Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Film review:
Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

The first big screen pairing of rising BBC3 "stars" James Corden and Mathew Horne is many things - unfocussed, flabby (even at 86 minutes), ultimately tedious (quite an achievement for a movie featuring semi-nude female vamps) - but the one thing it isn't is another Shaun of the Dead. LSK is neither as good as it could have been, nor as bad as some of the critics have indicated: another misfiring British sf/horror comedy, in other words, to join the ranks of Evil Aliens, The Revenge of Billy the Kid and When Evil Calls. You'll have far more fun watching the "Lesbian Vampire Lovers of Lust" episode of Dr Terrible's House of Horrible.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Are You Still Here?

The award-winning online archive eFanzines just posted Are You Still Here?, a selection of material I've written over the past twenty-three years. The most daunting part was making the final cut; I'm almost tempted to put together a second volume (you have been warned...).

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Fifty Pence to Stop!

[First published on LiveJournal, November 2005:]

In common with [my friends Fran and Sandra], I've somehow slipped onto the Penknife Press e-mailing list, the company's name presumably arising from the item you grab to slash your wrists when the latest teaser chapter arrives.

Sunday's extract was from The Last and Final King by Obi (sorry, who?), ominously entitled "Book I, Chapter I":

Life is a f***. In and out, in and out, over and over again. Like a sine wave. Like a wave good-bye. It feels good to push it in, but the feeling doesn’t last. It fades like the sound of a plucked guitar string, or a train whistle breezing by the station. Good-bye! You have to pull it out just so you can push it back in, just so the feeling will be intense again. And there you are again as the feeling fades, and you want it to last forever, so you pull it out again. Your rear end is bobbing in the air, and to what end? The feeling that fades and keeps you bobbing? Is this what forgetting history is like? What about your own personal history? In and out, in and out, over and over again.
Sorry, your arse is bobbing in the air whilst you wave goodbye to a train whistling through a tunnel and try to remember how to play the guitar? Is this death by a thousand similes?

I want to forget, but I can’t.
Try harder. I certainly am, right now.

Film review:
A Fine Madness (1966)

One of the joys of having TCM included in your cable package is discovering movies which have somehow slipped you by over the past four decades. Sadly, A Fine Madness (1966) is not one of the cases for celebration.

Sean Connery takes the lead role of tortured poet Samson Shillitoe, with Joanne Woodward largely wasted as current wife Rhoda, forced to work as a waitress whilst the beligerent bard stumbles around New York, seducing virtually anything female with a pulse and moaning - incessantly - about his inability to complete his second poetry cycle. No one appears sure whether this is a drama about creative insanity, an adult comedy (for its period, that is; the only naked chest we see is Connery's) or some hamfisted combination of the two.

Whilst we ponder the tagline "We should all be so crazy", our poet dodges city cops to avoid paying alimony to his first wife, acts with no concern for anyone but himself, sails through a lobotomy with no obvious effect and reacts to the news of Rhoda's pregnancy by punching her on a public street. As Shillitoe fends off an outraged crowd, THE END fills the screen, and barely a minute too soon.

I realise attitudes were different 43 years ago, but surely even back then, audiences would have had difficulty identifying with a violent, adulterous wifebeater who believes the world owes him a living because he sold fewer than 200 copies of his only volume of poetry? Maybe there's a good reason I'd never caught up with it.

[First published on Livejournal, February 2009]

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Closing Time

[First published in my online Sunday Mercury column "Toby Jugg", September 2008:]

I just returned home from watching the scary thriller The Strangers at the Cineworld on Birmingham's Broad Street.

But for all that movie's chills and blood spills, the evening's most horrific moments look place a few hundred yards away in Bishopsgate Street, at the City Tavern.

I had an uneasy feeling as I walked into the fairly tiny bar and noticed seven of the eight beer taps were turned around to indicate that particular brew was out of stock.

Raising my voice so I could be audible over the blaring television in the corner of the room, I jokingly asked the glumfaced barman if there had been an unexpected influx of real ale fans.

No, he explained, the management had put the entire array of bitters on tap, found no customer base whatsoever and were now abandoning the strategy before it cost them any more money.

A sad story, but another reason for the scheme's failure occurred to me as I began to drink my pint of the sole remaining bitter, Fox's Nob. Never before have I been led to suspect its title originated from the beer being brewed in a vulpine urinal. (I must point out I have enjoyed Fox's Nob in the past, but this clown was serving up pints of pure vinegar.)

By this juncture, my companion had turned up and was looking askance at the insipid half-pint of Fosters he'd ordered. Little wonder that when we left shortly afterwards, there were only two victims customers remaining on the premises, being slowly deafened by Adrian Chiles on BBC1.

It's obviously sad when a pub goes this far downhill, but boarding up that particular hostile hostelry would be a mercy killing.