The Men Who Stare At Goats

It’s normally a warning sign when the trailer has you in absolute stitches, because there’s no way the finished product can live up to such lofty expectations. Still, here we were with less than baited breath, watching the “more true than you’d ever believe” story from John Sergeant and quirky investigative journalist Jon Ronson (Them, Secret Rulers of the World).

Once you’ve stopped laughing at the casting of Ewan McGregor in a movie about “Jedi Warriors”, the film is actually highly entertaining for the first two-thirds … and then laugh-out-loud hilarious for the finale.

The absolutely superb performance by Kevin Spacey in a supporting role is really what makes this wonderful, but McGregor, George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are especially engaging in perhaps the only film about goats, psychoactive drugs and Jedi in wartorn Iraq that you’re ever going to see. Robert Patrick has a minor role, proving his ability to add gold-dust to every film he’s in. Very highly recommended.



13 year-old Chloe Moretz (500 Days of Summer) admits that if she ever uttered any of her lines in Kick-Ass – filmed when she was just 11 – she’d be “grounded until [she] was 20”. Despite the movie’s title, her character Hit Girl is definitely the heroine of the film. Aaron Johnson puts in a likeable performance as average teen Dave Lizewski who, despite having no powers or training, decides one day to become a superhero. His rather embarrassing adventures put the comic strip universe into a painfully real context as he finds out that “Biff!” and “Pow!” really f***ing hurt!

The colourful language and gloriously over-the-top violence largely come from tiny ninja queen Hit Girl, aided by her father Big Daddy – played by Nicolas Cage giving his trademark one-expression performance. Still, we’re not looking for Oscar wins here, and the laughs come thick and fast – many of those from sidekick Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Any film that features a bazooka is generally worth watching, and put that into a frame with a tiny tot who slices her way through villains like Christian Bale in Equilibrium and you have something you really won’t forget in a hurry.

A sequel is in the works, and that’s a good thing.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So, what’s the average now? The first one was an OK kids’ flick; the second a dire abomination; the third watchable; the fourth didn’t really work as a film; and the fifth and six were spectacular. Now the seventh book is to be split in half, and the questions are whether David Yates can drum it up a third and fourth time – and whether he can make the plodding and rather incomprehensible first half of Rowling’s book into a decent movie.

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The Slits – Animal Space

It’s been a funny old week. The Guardian ran a piece today about how it’s been 40 years since The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer was published, and I found myself thinking that I probably ought to read it if only I had slightly more interest in political history and fewer unread books on my shelf.

I remember my mother mentioning it when I was a child, in the sort of “that’s quite interesting” tone that one generally uses when leafing through National Geographic. My mother wasn’t (and isn’t) either a feminist or an anti- or post-feminist. She was just born into a very long line of women who regarded other people’s opinions as “quite interesting”. I suppose I’m that way too. It’s not so much a “don’t give a f***” attitude as one that will simply give your opinion the consideration it deserves.

So if, say, I wanted to wear my underwear on the outside of my clothes and you told me that looked stupid, I would think, “OK, you think that looks stupid. I think it looks nice,” and carry on with my undergarment display. It wouldn’t be some act of defiance, but just a lack of any sense that other people’s opinions are more important than my own.

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Cardiacs tribute fundraiser album – out December

This is actually an incredibly difficult post to write. Most people reading this blog will know that I’m a long-time Cardiacs fan, and will probably have an inkling that they’re one of the most innovative bands of the past 35 years. Acts as diverse as Faith No More, Radiohead, Battles, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, the Pixies, the Melvins and System of a Down have cited them as an influence. The band has also been a huge influence on me personally – and are just such lovely human beings that I feel truly lucky to have spent as much time with them as I did in the 90s.

The awful thing is that Tim Smith suffered a severe stroke and heart attack in 2008 and is still being treated in hospital. To raise money for his continuing medical care, a tribute album, Leader of the Starry Skies, has been recorded and will be released on Believers Roast on 6 December. The contributors are “friends and family” of the band, and include XTC’s Andy Partridge, Julianne Regan from All About Eve, Ultrasound, Knifeworld and Oceansize. Each has donated their time and energy freely as “a testament to the love we all have for Tim.”

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5 Awesome Trailers (from weirdly disappointing films)

Sometimes a trailer is two minutes of perfect entertainment in itself. If the film turns out to be wonderful, we think nothing of it, but if there’s a disparity with the final product, it can prove immensely disappointing. But at least there’s still that excellent trailer to enjoy.

1. Star Trek: Nemesis

The trailer: it’s tense, absorbing, breathtaking, moving and funny. If they’d actually made the film that this trailer depicts, Star Trek wouldn’t have needed a reboot.

The reality: the fact they’d hacked up unrelated lines from the film to make much wittier dialogue in the trailer just added insult to injury.

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Fallout: New Vegas – Chandler and Chances

So, I just f***ed Chandler Bing.

Benny voiced by Matthew Perry

Benny, voiced by Matthew Perry

Day three of my marathon trek through the post-apocalyptic Mojave desert introduced me to a super-mutant in a bow, a bunch of gangsters who could be talked down out of trouble, and various crazy robots and bizarrely aggressive cattle.

I solved the mystery of Boone’s missing wife, and having nothing better to do, he figured he’d tag along with me to be my personal meat shield and best buddy.

Arriving in New Vegas shortly before sunset, we applied for a job with a bunch of Elvis impersonators before checking out the casinos further in town.

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Fallout: New Vegas – the next six hours

If there’s one thing roleplaying games are really good at, it’s at providing a welcome distraction when you’ve got a headcold and are feeling a bit fed up and woozy. Leave behind the cold, damp British countryside and head instead for the deserts of Nevada as a near-invincible post-apocalyptic gunslinger.

(Here be spoilers)

I faced a couple of crashes early on in Primm, along with some very odd visual glitches when using VATS – the game’s freeze-time targeting system – while rescuing the village idiot of a deputy. My ingenious solution was not to use VATS, and after finding a reproduceable crash after fighting a particular group of outlaws just outside Primm’s casino, I just took a different route and avoided them altogether.

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Fallout: New Vegas – the first hour

I can’t be too objective about a game in which my name appears in the credits (for helping out my friends with the rowdy internet rabble). Wait, what do you mean, “My real name?” Even some of my RL friends address me as “Princess”, and I’m not giving you buggers the name on my ID badge – you might stalk me or something! Anyway, since I’m mostly going to be playing New Vegas for the next few days, I thought I’d bring you along for the ride.

So, day one of Fallout: New Vegas. It actually reminds me as much of Borderlands as it does Fallout 3, with its bluer skies and country music. I just did the chargen stage, which was gratifyingly brief and lets you skip any tutorial bits you don’t want to do. I did it anyway, because I think every proper game should start off by asking you to pick flowers in a pretty little part of the countryside (but, uh, watch out for them big mean critters there). The only disappointment so far was that I couldn’t thank the doctor for patching me up if I picked the question about what to do next. I did feel a bit guilty about robbing him blind, though.

Later, in the saloon, the barlady mentioned in passing that her radio was broken. I thought, “I wonder if I can help you with that,” and lo and behold, the option to offer to fix it appeared in the list. I think we’re going to get along just fine.