Monday, August 24, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

I'd heard mixed opinions about the new Tarantino film. A few critics don't like it. It tells the story of a team of Jewish-American soldiers who fight behind German lines during the second world war. Their mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible and strike fear into the hears of the German army. This story becomes entwined with the story of a young Jewish woman who owns a cinema in Paris.

It's slow at times with much of the dialogue in French or German. There are several Tarantino style talking heads sequences which are well done. There is a bit of bloody violence but it is all in context.

I enjoyed the film. It's like an old b-movie. Artistic liberties are taken but I can live with that. This may be the best Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction.

Anvil - The story of Anvil

Anvil are a great, lost metal band from the early eighties. They were an influence on bands like Metallica and Anthrax but they never really managed to make lots of money.

This documentary was made by a former roadie of the band who is now successful in the film industry (he wrote the Steven Speilberg film The Terminal). The film follows the core members of Anivil Steven 'Lips' Kudrow (singer/guitarist) and Robb Reiner (drums) on a European tour and during the subsequent recording of their thirteenth album.

The European tour is disastrous although the album recording goes well. Unfortunately no record label wants to release a CD by a bunch of 50 year olds.

The film recalls Spinal Tap at times but the band seem like nice, unlucky guys. It is a feel good movie and it made me want to go out and buy Anvil stuff. Watch the DVD and then check out their website.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera

Dark Entries is a new comic book written by Ian Rankin. I believe Dark Entries was originally a single by Bauhaus, continuing Rankin's use of musical references as titles for his books. The book features John Constantine, occult investigator and star of the Hellblazer comic book series.

The premise of the book is that Constantine has been hired to investigate spooky events on the set of a Big Brother meets Most Haunted style supernatural TV show. In recent years this scenario has become a bit of a cliche'. Demonstrating reality TV stars to be fuckwits is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. A very small barrel. However Rankin is a great writer and defused some of my preconceptions. His characterisations were strong and believable. I liked some of his supporting characters.

Rankin seemed to understand the complex character of Constantine as well. Apparently he found writing Dark Entries to be hard work but I hope he produces some more comic books. I have heard that he recently turned down an opportunity to write Superman.

Dark Entries is a good read which I hope will attract some mainstream Rankin fans.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U2 live at Hamden, Glasgow

I'm not a big U2 fan but when one of the guys at work offered me a free ticket to see them at Hamden at about 4pm yesterday I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I live about 2 miles from the stadium so we were able to walk there from my flat.

We could hear Glasvegas play as we walked down Cathcart Road. We made it into the gig in time to catch their last two songs. I was immediately struck by the stage set and the massive video screens. It was like watching a music video.

I've been to well over 200 gigs in the last 15 years. I've been to loads of festivals but this was the first time that I've been to a proper stadium show. The sound wasn't as bad as I expected. Our seats were ok but the members of U2 still looked like ants on stage. The massive video screens really saved the day.

U2 started with about 5 new songs that I didn't recognize. They played some big hits like 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' with some emotive images from Iran on screen. I enjoyed 'Stuck in a moment you can't get out of' and 'one'. They played for about two hours.

A good night but not really how I like my music. I will always prefer small club gigs but I'm glad that I saw U2.

On re-reading this post I realise that I haven't highlighted how impressive the stage show was. It was very fucking big with lots of lights. It looked like a UFO. It was cool.

I do still prefer small club gigs though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre

Pandaemonium is the new book by Scottish author Brookmyre and he has changed the formula a bit while keeping some things from his standard novel plan.

Like many of his other books the story revolves around Scottish school kids with realistic dialect and a recognisable social setting. However, Brookmyre has left the hard-boiled crime thriller elements in the drawer this time and gone for something a bit different.

It is nice to see Brookmyre evolve and I enjoyed Pandaemonium. It's not his best book but it is a good read and I'm looking forward to the next one already.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks

I used to read a lot of science fiction as a young child. My dad was a big fan and I am a member of the Star Wars generation. I grew out of sci-fi books a bit (although I still like sci-fi films and comic books) so I've missed out on Iain M Banks.

Missing 'Iain M Banks' is a bit stupid because I really like Iain Banks. I wrote about 'The Wasp Factory' for my higher english dissertation in 1993. I've been ignoring half of his work for a long time.

I finally read 'The player of games' this week. It had been sitting around my flat for some time. I enjoyed it. It's warm, funny and well written. I have managed to buy a couple of his other books for 2 quid each and I'm looking forward to reading them.

GI Joe - Rise of the Cobra - not as bad as you expect

I went to see the GI Joe film during the week. I actually enjoyed it. It was mindless fun but much better than Transformers 2.

As a kid I played with Action Force and GI Joe toys (as well as older action man toys). I read the British Action Force comics and the American GI Joe comics and I loved them all. I was fairly well primed for the film although I realise that a lot of British people are not.

The film is stupid and horrifically reminiscent of Team America but it is fun. It was great seeing Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Scarlett walking and talking the way I imagined them to as a child.

Loved it. Hope they make a follow-up.

Americans slagging off the NHS

As a doctor I'm glad I've never had to worry about someones insurance before giving emergency treatment. At least everyone in Britain gets seen by a doctor and investigated appropriately unlike many in America.

It's annoying to see ignorant American politicians slagging off out NHS because they are getting backhanders from corporate health insurance companies. They should fuck right off.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I visited Poland for a wedding this week. It was a brief, flying visit and I would like to see more of the country some time.

An old friend was getting married to a Polish girl in Warsaw so I had to go. This was my third wedding in 6 weeks so I was totally skint. I could afford the flight but little more.

Warsaw has a sad history. I read a guide book on the plane over. 225000 people were murdered by the Nazis in one month in 1945 while the Russians sat and watched from the other side of a river. The Nazis tied women and children to the front of tanks to stop the Polish attacking them. The entire city was flattened. People are capable of bad things.

Frederick Chopin airport is very modern. Cleaner than Glasgow or Prestwick. What I saw of Warsaw did not fit my pre-existing mental image. The roads were wide and the buildings were in a good state of repair. It was sunny and warm and I was reminded of America or Spain. I didn't really get the feeling of 'communist oppression' that I expected.

The hotel we were staying in was OK. It was probably a fairly posh hotel for Poland. Drinks at the bar seemed to cost random amounts varying with how drunk the bar staff thought you were. None of the staff spoke much English although I guess my gruff Scottish accent never helps that.

The wedding ceremony was held in the local town hall. It was conducted by a man with a metallic medallion who looked a bit like a supervillain. I assume that he was the mayor. There are a lot of interesting traditions at Polish weddings, many of which involve vodka. The phrase 'one hundred years' was chanted recurrently as a blessing of good luck. The food was interesting. Thye most unusual thing was some egg soup served in hard baked bread. The food was still being served at the wedding well after midnight.

Polish women are amazingly attractive and I spent much of the evening chatting one with intermediate success.

I didn't get enough time in Poland but I might go back at some point. My friend may move there so I will have the chance in the future.