A live set from Black Lantern co-founder and party-rocker MORPHAMISH!
“This was recorded at our massively fun club ETC,” says Morphamish. The fast-becoming-legendary Edinburgh Tekno Cartel know how to throw a party: “Every month has a different theme for dressing up and decor. September’s was Away With The Fairies. This live set is a fair dose of nasty hard techno/breaks/hardcore with a sprinkling of fairy/mushroom banter created specifically for the night. The music at ETC always varies, starting a bit mellower and usually going to a harder place. This gives you an idea of the intensity of a 1-2 set, and how I like to tailor a bit of theme specific stuff for each time.
I love that the stylus on the decks picked up the crowd sound at the end of the set! Happy sweaty times.”
Happy New Year everyone! This is the second in a series of articles looking back on 2011’s highlights across TV, Film and other media. Part one can be found here.
The Story Of Film: An Odyssey
In 2011 Mark Cousins undertook one of the most ambitious documentary projects I have ever seen. Writing, directing, photographing and narrating this fifteen hour documentary series (based on his own book) is the culmination of a career as a film critic. The series takes us from the earliest days of cinema right through to the modern digital age looking through a global lens that is interested in more than just the bright lights of Hollywood. The level of control that Cousins exercises here mean that this work is truly personal and at times I had to say I was not in total agreement with him. Like a lot of critics he does have a tendency to demonize Hollywood in favour of more esoteric tastes. His views on Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy are particularly disparaging which is a shame as, to me, they are the perfect mixture between epic cinematic spectacle and well characterized emotional storytelling. However, the level of access that Cousins was given, to archive material and also to filmmakers and actors, mean that this is a fascinating and highly illuminating program. Definitely one for the film buffs and if a program can engage you enough to argue with the TV it is definitely worth a watch.
2007’s Portal was a real surprise hit for developer Valve Corporation. Supplied as a free add on to its Orange box compilation the games mixture of first person shooter and puzzle game was a massive hit. When they announced a sequel it sent shivers down the collective spines of the gaming community. The original game was short, dark and funny with a focus on game play rather than storytelling. Most of the story elements were subtle and hard to spot but keen players soon realized that this game was linked to Valve’s Half Life series. The sequel is a much larger affair and really extends all the elements of Portal into a really unique game. In the single player campaign we resume the role of Chell: the protagonist from the first portal game. She awakes to find herself in Aperture Science’s laboratories: a place where science has run amok for countless years. Once again the insane AI GlaDOS is forcing the player through an increasingly difficult series of “Test chambers”. These puzzle rooms can only be exited through the use of the games single weapon: a gun that fires portals. One mouse button fires one end of a portal and the second mouse button fires the other end. Add to this some demented gun turrets, goo that makes the ground bouncy, portable companion cubes and an astounding bit of voice acting from Stephen Merchant and you have a game that is destined to become a classic. But that’s only one half of the story, because Valve also included an online multiplier co-op mode (accessed through their Steam distribution service) which was entirely new 2 player experience with its own test chambers and distinct storyline. Although this was one of the most anticipated games of 2011 it failed to disappoint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
I’ve already written about this here, but this really was one of the standout films of the year to me. It was the culmination of ten years worth of cinematic storytelling and it was just wonderful to see a final swansong from such an excellent ensemble cast. I mean really, what are all the character actors in Britain going to do now? The action sequences in this were unparallelled, with battle sequences rivaling the best of Lord of The Rings. This was also some of the most inventive and interesting uses of 3D that I have seen where depth and perspective were used to give you a bit more than just screen pop. The dragon riding sequence is immense! This is well worth a watch if you’ve not yet seen it. Doing parts one and two as a double bill comes highly recommended.
The film to have the best collection of awesome sounding names this year was Cary Joji Fukanaga’s Jane Eyre. The classic novel was adapted by Moira Buffini and it starred Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. This is a breathtakingly beautiful and deeply moving film. The the pace of the movie is slow, giving room for long lingering shots of the landscape. It almost feels as if the rugged moors are a character in the story. Fassbender’s portrayal of Edward Fairfax Rochester is stern and imposing. Wasikowska’s Jane pulses with a quiet anger, pinned in by northern dignity. There are some wonderful supporting performances from Judi Dench and Jamie Ball. I think one of the interesting things about the approach that the filmmakers have taken here is that they have played up the books more Gothic tones. Parts of the story are truly chilling and mysterious. I think this is an adaptation that will stand the test of time. Not because it is particularly revisionist, nor even because it is particularly faithful to the original bur because it is just a hell of a good movie. Assured direction, a tight script and performances from actors who are really at the top of their game at the moment really made this stand out from other period dramas (a genre that I generally have little or no patience for)
As we reach the close of this year I felt it might be an idea to drag myself away from the 90s to reflect on how 2011 has been. This is the first in a seriese of pieces where I shall list some events, movies and TV programs that have really stood out for me this yeart. Although I’ve not seen everything this year (really, who sees EVERYTHING?), these things that have helped to define my 2011.
This was the first film I went to see in the cinema this year and it was a real treat. A dark, harrowing and uncompromising treat but a treat nonetheless. Darren Aronofsky’s 5th film centers on a tense rivalry between two ballerinas (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) performing in Swan Lake. Aronofsky has stated that this film is a companion piece to his 2008 film The Wrestler as both are about physical artists who go to obsessive lengths to perfect their arts. While I agree with this it is also good to see Aronofsky go back to the more expressionistic type of film making that he made his name with. There a sequences here that are pure Cronenberg-esque body horror which juxtaposes wonderfully with the achingly beautiful dance sequences.
Game of Thrones
Once again HBO prove that they are putting on some of the finest television in the world. Just as we are reeling from Boardwalk Empire they hit us with this. A fantasy epic based on George RR Martin’s bestselling A Song Of Ice and Fire series. Normally when I think of TV fantasy I think of Xena: Warrior Princess or other poorly realised drivel. This was not to be the case with Thrones. The cast is pitch perfect with standout performances from Sean Bean, Michelle Fairley, Aiden Gillen, Kate Dickie and Emilia Clarke. To me though the real star of the show is Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion, the quick witted dwarf. Wits and intrigue are at the heart of this series which in some ways is closer to political thriller than fantasy. A real slow burner with some nice surprises, I’m waiting with baited breath for series 2.
The Doctors Wife
Without a doubt this is the single best 45 minutes of 2011. Steven Moffat’s run at Doctor Who has been a phenomenal success but when it was announced that one of this years episodes would be penned by Neil Gaimen I (and many other fans) went bananas! Neil Gaiman! Sandman! Neverwhere! Stardust! American Gods! I think he is the greatest storyteller we have seen for generations, to have him writing an episode of my favorite show was a dream come true. I was not disappointed. The story sees the TARDIS personified, it’s mind and soul put into a human body called Idris. While some excellent romance plays out between Idris and the Doctor we are treated to some of the best scares we have seen on the show since the glorious Hinchliffe/Holmes run at the beginning of Tom Baker’s tenure. Amy and Rory are are lost in the bowels of the TARDIS. The machine has been possessed by a malevolent enemy of the time lords who plays a game of temporal cat and mouse with the Ponds. The whole episode is packed with hints and references to different pints from Doctor Who’s long history. Fun as these references are they are handled in a way that does not interfere with the main thrust of the plot. Quite simply this is a love story to Doctor Who written by one of the finest writers the UK has ever produced.
Chris Cunningham Live
Chris Cunningham is the director of some of the most insane and gripping music videos ever made. He directed the infamous Aphex Twin videos Come To Daddy and Windowlicker (NSFW!) as well as countless videos for other Warp Recods artists and a wide range of musicians including Bjork and Madonna. He is a consummate video artist creating twisted cyborg images from nightmare worlds that strobe and twist with the beats in the music. October the last year or so he has been honing a multimedia live show and I was excited to go to London’s Roundhouse to check it out. A rooftop barbeque and excellent support performances from 16 Bit and Factory floor helped build the buzz. Cunningham’s show was dark, cerebral and full of black humor. His own compositions as well as work from numerous collaborators (Gil Scott Heron, Aphex Twin, Grace Jones and many more) assault you from every possible angle. Dark ambient tones, throbbing subbass and beats that stuttered between IDM and heavy breakcore. Video clips of sex, violence, gore and machinery play out over three massive screens. The man himself is impassive, a long haired silhouette behind racks of machinery. Film is chopped up and spun backwards to match the inside out beats. Footage of the venues own lighting rig is used to confuse the boundary between the audience and the screen. To draw us further into Chris’s exciting nightmare. I left exhilarated, my ears buzzing and my mind working overload to assimilate what I had just seen. It was something pretty special anyway.
Stuck in the Nineties Part II: When Dance Music Ruled the World.
This is the second piece I’ve posted regarding my ongoing love affair with the 90s, the decade I wont let die. In the 1990s the charts were dominated by dance music and DJ’s became household names. Now the best parts of dance music have slunk back to the underground while the worst have been incorporated into mainstream pop music. This article and Spotify playlist takes you through the ten albums that best exemplify a time WHEN DANCE MUSIC RULED THE WORLD!
The Prodigy “Experience”
The Prodigy had three massively influential, hugely successful albums over the 90s so I was hard pressed to pick just one for this list. I’ve gone with their debut album, Experience from 1992. This is an album that really encapsulated what was going on in the UK at the time. Dance music and rave culture were starting to break through from the underground and gain far reaching appeal. Bright stabby synths and a an alarmingly cheerful attitude are underpinned by some really inventive songwriting created a timeless classic that was to set the tone for dance music’s dominance of the nineties.
Orbital In Sides
Four years later and Orbital release In Sides. A top 5 album with a tie in song to one of the years biggest movies. But also a progressive concept album with songs reaching 13 minutes in length. This was Orbital’s fourth album. They had been releasing a steady stream of music since 1989, their lush orchestral constructions winning over a broader Sunday paper reading audience. The four movement piece The Box is at the center of the concept of In Sides. It is a deeply claustrophobic piece that seethes with premillenial tension.
Underworld Beaucoup Fish
Born Slippy .NUXX Arguably one of the defining dance music singles of all time, certainly one of the biggest of the nineties this was a b-side. In 1999 Underworld played that song to close a headlining set on Glastonbury’s main stage. As the 90s drew to a close dance music had won over the British public and Underworld were riding the crest of this wave. Beaucoup Fish is an assured and confident album. Karl Hyde’s other worldy storytelling over hypnotic, aggressive house rhythms. Lead single, Push Upstairs, was an instant classic.
Although they only released 2 albums london duo Leftfeild’s influence upon the nineties was immense. Their 1995 debut album Leftisim fused house and dub in deep and powerful ways that had never been seen before in the mainstream. This is all underpinned with a big, well produced sound. Collaberations with vocalists like John Lydon helped bring this album to an older more rock orientated audience and saw the album peak at number 5 in the UK charts. The duo took a sound system approach to live shows and their massive sound saw them barred from playing at Brixton Academy after plaster started falling out of the ceiling.
The Chemical Brothers- Dig Your Own Hole
Another duo who pleased the mainstream with cannily chosen collaborations were the Chemical Brothers. They broke onto the scene in 1992 with DJ sets and live shows fused hip hob, funk, techno and psychedelia in a style that would become known as big beat. By 1997 the duo’s ascendancy was unstoppable. The album was preceded by two number 1 singles: the hard edged psychedelic Setting Sun which featured Noel Gallagher and Block Rocking Beats which won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance even though the song is neither rock or instrumental. Although hailed as a big beat album to me the stand out track is It Doesn’t Matter, a rabid techno beast that was a smash on the underground in the summer of 96 when it was released as the white label Electronic Battle Weapon No. 1
Daft Punk – Homework
1997 might have been the greatest year of the greatest decade for dance music. As well as Dig Your Own Hole 97 also saw the release of The Prodigy’s Fat Of The Land and Homework, the first album by French house masters Daft Punk. The pair had been releasing singles since 1995 and had received support from The Chemical Brothers and Glasgow’s Soma Quality Recordings. In January 1997 their debut was released to critical and commercial success. Heavy house grooves filled with nods to disco and funk it spawned the massive hit, Around the World as well as tearing up the dance floor with tracks like Rolling and Scratching and Alive. Dance music, house in particular, was now dominating popular culture.
Laurent Garnier- 30
Laurent Garnier had been playing house music since the late eighties and held a residency at the legendary Ministry of Sound in the mid 90s. In 1997 (there’s that year again!) he released his second album, the introspectively themed 30. 30 spawned one of the years biggest dance hits, Crispy Bacon. Garnier’s label F-Communications would go on to release a string of hits in the french house/electro style by artists like Mr Oizo and The Youngsters
Fatboy Slim- On The Floor at the Boutique
Ministry of Sound’s nightclub and many compilation brands such as The Annual and Clubbers Guide helped to promote DJ culture, particularly the concept of a Superstar DJ. No one encapsulated the idea of a Superstar DJ more than Norman Cook. Cook had enjoyed success as the bass player for the House Martens and as part of Beats International but it was when he started DJing and producing under his Fatboy Slim alias that he became a household name. The mix album On The Floor At The Boutique captures the bouncy madcap feel of the big beat scene jumping through hip hop, funk and breakbeat music. It was recorded at Brighton’s Big Beat Boutique in 1997 (I didn’t check the years of these before writing this, I swear!)
Reprazent - Newforms
The 1997 Mercury Music Prize was won by New Forms an album that is a million miles away from Fatboy Slim’s tongue in cheek style. Roni Size recruited the cream of the emergent Drum and Bass scene to form Reprazent a band that took a serious jazz influenced approach to making their music. Their live show included live drummers and singers and was a massive hit a festivals that year. As the nineties wore on dance had diversified into many different genres: house, techno, big beat and new drum and bass. Drum and bass/jungle had its roots in the rave/hardcore scene of the early nineties but was now gaining respectability in the eyes of the UK public. It would go on to dominate the 2000s
Future Sound Of London – Lifeforms
Dance music had a second face in the 90s through chill out and backroom music. Ambient soundscapes for a Sunday morning crafted by artists like Nightmares On Wax, The Orb and The KLF. In 1994 Future Sound Of London released their second album, Lifeforms, a top ten album which epitomized the avaunt guard attitude of ambient producers. Standout tracks included title track Lifeforms and the exquisitely haunting Cascades. Although the album is a hallmark of the ambient genre FSOL went on to release more big beat and techno orientated sounds while keeping themselves firmly left of field.
I was a writer on a little horror flick called Outcast. We’re up for a BAFTA: Cineworld’s Audience Award for Best Scottish Film. Outcast will be showing at Cineworld cinemas in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen on monday night. A good chance to see it if you missed it. If you like it you can vote for us here:
The 90s were cool in a way that I really didn’t notice at the time. I was too busy being a grumpy teenager to open my eyes to the cultural awesomeness that was surrounding me. Now I’m older and most things seem to have gone downhill, movies, videogames and music. Especially balls out angry rock music. This is a list, in no particular order, of my top ten teen rage albums. They all come out in the nineties but I have to admit I didn’t discover some of them until more recently. They are all albums that I still like to pump out at full blast when I’m feeling pissed off at the world, myself, or nothing in particular. To paraphrase Zack de la Rocha “Fuck you I wont tidy my bedroom!”
White Zombie- Astro Creep 2000 Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head
It’s about as pompous as album titles can get but with this album White Zombie got their self styled “white-trash-on-acid metal” sound perfect. This album is amazingly heavy and a whole lot of fun. Songs like More Human than Human and Super Charger Heaven are beer chugging mindless rage at its best. This is by far the best White Zombie album and unfortunately it was their last. I don’t think any of Rob Zombie’s solo work has come close to this in terms of intensity, accessibility or just deranged, hedonistic glee.
Sheffield band Pitchshifter had enjoyed a lot of success on the UK industrial scene since the late eighties but in 1998 they brought out their seminal junglepunk album. Www. Seethes with punk rock anger but had a sound that was incredibly forward thinking for the time with processed break beats, weird synths and heavy as fuck guitar. JS Claydon’s lyrics are smart and observational while still having a massive sing-along appeal. The album even featured a number of royalty free samples as part of the emerging copyleft movement.
This is a monumental album from stoner rock innovators tool. At times it is bleak, at times it is funny but above all it is a journey from the opening high pitched tones of Stinkfist to the 13 minute tripped out epic that is 3rd Eye. This is an album that demands attention. It pushed Tool to the forefront of the alternative metal movement and showed us that metal could be ferociously angry but also remain eloquent and erudite. This album has everything going on including a recipe for space cakes, in German.
Nine Inch Nails- The Downward Spiral
This is one of the greatest albums ever made. A harrowing concept album that follows a central protagonist as he strips away more and more of himself, slipping further down a self destructive spiral. The album reflected songwriter Trent Reznor’s own spiral into drug abuse in a way that should have been self indulgent tripe but the talent that Reznor assembled for this and the sheer ferocity with which the concepts are pursued elevates this album into something truly special. Crushingly heavy drums, overdriven and discordant guitars throbbing synth bass tones all come together into a cacophony of noise and hatred.
Marilyn Manson- Antichrist Superstar
This is a spiritual sister album to The Downward Spiral. Both are industrial/rock concept albums produced by Trent Reznor. Whereas the Spiral is a serious and introspective album Antichrist is an overblown, pantomime shock rock opera. The opening song, Irresponsible Hate Anthem sets the tone of the piece. Despite its silliness though this album takes itself deadly seriously with the artwork, structure and hidden tracks all adding to the central concept of the boy metamorphosing into the beast. Full of rage, scars and bursts of industrial noise, this is the album that made America scared of Manson, before he became a pop rock caricature of himself
Northern Irish rockers Therapy? Got everything right with this, their third album. Troublegum moved the band into more metal territory, moving away from the grungier sound that had led to comparisons between them and Nirvana. This is the perfect soundtrack to British teenage rage with standout tracks like Screamager and the fantastic cover of Joy Division’s Isolation. They’ve had eleven albums since Troublegum and to me none of them has come close (perhaps Semi Detached but come on, I’m trying to start arguments here)
Korn have got a lot to answer for. I’m no fan of Nu-Metal (I don’t think I like nu-anything to be honest) and they are now at a stage where they have had more bad albums than good. Saying that I’ve got a lot of time for their debut from the opening ARE YOU READY!! to Davis’s tears in the secret track this is an album that was about breaking the mould. The sound was raw and funky, slow nasty grooves with Jonathan Davis grunting over the top of it. Things did change, and not for the better (I’m looking at you Limp Bizkit) but this is an album I will always come back to
Ministry had been kicking about since the early eighties. Starting off as synthpop their albums became progressively more industrial based culminating in the release of this, Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs. Tooth rattling metal riffs mix with chopped up samples processed beats to make a fantastically aggressive sound. Collaborations with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and beat novelist William S Bourroughs. As if that wasn’t enough the album is chock full of Aleister Crowley references. It is pure evil.
Atari Teenage Riot- Delete Yourself!
I only became aware of these guys when 1999s 60 Second Wipeout was released. It didn’t take long though to realize that Delete Yourself! (originally released as 1995) was where its at. This is where Alec Empire’s new genre Digital Hardcore really started to take hold. Taking a DIY punk ethic and applying dance music production they created music that would piss off anyone’s parents. Dumb, young and full of rage ATR were more than the some of their parts and left a lasting legacy on the music scene.
Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine
In one of the best débuts ever RAGTM burst onto the scene with highly politicized, funk fueled rap metal. Killing In The Name of is one of the greatest teen anthems ever written with every young man and woman able to emphasise with the “Fuck you I wont do what you tell me” attitude. Tom Mollerro’s guitar playing is some of the best there is and although Led Zeppelin’s shadow looms large over this band they still carved out a sound that was entirely their own with Zack de la Rocha’s soap box politics inspiring a generation of teen metalheads. I still play this album a lot, and loud!
I’ve also made a spotify playlist to go with this post. Tool are not on spotify so instead you can listen to a beautiful piano rendition of Ænema….
On Saturday morning I attended the producer’s screening of HP8 at the Empire, Leicester Square. There was a real buzz of excitement in the cinema which was unusual for an industry screening and, unsurprisingly, Warner Brothers were very keen to keep security tight. After handing my phone in and being searched for any cameras I was allowed into the cinema. After a few words from producer, David Heyman, the movie began.
I was glad that I had refreshed myself by watching Part 1 the night before because part 2 just carries straight on. It starts with the last scene from part one and then just carries on at a breakneck speed. There is spectacle here that is unlike anything we have seen in the cinema before and the film also packs a real emotional punch (there were tears in my eyes more than once). In terms of how this film stands up against the rest of the series I would have to say it is the best. I was not really a fan of the first two and after that they have gotten steadily more adult and assured. This final installment is packed full of little moment and references that tie into all of its predecessors as well as some pretty massive revelations. The other film that it is worth comparing this to is The Return of The King. Although the last part of The Lord of The Ring’s trilogy is a very good film Potter completely outstrips it. In this film you have all of the emotional farewells and conclusions that you would respect from the end of a series but they are dynamically expressed through action rather than Return of the King’s approach of having about seven million endings. If you are a fan of JK Rowling’s wizardly series go see this If you’ve never read the books or seen any of the first seven films go see it. You’ll be confused but you’ll get to see a dragon!
So I’ve been seeing a bit more this week. It’s been a good week to be in the movies a lot with muggy rain outside all the time. As it closes I think this has been a really interesting year for the festival. It’s presented some stuff that is really new and exciting while still attracting films of a wide commercial appeal. I expect there’ll be a great crowd out for the premier of THE LION KING in 3D at the Festival theater tomorrow night. Well done EIFF 2011: roll on 2012!
FROM SILENT TO LOUD- Cinéconcerts
One of the new strands at EIFF this year is Sound Tracks which brings together film and music in new and interesting ways. One of the most lively parts of this has to be FROM SILENT TO LOUD at Institut francais d’Ecosse. Live bands from across France are performing Cinéconcerts: new and compelling soundtracks for cult movies all played live in front of the cinema screen. I saw BIKINI MACHINE perform an awesome new accompaniment to Robert Rodrigez’s DESPERADO. The interplay between the music and the film was fascinating. Often the music provided a funny counterpoint to the images on screen, at times it slipped into the background and existed only to compliment the existing soundtrack, at other times the live guitars and synths roared in the foreground with snippets of dialogue twisted through effects. The pieces that the band played were bright and funky going up to frenzied speeds during Desperado’s numerous frenetic action scenes.
Tonight I am going to see Speilberg’s debut DUEL with a soundtrack performed by OLIVIER MELLANO. I think DUEL is an excellent film it’s eery, pacing lends itself well to the Cinéconcert form. Catch it if you can, it’s sure to be a fun evening and the film is followed by a Soirée!
DUEL is showing at 6:00pm Tickets are £10 (£8).
THE BORROWER ARRIETTY
Karigurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arriety) is the new film from Japanese animation giants Studio Ghibli. It is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s classic children’s book The Borrowers. This is Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s debut film although he has worked on other Ghibli classics such as PRINCESS MONONOKE and SPIRITED AWAY. This is a beautiful film, really up there with with some of the studio’s greats. Fans of the film will not be disappointed either: it is a fairly faithfull adaptation, the main change that it makes is transposing the action from Britain in the fifties to modern day Japan. The key story remains the same though, a family little people known as Borrowers live under the floor boards. Arrietty is a fourteen year old borrower girl and goes out into the house for the first time where she is seen by Sho, a human boy who is staying in this house because he is deathly ill. So starts a beautiful and touching relationship. This is a really superb film from the only studio that can give Pixar a run for its money. Check it out.
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”—Neuromancer (1984) By William Gibson
The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2011 sees a lot of changes from previous years. There is a new artistic director, James Mullighan a change of venue to Teviot House and the streams that the 60+ films are divided into have also changed. Quoting David Hume and searching for enlightened films that capture the spirit of Edinburgh, Mullighan’s plans are grand and the films that he has helped to select have reflected this.
The Last Circus
Álex de la Iglesia’s latest film is a love triangle between two clowns and an acrobat set against the backdrop of Franco’s Spain. It is a remarkably poignant essay on love and obsession and how easily one can lead to the other. In contrast to this tone though the film is filled with images of graphic violence and snatches of the blackest gallows humor you could imagine. This film is well worth a look though not for the faint of heart!
Niall MacCormack’s coming of age tail, Albatross, is filled with moments of brilliance. At the forefront of the film are strong performances from Felicity Jones and Jessica Findlay as teen girls Beth and Emilia. Beth is the good girly, poised for university, ignored by her parents (both too involved in their own obsessions). Emilia is the wild one, out to shake up Beth’s calm and predictable world. Predictable fare I know but it plays well and there are some excellent pieces of writing in there. Definitely worth a watch.
What a treat to see this classic on the big screen! Alexander Mackendrick’s tale of Scottish islanders trying to salvage whiskey from a shipwreck is as funny today as it was in 1949 . Based the novel by Compton Mackenzie, Whiskey Galore was Mackendrick’s directorial debut and is filled with the highly visual style of storytelling that he became famous for. What was fun about this film though was the crows, Cameo 1 was filled with silver haired Scotts, older Edinburghers who remembered the film from their youth and relished a second chance to see it!
As we start our torturing Who-less gap until the Autumn I thought it might be time to reflect on the series so far. Marks out of ten please…
The Impossible Astronaut
by Steven Moffat
Wow! What an explosive start to the series. Everything about this episode was BIG. The majestic landscape of Utah, the Oval Office, scary subterranean spaceships and the Doctor getting killed! It’s classic Moffat writing- we all know that they’re going to stop this or reverse it or something but boy are we going to have fun guessing how its going to happen. The silence. What an exquisitely scary monster: turn your back on them and you forget them. Awesome. If I was to criticize this episode, and I am, it would be all the pre-title faffing about in history “the Doctor is calling out to us from time”. Felt like filler to put it bluntly. The sooner we get into Doctor killing in America the better.
Verdict 8 out of 10
Day Of The Moon
By Steven Moffat
If your going to kill the Doctor why not just kill everyone else at the same time? The start of this episode is decidedly daft- in a good way. This is a proper Saturday night romp with car chases, gun fights and awesome use of the TARDIS swimming pool. Soon however things descend into darker territory with Amy wandering around an old abandoned orphanage and the first appearance of sinister lady with an eyepatch. We really get into a lot of Moffat’s obsessions here: the nature of perception, questions of identity and morality, speaking through recordings and non linear timey-wimey stuff. The end of the episode is not a resolution- it’s a big fat pile of questions: is Amy pregnant? Who is that little girl? How can they stop the doctor from dieing? Ever the tease though, Moffat is telling us nothing. We’ll have to wait, plenty of time to have adventures first…
Verdict 9 out of 10
The Curse of Black Spot
By Stephen Thompson
Yar! Doctor Who, with pirates. Come on, it’s got to be good. It’s been good before (check out The Pirate Planet by Douglas Adams) It’s a no brainer. Unfortunately though the whole is less than the sum of its parts. There’s a lot of good stuff in this episode but just not quite enough for me. The story is nice enough but kind of pales after the intellectual gymnastics that Moffat put us through with the previous episodes. Amy learns to sword fight out of nowhere, Rory gets killed AGAIN and the monster turns out to be a misunderstood benevolent force, AGAIN. On the plus side thoug there is some excellent hat banter from the Doctor and strong performance from Hughe Bonneville. It’s not a bad episode, if it had been part of the Tennant/Davies run it would have been a standout episode but Moffat has raised the bar. The other writers are just playing catchup.
Verdict 6 out of 10
The Doctor’s Wife
By Neil Gaiman
It was a match made in heavan. Rumors have been floating about for years about Neil Gaiman writing for Doctor Who and I had been waiting, impatiantly, for this for a long time. It did not dissapoint. What Gaiman gave us was a fourty five minute love letter to all things Who and an immensly satisfying story to boot. Following a distress call from another Time Lord the Doctor lands the TARDIS on a junkyard outside the universe. He is greeted by Auntie, Uncle, Nephew and the beautiful, insane Idris. Idris knows the Doctor, better than anyone else ever has. What follows is a touching, romantic and terrifying story. It is seeped with references to the classic run of Doctor Who and even has a quarry standing in for an alien world and a lot of running down corridors. If there is a perfect episode of Doctor Who this is it.
Verdict: 10 out of 10
The Rebel Flesh
By Matthew Graham
So this is the kind of moody industrial futuristic one (like 42 or The impossible Planet/The Satan Pit). The setting is an acid mine in an old abandoned monastery, mining acid? I know, I know. Anyway this dangerous work is done by flesh avatars, vat grown clones controlled remotely by their owners. These disposable clones are called ‘gangers. Inevitably they become sentient and much zany fun ensues. A lot about this episode was predictable and was treading water in areas where Doctor who has already said a lot. The question of weather a slave race “really feels anything” or are “really people” has been repeated time and time again in Doctor Who, perhaps its time for something new. There was a really dark foreboding atmosphere to the direction and cinematography though which was nice and the cliffhanger was a treat.
Verdict: 6 out of 10
The Almost People
By Matthew Graham
Two Doctors! Now we’re getting into it. Double the Matt Smith is definitely double the pleasure! As is often the case with two parters part two had a lot more meat, more scares and definitely more interest. Now we are talking about big questions of identity. Does the perfect copy have the same rights as the original? Is it really a perfect copy? The trick the Doctor plays here was slightly predictable but very necessary and really brought these questions to the foreground. What was great about this episode was that it didn’t offer a definitive answer to the question and it really sparked a lot of debate over dinner or down at the pub. The ending though, was a real kick in the teeth (in a god way) as we discover that Amy was the flesh all the time and she disappears into a big pile of milky goo. The only thing is you could tell the exact moment that Steven Moffat took over from Matthew Graham as the action and interest were suddenly amped up by a factor of ten.
Verdict: 7 out of 10
A Good Man Goes To War
By Steven Moffat
Action! Adventure! War! This is excitement on an epic scale. It must be the season finale, except we are only halfway through. The Doctor calls in all his favors and assembles warriors from all across time and space to attack Demon’s Run, to rescue Amy and her newborn baby. I liked a lot of this: the Sontaran nurse, the steampunk Silurian- both excellent. I did think that some of it was unnecessary spectacle in place of story. Rory and the Cybermen? Well that was the publicity shot we had all seen and it was a throway scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the story. A fine piece of misdirection I’m sure, but I would have liked a little bit more plot please. The second half of this episode, though, is rammed full of story. Answers and questions that send the mind reeling forwards and backwards in time. The revelation about River Song and Melody Pond is excellent and almost worth the years we have been waiting for it. Hat’s off Mr Moffat, you are a clever chap, now LETS KILL HITLER!!
Verdict: 7 out of 10
Overall this has been the best series since Doctor Who was revived by the BBC. The second half of the series should involve more Moffat madness, a new episode from fan favorite Mark Gattiss and another episode from Being Human’s Toby Whitehouse. There’s still a chance that they might drop the ball and mess the whole thing up but for the moment they have my support- I just need to find a TARDIS so I can travel to the Autumn now please!
“Even now I curse the day, — and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse, —
Wherein I did not some notorious ill;
As kill a man, or else devise his death;
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it;
Accuse some innocent, and forswear myself;
Set deadly enmity between two friends;
Make poor men’s cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly;
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed,
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.”—Titus Andronicus (1588) by William Shakespeare
“Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion - er, no, make that: he - he romanticized it all out of proportion. - Yes. - To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. - Er, tsch, no, missed out something. - Chapter One. He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles. - No, no, corny, too corny for a man of my taste. Can we … can we try and make it more profound? - Chapter One. He adored New York City. To him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams in … - no, that’s a little bit too preachy. I mean, you know, let’s face it, I want to sell some books here. - Chapter One. He adored New York City, although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitized by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage … - Too angry. I don’t want to be angry. - Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. - I love this. - New York was his town, and it always would be …”—Manhattan (1979) by Woody Allen
I feel like its been a while guys. I’ve been pretty caught up in work stuff at the moment so I’ve not really made a lot of time for my blog. I’ve even tried to fob you off with a re-posting of an old review that I wrote for the Total Film Forum. It’s not really good enough guys, I know. I’m sorry. So what’s been keeping me busy? Writing of course.
I’ve just gotten to the end of the first pass on the feature script I’m working on with my brother. It’s not finished, far from it. This is barely draft zero. A week or two of tinkering and we should be able to show it to our producers, get a bunch of criticism and then start again. It feels like an achievement though to have written at least an attempt at every scene in the film, to have gotten to that final moment when you type FADE TO BLACK
I’ve not been a professional writer for very long but it has been my ambition for years. There’s a funny thing about ambitions- you can want to do something for years, strive towards it and then when you find yourself doing it, right in the middle of it you realize that what your doing is hard, all consuming, tiring work. I bet mountaineers feel this way too.
I don’t make the mountaineering anaogy for nothing- the script that I’ve been working on is a mountaineering horror flick and I’ve spent a lot of this year in research mode. I’ve met different people involved in mountaineering (all different, all cool), tried my hand at climbing (I suck but I quite like it), read all the books (some of the books, you can never read ALL the books), watching the films and youtube videos (there’s some amazing stuff out there). It’s been the open door part of the process.
For the last little while though, the doors have been closed, the gloves off. It was just me and my brother shutting out the world and writing this damn thing. I feel pleased, we’re getting a lot of high quality work done. I have to say though, it is intense. That first pass was just another peak to be conquored and the work fills up all of our days and nights, all of our thoughts and dreams. Books lie unread, my TV programmes are building up unwatched, I’ve barely even touched Portal 2. Drowning in a sea of words. Swamped by a task I love. It’s brilliant but at the same time its nice to come up for air, to remind myself that the rest of the world exists.
This adult Euro-anime was director Anders Morgenthaler’s first film. It is a Danish film that mixes animation and live action with powerful results.
The films first scene produces one of its most resonant images: a priest watching slack jawed as his pregnant sister stars in a pornographic movie. The beauty and grace of the animation jar with the brutality of what we are seeing. As the story progresses we are bombarded with unrelentingly difficult scenes. Five years later the sister is dead and the priest, August, returns to take care of the orphaned child, Mia. A five year old girl who has been deeply damaged growing up in a brothel and seeing her mother, the porn star “Princess”, on magazines at newsstands.
What follows is a brutal revenge cycle seen through the eyes of an innocent child. August sets out, with Mia in tow, to destroy all of the “Princess” material and trying to find Charlie, the man he sees as responsible for the ruin of his sister. It’s a story of broken people: August desperately tries to reach out and connect with Mia who is craving the “normality” of her old life. His sisters story is tolled in live action flashbacks shot in fuzzy VHS. All of these elements crash horribly together in the film’s tragic, bloody climax.
Princess is a well executed film about a difficult subject matter. The use of anime techniques makes this a gorgeous looking flick and allows for Mia to be put in situations that no child actor should see. Strong performances from the danish cast give an emotional grounding to even the most extreme of scenes. A lot of this film is genuinely disturbing but it is intelligent and thought provoking in a way that few films are.
“Two protons expelled at each coupling site creates the mode of force, the embryo becomes a fish though we don’t enter until a plate, we’re here to experience, evolve the little toe, atrophy, don’t ask me how, I’ll be dead in a thousand light years, thank you, thank you, genesis turns to its source, reduction occurs step wise though the essence is all one, end of line. FTL system check. Diagnostic functions within parameters repeats the harlequin, the agony exquisite, the colors run the path of ashes…”—The Hybrid, Battlestar Galactica “Torn” by Anne Cofell Saunders 2006
“Human passions have mysterious ways, in children as well as grown-ups. Those affected by them can’t explain them, and those who haven’t known them have no understanding of them at all. Some people risk their lives to conquer a mountain peak. No one, not even they themselves, can really explain why. Others ruin themselves trying to win the heart of a certain person who wants nothing to do with them. Still others are destroyed by their devotion to the pleasures of the table. Some are so bent on winning a game of chance that they lose everything they own, and some sacrifice every thing for a dream that can never come true. Some think their only hope of happiness lies in being somewhere else, and spend their whole lives traveling from place to place. And some find no rest until they have become powerful. In short, there are as many different passions as there are people.”—The Neverending Story (1979) by Michael Ende
This is my top ten list of 80s cartoons. There are many others like it but this one is mine. I think it is every bloggers rite of passage to put together something like this and after a few months of blogging I feel ready. Some of the listings may be controversial and I encourage healthy debate (read: arguments and trolling)!
A note on how I put this list together: I have decided that the most important factors of the cartoons that I love could be boiled down to 4 areas-
Intro is the general introduction or theme song. Some of these are my favorite songs of all time and they can do a lot to elevate a poor cartoon.
Tech: I’m a tech geek and these cartoons went a long way towards making me the nerd I am today, so yeah big, crazy sci fi technology gets points.
Epic Factor: Something that is rarely seen in cartoons these days (Avatar: Legend of Ang being a notable exception) is a continous storyline running from week to week, a feeling that this is all some monumental story- and that it actually ENDS (my remember watching the end of Around the World with Willy Fogg as a kid. Blew me away).
Genre Bashing: the 80s was a great time for genre bashing. Swords and sorcery in a sci fi setting, proto steampunk, all that jazz)
10. Defenders of the Earth
When I was a kid there was a black and white TV in my bedroom that I watched most saturday morning cartoons on. It was not until I was on holiday with my dad that I realized that Ming the Merciless had green skin. GREEN SKIN!!! And The Phantom wore a purple suit. My mind had coloured it in red- I guess my little brain was not quite ready for the awesomeness of a super hero in purple…
Saturday morning heaven!
Some people called him the space cowboy… because he was. He was a cowboy. In space! If that’s not enough he had a robotic horse that would transform and clobber people. All kinds of awesomeness!
That horse has a really massive gun!
Magic! Roar! Thundcats was awesome. So it was a thinly veiled rip of of Superman. The toys had light up eyes! And there was Mumm-Ra’s evil dog, Mumm-mutt!
I think Snarf is a bit like Neelix from Voyager (as in a dick)
Way before any phantom menace a generation of kids hungry for more star wars action got a good prequel fix. With R2 D2 as himself!!! A lot to do with droids was naff to be fair but it was our first glimpse at an expanded universe (had any of us heard of the Holiday special at that stage? I think not) and it didn’t have Jar Jar Binks in it. I’m not going to talk about Ewoks. I’m just not ready.
Anthony Daniels has made a career out of old goldenrod.
6. He Man and the Masters of the Universe
This is the show that really started the whole toy/cartoon love affair of the 80s. It was past its best when I got into it but I have fond memories of seeing the live action film in the cinema. I could never quite get over how girly he-man looked, I had a real obsession with spiky hair as a kid….
5. Around the World with Willy Fogg
This show was awesome. You’ll notice that there is a lack of cute talking animal toons on this list. They just didn’t really get me going. But his. The tune! Absolute awesomeness right there. Willy Fogg himself- a freaking lion in a top hat. I really wonder how many Steampunk lovers grew up on this…
I’d forgotten about the sexy cats in this.
4. The Real Ghostbusters
Busting makes me feel good! This cartoon had it all man, I mean the movie is my favorite film of all time and the cartoon has a lot of key differences but somehow, as a kid, I felt these simply imptoved on the original (I’m really thinking about Egon’s hairdo here). A fast paced mixture of comedy, sci fi and horror all rollled into a neat package of win. The toys were amazing too…
One time I turned into a dog and these guys really helped.
This show made me. I mean really- I still try to transform sometimes. It would be top of the list if we were going on whole franchises (Simon Furman’s run of Marvel’s Transformers comics is awesome check out Eye of The Storm if you can). They are robots, they turn into cars and shit. They fight get into fights and fly and fire lasers. Love it!!!
Till all are one…
2. Ulysses 31
Talk about yer genre bashing! Greek epic poetry goes sci fi! The start of anime coming to a western audience. He has a laser sheild and a sword that is also a laser blaster. Let me say that again: his sword is also a laser blaster. And the incidental music is just to die for.
Bringing peace and justice to all!!
1. Mysterious Cities of Gold
So, this is my top dog, number one. With good reason. Esteban, Zia and Tao quested for the fabled cities of gold for 39 episodes. The epicness here is awesome. It took 4 episodes for them to even get to south America. As a kid I thought it was the longest thing ever. Ever! The story is set in 1532 and the three children, under the stern tutelage of Mandoza are searching for the cities of gold, the last remnants of a thermonuclear war between the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. They’ve got a giant golden condor that they fly about in that fires lasers out its beak. Rewatching it now the incidental music sends a chill down my spine. I loved this series and still do- it is the greatest cartoon of the 80s!!!
Goodbye Tao, goodbye Esteban, goodbye Zia. Farewell childhood. I’ll miss you all!