Saturday, 31 July 2010

Mostly Brains

Fascinating article over five parts by Errol Morris about anosognosia.

Bad Astronomy has a lavatorial example of apophenia and no it isn't Jebus.

Derren Brown's blog has a link to an interesting post about 150 being an optimal number for groups/communities/businesses.

Looks like some labcoats are musing over using Ibogaine to treat addicts yet again.

Someone's put a vid up on Instructables about how to make Kitty Crack, a super potent form of catnip.

IBM have been elbows deep in monkey brains, macaque to be exact. Sterling work though in providing the most comprehensive map so far.

Israeli scientists are looking at what makes memories stick and think GABA might have a role.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Genre Collisions

No Way To Treat a Lady is a 1968 film about a serial killer who strikes up a unusual friendship with the homicide detective investigating him. Rod Steiger plays the disguise loving strangler & ramps his performance up to stratospheric levels of hammyness while George Segal smirks & eye rolls his way through his scenes with his overbearing Jewish mother and his new love interest/soon-to-be strangler fodder played by the beautiful Lee Remick. The somewhat awkward melange of violence and domestic comedy leads to a very odd atmosphere and despite a few nice scenes I wouldn't class the film as a success, especially with it's botched ending. hohum.

Not really sure what Operation Endgame was meant to be - a comedy? action thriller? well it was none of those and it's one of the weakest films I've seen in ages. Anyways a bunker full of odd secret agents is sealed off and they start killing each other for no apparent reason. It's got a decent cast including Galifianakis, Corddry, Rhames, Barkin & Tambor but the scripting & plot well, just plain awful, you hear about films that are so bad, so car crash fascinating they're hard to turn off but until now I'd never seen one.

Films for free

Pah it's no wonder the shop is going under - here's ten films in no particular order that you can legally watch online for free. UPDATE - well looks like Primer's dissappeared already but here's a link to 100 scifi films available online - courtesy of WATEOTU

Primer - thanks to Io9 for pointing out this low budget time travel classic is now online for your perusal.

Orwell's classic Animal Farm animated

One of Hitchcock's best, Rebecca, via ClassicMoviesOnline

Another from Youtube which I think I've posted before - Home

iplayer has The Incredibles

Nice WW2 film called Saints & Soldiers is at indiemoviesonline

They've also got Broomfield's eye opening documentary Fetishes

Another from iplayer is German thriller The Wave

Elia Kazan's excellent Panic in the Streets is on IMDB

Finally classic early HGWells scifi in Things To Come from Veoh

Monday, 26 July 2010

Troublesome Tories

While the rest of the 24hr news monster is chewing over Julian "I Enjoy Crushing Bastards" Assange's mega release it appears our newly revived Tory Overlords are coming a little unstuck.

First up is army toff Rory Stewart who referred to his constituents as yokels who hold their trousers up with string - how charming - he's now recanted somewhat.

Another former army idiot is Patrick Mercer, who according to Guido, is having a little problem with the wife probably due to his dalliance with another MP's secretary. Tsk Tsk

Boris Johnson seems to have problems with his zipper too.

David Davis indiscreetly referred to the marriage of the two parties as as a "Brokeback Coalition"
- apparently there's chatter about starting a Brokeback Club for those skeptical of the wedding but bad mimer John Redwood won't be joining.

And finally the Charity Comission has released it's unsurprising finding that stupid neo-con organisation Atlantic Bridge has been shown to be little more than a front for the usual tedious right-wing wrong thinking. I sure hope members Willy Hague and Liam Fox are upset.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

ForeverWar spings a Leak

Assange has enlisted the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel in exposing 92,000 documents pertaining to our little jaunt back in to Afghanistan oh how I chuckle. Someone called VioletVerq posting on Gawker was kind enough to gather the links. I wonder what else Manning coughed up?

Sean satirises & Batman mourns

Wrong is Right is a stunningly topical black comedy written and directed by Richard Brooks. A dark comedy/thriller starring Sean Connery as a salacious TV news superstar jetting around the world bringing us the very latest in wars/riots/death whatever will secures the highest ratings. He bites off more than he can chew however when an Arab ruler, recently added to the CIA's hitlist, decides to send two suitcase nukes to the United States in retaliation. There's plenty of action but not enough laughs as religious fundamentalists, journalists, mercenaries, secret agents and politicians wrestle about for two hours trying to stop/start nuclear war. Apparently it was a flop on release, with critics labelling it implausible haha, I think it deserves a bit more credit however, sure it's a right mess and they obviously found it tough to squeeze laughs out of the subject but the satire is spot on - more so now than 28 years ago when it was made.

I wonder what certificate the animated feature Batman: Under the Red Hood will get? Given the beatings, burning & multiple deaths I doubt they'll manage a 12 - not that I'm complaining though as it's easily one of the best DC/Warner productions so far. The story revolves around the fate of Robin at the hands of the Joker and Gotham's latest kingpin, called the Red Hood. With plenty of action and with a nice line on the Batman/Robin relationship this mature cartoon will hopefully become the template for future releases.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Catching up on Curtis

Apparently Adam Curtis is working on a new doco about Afghanistan which might explain the series of fascinating articles he's been posting on his excellent blog. Anyways I loved Power of Nightmares, Century of Self and The Trap so thought it might be interesting to watch some of his earlier works that I missed.

First up is The Mayfair Set , aired in 1999, it's a four parter about a group of chaps/cnuts who shaped our country during those lovely Thatcher years including David Stirling founder of the SAS turned mercenary, Jim Slater asset stripper extraordinaire and Jimmy Goldsmith douchebag. Curtis carefully exposes the roles these men played in "enhancing" our capitalist culture while simultaneously filling their pockets and the final episode shows how these men were eventually discarded by the establishment but their theories, strategies and greed continued. Peppered with his usual melange of interviews, stock footage & news clips this is a fine example of Curtis' work and it appears you can watch it on Youtube here

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Fraught Families

Alice Sweet Alice is a twisted little psychological chiller from '76 about a troubled girl suspected of murdering her sister at her first communion - only her estranged parents believe she's innocent but when more bloodshed follows they have to consider their daughter is a psycho-killer. Though not particularly original I quite enjoyed it to be honest, it quickly creates a weird atmosphere before jarring us with some sporadic brutal violence and kept me guessing towards the demented finale. The cast is pretty solid but the young actress playing "Alice" steals the film with a fine ambiguous performance as the potential murderess.

The novels of Stieg Larsson have sat on my shelf for a while now but there's at least another 10 books to be read before them so I thought I'd just give up & watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and see what all the fuss is about. It's certainly a good film, well acted, nicely shot all in all a solid Euro thriller but in my opinion really not much else - sometimes I think we give foreign language films an easy ride because its all a bit "different" but hey what do I know. Anyways the plot is as follows: recently disgraced journo gets hired by a reclusive millionaire to investigate a old unsolved disappearance and it gets all murky murky with secret Nazis, a seriously dysfunctional family and a feisty female hacker. Hope the books are a better.

Again with Feldman & Matheson

The Devil Rides Out is a frenetic Hammer horror film about a bunch of middle class Satanists evoking old hoofy Baphomet himself. Christopher Lee leads the charge against these fiends in one of his few heroic roles and with a strong cast and tight script this is certainly one of Hammer's better films. Based on a Dennis Wheatley novel and with a Richard Matheson screenplay this could do with a remake as it's only real failing are some spectacularly awful special effects sequences.

The Last Remake of Beau Geste is another madcap comedy written/directed & starring Marty Feldman. After enjoying his underrated In God We Tru$t I thought I'd give this earlier film a shot and it's another very funny Mel Brooks-inspired spoof. It's an affectionate homage to the b&w yarns spun around the fictional French Legionnaire Beau Geste (played by Michael Yorke) and his idiot twin brother Digby (played by Mad-eyes Feldman) and with a supporting cast including Ustinov, Milligan, Kinnear and James Earl Jones there's certainly no shortage of talent. According to Wikip. Feldman wasn't that pleased with the final cut but it's still a silly bawdy little film that has been cruelly overlooked.

Monday, 19 July 2010

From Zero to Nineteen Forty Two

Zero Effect is a desperately quirky 90's detective thriller starring Bill Pullman as a Holmes-inspired sleuth and Ben Stiller as his long suffering Watson type. It isn't nearly as funny or as clever as it thinks it is so most of the antics of Zero came across as just plain annoying and the blackmail case he's working on is little more than a device to stitch the romantic plot together ~ though apparently it's based on a story by Conan Doyle ~ anyways I'm not surprised that they tried in 2002 to make a TV series out of it as it reeked of the Tellybox.

Went the Day Well? was mentioned in the Guardian the other day so thought I'd give it a go and it's pretty good, certainly more than just a bit of wartime propaganda. A small town falls to a platoon of dastardly Nazis and the locals, notably the women, decide to fight back with some gusto. Based on a story by Graham Greene the script sparkles with wit and British understatement and it's bolstered by some excellent performances throughout. Had it focused on the men folk uprising I don't think it would have had the same impact - the sight of Thora Hird hacking up a Jerry with an axe was really quite shocking.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Uncommon Horror

Finally got around to watching George Romero's Martin and I was quite impressed: an ambiguous film about a petulant teen who thinks he's a vampire struggling to cope moving in with relatives in a new town. As you'd expect it's got a super low budget but Romero manages to create a strange dreamlike atmosphere as Martin succumbs to his lust for blood and starts picking off the young ladies.

Night of The Creeps is a funny horror spoof from the 80's directed by Fred Dekker. Some alien brain slug parasites and an escaped axe weilding lunatic are on the loose and terrorising a small town as it prepares for the Prom. Despite it all being played for the laughs there are a few moments of genuine horror as a handful of survivors decide to take their town back with a naught but a shotgun and a flamethrower. Dekker followed this film with Monster Squad which I vaguely remember so might give it another go before the inevitable remake turns up. Here's a lovely retro poster for both someone's made.

Documentary Double

God's Angry Man is an early Herzog documentary about a fiery 'Merican TV preacher who shouts and screams at his viewers until they send in enough money. Pastor Scott is a strange character, in the brief moments of interview with Werner he seems lonely and troubled but he went onto have a rich life of bilking folks out of their cash in Jesus' name with little scandal or corruption. It's a shame the film is so dominated by broadcast footage as I'd like to have seen more of his life beyond the studio.

Despite the film makers over dramatising their night time escapades in Taiji the documentary The Cove is still a powerful film about the seasonal slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Though the slaughter and eating of these cetaceans is bad enough (especially as they're full of mercury) somehow it was the trade in show dolphins that disturbed me more - stupid people across the world clap at these caged creatures as they're forced to entertain us for a few pennies, urgh it even makes zoo's seem nice. Anyways a dolphin committed suicide recently at a Japanese water park - sure it was on the menu in no time.

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, Funk

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Hunting Long Pigs

Predators is a fat slice of scifi action that's a definite improvement on the awful AvP movies. Our gang of deadly protagonists are literally dropped from the sky into a jungle hell swarming with Predators looking for trophies and it doesn't take long before blood starts flowing. Sure it's a bit weird having Adrian Brody as an action lead and some of the nods to the earlier films are a little forced but all in all this is 90 mins of unashamed genre cinema. Don't watch with brain attached.

Without Warning is a cheap little horror from the 80's that's often cited as the basis of the original Predator film. A redneck town is being terrorised by a murderous alien who hunts locals with strange fleshy frisbees and strings up his victims nice and tidy in some abandoned shack, Martin Landau stars as a deranged veteran who fails to convince the townsfolk of their impending doom while a washed up hunter played by a washed up Jack Palance decides to face the creature head on. Mostly rubbish so I wouldn't bother.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Oily grubby fingers & the usual 'tard politicians

Funny how I keep coming across this BP/Megrahi release story on US blogs but haven't heard much over here. So BP were angling for a good deal in Libya and might have asked for a favour from Gordo via Alex probably in exchange for actually paying a bit more tax or something else as tawdry. Yet another indicator that the Markets influence over western governments has become troublesome and needs some heavy pruning.

Mandy sure is whipping up some nice headlines with his newly published memoirs but none of it's particularly shocking, ohh Tony and Gordo hated each other duh. Moronic stuff from a egotist that's best ignored.

Tony might well be in a huff that Mandy beat him to publication, going so far to plead to King Fuckface himself Rupe Murdoch and actually being rebuffed hahaha twat, but he really should be concerned about the latest investigations into our complicity in torture, mmm Blair on trial at the Hague that'd be a refreshing sight but never gonna happen. Flaming Torch and Pitchfork have never been so tempting.

Some chump from the Institute of Community Cohesion is stating the obvious, that MP's live in a cosseted little bubble of demonic ambition twinned with inflated egos and a pack mentality. Well he phrases it differently.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Great Antidote

Goldacre is having a nice little Twitter feud with Gillian McKeith, keen turd observer, about her spurious academic qualifications. Courtesy of BoingBoing

Interesting bit on Io9 bout plants having a rudimentary intelligence of sorts. Via Beeb I think.

One of the sweet pics sent from Europe's Rosetta probe of the asteroid Lutetia, from Discovermagazine.

Someone's dug up a 29million year old skull in Saudi that looks like it's another piece in our evolutionary puzzle, via Beeb

Grinauda interview with Peter Higgs reveals but for a stuffy editor the God particle should have been the Goddamn particle.


I like me some animation but it's a minority pleasure - here's some fine short examples, old and new, that might change your mind.

Blu Blu's second film is Big Bang Big Boom

Nice lecture about Capitalism via

And Begone Dull Care, a classic from 1949 by Mclaren & Lambert & Oscar Peterson

The Jesus Business & Matheson's Hell House

In God We Tru$t is an acerbic satire on American Christianity written, directed and starring Marty Feldman. It's got a pretty dire score on IMDB but I rather enjoyed it - kinda in the vein of a Mel Brooks or Steve Martin film and though a bit uneven there's some really great lines in it. I thinks maybe it was the pointedness of the satire that didn't help at the box office, the Merikans aint fond of people poking fun at the big G. Anyways Feldman plays a monk sent out into the world for the first time to raise money for his monastery, bewildered by modern L.A. he soon stumbles into Peter Boyle's mobile-church scam artist and a friendly hooker called Mary. There's a great performance by Andy Kaufman as the deranged money hungry TV preacher he's been sent to meet and another by Richard Pryor as GOD, a computer mainframe that finally learns the true meaning of the gospels. Worth a look.

The Legend of Hell House is a nice chiller starring Roddy McDowell as part of a team of psychic investigators staying at a notorious old mansion. Not dissimilar to Robert Wise's The Haunting the proceedings don't go as planned and the usual ghostly mayhem ensues, even the specialist spirit clearing machine they've brought along doesn't seem to work and it all ends in tragedy. A solid effort. Hadn't realised this was written by Richard Matheson and after looking at his IMDB page I've been amazed by the scope of his career, I mean I knew about I Am Legend and it's 3 versions, The Box and the forthcoming Real Steel but The Raven, The Devil Rides Out, The Duel, episodes of Star Trek & Twilight Zone, Stir of Echoes, Somewhere in Time etc etc this guy must be one of the most prolific scifi/horror screenwriters ever, if you can think of anyone else (other than Stephen King) I'd love to know.

Friday, 9 July 2010

TVersity Tales

The Last Broadcast is a Blair Witchy, found footage horror film sans the horror. Presented as a documentary about the brutal murders of 3 people in some remote forest it's narrated by the filmmaker and peppered with interviews and news footage to set the scene & build the atmosphere before showing us the footage taken by the victims on the day of the murders. It could've been quite a nice little film but the plodding first half and ropey acting didn't help and the denouement was very poorly handled: it broke the documentary style it'd worked hard to create and made little sense.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter is a late Hammer romp written and directed by Brian Clemens and imo it's one of Hammer's better films. Sure it's cheap as chips but it's got a interesting take on the vampire mythos and there's no shortage of action as the dual sword wielding Kronos and hunchback assistant Prof Grost sniff out a vamp in the English countryside while fending off some ignorant locals. Apparently this was the first in a series of films featuring Cap. Kronos but it bombed on release which is a shame. It's ripe for a remake though so someone should snap up the rights.

Pediophobic Offerings

Ghost Story aka Madhouse Mansion is more tvmovie than feature film and even Marianne Faithfull's appearance adds little to proceedings. Some old Uni chums reunite at a rundown mansion one of the group has just inherited and instead of a relaxing week in the country one guest finds themselves troubled by some pesky ghostly visions and a haunted Victorian doll. There's little to recommend here, it's dull and not remotely scary, the only part worth seeing is the highly amusing killer doll scenes towards the end.

Magic, from 1978, has a slightly more convincing killer doll in it but that's probably cause it has Sir Anthony Hopkins' hand up it's arse and it's directed by Dicky Attenborough. Hopkins plays Corky a ventriloquist who has some serious issues with his doll, he almost makes it to the Big Time but flakes out and seeks solace in the arms of a childhood crush only for things to go awry. It's a touch hammy especially the final wigout but nonetheless it's quite an effective psychological thriller.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Stig of the Dump News

Research at an archaeological dig in Happisburgh has uncovered a horde of flints which seems to push back human settlement in Britain another quarter of a million years - nice. I always thought it a foolish theory that early man had ignored our Isle and this evidence proves it with early man arriving 840,000-950,000 years ago. Via Guardina

There's been some interesting results coming from Neanderthal skeletons found at a Russian dig near Khvalynsk - looks like both male and females had an "unusual" hormonal make up which allowed for much more muscle mass and specifically large upper arms popeye style. All the better to kill critters with I guess.

Global warming has it's upside I guess with archaeologists now combing through melting ice fields and glaciers for finds and sure enough they've found a 10,000 year old birch wood dart that's been beautifully preserved in the ice.

IMG00022-20100708-1140.jpg = Figs

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Blatty & Mamet

Stacy Keach stars as a military psychiatrist sent to a remote castle to help deal with some very troubled servicemen in The Ninth Configuration, which was written and directed by William Peter Blatty of Exorcist fame. It's got a great cast and some fantastic dialogue but the first half feels more like MASH or Catch22 until it swerves abruptly into much darker territory with both doctor and patient uncovering deeper problems. By the end it's quite a touching tale of friendship and sacrifice but could've done with a bit less of the "zany".

I find Mamet's films a little so-so, well scripted and he's always gets a sharp cast but all a little too self consciously clever for my taste. Homicide bucks the trend though and seems a little dumb, maybe it lost it's juice on the cutting room floor or something cause despite it's interesting ideas it doesn't manage to rise above a bog standard police procedural. Joe Mantegna plays a Jewish cop, kicked from a big case to work a simple candy store shooting cause the victim was a connected old Jewess, it turns out more complicated than expected as he's dragged into Mossad antics and a personal crisis.

Bird Brains, WEIRDos & Goldacre

Science Daily have an interesting post about a study into Chicken brains that might dispel the notion that mammalian brains are a little special. Some dude has been digging around in noggins and has found structures dealing with auditory inputs remarkably similar to our own.

BoingBoing has a post about some research pointing out the obvious, that western psychology is fatally flawed by it's own hubris: the vast majority of psych. research is carried out using students from western countries yet we continue to pretend it's representative of humanity in general.

Goldacre has a nice bit of psych. on his blog with an article about the cognitive strategies we generate to deny scientific evidence which runs contrary to our pre existing theories.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Sweet Space Stills

Io9 have a stunning pic of Mesospheric clouds as seen from the ISS.

Another astonishing image, courtesy of Europe's Planck telescope, of the entire universe. Via BBC

And from APOD here's the first direct observation of an extrasolar planet.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

More TVersity tales

Exam is a quite enjoyable closed-room thriller with some scifi murmurings. 8 candidates have nearly completed the selection process for a vacancy at a shadowy bio-chem firm and are lead into a room to complete their final exam, as you'd expect it's not a multiple choice quiz so they tentatively start working together but as the clock ticks down tensions and paranoia come to the fore. It's not exactly an original plot & the pandemic background story felt a little shoehorned in but otherwise it's a reasonably acted, intelligent thriller that eschews gore for the brains.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a nice little chiller from '72. Fresh from the funny farm Jessica & husband move to island fruit farm? but she soon struggles to maintain her sanity faced with strange whisperings, scarred local types, a slutty squatter and a house that's a touch spooky in this cheap but atmospheric film - I guess the obvious comparison would be Salem's Lot but it's more about the ambiguity of her experiences, helped by a strange zonked out performance by the lead.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Friday, 2 July 2010

The Halliburton loop hole & something tame

Gasland is a disturbing documentary about a fashionable form of gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing that's spreading across the US with some pace it's just a shame it's poisons the land and filters into the water table to such an extent you can light your taps on fire. It's a well made, powerful film that certainly had me sharpening pitchfork no.1 and it's one I'd thoroughly recommend.

World's Greatest Dad is dark comedy starring Robin Williams as a poetry teacher who has to clean up after his son's accidental death by auto-erotic asphyxiation. It's a nice swipe at our attitudes towards death & it spins into the predatory media circus nicely but I dunno it's wasn't dark enough for me, if they'd pushed a bit harder they'd have got more laughs. I think I'm just hankering for some Julia Davis/Chris Morris level of offensive.