The cultured teenager

the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Modern crime fiction is often cast off as being, for one reason or another, dross, it is the scummy underbelly of literature, read by lonely men on the train to work. Predictable for the first half, some ‘twists’ which aren’t as clever as they’d like to think, a moderately acceptable style of writing and usually based around around a Scottish police officer with a drinking problem, so unsurprisingly are never highly praised or generously given awards, because, well, they don’t deserve them. However, in my opinion, modern crime fiction is great, because it’s either really crap or exceptionally good, and usually all the latter takes is an ingenious, creative novelist willing to be striking and emigrate from the crime fiction mould. Yep, that’s all it takes. That shopping list of qualities is basically based on Cormac McCarthy, because, as evident from No Country For Old Men, he is one of the greatest modern American crime authors. He is, according to my incredibly irrelevant opinions, one of the best American Novelists ever in any context anyway, No Country … is now one of a number of his novels which I truly consider to be brilliant literature.

Men in great crime novels are always poor decision makers, and Llewellyn Moss is a prime example of this. I doubt I am not the only person who would avoid taking a large case of money I found in the centre of what was clearly a large drug deal gone drastically wrong, day old clots resting between the bundles of notes, burly Mexicans with holes through their foreheads laying next to it and a hell of a lot of evidence to suggest that someone who isn’t exactly Elmo would go a long way to retain his $2,000,000. This plot perfectly leads the book into becoming gritty and noir, somehow making Texas seem like even more of a dingy hellhole (apologies to all in Texas). The understated and integrated nature of the narrative, speech and imagery also further builds this brilliantly dark portrait of American rage and destruction, showing the chilling weakness and stupidity of man, and immense evil that lurks in the backdrop. If there is a character who has redeemable qualities then don’t expect them to live very long, because McCarthy makes it vigorously clear that in the society of this narrative, and a lot of societies generally, in America and elsewhere, brutality and lack of fear is what is ultimately victorious. A serious, dramatic, bloody book which is an utterly enthralling read, if not exactly a quick, lay back in your deckchair sort of book. Read it at home with plenty of time on your hands, because, for once this isn’t throw-away crime or western fiction but effortlessly deep and consuming. Please read and enjoy, regards ๐Ÿ™‚

The Dark Knight Rises: Film Review

Since seeing it I have seen numerous reviews for this final chapter in Nolan’s Batman trilogy and I have been really surprised, astounded in fact at how poorly people have rated it, people giving it 6/10 or grading it a C. Are you kidding me?! Maybe it didn’t live up to your ridiculously high expectations, but as far as I am concerned it was awesome. The Dark Knight was a film where The Joker very much took the limelight, and rightly so, however in the final edition of the brilliant series, this is Batman’s film, and more particularly, one highlighting his relationships with each member of the support cast. Nolan has once again used a cracking support cast, many of which are stalwarts of the trilogy, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, all of which are as brilliant as their reputations would allow you to expect. There are also many new faces as well, much of which seems to be an Inception reunion, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate and Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake, all having been in Nolan’s previous blockbuster, joining other Inception cast members, Caine and Cillian Murphy, but those are not the only new, important cast members, as one of the most striking, and surprisingly good, characters was Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway.

As the film starts, Nolan’s intentions to tie all three films together are clear, opening with Commissioner Gordon giving a speech about the impact of Harvey Dent on Gotham, reminding us of the reasoning behind Batman’s hibernation from law enforcement for 8 years. It soon, however moves from this to summer blockbuster ground, with a visually dazzling and spectacularly performed opening action sequence which really brings Bane to the forefront, and shows how powerful and ferocious he is, which as the film progresses shows him to be a quite astounding villain. He is imposing and more than frightening due to the mask and husky, yet booming voice, and Tom Hardy is clearly brilliant in the role, Christopher Nolan taking advantage of his physical presence in numerous scenes, particularly a showdown midway through the film. By this point the large supporting cast has already become established and Bane’s violent agenda becomes integral and consuming towards everything else in the film. The twists and turns are exactly as you would hope for, not overcomplicated but not too simple, the film does have too much action or is dialogue heavy, and it doesn’t just rely on good direction or good performances, but thrives on a perfect balance within all of these aspects so that the audience is encapsulated, making it hard for me to analyse it, because I enjoyed it too much to stop and think. The film was pacey and spectacular, making it easy to forget the vast duration of the film.

I thought, as is pretty obvious by now, that it was superb, each element was done as well as can be expected of a big blockbuster, but it was still as dark and gritty as we have come to expect from Nolan. Unfortunately people will always compare it to the film prior to it, but I think they are similar, yet still hard to compare; The Dark Knight was a film dedicated to the Joker whereas this was one far more based around Bruce Wayne, and also Alfred, but if I was forced to compare I would say they were just as good as one another. They are both stylistically the same, the performances of the entire cast are both brilliant, and the villains are, in my view, just as good as each other, The Joker is fantastic as a darkly comic, psychologically scary villain, whereas Bane is a fierce, violent brute and is equally frightening in that perspective. Verdict- 9/10

Also, many prayers go out to the families and victims of the horrific shooting which will forever be associated with the movie.

The best and worst: Superhero Films

Considering that the last film I reviewed was The Amazing Spiderman and one of the next is going to be, FINALLY, The Dark Knight Rises I thought now would be a good time to countdown the best and worst of the superhero genre. There can sometimes be nothing better than a superhero, summer blockbuster, but it can equally be awful, often farcical and more cartoonish than the comics it was derived from. These are my personal opinions so please comment to moan at me and argue for the films you disagree with me on, I may have missed some films out which ought to be there because I have not yet watched them, and if I had seen it Spawn would probably be in the worst pile. Enjoy

WORST:

5.) Hulk: Ang Lee is by all means a very gifted film maker, but making a Hulk film was the wrong option. I doubt he ever could have made it work, as I don’t think his style is bombastic enough to make a great superhero movie; the Hulk that should have been created should have been more like Mark Ruffalo’s in Avengers Assemble, but instead reminded me of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein, just dumb and brutish, but weak rather than frightening. There were just far too many glowing frogs and nonsensical science for it to work as well, and this wasn’t exactly helped by Bana’s performance which was unbelievably wooden, and constantly felt like a man acting rather than Bruce Banner. Next time, don’t cast people because they have same surname.

4.) Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Hardly anyone liked the first one so why didn’t they just stop, or at least give it another ten years and then reboot the franchise. What annoyed me most of all was that the Silver Surfer is easily one of the best ‘villains’ in superhero land yet here there wasn’t anything cool or edgy about him, and at some points in the film he seemed almost obsolete to the numerous other, far more boring story lines such as the heroes relationships yada yada yada…

3.) Elektra: Again, sequels of crap films are never, just never, any good themselves. Personally I thought Jessica Garner’s performance as Elektra was the worst part of the rather dreadful Daredevil anyway, so to make a film solely based around her was nonsensical. The fight scenes are ludicrous and really badly done, looking so staged that all it achieves in doing is breaking up what little narrative it had.

2.) Batman and Robin: I like to start with the positives, so… Urmm… Alfred’s not bad. Done. Negatives, now don’t even get me started. George Clooney was poor at best, you were left not caring about Batman because he seemed just like a rich jerk, and was a huge step down from every other person who has played Batman and doesn’t deserve a comparison between the Michael Keaton and Christian Bale versions. Secondly, the villains, of which there are not only too many, Poison Ivy, Bane, Mr Freeze, just stick with one or two, but they are so cartoony and unrealistic that they remind me of the villains in an episode of Scooby Doo. Thurman and Schwarzenegger are both hysterically bad, though this isn’t aided by the cringe-worthy script, and its incredible number of ice puns, such as “cool off”, “revenge is a dish best served cold”, and my personal favourite, “lets kick some ice”.

1.) Catwoman: How could a film be worse than Batman and Robin? Well, at least B & R, was entertaining, it was extremely funny, though not at the intentional points. This was just boring, because the only interesting thing to do was criticize it. None of the characters, even the one possessed by some magical cats in a sewer, were in any way interesting, and that is the thing about superhero films, it has to be interesting and bombastic, these people have superpowers for f***s sake. It was so rubbish I am even finding writing about it mind numbing, so I give in, now on to some decent films.

BEST:

5.) Kick-Ass: A complete mockery of the superhero genre, but done with sprite and panache, the characters are funny yet, for the most part, believable, and those that aren’t believable, i.e. the knife throwing, pistol shooting, blaspheming eleven year old girl, are purely in it as a mockery of the genre which it itself fits into. Moretz is brilliant as Hit Girl and Nicolas Cage is equally good in one of his best roles, but not only is it a good supporting cast but Aaron Johnson not only gets our sympathy but also gets our support, in doing what no-one else is brave enough, or indeed stupid enough to have done before.

4.) X-men First Class: After the rather disappointing Last Stand (I have forgotten about Origins: Wolverine for a reason), Matthew Vaughn, who had already made a name for himself in the genre with the film above, now rejuvenated the franchise with a clever and ballsy effort. The direction is great, the battle scenes are enthralling and the character arcs are always entertaining and consuming, however this really comes from the stellar performances from Fassbender as Magneto and MaCavoy as Professor Xavier. The script is brilliantly written and the re-working of history works surprisingly well in correspondence with the narrative, the only slight downer for me was the lack of a really epic and ferocious villain, with Kevin Bacon, as Sebastian Shaw, being more than passable but in a performance that will never be classic.

3.) Batman Begins: It takes guts to rebrand such a huge franchise as Batman, and Christopher Nolan made this more than apparent with his bold and fierce remodeling of the much-loved comics. Nolan’s success, I personally believe, lies greatly in the grounded nature of the film compared to those previous to it; this Batman was realistic and could be sympathised with, had emotional sincerity and took place in a worldย  which looks like a complete possibility rather than the comic-book settings of Batman and Robin. Gotham City is ridden with crime, but these are not criminals who have falling in vats of acid, but villains who are monstrously evil without being completely superheroesque. Dr Crane (the Scarecrow, played superbly by Cillian Murphy), a deranged and immoral psychologist who uses toxins to turn people insane, a mob boss, Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), and Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), a hidden crime fighter, but still just as realistic as Batman. Bale’s Batman is also brilliant, as are the performancesย  of the amazing supporting cast who aid Bruce Wayne, Caine, Oldman and Freeman; the overall cast is great, however if I was nitpicking, Katie Holmes was the weak link, but that doesn’t stop this being brilliant.

2.) Avengers Assemble: This isn’t exactly a cool, dark movie as with Batman Begins, but this is the big, summer blockbuster which all future blockbusters will aim to reproduce. Its brilliance doesn’t lie in multiple sterling performances or the massive, exhilarating spectacle derived from the premise of combining multiple superheroes for one epic movie. It instead lies in, as many before me will have already stated, the great writing of Joss Whedon, and it is the comic turns in this film which cause it top all of its predecessors, keeping it vivid and imaginative, lively and entertaining throughout the film, leaving you always wanting more. Personally I favour Batman Begins as a film, but for pure entertainment, this can hardly be beaten.

1.) The Dark Knight: It was almost as though Nolan used the first film to set this film up knowing it would be immense, and superior to the original; he used the first film to do everything expected of a Batman film, he filled the key roles and introduced the key characters, gave Batman a difficult but not unbeatable foe, and not exactly one of the classic enemies and most importantly did Batman’s origin story, including the ever-cliched image of pearls hitting the floor. With all that out of the way he could wreak havoc, pull as many punches as he wished, using the classic villain, the Joker, and again making him less cartoon and more real and hence more frightening, creating him to be a deranged, violent terrorist. Heath Ledger is undeniably brilliant, and the rest of the cast support what is more the Joker’s film than Batman’s, but it does not rely on the joker alone and this film is far more edgy, has a far more daring script and plot, and how its was a 12A I have no idea. The score worked brilliantly and the overall tone intensified constantly until the colour in your face changed. Undoubtedly, in my eyes, the best superhero movie.

The Amazing Spiderman: Film review

It is clear at the moment that Hollywood has an obsession with bringing back and refreshing franchises; The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter of Nolan’s Batman reboot, Prometheus brought back the xenomorphs once more, The Bourne Legacy is now trying to somehow maintain a Bourne franchise without Bourne and other remakes and reboots are set to be released in the near future, such as Total Recall, Dredd and Man of Steel. Hollywood could be starting to lose its imagination somewhat and merely resorting to reverting back to the franchises which are assured to bring in the audiences purely to keep money in the industry during this financial hardship. Has Hollywood lost its originality? Considering The Amazing Spiderman, I think it is a confident no. Mark Webb knew from the very moment he announced the new movie that there would be pressure-a-plenty on his shoulders as not only was Sam Raimi’s Spiderman series, well the first two anyway, very successful, but this film comes only 5 years after Peter Parker’s last, and rather disappointing, adventure in the red spandex suit.

Webb has clearly taken the previous Spiderman films on board, however there is clearly no evidence that this is rip-off of Raimi because Webb has intentionally steered away from what made the previous films so recognisable and enjoyable. This doesn’t however mean that this is unlikeable but Webb reaches this from a different angle to his predecessor. Maguire was a really likeable character, a slightly goofy protagonist who you wanted to be victorious as much through pity as anything else; Andrew Garfield is a much cooler, self assured version of Peter Parker whose character is most evident and likeable as half of the relationship between him and the sharp Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Stacy brings another dimension to the film, which had never been brought by a rather inept and passive Mary-Jane, heightened by her Father’s involvement in being the Police Captain on the hunt for Spiderman. Captain Stacy (Denis Leary) has one of the most difficult jobs ever put on the big screen, as not only does he desire to catch our hero, as he swings Tarzan-like through the urban jungle but also has the unenviable task of stopping The Lizard from turning everyone in a 5 mile radius into similar reptilia. Garfield starts this film with a somewhat different origin story to what we have previously seen, this time the focal point being his curiosity about his missing parents, causing the actual arachnid radiation to be a minor part; Personally I feel that the film benefits from this as everyone knows what is going to happen anyway, so it gets deeper into the actual narrative earlier. After finding out a connection between his Father and a certain Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), the Doc in question malfunctions after he splices his own genetics with that of a lizard causing him to rather predictably become The Lizard. Unlike some previous villains, such as Norman Osborn, the Lizard is possibly a step too ridiculous and unrealistic, looking cartoonish, but Rhys Ifans is very good in the role, and the emotional battle between him and Spiderman holds the middle section of the film together.

The Lizard however really comes into his own as a villain in the fight scenes in the latter third of the film, really stressing the value gained from 3D and great special effects. The film is more than just a bit ludicrous in some areas though and a picky man could easily scrutinise how unrealistic most of the film is, such as the incredibly ‘subtle’ plot device of the crane guy and his son, you’ll know what I mean when you watch it, but that really isn’t the point. It’s a superhero film! If it was realistic then the story wouldn’t be entertaining enough to withstand such epic finales as is evident here. The acting is, for the most part, pretty decent, but what is probably best achieved in The Amazing Spiderman is the plausible and intriguing inter-character relationships. One of these is the relationship between Peter and Uncle Ben which I prefer greatly to that of the Raimi version, with Webb cleverly avoiding the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech. However, the most plausible relationship, rather unsurprisingly is between Parker and Stacy, portrayed brilliantly through now real-life couple Garfield and Stone, which glues the entire narrative together.

Ok, there is definitely a special effects frenzy, with camera angle which are purely because they can be done now, rather than because they are better than the previous alternative, and the script is good rather than brilliant, but this is a great summer blockbuster. It is entertaining until the very end and I personally prefer it to Raimi’s version. I have given it a 7 because although it was very enjoyable it wasn’t groundbreaking or likely to be iconic or also technically perfect, but merely enjoyable, but isn’t that the point with a big-budget superhero movie. A good film, but try not to think too hard about it. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚ 7/10

Submarine by Joe Dunthorne

Set in 1997, in Swansea, Submarine tells the story of ordinary teenager Oliver Tate. Any teenage boy, myself included, will relate to his comical and over-sexual narration, brilliantly sculpted by Dunthorne who makes Oliver a likeable and realistically awkward character and a superb narrator. His over complicated and ultra-descriptive narrative is itself at many times hilarious, his dairy entries a particular highlight in the book. The story itself is is rather normal and mundane, yet is still effortlessly entertaining through Oliver’s narration and the ridiculous conclusions which he jumps to; such as his theories that his mother’s Capoeira teacher indulges in equine sexual fantasies and his judgement that the man living at number 16 is a pansexual. Dunthorne however sidesteps the possibility of this purely being a teenager and some comic sexual actions, and he instead moves through an often bleak and always witty narrative without being as crass and crude as many teenage comedy novels are. Oliver is intelligent and self-assured however at times he is still incredibly human and, well, idiotic and incredulous.

This is, when push comes to shove, a coming-of-age story, although Oliver’s underlying innocence is prevalent throughout his well-meaning narrative. He often mistakes his knowledgeable nature for being experienced, constantly using verbose language yet not thinking enough to realise that it is best to be there for your girlfriend when her mum is diagnosed with a brain tumour. The narrative is perfectly pitched by Dunthorne and Oliver Tate is likeable even if he is precocious, Dunthorne mocking the manners and mindset of 15 year old boys trying to fit in, yet trying to be better than everyone-else simultaneously. Dunthorne extracts great comedy from Oliver’s over-analytical views, such as this paragraph. Some euphemisms make you sound like Martin Clove, a boy who, for psychological reasons, doesn’t have to use the communal showers after rugby. When we ask Martin what is wrong with his wang, he gets defensive and refers to it as his little man. This implies a kind of distant seemingly friendly relationship between him and his penis.

Last year Dunthorne’s book was turned into a film by Richard Ayoade, which is a great interpretation, although, as is often the case I prefer the book. This an excellent, incredibly easy read and a great one for this summer. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

Prometheus: Film review

Going into this movie, I was rather uncertain of what to expect from Ridley Scott’s new, big-budget, sci-fi film. The reviews I have seen have been completely mixed, some of whom where astounded by its brilliance and some seemed almost devastated with disappointment. The mass marketing and clever virals, particularly one of Michael Fassbender’s David, only heightened my expectations of the movie, which I have anticipated more than any other in 2012.

I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great film, but more than anything, was a totally encapsulating viewing experience, particularly when watching in 3D Imax, which I would thoroughly recommend. The film is set 3 decades prior to the adventures of Ellen Ripley, in 2093, and despite all the original questions of this film’s relation to Alien it is clear from the very beginning, and far clearer at the very end, that this is a prequel. The range of characters is somewhat similar to those who have previously battled the xenomorphs, particularly the use of another android, David, and Noomi Rapace’s turn as another strong-willed heroine, Scott reflecting some aspects of Weaver’s iconic Ripley. As this team of adventurers embark on a mission to find the origins of the human race they soon find themselves unprepared for what is waiting for them. The opening scene, before our space invaders even appear, is one that immediately shows that Scott is once again willing to take huge risks and obliterate boundaries. It is a visual masterclass, great open shots of harsh, visceral landscapes which are somehow undermined by Scott’s centrepiece, filling the viewer’s mind with question upon question, an alien creature for definite, but not exactly what we had been expecting. After the film finished, I found myself questioning the purpose of this scene, because this alien’s actions were continuously ambiguous, however the impact of this scene is nonetheless magnificent. The 17 man crew’s mission is to find the meaning behind numerous connected etchings from all periods of civilization, headed by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), but leads them to a situation compulsory within the Alien franchise, ambling nervously through the labyrinthine surroundings of this far-off planet. As the group becomes periodically smaller and smaller, the plot constantly intensifies, twisting and turning effortlessly until the very end.

The sensationalist nature of the movie is not merely in its breathtaking cinematography, but also through the bold performances. Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace are perfectly cast, contrasting greatly between Rapace’s steely and determined Shaw and Theron’s sharp, glacial Meredith Vickers. The standout performance, however, is Fassbender’s understated presence as the android David, proving that it isn’t a coincidence that many of the best films of the last couple of years seem to contain his intense performances.

This a utterly spectacular film, yet with a prequel it is impossible to look at it without comparing it to Scott’s previous editions. It is from this perspective that it becomes clear that this movie is still slightly flawed. Rapace, although very good, does not quite reach the legendary status of Sigourney Weaver in the role of Ripley, who is clearly the core of the original films. Alien is more tense and chilling, whereas Aliens provides a rough-and-tumble approach, and although trying to recreate both chilling spectacles and gritty action, Scott has reached a halfway-house, making something more coherent to the expectations of a good, 21st century blockbuster. The use of 3D highlights the visual splendour of the film and the huge grandiose of the special effects, yet this in many ways overshadows parts of the film. This is too active, particularly when compared the stillness which made Alien so frightening. My final verdict is that this a film that can be enjoyed for its spectacular and bold visuals, its perfected performances and clever narrative, however it falls for the same trick as most prequels, in fulfilling the formula as its predecessors, rather than capturing what it was that made Alien original. A great film, but it is best judged as a separate modern film, rather than the prequel it obviously is.

Verdict- 8/10

Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson

It is rare that I would read a travelogue. For an 18 year old they are, for the most part, not that interesting. They are list of observations and facts rather than some elaborate, intense story which has the sole purpose in gaining and then keeping your attention for the entirety of the novel. Equally, when I read non-fiction it is far more likely to be with a specific purpose in mind rather than merely for a few hours entertainment; I am interested in History and enjoy History books but those books are read as much through educational purposes as through interest. It would also be rare for me read about a topic which I know well. The topic in question is the United Kingdom, the nation in which I live. I know it as well as most, well, at least that is what I like to think, but although I know lots of generalised information about the country, a country is not an entity in itself, but is instead a collection of places and people within specific boundaries. This is clearly Bryson’s point; a travelogue shouldn’t be a list or a simple account of what you can see where and lists of nice restaurants, but should be an experienced account of an ordinary person who could be doing whatever they want and chooses to explore.

Bryson, an already very successful writer and journalist, decided to explore this glorious and cynical nation before leaving it to voyage back to his American homeland. This anecdotal narrative highlights what is brilliant and what is dreadful about Britain, constantly entertaining the reader, making the story less of a travelogue and more of a journey of discovery, the British reader constantly empathising with his descriptions of the nations failings, and laughing at his witty, descriptive narrative. He summarises British culture and the British mindset easier than any biased Brit could possibly do, mocking our enjoyment in the dull, our witty humour and love of ridiculously named places, such as Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. “Before long I came to regard all kinds of activities – asking for more toast in a hotel, buying wool-rich socks in Marks & Spencer, getting two pairs of trousers when I only really needed one – as something daring, very nearly illicit. My life became immensely richer.” It is clear throughout the book that he is often taking the piss out Britain, but simultaneously is taking the piss out of himself and us Brits, but I don’t care because all of his observations and mockeries are completely true and justified. It makes me glad I’m not French. I am British and we have character and a sense of humour. The book, however, is not just an analysis of British convention but just as much of Bryson and his life in Britain and his connection with the country. This is a great, easy read, particularly as non-fiction goes, and is a particularly useful read for any wannabe writers. Bryson’s writing style is second-to-none, and since reading the book is something I have only idolised. Its a great book, an easy summer read, and is particularly witty when you are looking at it from the same British viewpoint as myself. I hope you enjoy it, regards ๐Ÿ™‚

Must-see film #6: The Ladykillers (1955)

This is a film that should never get remade. It is British and iconic of subdued 50’s films, incredibly witty but poignantly subtle; for this reason Hollywood should see this as a forbidden zone. Unfortunately my warning comes far too late. Not that I have seen it, but the 2004 remake of The Ladykillers is not what a movie like that should become; people wanted to remake because it was so good, but often, films are good because they are of their right time. The Coen Brothers are undoubtedly good directors and if anyone were to make a decent effort at a remake they’d be pretty good hopes, however their brilliance often comes from their originality and zaniness, but that cannot be achieved from a remake like this. All in all, their remake was deemed a failure.

Hollywood have found impossible what the British film industry has found so easy for generations; simple, honest comedies. Ealing studies produced another gem in this warm-hearted black comedy, about how a gang of five criminals attempted to steal some loot by duping an old grandmother into nonchalantly taking it on their behalf. This mismatched gang of criminals consists of the wise ex-serviceman (Parker), hardened tough guy (Green), cockney rebel (Sellers), mysterious assassin (Lom) and a criminal mastermind who is long past his expiry date, Professor Marcus. Marcus is created brilliantly and effortlessly by Alec Guinness’ superb characterization and dry wit, edging it far past anything Hollywood would be able to produce. The failed attempts to steal the bounty, through pretending to be a string quintet in order to trick the perfectly cast, elderly woman (Katie Johnson), eventually end in the fatal yet hilarious ending, which although being a black comedy isn’t dark but as naff as you’d expect from a British comedy in the mid-50’s. This also deliciously brings back the gloomy, hazy images of an industrial post-war London and the true spirit behind post-war England, showing that gloom doesn’t last forever, and we can still have a good laugh.

It isn’t incredibly clever and as it progresses becomes rather predictable but this isn’t the sort of film to criticise the slight errors in editing, but it is a witty black comedy that has aged well, reflecting a simpler time. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

April’s music reviewed

These are the artists and albums that I have given a listen to in the last month, bands I know and love, bands I’d never heard of before and stuff, because i just always feel like listening to something; Please enjoy,

Jack White: Blunderbuss Probably the album I have been most anticipating of any of this years releases, partly because I love everything jack White seems to produce, but also because of the knowledge that this was going to be different. And Jack White has done me proud. The tone is set by the woozy yet simplistic ‘Missing Pieces’, showing straight from the offing the emotive integrity of the album, allowing obvious references to Jack White III’s relationships, and divorce prior to the albums release. It is therefore clear why, although the album sounds like that of a band, it is a solo piece, laying himself bare, being personal and more candid than anything by his three previous bands. Where other artists pick a style and stick to it, this possibly explains the vast variety of ‘projects’ he undertakes, due to his undeniable talent for making genre crossing music which is fascinating and charming; this is prevalent in Blunderbuss, moving from woozy and soothing to abrasive and raw in a number of chords. Contrasting to a lot of the album, my personal favourite track is Sixteen Saltines, with a riff reminiscent of Blue Orchid or Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground, from the squeal at the beginning I can’t help but be consumed by the harsh bluesy hues. I think this is an album however which I need to listen to a lot more, as upon first hearing it was sometimes almost trying hard to be different to his other stuff but nonetheless is a brilliant album. 9/10

Brendan Benson: What Kind Of World An artist who I will always closely link to the man whose album I have reviewed above, but is now starting to come out of his shell. Not that he hasn’t already produced solo material, and bloody good independent work at that, but just as his classic album Lapalco worked perfect stylistically, What Kind Of World has done the same. Maybe, it is somewhat less accessible in some manners, being slightly more hazed and brooding, but nevertheless stays true to Benson’s formula, without trying too hard, making music that sounds simple and good simultaneously. It is gloomy without beingsombre and could easily be thrown into the ‘background music’ catalogue, but in no way deserves this; the piano-backed radio rock track ‘Bad for me’ is the perfect example of this and can only really be understood through a quick listen. Definitely worth a listen, whatever sort of music you usually listen to. 8/10

Pond: Beard Wives Denim My first introduction to this band was via their brother band, the much hyped (suitably so) Tame Impala, whose last two albums have both been brilliant to listen to. Containing some members of Tame Impala I was hoping that this musically gifted gene pool would spout some more glorious, guitar induced enjoyment. Boy heck was I proven correct. Merely watching the video for ‘Fantastic Explosion Of time’ is enough to leave me aghast at the creativity which would obviously feel more at home in 1968, taking psychedelia to a new level, making me presume that the band were taking some really interesting substances in the albums production. This isn’t just, however, lots of spinning colours and lyrics about sunshine, birds and free love, but hardened and edgy; it is the sort of music I want to think I would make in order to be adored. And this is the thing, a band playing this sort of music, unsurprisingly has an obsessive collective of fans. The album progresses onwards with gems such as ‘Eye Pattern Baldness’ which I originally thought could have come off an average Lou Reed album, suddenly turns into soothing lyricism and then plunges into a pool of darkness and twisting riffs. Just bliss to the ears 9/10

Please at least contemplate listening to anything here that sounds decent because I seriously doubt you’ll regret it considering how brilliant some of April’s music has been. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚

Mass Hipsteria

Okay, I may not be the fountain of all knowledge, but logic is against hipsters; how can it possible to be ‘cool’ by specifically doing things which are considered not ‘cool’. Wearing unfashionable clothes, listening to obscure music and wearing comically large glasses. This is, from what I have judged, the Hipster ideology, and well, for the first two rules, I conform to this and am therefore accused as being a Hipster. My friends call me a Hipster, but, although I am not one, as I never really make much more than a half-arsed attempt to look cool, because if you knew me, it would be clear that any attempt would be futile, I don’t have an issue with the ideology. Take listening to ‘non-mainstream’ music for example; I do listen to music which isn’t popular in the vast majority, but this isn’t some egocentric quest for people to think I’m cool by listening to Mystery Jets, but mostly because what I like just happens to be unpopular. I have a clear cut opinion of the music I like and the music I hate, and the average person seems to like what’s in the hate pile, but every now and again things cross over. For example, some of my favourite bands, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Black Keys, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Foo Fighters, are undeniably popular, but I would never consider not listening to them for that reason. I like Hipsterish music and unhipsterish music, which in turn makes me more unmainstream than Hipsters themselves achieve, through my ability to have an individual taste of music and opinion.

Just as much as I think popular music is, in the most part, less enjoyable to listen to than a recording of KFC’s most ardent customers emptying their bowels, I would say this about most popular culture in general. Popular fashion is similarly something I would never consider forcing myself to adhere to, but I am not trying to make a fashion statement by wearing unfashionable clothes to look cool, because what I wear is just what happens to have come into my possession after I have a poke around what has had the biggest price cut in the sales and contemplate whether or not I would give a crap if someone saw me wearing it. Yes, my clothes don’t look vulgar, but my aim is just to look relatively normal, not better than normal and not to look as though couldn’t give a toss, but just to fit in. But that is the issue with Hipsters, there aim isn’t to fit in, but to stand out, like a sore thumb in pastel coloured skinny chinos and espadrilles, and this is where the ideology collapses. If you are not doing what is popular, you should be doing that for yourself, because you enjoy other stuff, but not to make a point, because then when there seems to be someone stood around every corner doing exactly the same thing, with their floppy hair and large glasses, the word ‘mainstream’ just becomes reinvented, starting a new cycle of avoiding what is commonly considered cool. You are either cool or uncool, or somewhere in between, but you cannot be both, so just accept it, and allow me to listen Foals and watch foreign language films without people judging me for doing so. Regards ๐Ÿ™‚