Archive for September, 2007

iPhone

September 28, 2007

iPhone 

There are no adverts around for this at the time of going to press (clicking save), but there is a hell of a lot of the old ‘word of mouth’ marketing going about. Some say they’re brilliant and live up to the whispered hype. Others say they’re not all they could be, but are still pretty great. I say they’re rubbish, and I haven’t even mucked about with one yet.

I own an iPod. It is now dead after two years’ usage. One day it broke down and, though it had survived a few crashes in the past and only required a quick reformatting, this time it couldn’t withstand the pressure and buckles everytime I try to save it’s sorry little arse.

So I’m buying a new one, foolishly. I’m buying it today in fact – one of those iPod ‘classics’ that hold 80 gigabytes of shit. Weirdly, it only costs 160 quid. Compared to the 180 quid I shelled out for my loved one in April for a Nano that has only 8 gigs, it seems to me that Apple’s pricing system rips people off left right and centre.

Before I bury myself in a geeky mess of compu-speak, let’s have a think about why the iPhone is bound to be shit.

  • According to reports, you have to set up an account with O2 before you can get one. O2 are rip-off bastards.
  • I like having my phone separate to my music. It means that if I get mugged and have left my mp3 player at home then I won’t have lost everything of value in one fould swoop. iPhone is all your precious eggs in one basket.
  • Every mugger, for six months at least, will want one. Or a few. They will be your average mugger’s holy grail.
  • The touchscreen thing would have been appealing a decade ago, maybe seen on something like Tomorrow’s World. In actual fact it’ll be incredibly impractical. I have enough problems with my phone calling people of its own free will in the middle of the night and leaving them voicemails which are made up of me shouting at people in pubs, from a distance, over garbled music and the sound of smashing glass.
  • If the iPhone has a cover, disregard last bullet point.
  • They’re bloody expensive.
  • Every trendy sod will have one. Actually, even worse, because all the trendy sods probably already have one, the slightly late sods will jump on the bandwagon the moment they go on sale, so they will be absolutely everywhere. Every conversation you hear will be about them – on buses, in pubs, in old people’s homes, on the moon, in your coal-shed.
  • Even worse, people will get them out and show them off to other people who have one anyway, and both parties will explode in a paradoxical miasma of pointlessness.
  • Actually, that last one might be a ‘pro’ rather than a ‘con’.
  • Imagine the ringtone nightmare when people can use music from their iTunes library as a ringtone. Or play it at will on the bus. Our ears will burn to music we can’t stand.
  • Christ, I hate the world. I hate people.
  • I hate change and I hate the future.
  • I am turning into a bitter old man.
  • I’m 30 in a year. What happened to my youth?
  • Where’s me shopping?
  • Who am I?

NB: Some of the features described and slagged off might not actually exist – the author couldn’t be arsed to read an iPhone spec before writing.

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ASDA adverts

September 27, 2007

Celebrities are amazing people. Truly, madly, deeply amazing people. They can brighten our day, make us feel special and turn even the most humdrum act into an exciting, liberating experience.

Take, for example, working for ASDA. To the vast majority of normal people it is a great example of a McJob – mentally and physically demanding, underpaid, patronising and exploitative – but in the hands of Ian Wright it is a joyous task filled with comedy banter, idle conversations and pleasure-bringing to the great unwashed. How wonderful! The job seems to be so much easier and improved with the inclusion of a celebrity fish-seller it makes you wonder why ASDA haven’t sacked their entire workforce and replaced them with washed up TV pundits. Think about it; one roaming camera crew to keep up the quality service and you’ll have thousands more customers flocking through the doors clammering to see Chantelle making pies and Nick Hancock offering wine-tasting.

What’s very interesting about Ian Wright’s behaviour in this advert is that almost everything he does would urge disiplinary action against normal employees. Were a 17 year old shelf-stacker to hustle or entertain customers in such a manner, they would find themselves hauled into the manager’s office and verbally beaten into submission. Were the 17 year old also to be overly familiar to customers, approach children offering them food and disply a lack of knowledge of their subject then you can guarantee that they’d be shown the door.

The advert tells us more about ASDA than they’d like us to know; primarily that they’re tight enough to rely on celebrity association rather than specialised branding. It’s far cheaper to throw a c-list celebrity into a store and let him interact with minimum wage employees (who will not have been paid extra for their involvement) than a considered and creative campaign from a large advertising company. Shoot it on handheld low-grade camera to keep costs down and you can afford to throw even more money at your designated ‘personality.’

At least Ian Wright is a better choice than their previous spokesperson, Sharon Osbourne. Her gurning, patronising spiel about bargains and parental responsibilities just made a nation stare aghast – amazed that anyone could think she was a thrifty shopper, let alone a good parent.

It’s an awful advertising campaign; misleading, simplistic and exploitative of their workforce. Much like the company itself.

“Asda has been criticised for misleading advertising, using suppliers who are known to have illegal employment practices, ignoring planning regulations and destroying greenbelt land, lack of serious environmental policy and blatant greenwash. With its ‘strategy of consolidation’, copied directly from Wal-Mart, Asda pursues an aggressive takeover policy of small towns, wiping out local competition and local jobs. False claims by the company about ‘value’ and ‘convenience’, have been challenged, along with the exploitation of every opportunity to push impulse buying”

Corporate Watch

Hatchet

September 25, 2007

Hatchet 

Sometimes it’s embarrassing being a fan of horror. As a genre, it frequently disappoints.

Watching a film in company, you’re often left feeling a touch like a moron, as a film that promised shocks, foreboding and nightmarish effects turns out to be a fetid floater in the annals of film history. Creep is the last picture that left me feeling that way, and now Hatchet comes along, like a slow diarrhea from the bottom of a constipated frat-boy.

Might as well get down to business straight away and let you know that Hatchet is a bin-bag full of some unoriginal child’s poo. The posters you see about town at the moment boast that this is an ‘old school American horror’. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by that. It certainly feels dated. They also boast that it’s ‘not a remake, …a sequel or …based on a Japanese one’. Though all those facts might help to drag an audience in, a boast about originality is not really a claim this film can make.

I know it’s meant to be an affectionate parody of slasher films, an homage, a pastiche, all those other words that basically allow a film-maker to rip off past, better film-makers. The problem is that it does it with no style whatsoever. The jokes fall constantly fall flat, the acting is piss-poor and the setting is bizarre considering most slasher films (aside from Friday 13th) usually are based in suburbia. So the homage is incomplete, the jokes aren’t funny and the horror itself is leaden and completely ineffective. Which all combines to leave you with an impotent little movie.

At least it had loads of tits in it.

Deathproof

September 24, 2007

Deathproof 

After some light afternoon drinking I watched a little light entertainment on Saturday evening before watching Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort, Deathproof. The man’s gone quite far downhill, if you ask me, ever since Jackie Brown. Kill Bill was a wholesale rip off rather than an affectionate homage and suffered from the fact that it was shit. Sin City and Hostel 2, which both involved his input at production level, weren’t great. The former was purely style over substance and unengaging while the latter was a retread of the original. So he’s pumping out duds like rabbit droppings. His forehead is also too big for his face.

Another thing that grates with QT is his embarassing public profile. I switched on a repeat of the MOBO Awards on Friday night (what a load of tat that was) and QT turned up (in town to promote Deathproof) and made a grade A udder of himself, talking in that obscene cod-Bronx accent and making a shit joke in which he compared Jackie Brown to Gordon Brown. Self-referential and entirely unfunny (he was talking about a film from ten years ago to a crowd who were probably eight when it came out), he died on his arse.

Not only was QT at the MOBOs – which is kind of forgivable – he also showed up on Ant & Decs’ Saturday Night Takeaway. Now that was a shock. I didn’t catch much of this prime time Saturday night brain damage but from what I could gather they had the man in some kind of booth commenting on various bits of the show. You’d never have got Scorcese doing that kind crap. Is he actively trying to destroy his own reputation?

This kind of promotional behaviour serves to make the discerning viewer watch a film in a jaded state before the credits have started to roll.

So Deathproof began and I was already pissed off and had the image of QT with his club-brow overhang like a daytime nightmare in the back of my mind.

Early signs were good. The film opened in a suitably sleazy manner and it genuinely looked like the kind of crap I’d dig out from second hand video shops when I was in my early teens. Schlock nonsense. The problems began when the characters started talking. And talking and talking. They never fucking stopped with their talking.

QT could have done great things with this. Kurt Russell was absolutely brilliant as Stuntman Mike and the whole set up was nigh on perfect – a jaded, anonymous killer using his car as a weapon – it was, in theory, the perfect plot for a grindhouse movie. The problem was, in his haste to impress, QT hired drop-dead gorgeous actresses, got a semi-on and gave them way, way too much screen time. As a result, we’re subjected to needless, bottomless dialogue that embarrasses rather then entertains.

Another problem is the fact that QT himself turns up in an early scene. Playing a barman, his presence just reminded me of his appearance on Ant & Dec. I couldn’t take him seriously. He’s a personality in his own right now and disrupts any film he appears in as a result. His old trick was to take a forgotten actor (Travolta, Russell, Thurman et al) and give them the part they were born to play. The fact that their abilities were lost in the ether previous to their appearance made this an effective device. He actively rejuvenated their careers and it felt like we were seeing a new and brilliant talent. When QT appears in movies, it does the opposite. His doesn’t feel like a fresh face. It looks like an ugly face I saw on some rubbish TV the night before, mugging and making a complete knacker of itself.

Deathproof almost saves itself from being a disaster with an adrenaline-rush ending and a pretty mind-blowing action sequence in the middle. But having to get though over an hour of badly conceived conversation between unrealistic characters either side of that (even if one of those involved is Rosario Dawnson) tends to try your patience.

Planet Terror had better be good. 

Knocked Up

September 21, 2007

Knocked Up 

So much has been written about this marginally-above-average comedy that it feels slightly slack to even make any effort proffering an opinion, paradoxically enough.

Peter Bradshaw, who usually writes like a misery having double-dropped a curmudgeon-capsule gave it a four out of five. That seems excessive, as does his praising the subtlety on display in this really quite shallow film. Despite a superficial liberal dusting of equal rights recognition, this isn’t really a subtle piece.

Andrew Collins wrote a blog here praising the film while Joe Queenan wrote this article in the Guardian, the latter of which seems to border on the hysterically PC, if you ask me.

I don’t agree with any of them, to be honest. But as I can barely be arsed and because so much has already been said, here are some bullet-pointed opinions from the back of my brain. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers.

  • This is watchable in a Look Who’s Talking, Happy Gilmore kind of a way. By that I mean, worth watching once then forgetting.
  • There are plenty of half-decent jokes. I didn’t laugh out loud but I smiled at points.
  • A barrier to enjoyment was Seth Rogan’s character – Ben Stone, a 23 year old stoner.
  • Inexplicably he’s managed to live on 12 grand (in US Dollars) for 10 years. Is it just me, or do the maths not add up there? Six grand (in English quid) lasts 10 years? Even without rent to pay and eating a lot pasta, nobody can keep a serious skunk habit alive on that.
  • He’s 23 and hasn’t had a job, ever. Yet when the trite phase of Seth’s having to face his responsibilities comes around he lands a decent-looking job and gets an amazing flat, straight away.
  • He’s a twat. Yes, he may have got the girl into bed, but he would never, never have got her. Like, really got her.
  • The stoner sequences are typically American and cheesy. Why do Americans act like such dicks when they’re caned?
  • The mushroom sequence was pretty good.
  • All the ethnic minorities, jewish folk aside, were stereotypical. Giggly oriental girl – check. Over-authoritative oriental man – check. Sex obsessed black man – check.
  • It went on for way, way too long.
  • The ‘crowning’ special effect was sanitised. I’ve seen videos of real childbirth and it’s a lot more sticky, blue, red and mushy than that looked.

Rather than stump up for a cinema ticket, I’d spend your hard-earned on some of the weed Ben’s smoking. It must be dirt cheap for him to realistically afford it.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The Beginning)

September 19, 2007

Leatherface 

I, like you, ask myself ‘why did I bother?’.

Seriously – why?

In the full knowledge that this would be a shallow retread I watched it with the faint hope in my heart that it would have something of worth in it. But as the opening credits rolled and I realised Michael Bay co-produced it, I sensed my hopes were scuppered and I’d let myself in for a dreary couple of hours.

Yep – you heard right. Michael fucking Bay – he who is responsible for the likes of The Rock, Armageddon, Bad Boys and other such rot with massive production values and stupid, dull plotlines. Having killed off clever, subtle action pictures he’s now turned his hand to the horror genre and, ultimately, played a part in ruining the whole bloody thing.

Horror films (or at least the ones I enjoy most and the original of this tired franchise) thrive on a small budget. Schlock special effects, grainy camera work, poor acting, they don’t come at a price. You can’t apply the kinds of budgets that make things like Armageddon successful and hope it does the same for horror. Where’s the money going to go? Special effects? Herein lies the problem.

TCM (TB), to abbreviate this shitflick, is simply shock after shock with absolutely nothing of any worth sandwiched between. And the shocks are so blunt and heavy handed they don’t even make you jump. They make you sigh and, from time to time, vaguely grimace at the unpleasantness of it all. There’s no subversion, no intelligence, no allegory, no nothing. It’s not even good enough to be called an exploitation movie as it hasn’t been made on a budget to ensure maximum profit. We don’t get the pleasure of a really cheap ride. Instead we get really, really expensive disappointment. This is a film without merit in any sense whatsoever. A real low point.

What’s more irritating is that this is a cash in on a complete and utter fucking masterpiece. Despite this, it makes no effort to do any justice to the original.

As has been documented a bazillion times, the original is based loosely on serial killer Ed Gein. Our buddy Ed had a serious mother fixation which induced him, alongside some serious pathological mental illnesses, to cut women who resembled his expired mother into small pieces and use their flesh around the house, for furniture and accessories. Hence the whole concept of Leatherface.

Completely ignoring this freakish beginning, the Bay product makes the father the domineering parent. The first face Leatherface decided to skin and wear is that of a teenage boy. The whole premise is pissed into a corner and the concept goes out of the window. It turns from a tale of a warped and deformed young man with a distorted Oedipus complex into an overblown pile of tat about some violent men. And it’s not good enough I tell you. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

As for Michael Bay, I’ve heard word he’s now working on a remake of The Birds as well as the first Friday the 13th. Can’t someone cut off his cock before he pisses on any more graves?

Coronation Street

September 18, 2007

David Platt 

When I was a useless, substance-dependent student living in the North of England, my day wasn’t complete without six cans of Spar Lager, a pouch of Drum tobacco, a hangover that made me question my very existence and, if conditions would allow, a few wheezes on the bum-sucked spliffs a pal had rolled. On top of this, if it was a weekday around five pm, I would become sucked into the world of Soap Opera after waking up in a filthy bed surrounding by pornography and dried blood. I was the type of lad you could take home to meet your mother.

My soap opera crawl would start on the other side of the globe. An antipodean hour of festering shit beginning at Yabby Creek, waddling along Summer Bay and ending up in Ramsay Street via the international business park that is Paul Robinson’s Lassiters. After confirming that I would be closer each day to Home and Away and being reminded that I might one day find the perfect blend, I’d pop over to Chester.

Hollyoaks passed in a whirl of horrific acting, idiotic trendy boys and dead-eyed blonde girls who looked like they’d been reanimated by a pervert. Emmerdale came next and I literally can’t remember a single thing about it, apart from Seth’s fantastic moustache.

After that, and Christ only knows why, I would subject myself to the mind-hammering that is Coronation Street. Or ‘The Street’, if you are over 60, work in the tabloids or are a complete twat.

It has been ten years since I was in that dark, dark place and last night, more by harsh luck than judgement, I sat through an entire episode of Coronation Street. It was a harsh reminder that television truly does rot the brain.

Very little in Corrie had changed. Roy Cropper was still going out with a transexual who was played by a born-woman, defeating the point of the fact that he’s going out with a transexual. Tyrone is still fat and stupid, but is now hairy and fat and stupid. Ashley still speaks like someone’s treading on his little toe. Kevin still looks even weirder without a moustache than with one.

Betty is still alive. That was a shock. And she’s still rooted to the same spot in the Rovers Return, banging on about her fucking hotpot. Poor cow. She’s surely earned herself a stay at an above average retirement home by now so the producers should do the decent thing and pack her off to one. And throw away the key.

The biggest shock came when I saw Gail’s boy – the one who was about six years old ten years ago and seemed like the most amazing child actor I’d ever seen. ‘He’s got a bright future, that one’ I thought to myself, all those years ago. Last night proved me bang wrong.

He’s turned into one of the worst actors I’ve seen in my life. In last night’s storyline he’d left his niece alone with a doll which had ecstasy pills hidden within its plastic torso (a la Danny in Withnail and I). The little kid (Bethany, I think) obviously ingested a few of these embalmers and we were subjected to the sight of this former child actor hollering and banging the furniture in frustration in the most unrealistic soap set-piece I’ve ever seen.

Aside from this moment of high tension, the thing that got me was just how slow Coronation Street is. I suppose it’s a fair reflection of life in a Northern town that very little seems to happen for long periods of time, but Christ, it ain’t half boring.

Give me the crazy streets of Walford any day. I switched over at 8pm and there was Sean flushing Deano’s head down a lavvy, Ian Beale narrowly avoiding being run over by his dead ex wife and, the icing on the cake, Billy getting in a bit of a huff. God bless the ‘enders. All hail the Beasts of the East.

The Restaurant

September 13, 2007

awful bastards 

I’ve seen a few of these; it’s fucking shit and getting worse.

The sort of Apprentice-lite format doesn’t work – Raymond Blanc is far too decent a chap to go down the Alan ‘you’re fire you are’ Sugar route. Besides, he sounds like Pepé the Pew doing an impression of Serge Gainsbourg.

The format of the show is simple: open nine restaurants and then get nine couples to run them from scratch. Each week, two of the shittest couples have a play-off task that sees one of their restaurants getting shut down.

The only interest comes from the jaw-dropping horror and stupidity of the contestants. One caused a restaurant Supervisor, working for Ray of course, to make herself physically sick after eating raw chicken breast. Staggeringly, this particular contestant is still in the show.

But by far and away the most dreadful coupling of humans I’ve seen in recent years on television were the thoroughly abhorrent Sam and Jacqui.

Sam is a ‘jazz drummer’ and Sam an ‘actress’. A pimp and a hooker, then. She’s a loud-mouthed oxygen thief and Sam a little toad of a creature with as much charm as The Marquis de Sade in the Bastille dildoing himself until he bleeds lumps.

In the first episode when they were trying to hire a chef. Sam was in the process of interviewing a fairly elderly chap who’d been working in kitchens most of his adult life. Unfortunately, the nearest he’d got to being a chef was chopping veg in a hospital kitchen, but instead of politely informing the elderly gentleman of his lack of suitability, Toad-boy, with the old guy a couple of feet away, called the recruitment agency and bollocked them at volume and length about sending him ‘useless people’. You could actually see the life draining from the poor old git. It was toe-curling stuff and from that moment I wanted see Sam dressed in life-threatening hives.

His recently-acquired wife took the role as front of house Manager, which meant she attempted to ingratiate herself with unsuspecting members of the public with an upside down smile that resembled a gorilla picking fleas off its winkle and a drawl that could melt glass at 100 yards.

In the meantime, instead of managing his fledgling and unenthusiastic staff, Sam threw strops and busied himself by staring at the prepared food as if a copraphiliac standing in a festival latrine looking up at defecating arses.

Needless to say they were booted off last week much to Sam’s arrogant objection and howls from his dreadful wife.

The remaining cast of nobodies are so fucking boring and lacking in any sort of creative intelligence or business acumen that I, for one, can’t even be arsed to finish th