Saturday, 29 September 2012


Joe is a Looper. In the future when you want to disappear a body, back it goes in time to a desolate field in the deep mid-west to Joe and his blunderbuss. There he will blow a hole in the hapless rube before taking the pay strapped to their back.

And the pay is good but the price, as Joe finds, is even higher. When Joe fails to end his own future self a tsunami of organised criminality comes after him.

The film is clever and walks the fine line between standard fare and wrapping itself in its own smugness. The performances are touching at times and brutal in others. There are themes that get explored here for the first time in mainstream cinema that had all 6’10” of me wincing in a way I haven’t experienced since Old Boy and the live octopus. The film asks the question ‘What would you do to save the one you love?’ The answers are extremes that creep up on you and the characters slowly as they are cut free of their own time.

It is genuinely original and there are elements you don’t expect at. However fans of the new Sci-Fi wave will recognise a Deus ex Machina when they see one and while it does not flag you down in the first act, it certainly wolf whistles.  

The film has more in common with another Willis vehicle, the trippy and ultimately circular 12 Monkeys than it does with the other summer Sci-Fi fare (please avoid Total Recall I beg you!). While it works and works well it could have been more. The bite of the Looper’s cruelty is panned away from too often and the potential horrors of the future are only referenced in passing. This denies the audience the chance to really connect with the choice that has to be made.

In all a cerebral film that will certainly keep the conversation going past the starter on date night.

 If you are still discussing it with your dessert I would respectfully suggest you were not paying close enough attention.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Silly Boy

Elizabeth drew her finger across a pale, white, lead covered throat.

Walsingham stopped and looked at her waiting for a sign she might change her mind. It was made up though.

He moved with speed past the courtiers and into the grand chamber of the Privy Council. There in chains at the rebel Essex. The boy looked up, almost laughing, his queen would save him, his lover would pull him from this silly mistake. A lover’s quarrel.

‘Sir’ Walsingham bid him rise. Two men stood at his back, their bodies tense for any fight the callow youth might give.

‘She will see me’ he stated, walking forward. Walsingham halted him with a word.
‘What?’ the boy’s scream curdled the air. ‘You lie, my queen, my Bess, I am here, please!’
Walsingham drew himself up, he was old, but he was strong enough to do this.
‘You have made a silly error boy’ he said, ‘and now you will pay for it.’
The boy turned man too quickly for Walsingham. His hand shot to his throat and a strength that he could not have imagined gripped him, a vice that clasped the flow of air tightly shut and refused to loosen. Walsingham could see the guards hack at him with their clubs to beat him down as his own vision started to blur. Just as his world faded from light to black he was released, wheezing, clasping at his aged neck. He felt buckling and injury, but he could breathe well enough.

Three men held the Earl of Essex on the floor, he writhed like a snake, like the serpent that put the apple before eve.
‘I fucked that old whore’ he laughed, ‘I fucked her and fucked her and fucked her, and look what good it has done me.’ Walsingham turned his back.
‘Hear me old man, I drove my shaft into your Queen and she cried out like the whore of Babylon herself.’
Walsingham gripped the hilt of his sword, his anger rising. He looked away.
‘I will let everyone know on the block old man, I will let every true subject know their Queen is no Virgin, she has tasted man, she has tasted me, oh so often.’
The old master of spies turned back to Essex. The temptation to strike him was supressed as he leaned in, rasping through his damaged throat.
‘My Queen’ he said, ‘I regret to inform you that before sentence could be carried out the Earl of Essex took his own life.’
The boy looked stunned as the withered hand of the Queen’s councillor whipped a dagger from his side and drew a line across the prone Earl’s throat. The injured man protested through bubbling blood that rose from a second mouth.

‘She is my Queen’ Walsingham spat, his voice rolled into a growl, ‘she is your Queen’
The stunned men holding the cooling body of the Earl of Essex nodded their appreciation for the old man’s meaning.

Corn Laws

David William Oswald Cameron stood patiently on the stage. The election was almost concluded.  With yearly voting since the charter was established in 1852 under Lord John Russell it had been nearly five governments in one hundred and sixty years. The leaders changed, but the makeup was always the same. The Liberals and the Socialists, depending on the level of support one then the other.

The working classes plumped for each in turn depending on the needs of the nation and the promises of the reds.

David thought back to his history lessons and wished for the old days of prolonged government, seven year terms for Members of parliament. As a conservative/fascist he was doomed to always be on the outside of government looking in. Convincing a man it could be better when he already has food and a roof is tricky.

Banking regulated, industry in the hands of the government, a century and a half had made the country rich. Staying the course as other nations rose and fell under dictatorships or communist nightmares, constitutional socialism with a liberal bent, or constitutional liberalism with a socialist bent had retained the Empire and built a superpower.

He couldn’t help thinking there might be a better way. It was what he had signed on believing. Perhaps wealth through an unregulated market could provide greater benefit for the society. With the gap between poorest and richest slim at best in the Empire with only a few who rose higher it would be a way for more to make more, but there would always be consequences.

That was the bet he asked his constituents to take every year he stood, every May fifth when he went to the ballot box. He had been returned seventeen times, but with diminishing returns, he may falter this time.

Johnson was standing against him. A socialist party thinker not in parliament he had been born an American, but believed in Empire. His blonde hair bobbed up and down as they waited for the call. The returning officer to come back and pronounce status quo or all change.

Johnson turned and said something in Latin.

‘Smug sonofabitch’ David thought.

Saturday, 8 September 2012



Created in the 1970s on a diet of anti-heroes and Clint Eastwood’s grizzled chin, Judge Joe Dredd patrols Mega City One dispensing justice as judge, jury and sometimes overly creative executioner. With the first film outing in 1995 an overstyled  (to quote Clint from Heartbreak Ridge) ‘clusterfuck’; this version had to distinguish itself from that Jean Paul Gaultier festival to hook back the fans.

Urban, starring as the main man, managed to do this well before release with the reveal that Dredd does in fact keep his helmet on. In a society that seems to revel in what gets taken off it’s refreshing to see art that values restraint, reserve and the beauty of understatement.

This reserve does not extend to the violence. This is Mega City One as the spotty youth to which I belonged imagined it. It hurts the eye to watch the misery and cheap life flow through the cracks in the radiation-stained concrete one minute and experience the magical drug-filled bliss the next.

Through this world of pitiful contradiction Dredd strides like a constant. The man’s presence is such that as his dialogue becomes ever more truncated, his impact increases to the extent he can deliver one liners without a word.

Alongside him is rookie judge Anderson (Thirlby): psychic and damaged, she is a perfect counterpoint for Dredd. With an earnest desire to ‘make a difference’ the struggle to reconcile her vision of justice with the absolutes of the world of 2000AD gives the film a depth that takes it beyond actioner and into social and moral commentary.

With a plot centred on Anderson’s first and possibly last day on the job, her character is set directly against the deliciously deviant Lena Hedley as drug lord Ma Ma. Almost a mirror to each other, both characters are scarred by the nightmare future and pushed either side of the law.

Dredd occupies the centre: implacable, unreadable. Like Harry Callaghan before him, if we ever asked him why he did what he did, day after day, year after year, well, we’d never believe him if he told us.

9 out of 10

Monday, 3 September 2012


The first moon landing in fifty years. Chazz Hart manoeuvred the thrusters with a feather light touch. The computer could probably do this, but he did not want to rely on maths when he could rely on his hands.
The communications came with a slow feed from mission control. The solar activity meant a delay as sound was transmitted and up to a minute for the visuals to reach earth. It was only 2 light seconds, but still the delays kept happening.

‘First men on the moon’ Gil Rogers said aloud so mission control could hear. ‘Just kidding NASA’ he laughed and checked the instruments again as the lunar module descended. Ten crew and another ten in orbit, this was his baby and he wanted it all to himself.

Gil had joked the week before with Chazz about the rumours of faked landings, of old men finally admitting it had all been a fraud. Chazz had not believed it, he had seen the tapes, he had seen the evidence brought back. Besides, they would now see for themselves. Lunar rovers, module stands, even golf clubs had been left on the surface. They would land close to the original site.

The craft was almost there. Chazz started to yell out the metres. ‘One hundred, ninety, eighty, seventy.’ 
Gil was calm and rechecked the details on the instruments. The cameras were working but showed only dust at the moment blown up by the thrusters as the craft descended.

There was a clunking sound as they touched down. Gil touched his headset.

‘NASA, the eagle has landed’ he paused for effect, ‘again.’

Chazz turned to the crew behind, strapped into their positions they were whooping and air fiving. He flicked the cameras to long range and scanned. He knew they were close to the eagle landing site, in the distance he saw an outcrop that could be it.

He stopped the camera dead on what looked like a module platform in the distance. There was a momentary pause before he let out a cry.

‘Holy Fuck’

‘Eagle please repeat’, NASA came through, on his headset.

‘You’ll see for yourself in a moment NASA.’ Chazz tapped the jubilant Gil on the shoulder and pointed to the screen. His face grew dark.

A complete lunar module was there in the distance. It’s design reminiscent of the Soyuz capsules used by the Russian space agency. There was no light, no life, a single crumpled figure lay twenty metres or so from its base at the floor of a flagpole bearing bright red and gold.

Originally written for -

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Total Recall

There comes a time in every cinema goer’s life when he realises despite the completely new actors, effects, concepts and plotline he has seen every inch of the movie before.

Total Recall is set in a future world where the earth (ruined by our stupidity as usual) is inhabited in Europe and Australia. However The United Federation of Britain (Europe) is the big boss, demanding workers from the Colony (Australia - Yes they actually call themselves that) to support their evil imperialist aims. Imagine Winston Churchill’s dreams of  British Empire crossed with futuristic cliché and you have the idea.

In the midst of this is a story about a man with two identities. Colin Farrell, married to Kate Beckinsale visits a company (Rekall) to give him memories he can return to in the squalor of his existence in the Colony. But his brain holds its own secrets and soon all hell is let loose as Farell scrambles across the remnants of society to discover the truth.

There are a few nice innovations and nods to the 1990 Paul Verhoeven classic. But the reboot misses a trick. The film is half as clever as it thinks it is, and it doesn’t give itself that much credit. Beckinsale (star of lycrasmash Underworld) is dull, Farell looks lost, Jessica Biehl is stunning and Bill Nighy bemused by the whole affair.

It really does feel like a movie you’ve seen already despite all the innovation and the effect is quite disconcerting. It’s a half marks and a must try harder. I recommend if you want a movie this week you take the other half for a good meal and wait for Dredd.