2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Killer Joe

Killer_Joe_1So last night I sat down to watch William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. A dark comedy/drama starring Matthew Mconaughey as a cop who does a bit of contract killing on the side. Killer Joe is hired by Emile Hirsch’s Chris to murder his step mother in order to reap the benefits of her life insurance policy. Chris father, Ansel (an unusual Thomas Haden Church) agrees that it would be better for everyone if his wife was killed but when Joe offers them the ultimatum of having to pay up front things start to take a turn for the worse for the Smith family. As a ‘retainer’ Joe asks to be able to date Chris’ little sister Dottie (Juno Temple) until the insurance pays out as events unfold the relationship between the two becomes increasingly intense leading to all kinds of problems within the Smith family set-up.

Best known for his genre-defining possession horror The Exorcist it seems that with Killer Joe Friedkin is often far too drawn to the brutal aspects of the script than the funny ones. The portrayal of Joe as a creepy, ominous presence is often played far too seriously to be funny, scenes involving him and Dottie are overly dark and, what is basically paedophilia is a pretty difficult topic to get laughs from even in the stupidest of situations. The violence in the movie seemed far too brutal as well, rather than going for stupidly over the top gore it just all seems to real and in most of the violent scenes there is no music making it seem all the more bleak. Apart from perhaps Temple it seems none of the actors are aware it’s supposed to be funny as well, Mconaughey and Hirsch in particular play their characters so straight it’s very hard to see where the joke is which ultimately leaves the film stuck in some kind of limbo. There are moments which you can tell are supposed to be laugh-out-loud hilarious but somewhere in between the words on the page and the pictures on the screen the humour has been lost. One scene in particular where Joe is making a woman suck a piece of KFC chicken in the place of his dick is obviously supposed to be a joke, however dark it may be, but is made very hard to laugh at by the fact the he has just needlessly beaten this woman in a brutalistic manner and rather than appearing just downright crazy Mconaughey plays him as if he’s cool, calm and collected making everything seem much to dark to produce any kind of laughter.

There are all kinds of good ideas within this film that you feel had the tone been set better would make for an excellent popcorn yarn but in the end it all comes across a miss-match of stuff. If it were a straight horror film Mcounaghey’s nutty hitman would provide adequate fodder for a few nightmares but gets confused in amongst all the crazy, absurd stuff that’s supposed to be funny. If it was played a bit more stupid it would make for a very decent black comedy as well it just seems that these characters are actually too real for the horrible stuff that happens to be funny, some of it is done too well for its intended purposes while other bits aren’t done well enough. Overall it results in a rather confusing picture that has far too much going on for you to make head or tail of what to feel about it.

Peep Show – Series 8

peepshow588On Sunday night Channel 4’s longest running sit-com ever, Peep Show, finished it’s eighth series. Continuing the story of Mark and Jezz, two housemates who really are polar opposites. While it’s viewing figures have never been particularly good the show remains one of Britain’s best-loved programmes hence its long lasting appeal.

Series eight sees exactly the same kind of thing we’ve come to love about the show. Mark is trying to get Jeremy out of the flat so Dobby can move in, but throughout the series is overcome by doubt as to whether Dobby even really wants to as she keeps making excuses as to why she can’t do it yet. Meanwhile Jezz discovers that he’s actually madly in love with Dobby himself. The result is the usual mix of hilarious confrontations with each other and their outside acquaintances all backed with the usual the commentary from inside their heads that never ceases to being up hilarious pop culture references and thoughts that may seem surprisingly close to home.

Writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong have consistently proved that they can produce comedy that both reflects real life and commentates and socially and politically relevant situations. On top of this they have created a sit-com with a completely unique style that gives it it’s own signature charm. Series eight is just as good as any of the ones before it, Peep Show certainly has more left in the tank, it can’t seem to do anything wrong.

 

The Sum of Seven Motors – 26.12.12

Well it’s been a busy Christmas week and as Boxing Day draws to a close marking the end of Christmas 2012 I draw another week of blogging reviews to it’s finish. First of all early in the week I went to see Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges. Then I did a piece on one of my favourite bands that people these days have forgotten about but actually deserve more recoginition; Sum 41. And finally, I rounded off the week with some French weirdness, one of the years most talked about films Holy Motors¬†which provided me with a nice, unusual way to end Christmas Day.

This week I’m going to leave you with a film I’ve just hear about and am immediately excited for. The Place Beyond the Pines is writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to the brilliant Blue Valentine, it stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes:

Holy Motors

holy-lavant-mendesOne of the biggest critical successes of the last year has been Leon Carax’s Holy Motors so last night once everyone else had gone to bed I thought what better way to end Christmas day than with a slice of arthouse? The film that ensued was a fever-dream of comedy, drama, beauty and in above all, utter weirdness. Holy Motors follows Monsieur Oscar as he appears to play a number of different characters by changing life every time he hops in his limousine.

Right from the off you know you’re not in for anything normal, there is silence for the opening 5-10 mins as we see an audience in a cinema screen and then watch a man search for a door hidden in a wall, then Monsieur Oscar is welcomed into the limousine and the madness begins. It takes a few different scenarios before it clicked what was happening. Every time he gets in the limousine he comes out the other side a different person in a different situation, during his trips in the car he’s given briefings and taken to a place where he can re-do his make-up. There is obviously a lot of hidden meaning to the events that take place but I must admit I only took what I was seeing at face value but still found it strangely riveting.

The variety of different characters he portrays speaks of both actor Denis Lavant’s skilset and Carax’ for being able to create such a vast array of different scenes. It moves from strange sewer-dwelling leprechaun who kidnaps a model (pictured above), to everyday father picking up his daughter from a party or a CG lizard having sex you really couldn’t dream of anything more eclectic. Somehow it all works though, somehow every scene has you gripped and wondering what’s going to happen. When it comes to end I don’t want to give anything away because it was the surprise that got me but let me just say it’s just hilariously weird. This film is something I could watch over and over attempting to figure out what it means and failing, a funny Mulholland Drive, perhaps? What I do know for certain is that Holy Motors makes choosing my favourite film of the year even harder than it already was….

 

Sum 41

sum-41-5002d9de07e67Sum 41 may seem an odd band for to be plugging on here, mainly for the fact that I have no doubt everyone reading this will have heard of them. Everyone I know will remember their early teens being littered with hits by the Canadian punk-pop outfit, their most famous obviously being ‘Fat Lip’. But the reason I feel this post is warranted is because it appears they’re a band that’s been forgotten, remembered fondly but no longer have a place on the iPod, however I would argue that if people gave their new stuff a listen they would be surprised at what they find, in my opinion Sum 41 have been improving with every album.

Back in the day I remember Sum 41 being a favourite amongst the boom of pop punk in the late nineties and early noughties, along with Blink, Good Charlotte, The Offspring and American Idiot-era Green Day. People first started taking notice of them with their debut album All Killer No Filler for a lot of people I think that’s where their love for them both started and finished. It’s injustice really considering this is actually their worst record, it’s eclipsed by the groups original EP, Half Hour of Power and a lot of the songs on the album were taken from that record the only good additions were the aforementioned ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘In Too Deep’ which are now the songs the band are known for. Their follow-up Does This Look Infected? was just as popular at the time and a far superior album. Although nowadays when I talk to people Infected? is much less remembered. When I go back and listen to the record now this is where you can start to see the potential for a serious band, they’re still joking around but there’s some very strong instrumentation and well structured and thought out songs.

It was in 2004 with the release of Chuck were the group really changed their focus and with it lost their commercial success and in retrospect the love of teenage fans. I must admit, I didn’t care for it when it came out I was still more interested in the jokey/poppy stuff that was coming out of Blink or Good Charlotte. Chuck saw Sum 41 start to write about some serious topics after the band had a near death experience on tour and were saved by a man named Chuck, the album though is not without its catchy hooks and fun songs but ultimately was a lot darker than their previous work and perhaps they were still maturing in their musicality as well back then. It wasn’t until 2007’s Underclass Hero that I began to take notice again, having matured massively myself I was heading into the darker side of rock moving towards the emo side of things and while everyone was looking elsewhere I cam across my old friends Sum 41 again and Underclass Hero was breath of fresh air. Combining the more complex emotions I was experiencing in late adolescence with the fun riffs and simplicity of the pop punk that had got me into rock music in the first place. It quickly became one of my favourite albums and to this day I still very much enjoy listening to it.

Their latest album Screaming Bloody Murder furthers their transformation into a serious rock group, the lyrics littered with pain and hurt that may have come from lead singer, Deryck Whibley’s divorce to his wife Avril Lavigne. The music on this record is so well structured it is at times hard to believe these are the same guys that brought us that simple pop music from our childhoods. Sum 41 produce music of top quality these days, go have a listen to their new stuff and I promise you won’t be disappointed, also their documentary to accompany Screaming Bloody Murder is a fun watch as well so here it is: