The Lad Who Would Be King

A great romp, based on the Arthurian legends but set in a modern, believable Britain. Like Attack The Block, the film depicts kids without going all Disney and syrupy and shite.

Also, a really lovely, inventive score that has some of the best melding of orchestral and electronic sounds I’ve heard in years, by the Electric Wave Bureau, Albarn’s outfit.

AAAND another great directorial / writing outing for Joe Cornish. He’s just getting better and better… Some beautiful Spielbergian touches with the kids and also a fair amount of classic Brit ambience.

Everest (2015)

Everest is a 2015 biographicaladventure film directed and produced by Baltasar Kormákur and written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, adapted from Beck Weathers‘ memoir Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest(2000). It stars an ensemble cast of Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by Rob Hall (Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).

Source: Everest (2015)

Just watched this and spent most of the last half hour weeping. The scenes with Hall and his pregnant wife…. you’d have to be made of fucking stone not to tear up.

I never saw Everest when it was first released, I don’t know why. But this is a seriously moving film. It never strays into worthiness or hagiography, opting instead for an almost documentary feel. I deliberately didn’t look up the true story it’s based on beforehand because I didn’t want the ending spoiled. So, when it did come, I had no idea who would make it off the mountain or not. And I did keep hoping, ridiculously, that they would all make it.

When it comes… oh god.

What makes it worse is that I watched the iTunes Extras which features interviews with the bereaved relatives including a daughter who never got to meet her father. Again, I dare you to watch that without dehydrating yourself through crying.

The heart of this film and the respect it pays to the real human lives it portrays is very rare. Add that to the wonderful acting, script and visual effects and you have one hell of a film, one that I know I’ll be coming back to in the future.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Just watched PM&TWW with my bff and I feel really emotionally wrung out. It’s perhaps the most positive, honest film depiction of polyamory I’ve seen so far.

As someone who’s been in both mono and poly relationships (though I’d never go mono again), this film finally gets past the prurience and into the meat of the emotions. Situations can get so emotionally superhyperovercharged and the level of understanding and communication you all need is… well… it can be a shock at first. But in a world where 95% of relationships are lies told to cover temporary lusts, honesty can seem like a slap in the face.

I felt so moved at the end of the film, it made me miss different exes so much in so many ways. But the way I look at it is probably similar to how Marston did; I’m blessed to have had those women in my life whether it’s for 14 weeks or 14 years.

In 2018, I wish that people still didn’t equate jealousy with love, with abuse as some kind of sign of caring. Owning someone like property, making them a slave, is not a virtue.


Grand Budapest Hotel Made Me Cry Again

Gustave: I suppose this is to be expected back in… Where do you come from again?

Zero: Aq Salim al-Jabat.

Gustave: Precisely. I suppose this is to be expected back in Aq Salim al-Jabat where one’s prized possessions are a stack of filthy carpets and a starving goat, and one sleeps behind a tent flap and survives on wild dates and scarabs. But it’s not how I trained you. What on God’s earth possessed you to leave the homeland where you obviously belong and travel unspeakable distances to become a penniless immigrant in a refined, highly-cultivated society that, quite frankly, could’ve gotten along very well without you?

Zero: The war.

Gustave: Say again?

Zero: Well, you see, my father was murdered and the rest of my family were executed by firing squad. Our village was burned to the ground and those who managed to survive were forced to flee. I left because of the war.

Gustave: I see. So you’re, actually, really more of a refugee, in that sense? Truly. Well, I suppose I’d better take back everything I just said. What a bloody idiot I am. Pathetic fool. Goddamn, selfish bastard. This is disgraceful, and it’s beneath the standards of the Grand Budapest. I apologize on behalf of the hotel.

Zero: It’s not your fault. You were just upset I forgot the perfume.

Gustave: Don’t make excuses for me. I owe you my life. You are my dear friend and protege and I’m very proud of you. You must know that. I’m so sorry, Zero.

Zero: We’re brothers.

Every time. I cannot pass this scene without it just killing me. Maybe it’s the perfectly deadpan way Zero explains his past, the horrors having become normalised. Maybe it’s Gustave’s sudden flip from casual racism to abject apology.

Whatever it is, I wish there were more kind hearts in the world now, I wish people were as quick to help others as to condemn.

Channing Tatum

(This is from a Tumblr thread where people were defending Tatum. Well, I had to add something, didn’t I?)

He IS brilliant in Hail Caesar, not least because he’s also having sly fun with popular notions about him as an actor. Takes a brave actor to do that and keep on point.

May I also add:

Channing in Step Up

Channing in Haywire

Channing in The Eagle.

You see, I, too, used to be a Channing-hater. Not, like, hugely or anything. But I’d go along with mates when they’d make fun of him or snort if I read film reviews slagging him off.

This was until I actually engaged my own critical faculties honestly. 

I started realising… ‘oh wow, that bloke in Step Up… that’s CHANNING TATUM?!?’

‘That bloke in Haywire… that’s CHANNING TATUM?!?’


And then I realised that what we have in Mr. Tatum is a young actor who can dance, do romantic smouldering, light comedy, horrible secret agent villains and brooding soldiers haunted by loss of honour.

Tatum is a superbly flexible, adventurous and fearless actor. Where other actors find the ONE NOTE and then grind on that fucker for decades, hoping an Oscar will pop out, Tatum will have covered a myriad worlds, creating characters that have zero in common apart from his obviously gorgeous physicality.

I mean, he could just coast by on his looks, couldn’t he? He doesn’t really need to take risks but look at the man’s IMDB: he consistently does.

At the minute, Tatum is PRIME BEEF. He is beautiful and that will limit the roles he gets offered, as it does beautiful actresses (though to a lesser extent, of course, since Hollywood hates women). But Tatum’s work ethic and career arc reminds me of someone…

Here’s young Michael Caine. Pretty, isn’t he? He could have coasted on those looks but if you look at his IMDB, you’ll see an actor who got stuck in. He just acted and acted and acted, which is why we still know and love him now, decades after his equally-attractive comrades are forgotten. Yeah, Caine also did a lot of dodgy films but that’s my point ~ you HAVE TO. You don’t get to be in the Hail Caesars unless you’re also in the Jupiter Ascendings (and that’s no disrespect to JA, I love that slab of dog-gene, royalist bee crazy but I’m in the minority, I know).

We have yet to see the best from Tatum. Think of how great he’ll be when he’s a wrinkly, gnarly, hairy-eared old geezer! Think of the decades of experience of playing a huge gamut of characters he’ll be able to draw from. He’ll be too old for the 20-something romcom lead or the action hero, he will get characters with more layers, more complexity…

Destination Star Trek 50 @NEC, Birmingham, 7-9/10/16

Waiting to break a Guinness World Record for number of cosplayers! #dst50 #destinationstartrek50 #tos #tas #tng #ds9 #voyager #enterprise #fb #fl #startrek

After the original series was cancelled, there was no Star Trek on television until the animated series in 1973. When the producers were casting the cartoon, they initially decided not to use George Takei and Nichelle Nichols. It would save money to get their roles played by other actors.

But Leonard Nimoy refused to work on the series unless the entire original cast was brought back. He believed that the message of Trek was one of diversity and no two actors better represented that ideal than Takei and Nichols. He stood up for his fellow actors in a way that is very rare in TV and film.

This is what Star Trek is all about. This is what Star Trek means to me.

Destination Star Trek 50 - 130

My feet hurt. I have Euclideanly flat feet so walking any distance is always a painful chore. My feet are red and will take a couple of days to recover from the weekend. They’re in that state because I spent the last three days walking round the NEC, the venue for Destination Star Trek 50. (The 50 stands for the fifty years since the original series’ first episode was first broadcast, way back in 1966.) My Trek buddy Nat and I joined thousands of others who all flocked to Hall 4 to see our idols in person and perhaps get their autograph or even a photo with them.

Destination Star Trek 50 - 093

The event was chocker with Trek actors; Marina Sirtis, Alice Krige, Garrett Wang, Armin Shimmerman, WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER…. Well, you get the idea. It was wall-to-wall famous faces. I heard Marina, Alice and Christoper Lloyd take part in a great talk about the differences between TV and cinema (well, it was meant to be, it covered a much wilder gamut, thanks to the always fabulous Ms. Sirtis).

Destination Star Trek 50 - 135

I also heard Adam Nimoy talk about his beautiful documentary, For The Love Of Spock and I have to confess that I was crying through a lot of that event. For me, Trek and Spock and my Dad are all interconnected. I miss my Dad so much and he loved Spock / Nimoy as much as I did. It was my Dad who introduced me to SF and Star Trek, we used to love watching it together, right up to the reboot films. When Nimoy died, my Dad was truly saddened by his passing. He would have loved Adam’s documentary had he lived long enough to see it.

Nat and I dropped in on other talks and competitions too. But we both agreed that the best part of the whole event was, as Adam Nimoy and Marina Sirtis both stated separately, the fans.


If you want a feeling of inclusion, if you want a feeling of being an un-judged member of a family, go to a Star Trek con. I talked here about the utopian and profoundly progressive DNA of Trek and the proof of that is in the fandom. In no other place will you find such open minds and open hearts. We don’t care about race or gender or sexuality or religion or physical shape. Hell, we don’t even care if you only know one show or only like one character. The MRA-fuelled bile of the gaming scene, the gatekeeping, bullying and sexist vitriol has no place in Trek fandom. Any Trek convention you go to will be the anti-matter version of a Trump rally. Take all that right-wing paranoia and hatred and fear and pessimism about the future and replace it with throngs of people who accept the beauty of infinite diversity in infinite combination.

Destination Star Trek 50 - 067

I wandered about all weekend, getting pics of fellow Trekkies and you can see for yourself the diversity of our cadre. Some of us are blind, some of us can see, some of us are bipedal, some of us are tripedal or roll on four wheels. Some of us are old and wrinkly, some are tiny, enthusiastic children, leaping about with glee. Me, I’m hugely fat and look uncannily like a perplexed walrus. None of that matters because we are the best people.

Destination Star Trek 50 - 022

Why? Because we dream of a future that is the opposite of Theresa May’s desperate Norsefire manifesto. We dream of a future where Earth is at peace and education, healthcare and food is universally available and accessible. The people I met at DST50 are the best people. Overwhelmingly friendly, charming and geekily garrulous, I had a fucking blast this weekend.

Destination Star Trek 50 - 106

If you get the chance to go to a Trek con, pick out a costume (or don’t, if you’re shy, doesn’t matter!) and then GO. You won’t regret it. Promise.

Until then, live long and prosper.

Top Five (2014)

Top Five Film - 2014

I’ve *just* finished watching this (the credits are still rolling) and I want to get my review down while it’s all fresh…

PICO VERSION: good romcom with actual rom and com. See it!

Now, onto the long version.

Chris Rock is Andre Allen, a hugely successful comedian. The trouble is that his success is based upon a character her plays called Hammy The Bear (in full bearsuit). Hammy is huge. Hammy is the guy. Wherever Allen goes, people shout Hammy at him.

But Allen wants to do serious work. He has the lead role in a film just opening which is about the Haitian slave rebellion. He’s doing his best to push the film and thus ends up being interviewed by Chelsea Brown of the NYT (Rosario Dawson).

Through a patchwork of interview questions / answers and flashbacks, we learn more about Allen’s career and recent sobriety. It’s obvious that Andre and Chelsea connect and here there’s a lovely lightness of touch ~ there’s no trembling eyelash moments or hands lightly touching bullshit, this is adult romance where it’s all about the micro-second pause, the feint and the parry of flirtation. It’s all light as a souffle and I welcome any romantic film that so successfully doesn’t make me throw up in my mouth a little. As a couple, Chelsea and Andre are believable and, more crucially, likeable rather than punchable.

So, well done on the rom.

The com part… well, what the fuck. We’re talking about Chris Rock here, one of the funniest human beings on the planet. You could get run over by a lorry, body smooshed across the road, have your intestines wrapped around your face as you scream in agony and Rock could pop a one-liner that would make you giggle like a baby. I am not surprised when Chris Rock makes me laugh.

What is delightful is the ensemble that Rock builds which serves to shore up the character history and also provides the best comedy in the film. The Top Five of the title is what Rock asks everyone: top five rappers. In one of the best scenes, Allen visits his ex and his old set of mates in their flat and there are moments here that you can tell are Rock ad-libbing like fuck and making the other actors lose it. I mean, later in the stand-up part of the film, you see actors acting at laughing: in this front room scene, it’s just people laughing, they aren’t acting. The scripted dialogue is as sharp as fuck and the un-scripted surpasses that. Rock’s badinage with the ever-lugubrious Tracy Morgan is pure joy.

The same kind of scenario is repeated in the later Bachelor Party scene but this time we have Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler shooting the shit, all giving the stupidest marriage advice possible. And they’re all, obviously, great, this is no stretch for them. There’s a kind of sweet, cosy warmth to seeing these comedians riff off each other, I suspect they weren’t sweating the acting.

Well, shenanigans take place, as they have to do in romcoms but it’s not the biggest surprise in the world when Chelsea and Andre end up kissing. What is nice is the ambiguity of whether they will get properly together, left until the very last shot of the film. Which is a neat way of avoiding the cheesy romcom ‘LOOK THEY ARE HAPPY AND WILL BE FOREVER, DIVORCE DOESN’T EXIST!’ ending shot.


Pico review done, normal review done… now onto the wanky analysis. Don’t forget, I put the anal in analysis.

Top Five when reviewed was compared to Birdman, Funny People and other highly-meta films. But all those numbnuts are wrong: Top Five is Stardust Memories. And it’s also the kind of Woody Allen film you would get if Spike Lee travelled back to 1983 and directed Allen.

I mean, COME ON, the central character’s last name is Allen! Rock knows exactly what he’s doing. Stardust Memories is a film about a famous comedian tired of doing comedy, wondering what the point of being a comedian is at all. He goes to an out-of-town film festival in his honour (”I love all your films, especially the early, funny ones!”) where he has a slight break with reality and his girlfriend. Throughout, we see flashbacks of his earlier life and we’re also treated to clips of his new SERIOUS FILM which both the studio and the public hate. Sound familiar?

What’s surreal is that a lot of Top Five is Rock and Dawson wandering around New York, just the same as Allen’s characters did in proto-romcom Annie Hall. But this is the New York that Spike Lee famously groused about in regards to it never being depicted in Woody Allen’s work: this is a racially diverse, real New York. I mean, I’ve only been to New York once but I can tell you, based on that, it isn’t a city whose streets are only populated by white, middle-class people.

We’re now in a bizarre AU where Chris Rock is basically playing a young, black Woody Allen in a brundlefly of Stardust Memories and Annie Hall.

And you know what?

I’m fine with that.

Top Five gave me a feel-good glow I haven’t had for a long while. Certainly not while watching a romcom. More commonly, I sit with my sphincters tightened, waiting for the inevitable bathtub of corny ickiness. Damn, it felt good to not hate a couple falling in love! Remember that? That feeling where you’re actually rooting for the couple to get together and go ‘awww’ when they kiss? It’s nice, innit?

On top of that, Rosario Dawson is a peerless actress. I cannot honestly remember her ever phoning it in or, conversely, chewing the scenery. As Chelsea, she creates this deep, strong character that you just want to hug, even when you find out she’s a big, fat liar. I want more Dawson, please. In everything.

Chris Rock is relaxed and loose and good. I’ve seen some reviews saying that he’s not acting in this but that’s patently bullshit: Rock is probably acting for 90% of his waking life. He’s a comedian, for fuck’s sake. I mean, I’m a musician, most musicians live and die unknown in poverty. Below us in terms of shitty jobs comes actor: your work relies on the approval of scores of strangers and you can’t succeed without the press. And the next level below that in terms of shitty job is comedian. You’re like an actor BUT you’re way more needy AND you have to try and make idiots laugh, on demand, whatever you’re feeling.

So, when critics have a go at Rock’s acting, I think they’re missing the point and they’re fools. This film is easier for Rock than stand-up: he gets takes here. If he flubs a line, hey, let’s go again! No problem! Stand-up, you flub a line and the whole crowd may turn on you and slice your skin off with razorblades. Of course Rock turns in an assured, believable performance – he isn’t new to this.

If you usually avoid romcoms, give this one a go. It’s way less forced and frenetic than the genre norm and so it’s a breath of fresh air. It also has the added bonus of being fucking funny.

Oh, and my Top Five:

1. KRS-1 / BDP

2. Public Enemy

3. Tribe Called Quest

4. Ice Cube

5. Nas

And my six is: Masta Ace

Chaplin (1992)

I’m just watching Attenborough’s biopic of Charlie Chaplin. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

The first is, of course, a young, impishly handsome Robert Downey Jr. As Chaplin. Now, if you’ve only seen RDJ in his more recent roles, it’s not like he’s got any worse as an actor; he’s tremendously assured and mature. Possibly only one of a handful of actors who could justly be labelled a “star.”

But this is Downey at 27, this is a young, mercurial Downey in the role that got him and Oscars nom for Best Actor.

He is beautiful as Chaplin. And, yes, it’s silly and illogical but part of why I find him so compelling is that I know Downey the man was as complex and often hounded as Chaplin the man. In Downey’s case it was the tabloid media hounding him for his drug abuse and the actuality of  said drug abuse and how it derailed his career. With Chaplin, you have his traumatising childhood of workhouses and extreme poverty, followed by huge success and then being made a target of the FBI and repeatedly smeared and vilified as part of their campaign. 

Around Downey, Attenborough has assembled a wonderful supporting cast including Chaplin’s actual daughter, Geraldine, playing her own grandmother. Dan Ackroyd is a perfect fit as Mack Sennet and look at that suave young cameraman / editor… it’s David Duchovny, a year before The X-Files.

Special mention for a baby-faced Paul Rhys who you might recognise as Vlad from Da Vinci’s Demons or Ivan from Being Human. He plays Charlie’s older bro, Sydney and is perfect. Makes me want to see both of them acting in something now.

If you haven’t seen it, check out Chaplin. And if you have but it’s been a while, give it a re-visit. You won’t regret it!