go, a rundown of what I feel are perfect Christmas films. A very merry Christmas to you and yours!

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

To The Victor The Spoils

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We’ve all been looking for a scapegoat. Someone to hang the problems of the country onto around his grubby neck, but we have all been looking under the wrong rocks and crooks. We should have been looking to the South of America, Texas and to be geographically accurate Southfork Texas. JR Ewing. The original TV bastard. Here’s just a summarised list of his quotes:
(To Sue Ellen): “Well, I’ll be damned if you can come in here any time you want and use me like a stud service!!”
(To Lucy): “Why don’t you have that junior plastic surgeon you had build you a new face. One without a mouth!!”
“Well Ray was never comfortable eating with the family. We do use knives and forks after all.”
“The only thing that is screwed up in this office Barnes is your head, which I would be more than happy to serve on a silver platter if I weren’t worried about my family getting food poisoning!”
“Don’t forgive and never forget; Do unto others before they do unto you; and third and most importantly, keep your eye on your friends, because your enemies will take care of themselves!”
JR Ewing. As I said, the original TV bastard. And as I watched the reports of Larry Hagman’s death last week, I got to thinking. Dallas must have been stuck on repeat in Seanie Fitzpatrick’s house and the VCR must have been burnt out in Sean Quinns. You can just picture them as young upstarts watching JR. That’s for me ma, that’s the life. I’ll squeeze what I can out of the little folks and see where it gets me!!
So, if you’re looking for a scapegoat, aim your eyes away from the Dail and aim them towards Southfork Texas. JR, you have a lot to answer for…..

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized

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Bird Of Prey

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Attending a gig can be a life changing experience. You never forget your first time. My first “big gig” was U2 in Slane on their second day at the Meath venue. I secured tickets because I was acutely aware that, despite not being a fan of the band, this was a massive cultural happening and would be a great show, fandom regardless. I was right. I knew all the big ones and sang along as best I could, but it was the thrill of being there, the roar of the crowd, the bond between performer and audience, the spiritual connection you feel you’re making with the band, the tremendous sense of euphoria. That happened again when we watched Wallis Bird tear a hole through Benedict’s Nightclub, a hole that was mostly blown open by midget funk and boundless energy.
Ably supported by local boy, Clive Barnes, who sounds like a world weary man of 95 sitting on his porch in Louisiana, swigging moonshine and pining silently for a lost loved one, a simpler way of life or indeed something he quite can’t remember. Barnes has a lovely style of engaging with an audience and for my money a skill on guitar that has often been imitated but never quite equalled.
After a short interval, Bird emerged, two bottles of Heineken in hand. Ya gotta love that, “Wallis, you’re on.” “Better bring me bottles so…” It was a warm, rapturous welcome that seemed to engulf Bird in the cosy bosom of her hometown, her people. And as she wryly pointed out at one song introduction, “a few faces I remember from gettin’ the shift outside.” Effortless, completely effortless.
And that I feel is Bird’s appeal. The band she has surrounded herself with is truly nothing short of phenomenal (they also have a beat boxing drummer….) All their eyes watching her as she weaves her way through the set, acutely aware that the pace, tempo, feel of the song could change any minute. Being familiar with the unsung, unsaid cues of playing within a band it is a joy to watch it unfold live. The odd wink here, the nod, the look that says, “Yea, come on I’m going, join in.” That effortless talent has come through years of playing and touring and it shows as Bird, along with the band makes the whole thing look so easy.
The set list was well put together. Despite the ignorance of some at the start, which was if I’m being honest highly offensive. The slow songs were achingly beautiful and seemed to touch places that you couldn’t even see. The faster ones had an energy that sent ripples all around the nightclub (and a broken string to boot) the choice cuts being Meal Of Convenience (hands down my favourite Wallis song) and To My Bones. The tenderest moment of the evening came at the very last song. Bird emerged from behind the microphone and began her new single In Dictum.
Al of a sudden, the ignorance had dissipated and the room stood enthralled as she sang, like all great singers from the heart and the lungs. The nightclub seemed to transform to a front room of any house, a session in mid flow and the night is silenced by one voice and a guitar. The one voice quickly became a whole room of voices as the whole place joined in the chorus. Harmonies, again effortless came from the band. A beautiful way to end the night and night one of the Irish tour was complete.
Wallis is back in Germany at the minute. Back on the road and doing what she does best. All dates area available here:
http://www.wallisbird.com

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized

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