Thursday, 18 December 2008

Obama: The College Years

Time have published a fascinating gallery of photos of the US President-elect.

Link

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

ComeOnBoro.com Man of the Year Awards 2008

Gordon Dalton and I have put together this year's ComeOnBoro.com Man of the Year awards.

You can read the countdown from 10-6 now. The top five list will be published tomorrow.

Link

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Devotchka on Gears of War 2 advert

I'm almost certain that I'm late to this (that's what comes from a televisual diet consisting solely of The Wire), but I caught this advert for Gears of War 2 last night.

An unremarkable advert that apes last year's Mad World one far too closely but it's nice to hear Devotchka getting synced on a high-profile ad.

PopMatters countdown of the best reissues of 2008

Genuinely surprised that Pacific Ocean Blue didn't top this list, but 2008 was a tremendous year for reissues: Exile From Guyville, Stormcock, Odelay, Brighten The Corners and the Mission Of Burma and Replacements catalogues.... 

Some really great stuff on this list that's worth discovering or rediscovering.

Link

Monday, 15 December 2008

Disney World is mine!

Disney are running a fantastic viral promo at the moment that lets you enter in the name of a loved-one and they automagically receive a fake video about Walt Disney World being dedicated to that person for the day.


Link

PopMatters countdown of the best albums of 2008

Now this is more like it. Portishead at number one, Fleet Foxes at number two... I'm not sure what Erykah Badu is doing that high up, but at least my fellow writers had the sense to vote London Zoo into a lofty position.

Link

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Dizzee Rascal nicked in Orpington

Dizzee Rascal was arrested on Friday in my home town of Orpington for possession of a baseball bat.

He might be one of the most original rap artists to ever come out of the UK, but if he thinks he can stamp around my manor thinking he owns the place, he's got another thing coming.

Link

Village Green Boutique

Village Green Boutique have finally launched their own online store.

They've been around on ebay and Etsy for a while and sell a lovely range of genuine vintage t-shirts, waistcoats, dresses and other clothing and accessories. What's more, their stuff is cheap, cheap, cheap.

Worth looking at for those (semi) last minute Christmas pressies.

Link

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Damien Dempsey review up on PopMatters

PopMatters have finally got round to publishing my review of Damien Dempsey's The Rocky Road. I only submitted it three months ago, but never mind.

Interesting piece of editing in the penultimate paragraph too, but hey, you'll get the gist.

Monday, 8 December 2008

PopMatters countdown of the best songs of 2008

Estelle and Kanye at number one!? What. The. Fuck.

Anyway, at least we collectively had the sense to include Pork & Beans (my sole contribution to the list) at number 14.

Link

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The best albums of 2008

25. Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head
I liked it, okay?

Best track - I Wish I Was In New Orleans

24. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
Not vintage Oberst by any means, but there were enough tunes on here to make his solo debut more than a worthwhile listen.

Best track - Cape Canaveral

23. Spiritualized – Songs In A&E
Calling it his best since Ladies & Gentlemen might be damning Jason Spaceman with faint praise, but it really is.

Best track - Soul On Fire

22. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Way short of their best and, yeah, they miss Blixa, but as a slightly softer Grinderman experience, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! worked completely.

Best track - We Call Upon The Author

21. Black Mountain – In The Future
Came out so early in the year that I nearly forgot about it, which would've been a shame because In The Future is possibly the best loud-quiet-loud album since Mogwai Young Team.

Best track - Tyrants

20. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
If the rest of the album had been as good as the first two tracks, this would've been an absolute masterpiece rather than an unpronounceable treat.

Best track - Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur

19. Lindstrom – Where You Go I Go Too
Three tracks. One's 10 minutes long, one's 16 minutes long, one's 29 minutes long. They're all great.

Best track - Where You Go I Go Too

18. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim
Marling reckons the inspiration for this album comes from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's I See A Darkness. Now, it's not as good as that particular example of Will Oldham genius, but what is she, eleven? She's got time yet.

Best track - Ghosts

17. The Dodos – Visiter
Proof that guitar and drums is enough to cut it even when they're not being played by Jack and Meg.

Best track - God?

16. Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees
That's nine albums now for the Washington songwriter and not a single clunker amongst them. Someone please buy this fella's records, he's amazing.

Best track - Gillian Was A Horse

15. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Even when singing about serial commas and imperialism they don't sound pretentious and snobbish. They sound like the brightest and most buoyant thing all year.

Best track - A-Punk

14. Ben Folds – Way To Normal
He might be as saccharine and goofy as ever but Ben Folds is always full of awesome.

Best track - Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)

13. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals
Mash-ups are usually fucking awful but, this... this was something quite different. Still Here, for example, features Whiter Shade Of Pale, No Diggity, 15 Step and Stranger In Moscow, which might make it the greatest four minutes ever.

Best track - Play Your Part (Pt 1)

12. Portishead – Third
In what world The Seldom Seen Kid was better than this, I don't know. Shame on you, Mercury panel.

Best track - Machine Gun

11. No Age – Nouns
Dean and Randy might have softened the edges since last year's debut, but Nouns rattles through 12 tracks in 31 minutes, leaving you wanting more in an extremely good way.

Best track - Teen Creeps

10. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
Somewhere between J Dilla's Donuts and Company Flow's Little Johnny From The Hospital, Los Angeles sounds like it was recorded at least fifty years into the future.

Best track - Parisian Goldfish

9. El Guincho – Alegranza!
Hypnotic and hallucinatory, propelled by giddy Afrobeat rhythms and tropical steel drums; Alegranza! was the party in 2008.

Best track - Antillas

8. Noah & The Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Certainly the cutest, most charming collection of songs released this year. Plus a million bonus points for brightening up a miserable Field Day.

Best track - Give A Little Love

7. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Alright, so it's the same as the last one and the same as the one before (and the same as the one before that) but no one writes better college rock tunes than Craig Finn.

Best track - Sequestered In Memphis

6. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Evocative, effortless and epic, I imagine this will top a lot of end of year lists. Were I not so cantankerous, it'd probably top this one.

Best track - White Winter Hymnal

5. Air France – No Way Down
This Swedish duo are due to drop their first full-length album next year (this one had a miserly seven tracks), if it's half as good as this and their previous release, the equally blissful On Trade Winds, we can already safely name the best album of 2009.

Best track - June Evenings

4. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
Notwithstanding Zane Lowe's embarrassing declaration that this is the album that defined music in 2008, Tha Carter III is actually really fucking good.

3 Peat, Phone Home, La La ensure that it never quite reaches the standard of Illmatic and Ready To Die that Weezie was all-too-clearly shooting for (just have another look at that cover) but it's still the best hip hop album of the year; and in A Milli and Lollipop was responsible for two of the year's best singles.

Best track - A Milli

3. Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
After the rockin' Tanglewood Numbers, Dave Berman returned to more traditional ground for his second post-addiction album. But with the heroin out of his system, the world's greatest ever lyricist is now confident enough to write songs about his drug addiction (Candy Jail), paint a beautiful self-portrait (Suffering Jukebox) and on Strange Victory, Strange Defeat tell us why most indie bands suck.

Best track - What Is Not But Could Be If

2. The Mae Shi – HLLLYH
With new records from Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, Flying Lotus, Beck, No Age, HEALTH and… umm… Metallica, Los Angeles pretty much owned 2008. HLLLYH was the pick of the lot.

No longer content releasing collections of 40 30-second bursts, this time The Mae Shi wrote proper songs and everything. But they still had the balls to include an 11-minute track (Kingdom Come) that offers nothing but snippets of all the other songs on HLLLYH. And, of course, they plonked it right in the middle of the album. Genius.

Best track - Kingdom Come

1. The Bug – London Zoo
From reggae to electronica to grime to dancehall to hip hop to dubstep, London Zoo is a thick, thumping musical fog; a monstrous tour de force that was simply unmatched this year.

Monumental bass and apocalyptic drums are couched in smooth, deep melodies, with subtle bursts and flourishes supporting the mayhem going on elsewhere. At the top of the mix, the likes of Ricky Ranking, Tippa Irie and Warrior Queen toast harrowing and disquieting tales of life in 2008.

Paranoid, politically-charged and brutally rewarding, London Zoo is a truly global record; the kind that could only have come out of the planet's only truly global city. London Zoo represents these corrupt and crumbling times every bit as well as OK Computer captured the pre-millennium blues.

Best track - Skeng

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Pinnacle Records enter administration

My former employer, Pinnacle Records, has entered into administration.

While it's undoubtedly true that Pinnacle were slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace, there are some very bright people down in Kent and I sincerely hope they find employment. The firm had fallen on hard times but, just in the time I spent there, had a key role in the success of The Killers, Morrissey, Katie Melua, Joanna Newsom, Tom Waits, The Strokes... the list is almost endless.

I suspect this is closely linked to the demise of EUK/Woolworths who likely would've owed Pinnacle some amount of money when they fell into adminstration. The worry now is how many independent labels will follow Pinnacle into the void. Pinnacle would've been holding a lot of stock in their warehouses.

This ought to be proof, once and for all, that there is simply no money to be had in physical distribution of music any more.

An inevitability, but sad all the same.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Secret tunnel for sale

Unfortunately, "turning the tunnels into a nightclub or hotel is out of the question because only two elevators link them to the outside world; even a small fire would be difficult to contain", but this mile-long tunnel would make a killer bowling alley, skate park, graffiti gallery or rifle range.

Yours for a cool $7.4million.

Link

Friday, 28 November 2008

Taylor apologises for outburst - What Do You Think?

Oven Dweller Pedro O'Klinkerhoffen had me chuckling this morning. What he said was even funnier.

Link

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg make mashed potatoes

Perhaps they were cell mates or something.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Bates and Cattermole arrested - What Do You Think?

News that Lee Cattermole and Matthew Bates have, once again, made idiots of themselves is rich fodder for Red Eye's panel.

Link

Obama likes Spider-Man, and that means...

Gabriel Fowler, owner of New York comic book store Desert Island, gives his analysis on what Obama's favourite comic books say about America's next President.

“Unlike previous teen super heroes, Spider-Man did not benefit from adult mentors like Captain America and Batman. He was his own man, and had to learn for himself that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Perhaps Mr. Obama identifies with Peter Parker’s lone-wolf outlook?"

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Are Justice faking it?


The MIDI controller that Gaspard is twiddling with isn't plugged in.

Maybe it just came loose mid-set and the problem hadn't yet been recognised, or maybe their sets are just pre-programmed.

Hmmmmm.

Link

Monday, 17 November 2008

Super Obama World

Super Obama World is a basic Super Mario Bros clone that exchanges Koopa Troppers for lipstick-wearing pigs.

Link

Monday, 10 November 2008

Notion #37


The new issue is in stores now, or will be very shortly. In it, you'll find, amongst other things, a brand new gaming section.

I've reviewed crazy popular shooter Gears of War II and written a piece called Who The Fuck that dissects Metroid's Samus Aran. It's well worth looking at just for Alex Figini's awesome drawing. Although my words are kinda cool too.

You can pick up Notion from WHSmith's, Borders and loads of other outlets.

Obama headlines


A selection of newspaper front pages from around the world on 5th November 2008.

Josh Martinez review up now at PopMatters


My review of the latest Josh Martinez album is up now at PopMatters.

"There are moments outside of the first three tracks when Martinez does get back on track. “Fight or Fuck” is akin to Aquemini-era Outkast, offering organic beats and double-time rhymes that collide with intergalactic synth runs and elements of P-Funk-inspired swirls. “Going Back to Hali” offers a low-down, ass-shaking beat and is easily the album’s most danceable track."

Link

Friday, 7 November 2008

Flickr set of the Obamas on election night

Obama For America campaign photographer David Katz took these wonderful shots of the Obamas and the Bidens watching the results come in on election night.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Yes we did!


The streets of Los Angeles were chaotic last night as America elected Barack Obama as their 44th President.

The official victory party – hosted at the Century City Hyatt – was massively over attended and quickly shut down by fire marshals and the LAPD. The party spilt out in the street and police and hotel staff attempted to send everyone on their way, but the overwhelmingly positive mood made for no acrimony, no agitation, simply a once-in-a-lifetime party.

It was a special, special night and I feel humbled and honoured to have been part of it.

Now, okay, the election result wasn't quite the landslide that some commentators are calling it (Reagan 525 – Mondale 13 was a landslide), but Obama has redrawn the electoral map that we've known for the last two elections.

With subtle references in his victory speech to Martin Luther King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Obama has set the bar almost unfathomably high for himself. But he has all of the charm and charisma of Dr King and will hopefully be able to stand up to the powerful interests of those who helped him become elected and retain the beautiful idealism that will be required to force the same sort of sweeping changes to America that FDR was able to.

Welcome back to the world, America. We've missed you.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Comic book adverts

Following on from my earlier post, here's a superb collection of old adverts from comic books.

Ordering a live monkey from a comic

On Comic Book Resources, Jeff Tuthill recalls the time he ordered a live squirrel monkey from an advert in the back of an issue of Spider-Man.

"I figured, well, it’s probably near dehydration, so I opened up the cage to put some water in it. It leapt out of the cage when I opened it up the second time! I mean, it was eyeing the pipes that I was unaware of. As soon as I opened the cage, it leapt up and grabbed onto the plumbing up on the ceiling and started using them like monkey bars, and he was just shooting along in the basement, chirping pretty loud. It was heading towards the finished side of the basement, where there was a drop ceiling, and if it got into those channels, I never would have got it. It would have been days to get this thing out of there. I grabbed it by its tail, and it came down on, starting literally up by my shoulder, like a drill press it landed on my arm, and every bite was breaking flesh."

Monday, 3 November 2008

Being part of the Obama campaign

I'm currently volunteering for Barack Obama's Campaign for Change in Los Angeles, California. And I'm having the time of my life.

On the other end of the phone I've had people query my involvement in an election foreign to me, others give their thanks that I'm volunteering in this campaign and one man who told me that he "supposed he had to vote for the nigger".

In the phone bank itself, I have met some of the most passionate, energetic and inspirational people. Everybody who has given their time for this most important of causes deserves a mention, but Cameron, who when I asked him for a prompt sheet in case of tough questioning told me just to tell voters why I was giving up my vacation to support this campaign; Freddie, who had marched with Martin Luther King in the 1960s; Erik, who had campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in 1968; Anahid and Jon, who helped me after some tough calls; and, of course, my friend Randy, stand out.

As the campaign draws to a close, I feel genuinely humbled to have worked with and met such wonderful people. If Obama, should he be elected, can maintain this hunger and passion, America's next eight years will be much, much more fruitful than the last eight.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Bat-Manga!

To tie in with the 1966 launch of the Batman TV show, Manga prodigy Jiro Kuwata was commissioned to produce a Japanese version of Bob Kane's Batman comics.

Believing that Kane's scripts would be lost on a Japanese audience, Kuwata redesigned the Dark Knight for the expectations of a mid-sixties, Manga-familiarised audience. And so, what we're left with is a bonkers blend of superb suspense and gonzo weirdness, as villains turn into dinosaurs, commit strange crimes, rise from the dead, and rampage through a Mangafied Gotham that has the streamlined wonderfulness of space-age Japanese pop culture.

Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 27 October 2008

Vote Obama sez The Wire

I'm pretty much going to support whoever Chris, Cutty and Marlo tell me to.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The real debate

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Spinto Band review up at PopMatters


PopMatters have published my review of Moonwink, the latest album by The Spinto Band.

"First single “Summer Grof” (in the band’s words “a vague tribute to the great comedienne Janeane Garofalo") captures this exuberance perfectly. Jaunty hand-claps give birth to saccharine keyboards and jangly guitars. Add an addictive chorus of “I won’t lie, I won’t lie, I won’t lie, I won’t lie, I won’t lie” and you’ve got a superb indie anthem. It’s a shame that it arrived in October and not July, because “Summer Grof” could truly have ruled the summer."

Link

Get Comedy

If you're in London and looking for some laughs on Monday night, you could do a lot, lot worse than pop along to Get Comedy at The Comedy Store.

Scruffy comedy hero Richard Herring is compering the night, and will be joined on stage by Jo Caulfield, Paul Sinha, Terry Saunders and Pappy’s Fun Club.

All the acts are donating their time and their humour in support of Get Connected - the free and confidential helpline for young people.

Tickets are fifteen quid from Get Connected or £18.50 from ticketmaster. Best, then, that you pop over to Get Connected's website and buy your ticket direct from the charity.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The best of The Wire

To mourn the conclusion of the greatest television programme ever, posters on the Guardian blog are ranking their top five moments from the show.

If there was ever a thread that made you realise how unbelievably fucking brilliant this show was, this is it.

The bloggers have pretty much listed every scene from the show's five-year run, but these are my personal stand-outs...

Season one - Kima gets shot. I was genuinely numbed by this scene. The aftermath with McNulty throwing up and Rawls at last showing some compassion towards the Homicide Department's biggest asshole was incredibly touching.

Season one - Wallace gets assassinated. That Bodie, by season four, had become one of the show's most sympathetic characters says everything about the standard of the writing.

Season two - Prop Joe says to Nick Sobotka, "Fool, if it wasn't for Sergei, you would and your cousin would be cadaverous motherfuckers."

Season three - Brother Mouzone and Omar square off in the alley. "At this distance? With this calibre? Even if I miss, I can't miss."

Season three - Rawls in the gay bar.

I could easily write a hundred more. One moment the Guardian bloggers have missed is a subtle one from the first season where Freamon says to Prez, "You, detective Pryzbylewski, have a natural flair for the paper trail." The look of pride on Prezbo's face...

I miss The Wire so much.

Link

Monday, 6 October 2008

Tattoo gays sez stupid priest

Rev Peter Mullen thinks that homosexuals should be tattooed.

"Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan sodomy can seriously damage your health and their chins with fellatio kills."

I'm sure somebody somewhere is making a gag about him muddling up his fags, but hopefully in a quid pro quo somebody will tattoo 'bigoted cunt' on Mullen's forehead.

Link

Monday, 29 September 2008

Natalie Walker review up on PopMatters


My review of Natalie Walker's second solo album, With You, has been published at PopMatters.

"The clever, glitchy beats and graceful string arrangements from Urban Angel are no more, replaced instead by weak drum machines and monotonous circular rhythms. Much of With You wanders aimlessly along a path of mediocrity, with even Walker’s gorgeous voice not able to drag “By and By”, “Only Love”, and “Monarch” out of the bland wilderness they each inhabit."

Link

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Paul Newman dies at 83

Paul Newman, star of what is probably my favourite film of all time, The Hudsucker Proxy, has died.

Not only did he star as Sidney J Mussburger in Hudsucker, he also starred in The Long Hot Summer, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kids and The Towering Inferno. I'm not sure how many other actors can claim to have been in so many iconic films.

There's no point making a comparison, Paul Newman was incomparable.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Swedish twins go mad on the M6

This is one of the strangest things I've seen for a while.

Two Swedish girls (twins, it would later turn out) are seen walking down the central reservation on the M6 before deciding to try and cross the road. What happens next is un-fucking-fathomable.

(ignore the cunty racist comment the uploader of the video has added at the end of the clip)



Link

Middlesbizzle vs. Da West Coast Baggiez

"I ain’t even know what happened last Saturday but I done heard that my main nigga DJ diggity-diggity-Downing been bustin’ wild shots lately. Young’un been kickin’ dat shit as high as a nigga can. Damn, boy, you need to calm yo’ nerves with a little of that Cali chronic. Breathe, relax and tuck dat shit in nice and slow, just like Tha Doggfather does to tha fly ass hoes wit’ his big fat dick."

Link

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Too Human review published on Planet Notion


My review of Too Human has been published over at Planet Notion.

"The chief problem is that Silicon Knights, for reasons known only to them, have decided to force the player to use the right analogue stick to attack. You flick it in different directions and Baldur skips across the screen whacking the mundane foes. It lacks any kind of depth and becomes, after the first couple of dungeons, quite boring."

Link

Howling Hex review up now on PopMatters


My review of the new Howling Hex album, Earth Junk, is up now over at PopMatters.

"Circular guitar riffs have always been something of a Hagerty trademark and “Annie Get Redzy” is certainly loopy in both senses of the word, but only on instrumental “Sundays Are Ruined Again” does Hagerty truly offer anything like the weird, catchy repetitive riffs and rhythms of You Can’t Beat Tomorrow. No, unlike its predecessors, the spine of Earth Junk comes not from mangled, indistinct guitars but from a circus organ."

Link

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Setanta Sports News phone in

I'll be talking to Steve Claridge on Setanta Sports News tonight at around 7:15pm about yesterday's horrendously demoralising defeat to Sunderland.

If you want to hear me whinging about Michael Chopra's double, Setanta Sports News is the best place to do it.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Vintage Marlboro adverts

As it turns out, Marlboro's were originally marketed as a girl's fag.

I love the kid on the left telling his mum to smoke before she beats him. Poor fucker.

RIP Norman Whitfield

Songwriter, producer and main man of Motown Records throughout the 1960s and 70s Norman Whitfield has died in Los Angeles. He was 67.

Whitfield wrote and produced several of the label's greatest hits, including I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Papa Was A Rollin' Stone and War. On top of this, Whitfield is also credited with helping to transform the label's sound from the smooth early days into the Sly & The Family Stone psychedelic era.

He was, in short, a musical visionary.

Link

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

On the rag with Disney

Monday, 15 September 2008

Mermaid & Monster at the Comtemporary Art Society


Contemporary art agency Mermaid & Monster are putting on a showcase at, fittingly enough, the Contemporary Art Society.

Work from Michael Cousin, David Cushway, Lloyd Durling and Miranda Whall will be on display, as well as several others.

It runs until January and you'd be well advised to catch it.

Link

Ukulele cover of Still Alive

Still Alive is the genius closing theme from Portal. This kid, wearing a Cyberdog t-shirt that I've got somewhere in the back of my wardrobe, plays it on a ukulele.

Kid's got skills.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Pompizzle vs. Middlesbizzle

"You know who’s back up in this motherfucker. Always on a mission, wishin’ ‘pon a star, Snoop Doggy Dogg wit’ the flyest ass car."

Link

McCain gets Rickrolled

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Abe Vigoda review up on PopMatters


My review for the new album by Abe Vigoda is up now at PopMatters.

"It’s quickly apparent that this is a crisper, more confident band than they were on last year’s Animal Ghosts EP. In fact, perhaps as proof of their development, the band revisit the title track from that EP. It’s a far tighter, harder, and louder version, one that improves hugely on its predecessor. There’s still post-hardcore brutishness to be had on “The Garden” or “Hyacinth Grrls”, but this is a much less abrasive band than we heard on Kid City."

Link

More cowbell! More Walken!

Upload any .mp3 to MoreCowbell.dj and it'll magically add cowbell and Christopher Walken samples. 

It'll improve even the shittest songs.

Link

The Simpsons intro done in Lego

Monday, 8 September 2008

Album covers made with Japanese food












The Jacket Lunch Box blog belongs to a fella who recreates album covers with food.

Here's Weezer's Green Album made from cabbage, seaweed, ham, fish cakes, paprika, and rice.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Rage go acapella at Republican National Party protest

Genuinely hair on the back of your arm raising footage of Rage Against The Machine performing acapella at a protest outside the Target Center in Minneapolis.

1980s homophobic comic






















Ethan Persoff has scanned this ridiculously funny homophobic comic book from 1986 called Homosexuality: Legitimate, Alternative, Deathstyle.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Chrome

I've just started playing around with Google's new browser, Chrome.

It's very, very quick. But it needs a speed dial and an ad-blocker post haste.

And it's a great way for Larry and Serge to learn more about our search history, isn't it? Hmmm.

Link

Game Review: The Incredible Hulk


For a superhero game, 2005's The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was actually very good. Developers Radical Entertainment perfectly captured what a Hulk videogame should be about: destruction, destruction and more destruction.

Since then, Sega have picked up the franchise, which means an ultra-destructive character is now in the hands of the world's premier publisher of fast and furious arcade games. A winning combination, surely?

Well, no.

This game is an absolute mess, a shoddy imitation of the three-year-old Ultimate Destruction.
It looks a shambles. Saying that it looks like a first-generation Xbox game would be a compliment; at times it looks like a PSOne game. The draw-distance is appalling, from the top of any tower, you stare across not across New York's iconic skyline but a murky sea of brown. The partial texture loading is utterly jarring. So bad is it that it's difficult to tell whether the texture isn't fully loaded or if it was just poorly drawn to begin with. The game is also plagued by frame-rate issues that bizarrely seem to occur most often when Hulk is standing around doing nothing.

The Havoc physics engine has never looked dodgier. This, let's not forget, is the engine that powers Halo 3, Super Smash Bros Braw and Bioshock. Here, enemies, cars and other detritus bounce around the screen as if the New York was made of rubber.
The storyline bears little in common with that of the film, which is a shame since the movie, unlike this disgraceful videogame, was actually quite good. The artists, though, clearly struggled to recreate the cast of the film and the models are actually embarrassing. Not wanting to be shown up, the actors have put in just as much effort and Ed Norton's voiceover ranks among the worst in the history of the medium.

The game itself has you stomp around New York City, trying to battle the dodgy camera as much as the Special Ops teams trying to hunt you down. You bolt around the city from point A to B and back again, defeating enemies or defusing bombs and that's basically it. Oh, and there's a series of building escort missions. Yes, really.

As you pelt around the city, you'll quickly realise that The Hulk has no real weight to him. He is halted by cars, can jump nothing like the distance the character should be able to and doesn't even break the concrete when he lands. Compared to the heroes in Crackdown, he's a bit of a pussy.

If the thought of destroying the Empire State Building or Stark Tower appeals, think again. The buildings all collapse in a completely straight line and all the rubble looks the same. There are plenty of baddies to beat up but there's no fun to be had there either. You can punch the enemies with one button or punch them slightly harder using a different button.

There are a few rage moves like the ground smash and thunder clap, which can be used by charging the Fury gauge – by taking damage or being involved in combat – but since few of the enemies actually cause you any bother, it's hardly worth the effort.

Considering how much Ultimate Destruction got right, it's absolutely unfathomable that Sega's development team Edge Of Reality have got this game so very wrong. In doing so, they have actually achieved something quite remarkable: made a game that involves hurtling a huge irradiated green monster around New York dull.

Monday, 1 September 2008

New anti-terrorism posters

Cory Doctorow snapped this piece of Metropolitan Police fuckwittery at the Tesco in Islington.

It says....

"Terrorism: If you suspect it, report it

TERRORISTS NEED INFORMATION
Observation and surveillance help terrorists plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures of security arrangements?

TERRORISTS NEED TRANSPORTATION
If you work in vehicle hire or sales, has a sale or rental made you suspicious?

TERRORISTS NEED TO TRAVEL
Meetings, training and planning can take place anywhere. Do you know someone who travels but is vague about where they are going?

TERRORISTS USE COMPUTERS
Do you know someone who visits terrorism-related websites?

TERRORISTS NEED COMMUNICATION
Anonymous, pay-as-you-go and stolen mobiles are typical. Have you seen someone with large quantities of mobiles? Has it made you suspicious?"

I take photos in London. I drive. I'm sometimes vague about where I'm travelling to. I use a computer. Shit, if it wasn't for the fact I had a mobile phone contract, I'd be pretty fucking worried about being locked up for 42 days right now.

Link

Friday, 29 August 2008

spEak You’re bRanes

spEak You’re bRanes is the best idea for a blog I've seen for a while. In their own words....

"This blog is dedicated to the dribble-spattered lunacy of BBC "Have Your Say" discussions. Part of me thinks that the right-wing "blogosphere" of America is encouraging its slow readers to get over to the BBC and add their ill-informed opinions… but another part of me fears that the sample is actually more representative… perhaps the majority of people in the world really are this awful and stupid."

Here's an example....

Many here claim that gays are born that way! Let’s for a moment accept that. In a few years or many years later the following say that they’re born that way and are God’s children too:

~Murderers, serial killers, mass murderers
~Rapists, serial rapists, gang rapists
~Paedophiles
~Necrophiliacs
~People indulging in bestiality

WHERE DOES humanity draw a line? Or is it just a case of ‘enough’ people of a particular type getting together and demanding acceptance from the majority? Tell me!

[KING-of-the-APES], Rumble in the Jungle
As Andrew says, “Rather beautiful really. Acceptance of homosexuality is a slippery slope to people murdering kids and then knobbing the corpses. While giving a dog a handjob.”


I like to imagine that when KING-of-the-APES board a bus, he grabs the driver by his lapels and shouts “WHERE DOES this bus go? Do you stop when ‘enough’ people of a particular type ring the bell? Tell me!” Because that would just confirm that he’s an orangutan’s oozing uterus.

Middlesbizzle vs. Da Potterz

A genuine contender for the funniest thing you'll see on the internet.

"I ain’t know shit else about these smokin’ Stokin’ motherfuckers. I heard they wear red, white and yellow and gots some red-headed forward. Shit, when dat motherfucker pulls on his jersey, motherfucker must look like Ronald McDonald and shit. Bet yo’ motherfuckin’ ass my man Mido will be bum rushin’ him for a quarter-pounder with cheese."

Link

Beeeeeeeez

Uh-oh! This is how The Happening started.

"The British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA) says a record one in three of the UK's 240,000 hives did not survive the spring.

The problem is nobody is sure why the bees are being wiped out in such huge numbers."

Link

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Film Review: The Strangers

If there's one thing I hate more than shitty films, it's liars.

Sadly, The Strangers is both.

The super-serious narrator at the start tells us that, "What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the F.B.I. there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year. On the night of February 11, 2005 Kristen McKay and James Hoyt went to a friend's wedding reception and then returned to the Hoyt family's summer home. The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known."

This is bullshit. What it actually appears to mean is that, at some point in time, somewhere in America, some people were murdered. What the narrator should have said is, “you have seen this already.”

What we know for sure is that the real-life Kristen and James were probably not as good-looking as Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, two improbably attractive people who arrive at James' uncle's holiday home late at night.

Via a couple of flashbacks we learn that, earlier in the evening, thinking that Kristen would be in the right mood to accept his proposal after a friend's wedding reception, James popped the question. Kristen rejected James’ puppy dog enthusiasm, but for reasons never fully explained, they decided to go along with their planned vacation anyway.

The unhappy couple sit around mumbling and sighing for 20 minutes before there’s a knock at the door from a weird teenage girl. James sends the girl on her way just as Liv realises that she’s run out of fags. James, determined to resurrect his chances of getting laid, heads out to get some, blindly ignoring the fact the mysterious girl is still waiting at the end of their driveway.

Just as Liv begins to kick back with some Joanna Newsom records, she hears scratching at the window and knocks at the door. So discombobulated is she that she forgets to call 911 and it’s not long before she’s in full-on Jamie Lee Curtis mode being chased through the house by two girls wearing doll masks and a lanky, wheezing asthmatic with a carrier bag over his head.

The strangers disappear just as James returns home. But it turns out he’s the weak, silent type who can’t even dispatch three shambling weirdos when he’s armed with a shotgun. The masked pursuers occasionally pop their heads up and James tries to play whack-a-mole with his firearm but it’s not long before he’s disarmed and the pair are tied-up and stabbed to death.

All that sound familiar? If so, that’s probably because it’s almost identical to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games that was given a US remake only a few months ago. Funny Games was just as unremitting but at least Haneke’s film sought to critique itself, the genre and the audience’s complicity in the violence as some sort of moralistic satire. The Strangers is just a two-hour wank from first-time director/writer Bryan Bertino that pales not only to the classics of the genre (Straw Dogs, The Desperate Hours) but to any of the recent run of killing-for-the-sake-of-it home-invasion creepfests like Vacancy, Wolf Creek and Ils.

Bertino fails to add any flesh to the blood of Kristen and James, to establish the gang's logic or even to adequately present the layout of the house, garage and garden. Without any of that, there can be no scares, no catharsis and no suspense. And, indeed, there aren't. We know they both die. So all we’re doing is watching two people get really scared for two hours. Bertino doesn’t seem to understand that there's only so much nihilism an audience can take without some sort of relief.

But even the sick, brainless fucks who get their voyeuristic kicks from watching hapless victims get stalked and tormented won't get off on anything here. There’s no gore and, ultimately, very little physical violence. To present itself as a true story is a crass misrepresentation of the truth undertaken only to set internet forums aflame with gossip. Yes, I know Fargo did it, but The Strangers is no Fargo.

Instead it’s fraudulent from start-to-finish, a despicable practical joke. I’d like to say that I really enjoyed this lightweight, lazy and derivative movie. But then I’d be lying too.

Badu on trial - What Do You Think?

The Boro Six sound off about the news Boro have offered a trial to Ghanaian... erm... sensation Emmanuel Badu.

Link

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Richard Dawkins and his hate-mail

Middlesbizzle vs. Yo! Ville Raps

Even the title is genius.

"Yippee yo yo yo, my nigga S-to-tha-diggy-dizzle gots his ass a little confused, y’all. My nigga tryin’ to kick so many motherfuckin’ scores, he been tellin’ his motherfuckers to bust that shit in they own nets. God damn, nigga, y’all gots to stop this crazy shit, for real. My motherfuckin’ pyramid lovin’ motherfucker M-to-tha-dizzle can’t be bailing yo’ asses out all the motherfuckin’ time."

Link

Friday, 22 August 2008

Liverpizzle vs. Middlesbizzle

"Shit, my nigga Gareth just keeps representin’ motherfuckers from across the globe. He done copped some mad Dutch and French motherfuckers and now my nigga South-diggy-diggy-dizzle done rescued this young buck from the land of drive-bys and bad traffic. If Justizzle Hoytizzle’s skills done shine like his Rolly, he gon’ be some crazy motherfuckin’ player."

Link

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Welcome to London!

Terence Eden was stopped at what looks like Waterloo station for a random stop and search. He had the presence of mind to record it on his phone.

I love how the cop flicks through Terence's book. Presumably looking for words of TERROR!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Boro land Hoyte - What Do You Think?

Ned Griffin's response is a work of utter genius.

Link

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Setanta Sports News phone in

I'm going to be on Setanta Sports News around 7:45pm tonight, talking to Steve Claridge about Boro's 2-1 win over Spurs yesterday and what I think the season has in store for Gareth Southgate's team.

Tune in if you get the chance.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Oh Schteve....

Escape from the limelight to try and rebuild your career as a progressive, forward-thinking football coach. And then you do this.....

Mickey Mouse arrested at Disneyland

32 Disneyland workers, some dressed as characters, have been arrested at the Disneyland Hotel, where they are striking for improved wages and benefits.

Link

Friday, 15 August 2008

Snoop's back!

I thought he might have gone forever, but Snoop's previzzles are back for the new season.

"Yo, big dizzle ain’t claim to be tha most knowledgest motherfucker when it comes to roundball, but shit, even the S-N double-O-P knows y’all need a motherfuckin’ goalkeeper to win some shit. Big Snoop been watching motherfuckin’ goalkeepers come and go this motherfuckin’ summer, even dat chubby motherfucker from these Jewish fools woulda been better than what yo’ asses got: one crazy ass New Zealander look like a motherfuckin’ schoolboy and some other rookie cracker."

Link

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Police break into wrong house, leave note with fridge magnets

Police in Oldham broke into Aaron West's house, while searching for a criminal. Rather than leaving an official note or apology after trampling his back garden and smashing down his door, they used the magnetic letters on the fridge to spell out OLDHAM TASK FORCE CALLED.

Link

Monday, 11 August 2008

Red Eye's back for the new season

Hopefully he'll stick around for longer than last time.

Anyway, it's good to see the panel back to the original six. The layout with three of them was uggggggleeeee.

Link

Spanish Olympic basketball team

They just don't get racism in Spain, do they?

Link

Game Review: Unreal Tournament III



My review of Unreal Tournament III is up on Planet Notion.

"Arriving eight months late on a console positively bursting with decent first person shooters and lacking key features available on preceding versions, omens weren’t good for the 360 port of Unreal Tournament III."

Read the rest here

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Field Day

I went to the second ever Field Day yesterday. Despite the constant rain, I had a terrific time.

But I would say that, while the organisers have impeccable taste in music, they clearly have no idea what to do with 10,000 people, because there were, once again, problems with the logistics of the event.

The organisers got tremendous flak last year for providing about four toilets and as many bar staff. This year, they can claim they got the number of bar staff right – I didn’t queue for longer than 2 minutes at any point.

Trouble is though, being served more beer makes trips to the toilet more regular and, once again, they were a shambles. To be fair, the male toilets were fine. The girls though, were forced to wait for up to 45 minutes. Smart girls had realised that the guys weren’t using the cubicles and were sneaking in amongst the men. The organisers cottoned on and decided that moving the cubicles and the surrounding wall would be a more intelligent move. It served no purpose other than to cause chaos for twenty minutes. If they’re to put the festival on for a third year, they need to be kinder to the ladies.

The biggest problem though, was the lack of communication about artist withdrawals and timetable changes. El Guincho, Cut Copy and Dirty Projectors all dropped out beforehand and, on the day, it turned out that Dan Deacon and Mystery Jets had done the same. Deacon had had his passport stolen and Blaine Harrison from Mystery Jets had complications with his spina bifida. Both have my sympathy, but the organisers really needed to tell us.

It meant Lightspeed Champion was bumped up to the main stage, which caused havoc with the smaller Homefires stage. Someone put up a hastily scribbled new timetable on an A3 sheet of paper by the stage, but unless you knew where to look - and given the amount of umbrellas, seeing the acts on the stage themselves was hard enough - that really wasn’t good enough. The changes also meant Jeff Lewis and Of Montreal clashed, which was seriously annoying.

The sound systems were a massive improvement on last year, though the shitty weather seriously tempered the enthusiasm of the crowd. On Homefires, Tunng and Jeffrey Lewis took advantage of a break in the rain to bring some joy to the soaked Londoners; on the main stage, only Laura Marling and Les Savy Fav managed to excite the masses. Under the shelter of tents, there was real enthusiasm for Brodinski, Mae Shi and Crookers. My day was made by Jeffrey Lewis's Crass-heavy set, Les Savy Fav living up to their reputation as one of the world's finest live acts and The Field putting on an insanely brilliant show.

Overall, I had a fabulous time, but with London’s weather so utterly unpredictable and Tom Baker’s team still not proving that they know what to do with 10,000 people, I’d be surprised if most people didn’t decide just to buy a ticket on the day next year.

2008-09 season preview in The Observer

I wrote a piece about Middlesbrough's chances for the new season in today's Observer.

"Julio Arca's injured, Mido remains unfit and Southgate appears undecided as to whether it'll be the useless Brad Jones or the inexperienced Ross Turnbull picking the ball out of the net."

If you can't be bothered to head out and buy a copy, you can read the rest of it online.

Link to the article

My pessimistic approach doesn't seem to have gone down that well with some of my fellow Boro fans. We'll see who's right in May.

Link to a rather hilarious Fly Me To The Moon thread

Friday, 8 August 2008

GoateeSaver

"Just chomp on this bit and then you can shave around it for perfect results every time. And you adjust three rollers's width, flawlessly conforming to your face, and also to your notion of what a real goatee looks like."

As soon as they do one of these for sideburns, I'm so buying it.

GoateeSaver.com

Thursday, 7 August 2008

3.5lb hotdog

Available at HillBilly Hotdogs in West Virginia, the Homewrecker is "a 3.5lb weapon of cardiovascular mass destruction. They start with a deep-fried 15", 1-pound dog and top it with peppers, onions, nacho cheese, chili sauce, jalapenos, mustard, ketchup, coleslaw, tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded cheese. Assured intestinal wreckage will run you $14.99. Finish it in under 12 minutes and you get a free burial t-shirt. Do it in under 4 minutes and your family will have an extra $14.99 for the funeral."


More info at Al Dente

Link to HillBilly Hotdogs

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Hand drawn maps

I'm seriously digging the Hand Drawn Map Association.

Apparently this one was drawn by Jeff Werner to "point out to curious Balinese villagers the size and orientation of Canada and the United States."

Hand Drawn Map Association

Monday, 4 August 2008

Film Review: The X-Files - I Want To Believe

There are two reasons why The X-Files will never be remembered as the groundbreaking television series that it was:

1 – It went on for five years too long.
2 – Both X-Files movies have been absolutely fucking diabolical.

That said, 1998’s Fight The Future is a work of genius compared to this ill-judged abomination.

We hook up with Mulder and Scully six years after the last X-Files episode, which ended, let us not forget, with the pair on the run from the government after Mulder had been wrongly tried for treason.

Overlooking that minor detail, Scully is now a paediatric physician and Mulder is a hermit who still enjoys sticking his pencils to the ceiling and scoffing sunflower seeds. Much as he was in the TV show, then, but now sporting the worst beard imaginable.

A local FBI agent has gone missing and the only clues are coming from the addled, apparently psychic mind of paedophile priest Father Joe (Billy Connelly). Agents Dakota Whitney, played by the smokin’ hot Amanda Peet, and Mosley Drummy, played by Xzibit (yes, Xzibit), are set up as the 2008 class of X-Files sleuths.

The unlikely pair call upon Mulder for help because he has experience dealing with psychics. Peet actually name-checks a few psychics Mulder worked with in the show like Clyde Bruckman and Luther Lee Boggs, presumably to remind us of the days when The X-Files was actually good. Given a light prod about his missing sister – who, the writers have clearly forgotten, is actually dead – Mulder agrees to help, with Scully, of course, dutifully in tow.

As it turns out, some pesky Russians (what’s with Russians becoming the de facto baddies in this summer’s Hollywood releases? Is it 1985 all over again?) are harvesting body parts for some Frankenstein-esque experiments that are never fully explained.

And, well, that’s about it really.

No UFOs. No aliens. No government conspiracy. No monster. The only thing vaguely supernatural is Billy Connelly’s psychic paedophile priest. It doesn’t feel like The X-Files at all.

At its best the show was thrilling, spooky and often terrifying, these qualities are entirely absent from this deathly boring film. It’s a sub-par episode stretched out to fill the interminable 100 minute running time.

Duchovny and Anderson do their best – they still possess an undeniable on-screen chemistry – but they can’t redeem this worthless film. Peet and X to the Z are even worse than the Robert Patrick/Annabeth Gish pairing that brought the curtain down on the show. But they’ve both been so painfully miscast that it’s easy to have sympathy for them.

The blame for this slow, leaden-footed build to nothingness must lie with writer/director/producer/creator Chris Carter. Releasing such a rotten film upon a fanbase that remains obsessive is an ugly manipulation of people who clearly care more about his work than he does. By extending the TV series two seasons past its natural conclusion, Carter has form at taking the piss out of his fanbase, but even during its season nine nadir, the show was never this bad.

After a blazing techno version of the X-Files theme and a quick burst of UNKLE’s Broken, there’s a weird post-credits scene with Mulder rowing a small boat while Scully poses in a black bikini. They look up and wave as the screen fades to black.

Are they saying goodbye?

If this is the best the creators can come up with, let’s hope so.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Film Review: WALL•E

You’ve got to hand it to Disney.

Not content with releasing a film that blatantly insults 90 percent of their customer base, they’ve also crafted a movie that warns about the dangers of consumerism while constantly trying to shift merchandise to under-10s.

Truly their balls are to be admired, if not their hypocrisy.

WALL•E is set in 2805 with Earth in a bit of a pickle. We learn that by 2105, humans had fucked the planet up so badly that the entire population was evacuated so that a clean-up operation could be launched. Humans were ushered aboard a fleet of outer-space cruise ships by Buy N Large – the global corporation who run every facility on Earth, including government – where all conveniences and amusements are provided. Back on Earth a crew of Johnny 5 lookalike robots called Waste Allocation Load Lifters – Earth Class (WALL•E), were charged with the task of returning the planet to a liveable condition.

By 2805, Earth is in such a dire state that what was intended to be a five-year hiatus has now stretched to seven centuries, leaving only one WALL•E unit still operational. Due to the extended period of activation, he’s become sentient. So while he continues to diligently turn rubbish into neat cubes he also collects useful stuff like discarded WALL•E parts and a plant seedling, which he replants in an old boot. To wile away his rather lonely existence he watches a VHS of 1969 musical Hello Dolly obsessively.

A sleek modern Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (EVE) robot shows up, sent by the cruise ship Axiom to search for signs of life on Earth. Despite looking like a cross between an iPod and an egg, WALL•E falls in love with her upon first sight; unsurprising really given that his only company for the last 700 years has been a cockroach.

Discovering the plant, EVE enters a state of hibernation and heads back to the Axiom, with the smitten WALL•E not far behind. Aboard the Axiom we get a look at what humankind has become – corpulent, lazy slobs, who ride along in hoverchairs (centuries of reduced gravity have caused the human skeleton to become weaker and smaller), gazing at personal video screens that serve up all their entertainment and communication needs. They eat continually, sucking food from plastic cups through straws, while being barraged by adverts urging them to buy and eat more (“Consume again soon,” a cheery voice calls out). They are, in short, the denizens who right now are wheezing their gargantuan asses around Disney World.

EVE attempts to present the plant to the Axiom’s captain, Captain McCrea (voiced expertly by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin), as proof that Earth is actually inhabitable but finds it has been stolen. It turns out that a few of robots aboard the Axiom don’t fancy allowing humans to become independent of them again and are prepared to sabotage a journey back to Earth. While being chased around the ship by security bots, EVE learns of WALL•E’s feelings for her and soon begins to feel the same way. McCrea, meanwhile, becomes quite fascinated with the idea of returning to Earth and battles with his robotic co-pilot Auto (voiced by Sigourney Weaver) for control of the ship.

Of course, this being a Disney film, WALL•E, EVE and McCrea win out and the Axiom returns to Earth, with the captain promising the other humans farms, hoe-downs and presumably inbreeding too.

If the second-half of the film sounds trite and hackneyed, it’s because it is. But a weak finish isn’t WALL•E’s biggest problem; not since 2004’s Crash has a film so brutally beaten its audience over the head with its message.

We get it. Our ecosystem is fragile and needs to be protected, our species pollutes the Earth wantonly, and advertising and consumerism have become insidious and out of control. These are fine, noble messages, but the irony of a branding-obsessed, merchandise-spewing goliath telling us this is not so much delicious as sickening. Maybe Disney are concerned that people are becoming too fat to squeeze onto their rollercoasters.

And, besides, the film’s message is largely confused by the ending. It’s unclear how these slovenly, pudgy, near-boneless blobs would actually thrive on Earth, let alone be able to rebuild civilisation.

Which is all a real shame because the audacious, dialogue-free opening third is a spellbinding, truly one-of-a-kind passage. While the character WALL•E is a masterclass in non-verbal communication, conducted with all the expertise, wit and precision that you expect from Pixar.

But if I want to watch an hour-and-a-half of environmental propaganda starring a loveable, harmless robot, I’ll stick to An Inconvenient Truth, thanks.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Film Review: The Dark Knight

Let's get a few things straight, shall we?

Heath Ledger's performance isn't the greatest of all time. It's not the best portrayal of a villain of all time. It’s not the best performance in this movie. Frankly, it's not even the best portrayal of a villain in this movie.

Similarly, The Dark Knight isn't the best film ever made. It's not the best superhero movie ever made. It’s not the best superhero movie of this year. Shit, it’s not even the best Batman film ever made.

What The Dark Knight is, is a very enjoyable film that suffers from being seriously overhyped and seriously overlong.

The movie opens with Gotham (all too obviously modern day Chicago) in a mess. By attempting to bring order to the city, Batman has provoked the thugs. The mob are running riot and have corrupted the police department. The Joker, who cares not for money and only for chaos, looms large - intimidating everyone, including the gangsters.

Bruce Wayne and the noble Lt. James Gordon decide to rally behind new District Attorney Harvey Dent and position him as Gotham’s true crime-fighting hero. Batman even contemplates retirement but the Joker won’t let him; he needs him to play with, telling the caped crusader, “You complete me.”

It’s a terrific conflict; arguably the best dynamic in comics and it’s unfortunate that only half the duo have turned up here. Ledger, while not quite living up to the over the top posthumous praise, trumps Jack Nicholson by delivering the definitive screen version of the Joker but Christian Bale turns in his worst ever performance as a placid, ineffective Bruce Wayne.

The silly, raspy Bat-whisper returns from Batman Begins but the unvaried inflection grates even more than it did last time out. As Wayne, Bale also falls short, certainly when stacked up against the summer’s other billionaire superhero playboy: Robert Downey Jr’s exceptional take on Tony Stark.

Bale aside, the rest of the cast are superb. Having traded-up from mong-mouthed Scientology fertility chamber Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhaal, the character of Rachel Dawes finally has meaning. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine clearly relish their roles as gadget guru Lucius Fox and Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred. But while it’s Ledger who has stolen the plaudits, it’s Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart who truly steal this movie.

Oldman’s James Gordon is the moral centre of the piece and is played masterfully by a man who has made a career from playing psychopaths, while Eckhart’s descent from handsome, righteous Harvey Dent into twisted, bitter Two-Face is thrilling and terrifying to watch. You suspect had either one died during the post-production, they’d be ahead of Ledger in the queue for an Oscar.

With such a stellar cast largely at their top of their game, it’s a real shame that the story doesn’t reach the same heights. At 152 minutes, The Dark Knight is at least half-an-hour too long and there are entire sections of the film (notably the Infernal Affairs-esque jaunt to Hong Kong) that should’ve been left out of the final edit.

The other, larger problem is that The Dark Knight is in a constant state of climax; sprinting from one set piece to another with no pause or respite to amp the tension back up. The perpetual frenzy means even the outstanding Batpod chase scene is exhausting and suffocating, while the bass-heavy score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard thuds and pounds frantically along even when nothing is happening on the screen.

Christopher Nolan spends a lot of film’s final moments setting up the series’ third instalment but by basing his vision of Gotham on the comics Year One, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, he needs the presence of the Joker. Will Nolan see it as disrespectful to recast? And, if so, would anybody want the role? It’s easy to imagine Johnny Depp having the balls to step into the face paint but Heath Ledger lookalike Joseph Gordon-Levitt might prove a better substitute. Nolan has already ruled out using Robin in any of his films, but Lucius Fox’s line about the new Batsuit being “cat-proof” would suggest that Catwoman will be making an appearance.

Though The Dark Knight is too arrhythmic and indulgent to be considered the consummate Batman movie, Nolan has already worked wonders to make us forget about Joel Schmacher’s Batman & Robin debacle. If he can do the same with Halle Berry’s equally execrable Catwoman, he’ll have performed a miracle.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monkey-faced pig

A piglet with the face of a monkey has been born in the Chinese village of Xiping.

The owner, Feng Changlin, said "It's hideous. No one will be willing to buy it, and it scares the family to even look at it!"

More here at Ananova

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Lego album covers

The Toy Zone have recreated 20 album covers in Lego.

The rest are here

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Benicassim

I've just got back from a blissful time in Benicassim.

I'd love to offer my comprehensive thoughts about the festival, which remains my favourite in Europe, but I can't really add to this great piece by my friend, Kai Jones.

Although The National - who absolutely rocked the Fiberfib.com tent - and Sigur Ros would definitely have made my top 5.

Read Kai's Benicassim blog at Virtualfestivals here

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Film Review: Hancock

A shambling, misanthropic boozehound with anger issues, the character Hancock is nearly as big a mess as the film that bears his name.

Unsure of whether it’s a frat boy comedy, summer family blockbuster, love story, adult action flick or dark superhero character portrait, a film that shows substantial early promise collapses in a schizophrenic seizure after thirty minutes and never recovers.

That the film becomes so muddled is a real shame because it begins in such a promising manner. Ignoring the unnecessarily censored use of Ludacris’s Move Bitch in the opening scene, Hancock opens with a succession of genuinely funny moments. Smith, as a drunk, flying version of his character from Bad Boys, is in his element, cracking wise as he whupps ass on a car full of Koreans.

Hancock, hated by the Los Angeles public for being so reckless in the pursuit of saving lives, stops a train from killing Jason Bateman’s character, Ray. Ray is a likeable publicist – the kind of big-hearted PR schlub that exists only in fiction – who decides to repay Hancock by making the public love him.

Ray’s plan is to make the people of Los Angeles realise that they need Hancock by making him voluntarily enter prison. Whilst inside, Hancock shoves one inmate’s head up the ass of another, kicks his alcohol habit and has a shave.

Soon enough, the crime rate in Los Angeles rises and the mayor requests the release of Hancock. Willcock’s release from jail marks the point where it’s no longer possible to enjoy this film.

Having foiled a bank robbery by severing the hand of the lead baddie with a lampshade, the public finally embrace Willcock, but before he can enjoy his newfound adoration, Ray’s wife – played by the always hot Charlize Theron – is revealed to be a superhero too. Only, as she tells us, they’re not superheroes, they’re gods or angels or something. And they’re immortal. Oh, and if they spend a lot of time together, they both lose their powers. Only Charlize waits until Hancock has been shot twice in the gut before telling him of his new mortality.

So, in the film’s dreary conclusion, Hancock is in hospital when the now hook-handed bank robber, who has conveniently escaped from prison, tries to murder him. He shoots Charlize, who is now mortal too having spent a bit of time in Big Willy’s company, so the two superheroes are sufficiently weakened that Jason Bateman has to finish off the one-handed twat.

In the epilogue we see that Willcock has legged it to New York so that he and Charlize can both be immortal again. Meanwhile, Ray and Charlize are living a happy life in Los Angeles, Ray seemingly not giving a shit that his missus is immortal and could also kick the living fuck out of him at any moment.

If I’ve made the second half sound remotely interesting, I’ve done a terrible job of explaining it, for Hancock is a totally misconceived movie - a bizarre and confused amalgam of comedy, action and romance that completely fails to mesh properly.

And yet, you suspect it wasn’t always so. Preview versions of the film featured much more swearing and gags involving statutory rape and, yes, super-spunk, indicating that the original intention was for Hancock to be a dark, adult comedy. By searching for that all-important PG-13 rating, Sony’s studio executives have absolutely castrated what could’ve been a good film.

While Bateman and Theron invest more integrity into this incoherent script than it deserves, Hancock is a $150m debacle that will leave audiences confused and insulted.

After this and the similarly flawed I Am Legend, it might be beyond even the greatest superhero to get Will Smith’s career back on track.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Film Review: The Bucket List

The Bucket List is about the importance of living life as if each moment could be your last.

Anyone who believes there’s any truth in that sentiment should make sure they steer well clear of this soulless, sappy and groaningly immature film.

Jack Nicholson plays Edward, a cocksure gazillionaire whose success in business has come at the cost of his own family. When felled by cancer, Edward is treated in a hospital that he owns and, for reasons best left unexplained, instead of having his own private ward, he winds up sharing a tiny, dingy room with Morgan Freeman.

Freeman plays Carter, a bright academic who was forced to trade his dreams of becoming a history professor for a career as a car mechanic when he accidentally knocked his girlfriend up.

Suffering from the same illness, the two become unlikely pals and when it turns out that Carter has a list of things he would like to do before he kicks the bucket, Edward embraces the idea. “Hell, all I have is money,” the rich white man announces, as he offers to treat the poor black man to a round the world trip. The list consists of skydiving, getting tattoos, driving fast cars, visiting the pyramids and climbing a Himalayan mountain.

Freeman and Nicholson wheeze and stagger around the globe, trotting out a load of juvenile drivel (“We live. We die. The wheels on the bus go around and around”). The two, who lets not forget, are convalescing from courses of chemotherapy, are somehow able to jump out of planes and climb mountains. It seems more likely that their primary concerns would’ve been keeping down a full meal and having a triumphant bowel movement. That might not have made for a great movie, but it wouldn’t have been any worse than this one.

Another huge failing is that Edward and Carter’s grand world tour obviously never leaves the Hollywood soundstage. When the pair are stood in front of the pyramids they don’t look any more convincing than the horse from The Village Of Gwangi.

The underused supporting cast consists of Sean Hayes, Beverly Todd and Rob Morrow, but the focus remains on our doddery leads throughout. Nicholson, his shaved head making him look uncomfortably similar to Gary Glitter, has never been less inspired. Freeman, ever the ersatz screen-sage, is at his stiffest and most banal, evoking neither complexity nor earthiness with his words, merely boredom.

On and on this terrible film trundles, bringing with it tears, laughter and family reconciliations, before reaching its all-too-obvious conclusion. By the end it has said nothing about dying, nothing about dignity and nothing about mortality.

In fact, there’s only one thing you can take from this film: cancer might be awful, but it’s not as bad as The Bucket List.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Catface Comedy

My friend, comedian and radio presenter, Leanne Diggins launched a new comedy show at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell last night.

She has, predictably enough for her, called it Catface Comedy and, if the first night is anything to go by, it'll be a big success.

The first couple of comics, whose names I annoyingly can't remember, were clearly a bit nervous but they were decent enough. However, the show was absolutely stolen by Catie Wilkins who did an absolutely wonderful 7 or 8 minute set about dirty talk. Her disaffected, sarcastic tone really lent itself well to her material. She could be a huge star.

There's another Catface night coming up on 7th August. I'd definitely recommend it. Oh, but there is quite a lot of dancing and you are kinda expected to get involved, so considered yourself warned.

Link

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburgers

Currently being served up in an unnamed New York diner are these Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburgers.

More here

Monday, 30 June 2008

Film Review: The Happening

I learnt many things from The Happening: wind only forms in isolated patches and with determination it is possible to run ahead of it; dusty old farmhouses are completely airtight; elderly women own gas masks but the military and police don’t; and M Night Shyamalan has made probably the worst film I’ve ever seen.

Kind of like the opposite of the 1956 sci-fi movie, The Death of Grass, The Happening has an interesting premise: plants have become so pissed off with humans polluting the planet that they are fighting back. Not, as you might expect, by growing legs and arms and throwing boulders at their enemies like the Ents in Lord Of The Rings but by releasing biotoxins into the air that make people kill themselves.

How infected individuals top themselves varies, but – and this is one of the film’s biggest problems – suicide seems to involve the most ridiculous route possible. One man at the zoo strolls into the lion enclosure and allows the lions to rip his arms off, an elderly woman head butts all the walls and windows in her house, and another man runs himself over with a lawnmower. Even when those infected choose more traditional suicide routes like when John Leguizamo slashes his wrists with broken glass, or when Private Auster turns his pistol on himself, it is impossible to take their deaths seriously.

An unseen threat is always a difficult cinematic trick to pull off but it certainly isn’t the fault of James Newton’s Howard’s chilling and nerve-wracking score. The blame lies entirely with Shyamalan’s pathetic script and pitiful direction.

The oft-quoted infinite monkey theorem states that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite amount of typewriters given an infinite amount of time will almost certainly eventually type up the complete works of Shakespeare. And the same is almost true of The Happening. Only one monkey with a lump of shit and a pointy stick would definitely write a better script than this.

The problems listed in the opening paragraph of this review are certainly the most glaring but there are plenty of other examples. With the catastrophe isolated to the north east of America, and with the safe zone just 90 miles west, our heroes decide to drive further east. Having already established that the toxin is mostly likely to affect large groups of people, Mark Wahlberg invites two complete strangers to join him, Zooey Deschanel and the little kid they’ve adopted. Later, in an effort to prove his sanity to the inhabitants of a blockaded house, Wahlberg decides that the best course of action is to start singing Creedance Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary.

As for the dialogue, when twenty people shoot themselves to death, all Wahlberg can offer is, “Oh no”. To which Deschanel laughably responds, “What ‘oh no’?” Later, when a teenage boy has been shot in the head at close range, Wahlberg leans over his body, shakes him and says, “I’ll get us out of this nightmare.” And, towards the end of the movie, Betty Buckley’s character mutters this eternally brilliant line, "The world don't care about me. I don't care about it. Now, I suppose I need to invite you to stay.”

The cinematography is just as bad. Not only does Shyamalan use a hammy slow-motion reaction shot of Wahlberg when said teenage boy is murdered, not only are there far too many embarrassing close-ups of trees swaying in the wind that are supposed to be menacing, but there are two scenes in the film where the boom mic is clearly visible.

It’s difficult to conceive how the man responsible for a pair of films as inventive and tense as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable can be capable of making such amateur mistakes but Shyamalan’s fall from grace that began with The Village shows absolutely no signs of stopping. In fact, not since Plan 9 From Outer Space has a film been this incompetently shot and incoherently written.

The Happening isn’t a disaster movie. It’s a disaster.