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Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night

March 23, 2009

There are times when you really have to wonder what the fucking point of it all is.

Why bother watching yet another terrible piece of television with the intention to write about it when, in reality, it will have little or no effect or purpose? Chris Moyles will always be successful and no amount of barbed critique from an anonymous blog writer will change that. So why not abandon the flowery wordplay, reclaim my wasted hour and do something more pleasant like sit in a park or make love to a beautiful woman instead?

Well, to answer my own question, I do it because I have to – to make it known that while Rome burned and civilisation fell from the sky I stood amongst a small band of brothers who resisted, as long as possible, the enslaught of mediocrity. I may not have marched against the war, I may have not fought to defend freedom but at least I carpe diem-ed when the time seemed right and dared to exclaim to all who read – ‘this programme is SHIT.’

So, here’s a few things you need to know about Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night:

  • Following a very expensive opening sequence which features the title – Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night – in huge letters, Moyles enters and introduces with the explanatory sentence “Welcome to Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night – I’m Chris Moyles, and this is my quiz night” which should go some way in helping you to understand the highly attentive and sharply intuitive sort of audience he’s aiming for.
  • It purports to be a topical quiz ripped straight from the headlines when in truth it’s actually the sort of quiz that takes a recent event and uses it as a springboard for an irrelevant and unrelated question; “the Pope said this week that condoms are part of the problem in combating AIDS, thus further hindering the plight of millions of infected Africans in acquiring life-saving medicine – but how many condoms does Nuts Magazine hottie Sophie Howard say she uses during a three-hour sex session?” for example.
  • It takes the guise of a pub quiz crossed with an ITV talk show, in which guests answer questions posed by an (almost literally) phoned in celebrity appearance while Moyles attempts some form of sycophantic banter that results, more often than not, in awkward silences, shouty bullshit or streams of abuse.
  • It’s less fun that a pub quiz – in fact it’s less fun that sitting alone during a pub quiz and not taking part.
  • His guests are the level of average not seen since Davina McCall’s chat show; either fellow traders of shit TV (Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne), ironically booked institutions who should know better (Barbara Windsor) or permascowled hip musicians who clearly think TV quiz shows are more rewarding than their chosen art form (Mark Ronson).
  • As well as having a format that looks suspiciously like the Big Fat End of the Year Quiz, it also features obligatory cameos from well known television personalities trying to appear hip and switched on by appearing in what their agents have no doubt told them will be a ratings winner. The idea is clearly to create the illusion that Moyles is now a member of an elite team of Channel 4 broadcasters  who all love, cherish and adore each others work; although it’s actually more of a name-dropping fiasco that serves as an extended commercial for more inanely pointless drivel. “Hi, I’m James Corden and I’m obviously in some kind of press junket room for my new, overhyped movie Lesbian Vampire Killers, but how many lesbians does Nuts Magazine hottie Sophie Howard claim she’s slept with in her lifetime?”
  • For all his success and acclaim the fact still remains that Chris Moyles is a deeply uncharismatic personality – he may well work on radio but on TV he comes across as a beligerant drunk wallowing in his own ego with enough cash to silence anyone who says otherwise.
  • It runs for 50 minutes… 50 fucking minutes of cheap and crass mind swabbing… it’s almost as if the producers dared themselves to make it an hour but chickened out at the last minute, fearing some kind of nationwide brain-haemorrhaging from which the country would never recover.
  • “Hi, we’re Richard and Judy and we’re currently trying to get back in with Channel 4 after our disasterous decision to headline the channel Watch, but how many pornos does Nuts Magazine hottie Sophie Howard say she watches a week?” Etc.

I reckon that’s about all you need to know.

Eurovision: Your Country Needs You

February 5, 2009


Nope, me neither.

Apparently this has been running for weeks – another talent search exploitfest looking for this year’s Eurovision entry, but I barely knew anything about it. I’d seen adverts featuring the atrocity that is Norton towering over us on a huge plasma screen but I assumed it was just another trailer for his barrel-scraping innuendo fuckparty. I was wrong.

It turns out that smug horseface Lloyd Webber, having run out of musicals to promote with stunt-casting, has turned his hand to Eurovision – penning a potential winner and launching a nationwide search for someone unjaded enough to still think that talent shows might actually bring them a career instead of making them a figure for destruction by the popular press.

Every Saturday, nestled against the spangled ITV has-beens on ice, the BBC have been ‘creating stars’ and ‘discovering talent’ whilst providing the serial musical-rapist as much free publicity for his particular brand of cereal-advert-jingle stage nonsense as he can swallow.

Accompanied by the increasingly desperate Lulu and judge-of-such-questionable-pedigree-that-he-makes-Amanda-Holden-seem-over-qualified, Duncan James, they’ve been slowly picking off the dreams of desperate children with the effectiveness of a sniper perched atop a university tower.

Saturday gone was the live final in which the three identikit panto cast-offs (actually four, as the show featured a set of twins) were whittled down to one nondescript winner and Lloyd Webber unveiled his masterpiece of a song, written especially to be an all conquering Eurovision classic. Norton buzzed with pretend excitement, plastering on an expression of delight that even the hardiest of twee pop fans couldn’t mistake as being botox induced – Christ, he looks terrible these days.

After much sub-X-Factor posturing and editing techniques stolen wholesale from that terrible Peter Kay pastiche thing that even less people watched, we were forced to endure not one version of Lloyd Webber’s single but three – three – as each Rorschached performing arts failure murdered their way through it, all preceding to proclaim it a masterpiece that spoke directly to them.

Even within the frame of Eurovision this is a terrible song – fuck it, even within the frame of Lloyd-Webbers-music-being-so-fucking-terrible-that-if-all-theatres-carrying-his-work-were-firebombed-simultaneously-we-would-lose-nothing-from-our-culture it is still the worst thing he has ever written. And we had to sit through it three times, three fucking times as the horse-kicked nostrils of that musical theatre shitheel sat lording over us with the arrogant self pomposity to assume the gifting of the population his talent…

What is truly remarkable is that the inclusion of Lloyd Webber makes Eurovision even more intolerable. Before it was a shameful and embarrassing stain on a culture that has given the world Bucks Fizz, now it is a mutant afterbirth of disgrace as the man responsible for some of the greatest musical crimes of all time drags it further and further down until the only option is to nuke the site from space and hope we wipe every trace of it from the Earth.

Your country needs you? To do what, exactly? Continue the trend for fuck-awful music? To keep employing a self-hating host who wallows in outdated stereotypes and childish cock obsessions? To further plump the ego of one of the most hateful and untalented songwriters in history? Or to pad out the schedules of a broadcaster who looks increasingly like a shoeless hobo dancing for pennies?

Quantum of Solace

December 4, 2008

Youtube clip nicked off Joe Cornish of Adam & Joe

The beginning of the new blonde Bond movie is dead exciting. People fall through roofs, Daniel Craig survives slow-mo explosions, a hot lady cracks a safe, planes crash, buildings explode, Judi Dench calls him a renegade – it’s a non-stop medley of action and drama and it is relentless!

Then the adverts end and Odeon have their inexplicable three minute lights up moment.

We’ve been in the cinema 20 minutes, the trailers haven’t even started and already we’ve seen the best bits of the film and heard the theme song numerous times. Make up. Drinks. Phones. Laptops. Televisions. This isn’t a movie, it’s an orgy of advertising – a quantum of synergy slowly destabilising the image of action heroes and brand association across the world.  “They have people everywhere.”

Movie begins; car crashes, rooftop chases and hundreds of extras all feature in a ballet of action – shot (as is the current trend) as if the camera were handled by five year old child with ADD. It seems insulting, employing all those stuntmen to perform daring acts of doing and then hiding them behind camera movements that look like they’re covering up budget defects, but I suppose that’s the style these days.

The plot revolves around an evil SPECTREesque alliance of bad guys called QUANTUM – which makes the title null and void since we were all told it refers to Bond trying to find moments of peace following the death of Eva Green in the last film. In fact, they actually forget about most things pretty early on with the potentially interesting idea of a faction of uber-villains operating without governmental knowledge being abandoned and instead focus on a very boring and sneery Frenchman who’s buying up land for some utterly pointless movie reason.

Remember when Casino Royale came out and a brave new beginning was announced? Daniel Craig was taking the character in a whole new direction and things were going to change, they said. Well that time was over pretty quickly – Quantum of Solace is a blueprint Bond film with all the trademark exploding buildings, casual fucking and overcomplicated plotting, except this time (because he’s, like, y’know, updated and everything) he feels guilty about most of it – which kind of steals all the fun out of the movie.

Pierce Brosnan’s reign of terror may be over and for that I’m thankful, but the producers are clearly terrified of abandoning the forumula that did them so well so they’ve made the same movie as always, except with some solemn faces and kudos casting. I give it one more film before they reintroduce Q as played by Ray Winstone and he’s flying around in invisible cars once again.

It’s a shame, because Casino Royale is a genuinely good film and it deserved a sequel that did it justice. All we have instead is a substandard Bond movie with all the crap nobody missed last time around put back in so it can be distinguished from the Bourne films. You get the feeling that they wrote the film around the product placements and required quota of action, employed a respected director with an indie-standing and then refused to let him do anything interesting lest the Bond brand be tarnished by deviation.

The opening says it all – a tough movie punching for realism while naked ladies dance in silhouette around Coke cans. Or was that the adverts again?

The X Factor – Quarter Final

December 3, 2008

And so the longest advert in history trundles on, destroying all that might dare to threaten the global dominance of Cowell et al. The contest itself is an irrelevance, a deus ex machina of neccessity in place to guarantee the further financial obliteration of all rivals and to homogenise the music industry so that it can be controlled by one man and his Blackberry.

There was a time when asset-stripping was a tactic reserved exclusively for the hardnosed Gordon Gecko’s of the world, but Cowell has admirably stepped into those shoes – cherry-picking the elements of art, music and culture that will make him the most profit and willingly discarding all that is extraneous and unnecessary. Even the songs the contestants perform are fractured into two thirds of their original length, just in case the audience become bored or there’s not enough space left for tie-in adverts, painfully repetitive VT autocues and phone number announcing.

It’s hard to blame the contestants here. Each have genuine talent and see the show as an opportunity to become recording stars. They naively believe they’ll be the ones to defy the curse of Cowell-meddling that will see them reduced to bargain bins and further reality show humiliation over the next few years.

It’s sad to think that, not only does that man resculpt the still growing identities of a number of teenagers to further his swelling bank account, he also does it under the guise of concern and consideration. He’s an evil soul – not the pantomime villain he plays – but the face of corporate greed, pummelling and psychologically bullying all in favour of a third house in Barbados.

The X-Factor didn’t used to get to me too much in the years past – it was always an ignorable piece of fluff that didn’t matter much. I’d watch the auditions for a laugh and then abandon the show as the remaining contestants were whittled down to the least offensive, most bland nadir and then roll my eyes at the woeful Christmas release that inevitably followed.

This year I’ve stayed with it all the way through – mostly at the bequest of my lady – and I’ve found my eyes opened to the summit of evil that the show really is.

The music industry is, by and large, a hugely corrupt and morally bankrupt industry. The X-Factor manages to represent that far better than any sharply-worded critique or snappily dressed indie anthem ever could. From the fawning faux-praise of the grown up Martin Prince that is Louis Walsh, to the bought-and-paid-for ‘controversies’ in the newspapers, this is not a television programme – it’s a vertically integrated business model that’s found a legally allowable method of advertising during the period in which networks are meant to be broadcasting content.

This week was Britney week. The overproduced pop princess decided to bestow a rare UK miming event upon us and so, as a result, we were forced to watch a clinically depressed redneck being forced to pretend to sing her latest vocoder-featuring single while a bunch of semi-talented amateurs all murder her previous hits by occasionally alternating the intonation on a couple of words.

Actually, scratch that, it wasn’t Britney week – it was Disney Cross-Platform UK Tween-Push week as the show also featured, inexplicably, an appearance by Kevin Federline fuckee-in-waiting Miley Cyrus and a ‘spirited’ performance of a High School Musical number by the shows resident dashboard-nodding grandson fantasy, Eoghan Quigg.

And yes, Britney – poor, poor Britney. If ever there was a warning shot across the brow of the contestants it’s Britney. Brought in to stumble across the floor, forget which lyrics to lip-synch to and to display no knowledge of what show she was on – she was a walking / talking advert for the destructive nature of fame. Still the contestants blithely waffled on about how fame and money were their dreams. It was like watching smackheads looking at an ODd corpse and not being able to make the connection.

Dead-eyed Britney was the low point of a show that has plumbed the depths more times than I can count. I wouldn’t object so much if it acknowledged its fakery, but it insists on ploughing ahead, repeating the lies enough times to be heard as truths – it’s about the artists, it’s about music, it’s about making people’s dreams come true.

It’s none of these. It’s about making money – huge, unimaginable piles of money – and may God have mercy upon whatever singers, songs, impressionable children and cultural legacies get in its way.

Iceland Christmas Advert 2008

December 2, 2008

We live in a world where atrocities occur each and every day. Whether that be the systematic rape and imprisonment of children, the genocide of entire races of people or the false imprisonment and torture of ethnic minorities, few can deny that the world can be an ugly and brutal place.

Despite knowing of the depths of man’s inhumanity to man, despite being aware of the full capacity of evil that exists within human beings it’s still hard to imagine anything – anything – worse than the prospect of having to watch the Iceland Christmas advert again.

When the final city falls, the last creature dies and we are visited by alien beings eager to learn the tragic circumstances of our downfall (much like the ending to Steven Spielbergs A.I., in fact) they will look upon this moment and realise that everything can be attributed to the release and distribution of this advert.

As the souls of the damned burn in eternal hellfire they will be forced to watch this medley of frozen foods, Christmas carols and ITV stalwarts in ear piercing 3D futuroscope. On an endless loop, it will pierce their retinas and they will begin their unanswered cries for mercy, knowing that only an appearance by Christopher Biggins could deepen their pain.

It’s a distant and terrifying world for me; the world where frozen pepperoni kebabs hawked by fake-tittied junkies, self-hating right-wingers and formally famous pop stars can be considered appealing. These are the dregs of the celebrity world; end of the pier daytime TVers more famous for their lives than their talents – yet somehow their endorsements are seen as encouragable.

The planet may be bleeding terror and dying from environmental collapse, the soul of humanity may well be killing itself and bringing destruction upon itself and the capitalistic system may be bringing us to the edge of a societal implosion but real evil – deep true evil, the kind Buffy used to battle – is reserved for inside the cathode rayed nipple in the corner of the room, the glowing box which bears the names Katona, Nolan and Donovan.

Fear them, for they will destroy us all.

Miss Naked Beauty

November 3, 2008

I’ve written a few times before about the short shrift and unfair attitude towards women on television today. I don’t mean the blatant tits and arse variety, nor even the stereotyping in advertising – I mean the rampant anti-feminism, the hidden objectification, the cultish health programming and obsession with body image.

It was because of all this that Gok Wan was a refreshing face when How to Look Good Naked cropped up on Channel 4 in 2006. For those of you who watch the fashionista shows, and for those of us who watch them because our girlfriends watch them, he was a welcome diversion from the pointed surgery endorsing of Nicky Hambleton-Jones and fraudulent credentials of the shit-nailing Gillian McKeith.

Gok tried to convey a very simple point; that self esteem was the key to looking and feeling good and with a few fashion tips and confidence-boosting exercises anyone could learn to have style. Yes it was wrapped up in lots of fast cuts and faster talk, but when you saw how he was able to transform a mastectomy patient who despised the body that had ‘betrayed her’ or a sobbing forty-year-old who could only look in the mirror and repeat ‘this isn’t how I’m meant to look’, few could deny he had the right message.

It’s a shame that since How to Look Good Naked, though, he’s returned with a succession of bad concepts that seem to imply he’s forgotten the empowering nature of his style is what makes him appealing and instead regressed back into a promoter of all he previously stood against. We’ll ignore Gok’s Fashion Fix because that’s the shit cousin that nobody talks about and instead move onto Miss Naked Beauty, which is currently showing on Channel 4.

It’s a nice idea – find a collection of body-conscious, ‘real’ women and whittle them down until you have a spokesperson for the movement who embodies all that is beautiful and natural about the female sex.

They come in all shapes and sizers – the bum haters, the small-boob apologists, the post-surgeried, the child-sized, the vein-leggers (and one who thinks the curve at the bottom of her spine is ugly, but no-one really knows what she’s talking about). All of them naturally attractive, and most misled about their faults.

Unfortunately they’ve shoe-horned in a needless teams-and-judges element to choose a winner which means that, in-keeping with the current trend for ‘honesty television’, the women go through 50 minutes of self-empowering life lessons only to be ridiculed and insulted by a panel of celebrites for the last 10 – and go home feeling worse than they did before.

The episode last Tuesday started with a task where the women stripped off and had photos taken of their most despised body parts and ended with James Brown of Loaded fame telling two that they were smug, fake and fundamentally unlikable. You know what? If I was a 36 year old cancer survivor who’d had a breast reduction and a hysterectomy and still had the gumption to stand there topless on television, I’d be pretty fucking smug too, you judgemental, teat-suckling wanker.

By the end of the show, very little had been achieved. The women had been built up and knocked down, two had been sent home crying and Debenhams had agreed to put one mannequin in their window as part of a highly patronising and quite clearly nominal war on the highstreet.

The valuable point about self-emancipation that Gok had previously fought for had been streamlined into a pecking order. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to be normal and happy but be aware that you could be better at being normal and happy.

So basically Gok Wan used to be really good, then he went and made a show which stole the concept and the brutality from the Apprentice and applied it to vunerable women instead of thick-skinned businessfolk. Where he used to be a charming and trustworthy host, he is now another beauty-myth peddling pundit claiming self empowering tactics and being as inadvertently offensive as those he once set out to destroy.

Basically, he’s turning into Ben Elton.

Hancock

October 27, 2008

HIDDEN SPOILER AT THE END

You can say a lot of things about illegal downloads; that they constitute theft, that they ruin the entertainment industries, that they weaken the cultural effect of movies and music – but one criticism that can’t be levelled at them is that they don’t half save you from paying good money to watch utter shit.

If I’d paid £7 to watch Hancock at the cinema, for example, or handed over £4 to rent the DVD and subsequently watched this tower of crap, I would have been angry and upset. As it stands, with a bittorrent at my fingertips, I was left with no resentment towards the filmmakers or cinema – just a sense of guilt and regret and a new found resolution to not give my time up so willingly in the future.

Will Smith is Hancock, an alcoholic superhero who is more of a hazard than a help. Flying drunkenly around the city he destroys pretty much everything he comes into contact with and costing the city millions of dollars in damages. So far so good.

He saves the life of charity PR man Jason Bateman who then sets about restoring his image and making him a better superhero. Also so far so good. He goes to jail voluntarily and returns as a reformed man, and begins to do battle with uber-villain Eddie Marsan. Equally so far so good.

That’s half the movie and it’s pretty good – not great, but pretty good; Will Smith isn’t exactly a bastard but he’s kind of fun, the story is pretty interesting and there’s some good jokes and action to keep you involved. Jason Bateman doesn’t come close to the highs of Arrested Development, but as anyone who’s a fan of that show will know that just having him onscreen is a pleasure.

At this point you’re enjoying the movie and all is well. Then they do something*; something that some people may call a ‘daring plot twist’ and others may refer to as a ‘brave story development’ but that I will simply describe as a ‘rubbish and stupid contrivance that utterly ruins the movie’.

Suddenly everything changes; characters are forgotten, storylines abandoned, the rules of the world alter and you find all your interest and curiosity dropped instantly. The film becomes about something else and changes tone, almost as if Bryan Singer were replaced by Brett Ratner half way through shooting. It becomes really boring.

Much like with Will Smith’s last rubbish movie – I Am Legend – everything starts out well and then turns shockingly bad. Does he no longer read scripts all the way through, or is it a deal with the studio where the first part can be all moody and slow as long as the second can be loud and stupid?

What makes this film so bad is not that the two halves are that terrible – they’re not – it’s that together they count each other out. That you enjoyed the first half is forgotten by the end of the second, so annoyed you are at the instant switch that occurs. All the goodwill and fine work thus far is obliterated by the silly story.

And so it ends. By this point I was playing with the cat and my lady was doing the washing up. I have no idea what the point was, just that I know I’ll never get that time back – but thank god I didn’t pay for it.

HIDDEN PLOT-SPOILER NOW

*Want to know what happens that makes it all stupid? Highlight the text below.

It turns out that Hancock has amnesia and forgot that Jason Batemans wife is actually his wife who is also a superhero and his greatest weakness because they are actually 3,000 year old gods who were built as a pair but lose their powers when they’re together and they have to team up quickly to fight Eddie Marsan who has inexplicably learned all of this whilst in prison and is trying to kill people in a hospital he is killed and they must part to keep their powers and so Hancock flies to the moon to print Jason Batemans charity logo on it and thus save the world through the power of branding.

The Wave (Die Welle)

October 21, 2008

It must be difficult being German sometimes; moving on from the atrocities that dominated much of your country’s history in the last century whilst being respectful enough never to forget the lessons that were learnt. How many generations must offer remuneration before it feels like an inherited debt? How many populations must profess guilt before resenting the act? How many children must apologise for the sins of the fatherland before living memory passes on?

It’s an interesting subject, and one that cinematically Germany has only recently begun to address. The Edukators, Goodbye Lenin, The Lives of Others and Downfall are just four of the films that look at the behaviour and fallout of Germany’s turbulent political actions in the 20th Century, told from the perspective of a nation coming to terms with its fascistic heritage.

The Wave is another of those films and looks at how, only three generations later, the nations youth are already desensitised to the atrocities of the second world war and the political misdirections of the post war years. ‘The Nazis sucked’ states one bling-clad student before he is swiftly indoctrinated by a class autocracy project gone wrong – ‘we get it’.

The Teacher is one of those hip teachers that only exist in movies; a Ramones loving punk, a leather-sporting smoker whose anarchic spirit never left him – despite a career of enthusing bored teenagers with politics. Teaching an autocracy project and shocked at the disinterest of the students, he creates a class gang called ‘The Wave’ and begins to demonstrate how easily tribal allegiances can be formed and how quickly fascistic characteristics can form.

He’s a fantastic teacher, because within two days he already has his autonomous gang of Droogs wearing identical uniforms, making MySpace pages with gang logos and terrorizing the town with a campaign of graffiti and aggressive hood wearing. Despite several prior scenes where the students quite aptly discussed the societal requirements of a rise to the right – financial upheaval, low unemployment, influx of immigrants etc – they abandon all intellectual interpretation of what is happening and instead embrace their new found mass because, like, it means they don’t get picked on at school, n’stuff

Before you can say “Disturbing Behaviour was just a rip off of The Stepford Wives” the Wave starts swelling in ranks, starts buying guns off the internet, starts picking fights with hilariously-dressed anarchists and starts organising support for the water polo team. By the third day the whole Breakfast Club has been swallowed – the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal – all revelling in the positive effects of mass uniformity.

Had the film tried to be more of a parable, staying within the confines of the school, it could have been much more interesting. Had it used the natural hierarchy of high school as a metaphor for society, or been more of a satire, it could have worked better.

As it stands it plays more like a horror film, where fascism lurks in the shadows, ready to pounce on any slightly disenfranchised teenager who feels the warmth of acceptance. It feels like the inverse of Red Dawn, where uniformity parachutes into the classrooms of a resting nation.

At the end, the teacher reveals that it was just a lesson, an example of how easily people can be lead towards fascism. Of course by now it’s now too late, the Wave are an autonomous mass of upheaval, calling for a conquering Germany and stringing up those who oppose them. A class project lasting six days has united a school and turned mallrats into an army… the audience gasp… the lesson has backfired… fascism has occurred again… the horror… the horror…

It’s a profoundly silly film – well-meaning and with some good ideas but ruined by a ridiculous timeframe and an over-simplified idea. What was initially an interesting debate soon turned into a version of the Blob, where the children fight a quite literal political enemy and not just a metaphoric political enemy that looks like a giant blob from outer space.

There’s still room out there for a really good movie about how the new generation of German youth view their country’s history, but this isn’t it. This is a quite entertaining, but accidentally funny horror film with good intentions, but very little self-awareness.