Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Charlatans in Love

Bedtime Story sees David Niven stumble across a brash, fellow conman, played by Marlon Brando, in the French Riveria. They make a beautiful woman their wager to decide who is the most skilled confidence trickster and set about scheming their routes into her purse and panties. Eventually remade as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels this charming, frothy film scoots along with a witty script and two exceedingly competent, very watchable leads. It unravels a little in the final third as the con eventually runs out of steam it's still a fine film for a Sunday slouch.

Rian Johnson's cinematic riff on con men, The Brothers Bloom, tries hard to recreate the insouciance and frivolity of older films like Bedtime Story but falls short by cramming in too much plot. Ruffalo and Brody, as the eponymous protagonists, learn their craft at a young age and many years later at the peak of their talents try and fleece an eccentric beauty, Rachel Weisz, from her many millions, however their carefully laid plan is disrupted by her madcap enthusiasm and a never ending stream of plot twists. Though just as stylishly made as Brick, the director's debut feature, there's a little more substance here than that Hammett/Dawson's Creek mashup and it canters along quite amiably with a snappy script and some nice sequences but the second half falters, struggling under the weight of all that plot when he should have had the confidence in his characters and their actors.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Some Things Seventies

LAN laughs

Louis C K Live at the Beacon Theatre is a interweb/self distributed comedy special that raked in the cash, earning him more than a million at the end of last year when it was initially streamed. Louis delivers his usual brand of crude and painfully honest stand up and it's one of the best one hour comedy routines I've seen in a while. You can watch it in it's entirety here and if you likes make sure and check out his HBO show, Louie.

Another of my favourite comedians Bill Maher, takes a break from his own TV show, Real Time, to appear on stage and online with an extended rant called Crazy Stupid Politics. Recent years have seen Maher specialise somewhat in ripping the right wing and religious new ring pieces and with an hour at his disposal he unleashes an avalanche of gags to puncture the hypocrisy and lunacy endemic in American public life.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Great Antidote

Some bacteria have "poisoned daggers" Physorg

Flatworms have the potential for immortality apparently, SciDaily, and Israeli scientists hae managed to extend the life span of mice by 15%. Reddit.

Someones found some Buckyballs in Space. Wired

Two new blood types discovered. Impact Lab.

The Sky is actually falling with average cloud height dropping 1% in the last decade, SpaceDaily

Interesting article on the BBC website about the history of sleep, shattering the myth of the 8 hour stretch.

Did the Titanic sink because of an illusion? Reddit.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Obama has slashed NASA's planetary budget, Physorg

Petroglyph found in Brazil appears to be 10,000 years old. Smithsonian.

Teller reveals some of his skills at manipulating our minds, via Farnum Street.

The Psychologist has an interesting example of the differing ideas about the mind from around the world. MindHacks have a snippet.

There's also a study that indicates that the lowest paid workers suffer the most from sleep deprivation, via Impact Lab.

Cornell Uni boffins blast a rocket up into the northern lights. Daily What.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Uncommon Romancing

Ryan Gosling deadpans his way through Lars and the Real Girl, a Canadian comedy about a socially retarded loner who buys a sex doll and introduces her to family ands friends as Bianca, his Brazillian girfriend. With Emily Mortimer's subtle performance as Lars' sister in law matching Gosling's straight faced efforts and a funny yet sensitive script this little comedy strikes a surprsingly mature tone.

Ewan Macgregor and Eva Green fall in love during a peculiar sensory apocalypse in the low budget, Glasgow shot, Perfect Sense. A chance encounter between epidemiologist Green and chef Macgregor coincides with the outbreak of an unsual pathogen which is slowly stripping the world of it's senses one by one. As chaos and despair smoulder in the background, our pair of protagonists spend more and more time together and their relationship deepens while their own lives crumble. Despite it's odd conceit and low-fi delivery, the two leads work well together and it's an endearing little scifi romance with some big ideas.

Four Quarters

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Disorderly Minds

China Mieville's Embassytown follows the story of a deep space pilot who becomes enmeshed in political and social upheaval in her home city, a community of ambassadors on a nexus world with a linguistically unique indigenous population. Mieville creates a vivid, rich milieu for his characters to play in and, though it takes a while to get going, it snowballs into a thrilling and surprisingly emotive read. Mieville continues his golden streak.

The Psychopath Test sees Jon Ronson investigate, in his usual idiosyncratic fashion, the business of diagnosing and treating psychopaths. With a cast including Broadmoor prisoners, proselytising practitioners, activist Scientologists and borderline CEO's Ronson packs in the giggles as he uncovers the murky world of the DSM and the challenges inherent in assessing someone else's sanity. Due to Ronson's scattergun approach this is closer to Them than Stare at Goats but it's a effective, charming primer about the business of noggin doctoring.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Art & Magic

Werner Herzog's quiet, thoughtful documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams offers a rare glimpse of the prehistoric art in the Chauvet cave system. Accompanied and informed by a clutch of scientists, Herzog explores the works and our current understanding of how, when and why they were made. The cinematography is stunning and the film has a wonderfully meditative atmosphere, assisted by Werner's ambling drone and infectious wonderment.

Brion Gyson and his Dream Machine are the subject of documentary Flicker. An innovative artist and close chum of Burroughs Gyson tinkered with calligraphy, printing, poetry but most famously developed, with Ian Sommerville, the Dream Machine device, which oscillates light at the magical 10hz frequency and causes mild euphoria and hallucinations. It's an interesting film which, along with the the requisite biographical information about this curious, undervalued artist, has plenty of testimonials from celeb and otherwise machine advocates.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Trenchant Trenchard Bs

Hunting humans was a well worn trope even by the 80's but Turkey Shoot's gleeful attitude adds plenty of, er, vigour to the usual proceedings. A gaggle of 'deviants' are interred in a brutal, dystopic prison after getting softened up by a vicious-yet-camp warden are soon chosen to become the prey for a bunch of blood hungry elites. Throw in some gratuitous nudity, visceral almost relentless violence and a random lycanthrope and the things get dumb and ugly fast. Sure the acting, script and plot are solidly B-movie quality and it's made on a shoestring but director Brian Trenchard-Smith keeps things bubbling over and somehow it ends up lots and lots of brainless fun.

Four years later and Trenchard-Smith was back with another, even madder, scifi dystopia called Dead-End Drive In. Society is crumbling fast and while violence and disorder paint the streets a young hoon takes his girlfriend to an old fashioned drive in only to discover it's some sort of weird, government sponsored honey trap/prison from which there's no escape. The couple take divergent views on their uncouth neighbours and their future but it's not long before the tentative peace is disrupted by escape attempts and an influx of Asian 'immigrants'. While Turkey was unabashed nonsense the ham fisted attempt to shoehorn satire into the barmy plot means there's a less time for the requisite sex and violence.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Monday, 6 February 2012


A Dangerous Method is Cronenberg's glossy examination of the troubled relationship between crazy Carl Jung and single minded Sigmund Freud. Jung, while enthralled by his master's revolutionary thinking, embarks on a foolish affair with one of his more attractive patients which presages/underpins the intellectual feud between the two men. Fassbender, Mortensen and Knightly take the main roles in this little psychodrama and perform reasonably well however their accents do drift towards pastiche at times. There is a couple of intentionally humorous moments at the start and given the pomposity of the subject it's a shame Cronenberg didn't continue along in that vein. I dunno it's a very watchable film and probably a quite good primer to the two thinkers and the milieu that they lived and worked in but it wasn't exactly revelatory and I was a little underwhelmed by the end, the only highlight I guess was watching Knightly getting spanked.

John Huston's Freud: A Secret Passion is a more comprehensive look at the early life and work of the famed nut doctor. Following his career from his association with Josef Breuer and their investigation of neuroses using hypnosis, his subsequent therapeutic 'successes' and onto the development of his barmy theory of Infantile Sexuality and it's riotous debut. Huston keeps things rolling at a decent pace and doesn't bother his cast with the comedy accents but uses a single patient, played by the stunning Susannah York, to elucidate most of Freud's theories which is a little odd and unnecessary. If you're wanting to learn a bit more about how Sigmund developed his ground breaking theories it's probably a better watch than Cronenberg's effort but it's not nearly as pretty to look at and almost an hour longer.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Twenty Questions

1. Johnnie Taylor - Who's Making Love?
2. Bobby Womack - What is This?
3. The Chi-Lites - Have You Seen Her?
4. Al Green - Are You Lonely for Me Baby?
5. Marvin Gaye - Can I Get a Witness?
6. Ray Charles - What'd I Say?
7. Funkadelic - Can You Get To That?
8. Al Green - Could I Be The One?
9. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On?
10. Marvin Gaye - What's Happening Brother?
11. Bill Withers - Who Is He & What Is He To You?
12. James Brown - Why Does Everything Happen To Me?
13. Al Green - What Is This Feeling
14. War - Why Can't We Be Friends?
15. Rufus Thomas - Can Your Monkey Do The Dog?
16. Al Green - What Am I Gonna Do With Myself?
17. Terry Callier - What Colour Is Love?
18. Bobby Womack - What You Gonna Do?
19. Professor Longhair - Who's Been Fooling You?
20. Syl Johnson - Is It Because I'm Black?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

70's Sex 'n' Sleaze

Looking for Mr Goodbar is a dark 70's drama following a school teacher's sexual awakening and her subsequent bar trawling and drug addiction. With an excellent, nuanced performance from Diane Keaton (the same year as Annie Hall) this starts off slow but soon builds into an intimate, aching portrayal of a woman searching for satisfaction in all the wrong places. Apparently based on a true story it darkens considerably as her needs deepen and though a handful of her conquests make an impression her luck eventually runs out and she meets someone who she can't handle. It's an excellent, neglected film that has one of the most memorable finales I've seen in ages. Catch it if you can.

The murky side of America's sex life is also the subject of Hardcore starring George C. Scott. When Scott's teenage daughter absconds from Bible camp he hires a seedy private detective, played by Peter Boyle, to track her down and to his horror finds she's been lured into drugs and pornography, his subsequent efforts to track her down open his eyes to the reality of modern life and the depravity lurking beneath the surface. It's dated badly, almost comically tame by today's standards, but Paul Schrader's script still packs a punch and Scott's performance brings a grim humanity to the distraught father. Hardcore like Goodbar is definitely worth a look and though it doesn't quite match the impact of the latter it's still a fine film. Strange that both these films have been forgotten, given they both capture a particular, era of America's grubbier past.