Meet Me In Paris – Juliette Sobanet (Review)

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If there’s one thing I can’t resist it’s a book about Paris. My two great loves are reading and Paris and having already read some of Juliette’s previous work and loving it, I jumped at the chance to read her latest book, her very own memoir.


Meet Me In Paris follows Juliette (real name Danielle) through her divorce and her struggles to find what she wants from life while everything she has known as an adult begins to change.
Early on we find out that towards the end of her divorce, Juliette meets a man, also married but in an open relationship, who she begins an affair with and this plays a huge role throughout the book. At times I found this subject hard to deal with as I’ve never agreed with cheating while in a relationship but I tried to keep an open mind and understood that I shouldn’t judge a situation that I’ve never been in because in reality I have no idea what I would do. I’m glad I kept this open mind as the further I got the more I understood Juliette’s thoughts behind the affair and I began to understand why she finds it so hard to stop. I did however hate her lover more and more as the story progressed, to me it felt like a typical married man who will never leave his wife but doesn’t want to give up his lover and I struggled to empathise with him when he was upset about the affair as I felt like he knew exactly what he was doing and I couldn’t take his tears seriously.
Although the affair plays a major role in the book, I found the main aspect was Juliette’s self discovery, realising what it was that she wanted from life and I loved this theme. I think ultimately what she needed in life was to be in a city where she felt happy and surrounded by good friends and for her that place was France. Between Paris and Lyon Juliette is able to see some close friends and with there help she is able to sort through all the thoughts in her head and realise what is important to her. I loved Juliette’s version of France, her thoughts on why Paris and Lyon are so beautiful and why she enjoys spending time there so much.

There was one particular theme that I can want to mention, Juliette meets a couple and one half of said couple is a writer who believes in reincarnation. This is something I’ve thought of from time to time but never in depth yet the subject stuck with me. They mention that Juliette will have lived lives before and in her past life she probably lived in Paris as when she first travelled there she felt a connection with the city and instantly felt at ease. This is something I understand completely as I felt exactly the same when I went to Paris, a feeling I’ve never felt with any other city that I’ve travelled to. Exploring this idea was something completely new to me. I’ve never read a book where the author talks about reincarnation in any sort of detail and I adore the fact that Juliette has the confidence to do this.

I would pre warn any potential reader that there are constant sex themes but in reality they are done so well and I never felt like they were grotesque or unnecessary, mostly I felt they were there because that is just real life. The constant reminder that Juliette and her lover would meet up and spend the majority of their time in a hotel room just made me feel even more that this relationship wasn’t going to last, I constantly felt that for her lover it was nothing more than sex even though it was portrayed to be a lot more than this.

Meet Me In Paris was a great read and I applaud Juliette for actually being able to write this because it must take a lot of courage to pour your heart into pieces of paper that you know the world will be able see. Her journey was heartbreaking at times and I can only imagine what it must feel like to have to say goodbye to a life you’ve known for years and start afresh. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and meeting the people in Juliette’s life who helped her through the tough times. If you love romance and you love Paris then I’d say to pick up a copy of Meet Me In Paris, the true story is actually quite lovely and tells a great tale of how with good friends you can make it through anything. Now all I need is a ticket to Paris.

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John Hughes: The Best of the Worst

John Hughes is a bastion of teen movies, he practically invented the modern teen movie.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, the chances are John Hughes helped you to get in touch with your acne covered, slightly greasy, hormonal feelings!

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Hughes gave us some great movie moments. There’s the emotionally charged scene in The Breakfast Club (you know, the one where we found out Emilio Estevez is a person as well as a jock, and The nerd can’t make an elephant lamp). Ferris Bueller somehow getting away with destroying his friend’s Dad’s car. Let’s not forget Kevin McCallister beating a couple of inept burglars with a house of tricks. So sometimes it can be easy to forget just how many duffers he squeezed out the nib of a pen.

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Ladies and Gentlemen I am here with you today to give you five reasons that John Hughes, should have stuck to capers involving children being abandoned and teenagers coming to terms with growing up.

So, let’s start at the end:

5. Drillbit Taylor (2008, 1hr 50mins, 12A)

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The classic tale of little kids getting even with their bullied.

So, take three nerds, some bullies and an older father type figure who helps them to overcome their demons. It’s like the Karate Kid but with a pathetic loser instead of Mr Miyagi. And there’s three of them.

Most of the jokes involve rather terrible slapstick and Owen Wilson (as the eponymous Drillbit Taylor, our Mr Miyagi) pretending to be cool when he clearly isn’t. At least Mr Miyagi was legit.

Hughes used a pseudonym, Edmond Dantes and you can tell why. Maybe he didn’t want people to remember him with this film, the very last before his death in 2009

4. Maid in Manhattan (2002, 1hr 45mins, PG)

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Where to begin with this festering, cesspool of a movie? This was a pretty big hit back in the day, grossing $155 million worldwide. It became the go to date movie of late ‘02 and early ‘03, and middle age ladies love watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of Chunky Monkey.

So, why is this movie so terrible? People clearly like it. Well we’ll start with the acting, Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura is so wooden she could be picked up to stir your favourite cake batter with. Ralph Fiennes as the bajillionaire that rescues Marisa from her terrible life was also pretty bad, but in his defense he does his best with what he’s got. Which isn’t much.

The script is Awful, you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Pretty Woman, as it’s essentially the same story. Only told less well and even more patronising to women. Hey girls! If you want to get away from your life of drudgery and awfulness, just meet a rich, white dude. He’ll be amazed at how novel poor people are and buy you nice thing

3. Curly Sue (1991, 1hr 41mins, PG)

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Upon it’s release Curly Sue was a a bit of a flop, and gained a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike.

The story centres around a homeless man with a heart of gold, Bill Dancer (Jim Belushi). Along with his plucky sidekick, Curly sue (Alisan Porter), a young child about the age of 8. They pulls scams, not to get money, because that would be wrong, but to get food to eat, that’s survival, so it’s OK.

Apart from some loose back story revealing Bill knew Curly’s (Or Sue’s?) mother and agreed to look after her once her mother died it’s not really clear why he didn’t just dump this irritating little weasel as soon as he could.

She’s just. So. Annoying! She has a whiney voice and shows a level of cutesy precociousness not witnessed since Shirley Temple sang about her Goodship Lollypop.

Then, one day they try and scam a fancy lawyer. They end up getting invited to stay the night in her house, and in what I am sure will be a shock twist to you all. She ends up falling in love with Bill, the homeless guy that tried to scam her for free food. How adorable.

Most of this film doesn’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional and (as previously stated) really annoying. This film did so badly, Hughes actually dropped out of the business of show for a little bit. Not for long though as the next year he saved himself with Home Alone II

2. She’s Having a Baby (1988, 1hr 46mins, 15)

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Hughes didn’t want to be typecast, over his 30 year career he tried his hand at many genres, from pure kids’ movies (Home Alone), to teen movies,(Pretty in Pink) and Comedy movies (The Vacation series). Some genres he could tap into and others he just couldn’t get the hang of. Adult drama, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It’s about a newly married couple learning how to be married. An interesting concept, getting married is a pretty big change in people’s lives, you have to learn to adjust and compromise and make big decisions together. Like weather or not to have a baby.  

Like other films on this  list, the catalogue of errors is present, the bad acting, terrible direction. Awful dialogue and a script that doesn’t always make sense. You have zero sympathy for the characters as Kevin Bacon’s character, Jake Briggs drops out of his Master’s degree, seemingly because he got scared of not being good enough. Meanwhile Kirsty Briggs (Ally Sheedy) just randomly stops taking birth control without telling her husband. I’m all for women being in charge of their own bodies, but having a baby affects both of you… At least tell the guy! By the end, when they eventually have the baby they have learnt so little and seem like such terrible people you really wish they hadn’t just procreated.

 

And the winner of worst John Hughes movie is

1. Mr. Mom (1983, 1hr 31mins, PG)

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A man has to look after a child. Hilarity ensues. This should be enough to tell you all that you need to know about this movie. That and the poster, just look at it! You know you’re in for a hilarious time when you see a man wearing rubber gloves and carrying a baby.

I know that this film is over 30 years old now, and some allowances must be given for historical context. Even with that in mind, this is really just. Anger inducing.

So, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) loses his job. So wife, Caroline (a housewife of many years) has to go out to work. After a few japes involving terrible slapstick and pooey nappy jokes Jack starts to get the hang of this child care and cleaning malarky. However, after a while he starts to find this life a little constricting (he’s learning what it’s like to be a woman in the 80s… How very progressive!). Then his neighbours start coming onto him. Let’s face it all housewives are horny and just want to sleep with whoever is going, married or not.

I’m sure at the time it was thought of as being progressive, it was only 4 years later we got Three Men and a Baby (a much better film following a similar theme) but it’s just misguided. Caroline works for an ad executives, and they want to hire her based on her housewife know how, they might as well have patted her on the head and said ‘now now pretty lady, we need someone who knows about these… Women’s things’. Eurgh. 

Street Fighter: The Movie: The Review 

It was May 1995, Robson & Jerome were topping the charts with Unchained Melody *shudders* and a young Adam Sandler had just hit it big with Billy Madison mere months before but the movie I was excited about that year was Street Fighter. 

Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo was one of the first games I had for my very first video game console the Super Nintendo I loved it but there was a problem. The movie was certificate 15 and I was only 7 years old. My Dad thought he would try and take me anyway so we queued up outside the cinema for the showing (that’s what you had to do in those days) but when we got to the front I was rejected for being too young and we had to go and see the terrible Macaulay Culkin Richie Rich movie *shuddering intensifies*. 

So 1995 went on and I forgot about this movie partially due to the Mortal Kombat movie coming out later the same year which I got for Xmas on VHS. It wasn’t until I was around college age when I finally saw Street Fighter, I picked it up in HMV for about £3 and settled down for the ride of my 7 year old self’s life!

  

You Lose

The movie opens up with the classic news story montage to set the scene as so many action movies do. It introduces us to our villain General M. Bison the evil dictator of the fictional country of Shadowloo (which looks a lot like Thailand) he is played by the amazing Raúl Juliá (known to our generation from the Addams Family films). I just want to say this up front, Raúl Juliá single handedly carries this movie. It’s a well known fact that he was dying of stomach cancer during the filming but he is such a professional that he never let it impact his performance. Apparently he would be sat down for most of the production day but as soon as they said ‘Action’ he came to life and in my opinion totally steals the show.

In the first scene we see Bison loading hostages into a pit, he personally slaps a few of them down I think? The camera cuts are pretty bad throughout the movie, often obscuring the fighting which is a baffling editing choice for a movie about Street Fighters. We hear via news reporter Chuni Li (played by Ming-Na Wen of Agents of Shield fame) that there is a $20 Billion ransom for these hostages and the world has 72 hours to pay up or they will be killed. 

During the news report (which Bison is watching on a giant TV display) Chun Li tries to get some words from the Colonel Guile on the hostage situation. So we get our first glimpse of our sonic boom throwing, flash kicking American hero so who did they get to play him? The muscles from Brussels himself Jean-Claude Van Damme of course! JCVD’s acting is a mess in this film his accent is barely understandable and it feels like they just did one take a rolled with it for the most part. Guile is part of some kind of worldwide army called the Allied Nations whose main priority is to take down Bison it seems.

Whilst being interviewed Guile tells his buddy Charlie that he’s going to save him which immediately outs the poor guy to Bison who decides he now has special plans for Carlos “Charlie” Blanka. It turns out these special plans are to turn Charlie into a mutated super soldier. So he’s hooked up to a machine that pipes in green mutagen goo and shows him violent video clips like that scene in A Clockwork Orange. Good going Guile! Luckily the head scientist eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim (the stretchy, fire breathing Indian yoga master from the game is also a scientist apparently) decides this is a bit too much and sets out to save what he can of Charlie’s humanity. 

   

The World Warriors

Over the next half hour or so we’re quickly introduced to the rest of the cast. Joining Chun Li Zang on her news team we have the pro boxer Balrog who has always been on Bison’s side in the games, E. Honda who in the game is a Japanese sumo wrestler but here he is a Hawaiian sumo complete with stereotypical shirt and everything. But this news team is just a cover so Chun Li can get info on Bison’s whereabouts in the hopes of confronting and assassinating him.
With Guile’s A.N. army we have Cammy the British agent played by Australian pop sensation Kylie Minogue. Who was apparently only hired to satisfy the union of the Australian Actor’s Guild as the indoor scenes were filmed there. T. Hawk who in the game is a hulking native american stereotype but in this film he’s just a regular looking soldier who at one point dons a headband with a funky design on it near the end. He also inexplicably has a band-aid on his forehead throughout the movie even though we never see him in any action scenes. 

Ryu and Ken who are the main characters of the video game are so disappointing in the movie. They are travelling con-men who make a living doing dodgy arms deals with Bison’s men. This inevitably lands them in hot water but helps them infiltrate the evil organisation and relay info to Guile. Two of the coolest characters in fighting game history are reduced to morally ambiguous scam artists who provide incredibly cringey “comic relief” and just to cap it off not one fireball is thrown between them! And no one pronounces Ryu’s name consistently some say Rhy-oo and others Ree-oo the latter being the correct one. Disappointing. 

The rest of Bison’s thugs include Dee Jay, the Jamaican dance fighter who seems to run the computers in Bison’s lair and do no fighting at all. Vega, the claw wielding underground cage fighter. This guy is pretty faithful to his video game counterpart the costume is on point and he actually fights in a cage just like his stage in Street Fighter 2! Zangief the towering Russian wrestler is another one they get right. He’s played by bodybuilder and looks spot on, he’s the classic dumb henchmen who provides some of the only good jokes in this movie. 

Finally we have Sagat who in the game is an impossibly huge Muay Thai kickboxing legend. He’s played by the then 48 year old Wes Studi who is a great actor but not very imposing as a fighter. There’s a great scene between him and M. Bison early on where they are brokering a deal for weapons and instead of real money Bison offers him these:

  

Sagat: Is this a joke? This money isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on!

Bison: On the contrary. Every Bison Dollar will be worth five British pounds. That is the exchange rate that the Bank of England will implement after I kidnap their Queen.

Such a good line and delivered perfectly by Raúl. This movie has flashes of good comedy moments but they come few far and between. If they’d just embraced this goofy side more often this would have been much more enjoyable to watch. 

So that’s our very over saturated cast, apparently Capcom (the Japanese company that owns Street Fighter) fought against the director to include as many characters as possible as he originally only wanted 7 from the video game. So as you can imagine this leaves a small percentage of screen time for everyone and they all go undeveloped as a result. Capcom are also the ones who pushed for JCVD as Guile who’s fee cost around a fourth of the films budget.

You Sunk My Stealth Boat

So after a bit of in fighting all the good guys wind up on the same page and decide to launch a full army assault on Bison’s Bond villain lair. Guile and his troops are about to leave when my second favourite character shows up out of nowhere. This guy!

  

The snooty rich government bureaucrat (Simon Callow) playing pretty much the same character he would play in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls later in the year. This guy is great, with a smug face looking like he’s just closed down a beloved youth centre he proceeds to tell Guile that the A.N. is going to negotiate with Bison and he is to inform his troops to stand down. So this prompts Guile to make a fairly passionless speech to his troops and he manages to whip them up into a frenzy and runs off to confront Bison against orders in his STEALTH BOAT!

  

This has got to be one of the least stealthiest vehicles in film history. The first thing you notice is it has Guile’s full name in huge white letters plastered on the side. Granted once he get’s going they do activate the stealth camo to render the boat invisible but that doesn’t stop the huge wake it leaves behind as it bombs loudly down the river to Bison’s lair. Then guile decides to take out the cameras and gun emplacements on the river bank so proceeds to start shooting a huge chain gun in all directions causing giant explosions in every direction. STEALTH!!!

Somehow this catches Bison’s attention and he manages to blow up the boat. Guile and crew had luckily escaped from it though and our heroes make their way into the base. They snoop around for a bit but are captured pretty quickly and Bison orders Chun Li to be taken to his quarters.

Bison’s bedroom is absolutely hilarious. There are skulls everywhere, a chandelier made of human bones, a hat rack for all his different coloured hats and this gem of a painting:

  

Bison changes into his smoking jacket and Chun Li gives an impassioned speech about how when she was a child her father had been killed defending their small village from a group of thugs lead by a young Bison. The reply he gives to this is without a doubt one of the greatest bad guy lines in movie history:

Bison: I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it. 

Chun Li: You don’t remember? 

Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday. 

Ice cold. After this amazing line Chun Li launches her attack and almost beats Bison but he gets himself into a safe room and releases gas into the room. So our heroes are captured again and the time is up so Bison plans to execute the hostages by letting Blanka loose in the pit to murder them all!

  

Behold your tiny ginger hulk in all his glory! Blanka looks absolutely awful, he doesn’t look scary at all and he doesn’t even do anything! He chokes Guile for a second before he realises that he knows him and then that’s pretty much the last we see him. Blanka was such a cool character in the game, a feral green man raised in the Brazilian rain forest who could use electric powers he learned from eels to zap people. Just another thing in a long list of disappointments. 

So we’re into the final big action scene, they were obviously going for a James Bond type of thing with army guys rappelling into the base and bad guys getting blown up and flying everywhere but it looks so low budget. Bison and Guile face off in unarmed combat but during the fight Bison gets knocked into a computer panel and gets electrified. Instead of killing him this boosts his power somehow and he starts flying around slightly reminiscent of his video game counterpart but way less impressive. They’re clearly just swinging Raúl Juliá around on wires as he flies into Guile with his fists held out. Watching this I’m terrified for Raúl’s health, this is a man who was unfortunately months away from death and here he is risking his life for this waste of a movie. 

So Guile finally knocks Bison out of the air with a jump kick so nice they replay the scene thrice and he flies into a big pile of monitors and is crushed. Guile then tries to rescue Charlie Blanka from the self destructing lair but eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim who is now inexplicably dressed like an adult baby having lost his hair and clothes in a lab fire I guess? Anyway, he tells Guile that he’ll take Blanka to go be one with nature or something so Guile reluctantly leaves.

All of our heroes escape the lair while it explodes and they all decide to do a little pose for the camera as the film’s logo pops up, yay! At least the characters are actually doing an approximation of their in game poses so they got that part right. 

  

K.O.

And there we have it people, it’s finally over. This movie is very confusing, why they decided to try and create a cheap military action movie instead of going with the tournament structure of the game is beyond me. It feels like they were trying to fight against the characters they’d been given instead of embracing them. Or they already had a movie premise in mind and tried to shoehorn the Street Fighter characters into it. Either way it doesn’t work and everyone is unhappy. 

There are some baffling creative choices made that just annoy the Street Fighter fan in me. Why were there none of the series signature special moves? Why is Dhalsim a scientist? Why do they feel the need to give all the characters first and second names? Why is there barely any fighting in this movie called Street Fighter? Why does Dhalsim suddenly become bald at the end?!

According to the director it was a nightmare to direct and the whole production was plagued with bad luck and a dwindling budget. Polygon did a great article about what went wrong with this movie which I’d thoroughly recommend reading here. I can only recommend watching this movie if you love Street Fighter and you want to see how wrong it can go or you’re with a group of friends and drinks are involved. Or if you don’t want to spend any of your hard earned Bison Dollars maybe just find an M. Bison montage on YouTube.

I can’t even seriously rate this movie so it give it 1 Bison Dollar out of eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim.

  

Five Films That Should Have Ruined A Franchise But Didn’t

5. Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift

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It’s hard to believe we are now on the cusp of being eight films into this behemoth of a franchise and, with films nine and ten reportedly already being outlined, it shows absolutely no signs of stopping. But it all could have been so different after the release of an utter skidmark of a third film. Somehow they managed to suck all of the stupid joy of meatheads barreling along in souped up cars and shoehorn some pathetic piss-baby story about a young man finding love and acceptance through streetcar racing. Some of the race scenes are undoubtedly thrilling, but the pace is jarring, the acting is so wooden you could probably chisel a good chest of drawers out of it, and by bringing back none of the actors from the previous films (expect Vin Diesel, who pops up in a rubbish cameo) it makes this film feel completely out of sync with the rest of the series. The team behind F&F have upped their game since, shrewdly nudging the films to be more action/heist based propositions and dropping in some heavyweight names (Kurt Russell, Jason Statham), meaning that the latest instalment has punched through that blessed $1 billion dollar mark.

 
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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Oh Hugh, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. Everyone loves Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine. Everyone. Even people who hate superhero/comic book films think he is a good Wolverine, and if they don’t then they are beyond help, but dearest Hugh tested all our goodwill with this horrendous instalment in the X-Men franchise. All the hallmarks of a dud were there from the start, an incomplete script at the start of filming (which only works for Ridley Scott and, for him, only about 35% of the time), bad scheduling and general production troubles; then butting of heads between director and the production company, piracy of a non-theatrical release version. All in all, it was an utter state.  Fox, however, did learn their lesson from this steaming mess, shelving plans for any further ‘Origin’ stories (Magneto was mooted but then cancelled) and started a sneaky rejigging of the franchise by using First Class and Days of Future Past to make Origins an unessential and grubby footmark. Wolverine finally did eventually get a half decent stand alone film, but Origins stands alone as a brilliant example of how not to do a comic book film.

 

3. Saw III

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*raises hand* I admit now that I am a big fan of the first Saw film and the second film was an entertaining, gory attempt to further the myth of Jigsaw. Saw III is where I draw the line; where I felt the novelty wear off and I was dulled to the tricksy traps and gratuitous gore. The introduction of Amanda (Shawnee Smith) showed us the thought process of the film’s producers. By introducing a disciple-esque character with an unwavering dedication to Jigsaw’s vision and someone who was quite happy to continue it on the producers set up the Jigsaw universe to survive without Jigsaw himself. It was all very cynical and all very rubbish, to be honest. Saw III itself was a muddled half job, exceedingly dull and convoluted beyond belief, and the franchise never recovered. Yeah, it made a huge chunk of cash over the course of its 7 (and possibly 8) films, but it never reached those dizzy heights of actually being good ever again.

 
2. Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4)

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More like Live Farce and Die Hard, amirite? Die Hard 4 (I can’t be arsed with its longer moniker) was something that should have been just talked about and not acted upon. It has left a smelly little stain on a once great trilogy and spawned another furiously bad fifth film which was somehow worse. And now someone has decided it would a great move to make a prequel to the entire franchise. What irks me the most about Die Hard 4 is that it diluted all the great elements of the previous three films (the snark, the writing, John McClane’s humanity) and created something so infuriatingly generic in its execution. Die Hard 4 has nothing to set it apart from any other crappy post 2000 action film, the writing is flat, the action sequences themselves are riddled and soiled by shitty CGI, and Willis looks bored (and that’s in the decent scenes). Die Hard with Vengeance is the last Die Hard film for me, and will stay that way for a long time yet.

1. Highlander 2: The Quickening

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Highlander is my catnip. Highlander 2: The Quickening is my Kryptonite. I become so weak with despair whenever it is mentioned that I crumple to floor before crawling away to the nearest darkened room to collect my thoughts. Every terrible thing you have heard about The Quickening is true. It is an utter shambles. It dismantles the good stuff from the first film and grinds it into a dust. The Quickening goes as far as to re-write and ruin the origins of the Immortals, turning it into nonsense that even James Joyce would be proud of. Sean Connery inexplicably reappears (for the money probably) even though that should be theoretically impossible. But this film basically says fuck to everything. The creators clearly felt guilty about releasing this lung spore of the devil onto the general public that they made a third film, and a fourth, and a fifth, and then a naff tv series. There’s also been a couple of animated series, a Japanese anime film (!), and various games and merchandise thrown in there for good measure. Do yourself a favour. Start with the first. End with the first.

 

There can be only one.

Trainspotting: 20 Years On

On 23 February 1996 Trainspotting exploded onto our cinema screens, and arguably, they were never quite the same again.

I first saw Trainspotting on my 13th birthday (late night Channel 4 FTW!). I became obsessed with this film, I had the poster, the soundtrack, I watched it at least once a week for about a year, I pre-ordered the The Definitive Edition on DVD a good three years before I should have done (The Internet: helping youngster view inappropriate content since 1995) . A few years later I even bought the special edition VHS with a lighter and metal Rizzla holder.

However, due to growing older and discovering new interests It’s been a few years since I last watched it. So, as this year marks the film’s 20th birthday I thought I might revisit this classic British tale of drugs, sex, thievery and betrayal.

trainspotting feet

Right from the opening scene the film still packs a punch. From the moment Iggy Pop starts declaring his Lust for Life I was hooked in all over again, as we see our band of plucky drug addicts running down the street, laughing and full of life, we know we’re in for a ride full of thrills and spills. With the main character, Renton’s (played brilliantly by a young Ewan Mcgregor) voice over enthusiastically telling us all “Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”, showing how he decided to reject the conventions of a normal life. No wonder 13 year old me who always struggled to fit in loved this film, it’s about people that don’t fit in in society, and whats more, they actively reject it.

At the time of release the film received criticism from the press for ‘glamorizing’ the use of heroin and drugs. I really feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Trainspotting is brutal in the realities of what can happen when you’re addicted to heroin. The filmmakers were bold enough to not talk down to it’s audience, to show them both sides of the story and let us make up our own minds about the subject.

Trainspotting needle

Yes, it shows the positives in a world that has mostly been shown as only negative, Renton tells us about the amazing high, a woman tells us after shooting up that it beats ‘any fucking cock in the world’. The set design is bright and colourful at times, the editing is fast paced and full of energy, the performances are three dimensional and well rounded. This positive light, sometimes venturing into the slightly surreal is what really sets Trainspotting apart from other films depiction of heroin addiction. Even now it feels like a breath of fresh air on this subject. Something showing drug addiction as something other than a desperate, low state of affairs was essential to it’s success.

On the other side of the same coin they were also bold enough to show  us some of the more disturbing aspects of drug addition.We see a woman lose her baby in the smack den, we see Renton going through hell during one of the most iconic scenes, where his parents lock him in his childhood bedroom to quit smack cold turkey. We feel that we are there with him, going through all the stages and all the hallucinations. There’s a character who started off choosing life, then choose heroin when his life starts going downhill (thanks, in large part to Renton stealing his home made sex tape), he gets AIDS from dirty needles and ends up dying alone, in the dirt, with no one to notice him missing. These might be something that other films with this much joviality in it might shy away from. Trainspotting went there through, it dared to show us a spectrum of the life of an addict. They’re not just poor miserable little people taking drugs to make their lives bearable. There’s more to it than that, and Trainspotting really opened the door on being able to show all aspects of smack and not just the doom and despair that is often portrayed in films on the subject. Perhaps it even helped to open the doors on discussions about drugs and their effects in the wider community. 

trainspotting diane

This is before we can even touch on some of the other themes in the film, such as poverty, underage sex, relationships, and betrayal.

When watching the film I was shocked at how fresh and innovative it still felt. A lot of that has to do with the director Danny Boyle, he wanted it to be funny and for it to have moments of surrealism, this is not just a doom and gloom story, this is an adventure. Trainspotting was only his second feature film, and it’s down to him where the film gets it’s great energy, and manages to draw great performances from his actors. The scene where Renton takes an overdose and sinks into the carpet is still one of the best, like the scene where his parents lock him in his room it works to place us in his place, we all sink into the ground with him, his lowest point this far (literally and figuratively). We are always with the characters, they are not just there to be pitied or vilified, you identify with them, you go with them through the good and the bad.

trainspotting toilet

The use of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day during this scene is also a great example of the film’s great used of music and sound. The soundtrack helps to set the time period (approx mid/late 80s’ mid 90s according to Danny Boyle in one of the special features on the DVD), and the use of the opening sequence again later in the film, but with different music totally changes how you feel about it, it not longer feels full of exuberance and freedom, it becomes a dead end, they get arrested, Spud ends up going to prison and Renton fails at trying to wean himself away from heroin onto methadone.  The music really helps to make the film, it helps to set the changing of time without it being said explicitly by the cast. 

Revisiting an old favourite after a few years can sometimes leave you disappointed, after all as humans we are prone to change our tastes and wants from our art. Trainspotting did not disappoint. It was just as fresh and vibrant as it was on that first viewing 15 years ago. It might not have blown my mind as it did once, but it certainly captivated me for an hour and a half. Even twenty years on this is as relevant and as exciting as it ever was.

 

(technically this isn’t really a review, but I’m going to give it some stars anyway, just ’cause I want to)

 

★★★★★

 

Mortal Kombat XL Kombat Pack 2 Character Breakdown

  

The crew at NetherRealm Studios have just released the latest (and seemingly last) batch of downloadable characters for 2015’s Mortal Kombat X. They are also releasing a new disc version too which includes all post launch content released so far inventively named Mortal Kombat XL. The game now has an impressive roster of 35 characters each with 3 fighting variations to choose from, which is a lot of content. So here’s a quick rundown of the latest fighters to be added.


Alien

  

The Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise joins the MK crew to hug some faces. Alien is actually a pretty good fit for a fighting game since he specialises on fast up close combat and isn’t afraid to dismember a fool much like many of the MK cast. As with all the guest characters they give a bit of context as to why they show up in the world of Mortal Kombat. In Alien’s case some of Outworld’s denizens (possibly missing series veteran Baraka) uncovered the infamous alien egg that had lay dormant in a cave and well… you know the rest of this story. Like in the movies the alien takes on some characteristics of its host so in this case it gains retractable arm blades and a mouth full of sharp Tarkatan teeth.

As with all fighters in MKX, Alien has 3 fighting style variations. First up Acidic, which gives you access to some acid spewing moves which can inflict damage over time if your opponent gets hit. Tarkatan which gives you some of Baraka’s classic moves like his chop chop blades attack and some different combos using said blades. Finally you’ve got Konjurer which changes your appearance to look more like a Queen Alien and gives you the ability to spawn alien eggs which shoot out facehuggers to stun your poor foes. This last variation ended up being my favourite just because of the facehugger traps you can set.

They do a pretty good job fitting in as many movie references as they can, the Alien Queen shows up in one of the fatalities to skewer and rend your opponent in half. If you face off against Johnny Cage (MK’s resident movie star/martial artist) he says the famous “Game over man!” line before the fight begins. And now that Alien is in we can finally settle the age old battle of Alien vs Predator as they fight it out in Mortal Kombat.


Bo’ Rai Cho
  

Bo is the drunken martial arts master who trained some of Earthrealm’s greatest fighters like Liu Kang and Kung Lao. He’s mostly played as a joke character since he’s constantly drinking and he acts like he’s seen it all. He also has a penchant for puking and farting on his opponents. But if you dig a little deeper he’s actually a pretty cool character with a lot of quick strikes and tricky moves to keep your enemies off guard. 

In his Dragon Breath variation he can spit boozy fireballs at your opponents or set traps by lighting the floor on fire. Bartitsu gives him a wooden stick which gives him a little more range to his attacks and some extra special moves. his main variation seems to be the Drunken Master though. This allows you to drink from your special flask which improves most of your other moves, the catch is that if you don’t stop and top up your alcohol levels before 10 secs are up you’ll puke and be vulnerable to counter attacks. This variation was the most fun to mess around with but you can tell this character has a lot of depth if you have the skill to find it. He also has a pretty cool movie reference if you pit him against Predator, Bo’ Rai Cho channels Arnold and calls him “One ugly mother fucker” before the fight begins.


Leatherface 
  

The creepy hillbilly murderer from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies brings his chainsaw and a few of his dead skin masks into combat. Leatherface’s bit of story justification is that he’s sent by his brother to find the best kind of meat for one of his special chillis and he wanders through a portal into Outworld. Seeing all of the new types of creatures and demons he sets off to find the tastiest of all.

Obviously his moves centre around his Chainsaw so he has pretty good range, his attacks start slow so he’s risky but has good damage potential. The Killer variation allows him to use a berserker stance from which he can charge across the screen with his saw or launch some repeated strikes pretty quickly. Using Butcher gives you access his hammer which can stun the other fighter giving you plenty of time to set up your next combo. And in his Pretty Lady variation he gains the ability to throw his chainsaw which allows him to attack no matter where the opponent is. 

I found Leatherface a bit one note overall, a lot of his attacks look the same because he really loves that chainsaw and he doesn’t have a lot of personality because he’s a mute psycho killer. It’s all shouting and chainsaw noises which for me got old pretty fast.


Triborg
  

This character is MKXL’s way of adding 4 fighters in one. Introduced in 1995’s MK3 the robot ninjas Cyrax, Sektor and Smoke became instant fan favourites even if they were technically rip offs of predator (down to the dread locks and everything). They have also included MK9’s Cyber 

Sub-Zero as a secret 4th variation which you access by double tapping up on the D-pad then pressing Triangle when you’re selecting your variation. Their story is that the government was conducting experiments and trying to use the cyborgs as a force for good but it went wrong and now there are 3 cyborg killers on the loose who think humans are the inferior species.

Any long term MK fans should be familiar with these guys, each variation has similar normal moves but totally different special moves. Cyrax has bombs he can throw out, a jumping throw to catch people out of the air, a buzz saw attack and his signature energy net to trap people for a free hit. Sektor has missiles… tonnes of missiles, a flamethrower and his teleport uppercut which is extremely satisfying to land. Smoke has his harpoon to reel in opponents and lots of teleport shenanigans. Cyber Sub-Zero shares a lot of special moves with his human counterpart but also has a quick diving kick and drones he can summon to power up combos and specials.

I’m having the most fun with Triborg so far, each variation does feel like different character but I always did have a soft spot for the Cyborgs so maybe I’m biased. Overall I’m extremely satisfied with this latest group of characters and can’t wait to have some friends over so we can finally settle some horror movie grudge matches. Whoever wins… We lose.
  

The Naff Nic Season: The Wicker Man (2006)

(112 Minutes, Rated 12A)

What can I say about 2006 version of The Wicker Man that hasn’t already been said? It’s already been mauled by critics and skewered like a shish kebab by various other articles; the general public even agree that it is an absolute stinker of a film hence its appearance at number 2 on the Naff Nic Bottom Five. I, myself, have seen this film on a couple of occasions since its release and, if my memory serves me correctly, I was a slightly inebriated in both instances. You should all thank me then that for the purposes of this challenge I have watched The Wicker Man stone cold sober. I even managed not to drink after the conclusion of the film, not just because I didn’t have any in the house, but mainly because I was concerned I would have drunken nightmares about BEES (oh god, not the bees!).

 

The basic premise of The Wicker Man is very similar to the original with a few subtle changes. While Edward Woodward’s Sgt Howie was a devoutly religious copper sent to Summerisle to investigate a missing child, Nicolas Cage’s Edward Malus is a copper on the trail of a child after his ex wife has informed him and said child turns out to be his daughter (oh I  love a shitty pointless modern twist). Now here is where I feel the remake made its first major misstep. The importance of Sgt Howie’s religious beliefs in the original Wicker Man is absolutely paramount to the horror that unfolds as we watch the residents of Summerisle challenge and strip away everything that he holds dear to him; his beliefs, his then previously unquestioned dedication to the Christian God, his life, until he is nothing but a pawn in their game of sacrifice. The remake, for some reason, completely misses the point of this and goes down some strange Salem witch shit route and Sister Summersisle (they somehow got Ellen Burstyn involved in this) spouts some spiel about their little Pagan commune being mainly female due to their own version of twisted Darwinism. It’s not frightening, nor does it really make an sense.

And we continue down this nonsensical route for the next hour and forty minutes or a bit less if you got really bored of watching this shoddy, apparent ‘horror’ film and turned the television off.

25-wicker-man

However, if we rewind a little bit, take a deep breath, and start again, watching this time through a comedic lens, we will actually find slivers of enjoyment in this massive overcooked cake of dump.

Some of the dialogue is utterly astonishing in its absurdity and I’m pretty sure some of it could be used as a backing loop in a Lemon Jelly song. We all know the howling bees line, the ‘HOW DID IT GET BURNED!’ scene has made it into countless memes and cut into various youtube videos (Nic Cage’s very own screaming goat moment), and ‘KILLING ME WON’T BRING BACK YOUR GODDAMN HONEY!’ deserves an award for its bizarreness. However, the line that got me the most was in the scene in which Malus spots two men carrying a bag dripping blood, his detective radar beeps and he floors them with his aggressive interrogation which amounts to him saying ‘What’s in the bag? A shark or something?’ The delivery is Derek Zoolander-esque, deadly serious with no hint of how ludicrous his sounds, and it makes you wonder if Nicolas Cage was off his tits when he read this script.

There is also some beautiful physical comedy on show. The scene where Cage punches a grown woman in the face while he is dressed as a bear will definitely go down in the top 5 funny things someone has done in a animal costume (Ace Ventura still takes the top spot with his emergence from a rhino anus).

My complaint about Cage’s acting in Left Behind can go out the window where The Wicker Man is concerned. A lot of the joy in watching The Wicker Man comes from watching the man himself. He spends most of the film borderline hysterical, screaming at women and bees, while he is being mugged off and undermined by the inhabitants of the island. Nuance does not exist here. This is the googly eyed realm of yelling shit lines, and I cannot deny that it is bloody entertaining to watch Cage stomp around, pointing his gun and screeching at people to get off bikes. The bee scene is particularly iconic and Cage gives it his all, probably popping some blood vessels in the process. Yes, this film is pure garbage but Cage brings the fireworks and stops this film from being truly unmemorable.

The other characters are so underdrawn that they were probably sketched out on rice paper and then threw in the bin yet somehow they got some pretty decent acting talent involved (LeeLee Sobieski, Frances Conroy, Molly Parker). But they are little more than tiny moons orbiting around planet Cage.

What galls me the most is the fact that director/screenwriter Neil LaBute can direct and write a decent black comedy. Nurse Betty was a fantastic, sharp piece of work, and Fat Pig was a biting takedown of our obsession with weight. If he had gone the same way with The Wicker Man then we could have had a half decent film on our hands but instead he went down the pure ‘horror’ route, using dull and basic ‘twists’ (the missing child being the daughter) without imbuing them with any sense of meaning as to how this affects proceedings, and hysterical set pieces which are meant to scare us but do little but make us roll our eyes or just make us laugh.

The Wicker Man is a film that should be watched drunk. It is the only way to get a vague sense of enjoyment without the fury of what could have been if someone had just been wise enough to say ‘no, wait, this is actually shit’, or ‘hey Neil, shall we just make this a comedy instead?’ Watching it sober has not improved my life in any way so i’ll be sure to have a bottle of Bailey’s nearby the next time I’m so bored that I’m tempted to watch this again for the fourth time.
IMDB rating: 3.6

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (as a horror)

My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (as a comedy)