Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Girl who kicked the hornets nest - DVD review

This is the third in the series of Swedish language adaptions of the novels of Stieg Larsson.  In some ways I enjoyed the film more than the book.  The slightly wayward plot of the book has been edited down for some slightly more punchy storytelling.  Having said that, 140 minute Swedish courtroom dramas are not really 'punchy' by their very nature.

I always like Swedish films because I love the scenery and I love Stockholm.  The story is involving enough if you have seen the earlier films or read the books.  I have to admit that I did get a bit of an air-punching buzz every time one of the many bad guys met their fates.

A decent film but only if you have watched the first two.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nevermind by Nirvana - 20 years later.

Nevermind was released on September the 24th 1991, over 20 years ago.  It's difficult to believe how long ago that is.  In many ways, Nirvana changed the music industry.  When that record came out I was in third year at high school and I listened to Black Flag, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys and Fugazi.  I thought Nirvana were a pop group initially and it took me a few months to realise that they were a real band.

When I finally started to listen to them I was impressed.  I think I got a copy cassette of Bleach with the Vaselines on the b-side first before finally getting Nevermind.  Nirvana always seemed more 'real' to me than Pearl Jam.  This may have been because the members of Nirvana dressed like I did.  It might have been because they referenced bands like Black Flag in interviews.  Pearl Jam just reminded me of Guns n Roses.

Nirvana sort of became the biggest band in the world and I watched them closely in the music press.  Back then, before the internet, if you wanted to stay up to date with music you had to read the NME and Melody Maker every week.  I did it religiously.

Incesticide and In Utero were released.  I managed not to see them twice.  Once, when they played at the QMU I didn't know who they were and I didn't think I'd get in.  The second time, Kurt shot himself and the tour was cancelled.  The Kurt Cobain death cult went mental.

The music was still amazing.

More and more music became available over the years, initially on bootlegs and later on official releases.  Nirvana shelved some great songs.  Nevermind was probably the best recorded set of songs they put out but I enjoyed some of their other tracks more.

My personal favourite Nirvana tracks (in no particular order) are listened below

Been a son
About a girl
Even in his youth
Here she comes now
In Bloom
Love Buzz
Molly's Lips
Opinion (the fragment of a song that we have)
Son of a gun

I think the tracks I've listed above would make a decent album.  They certainly make a good iTunes playlist.  Now, 20 years later, I'm a rich doctor (somehow) and I've bought a vastly overpriced deluxe edition of Nevermind that I'm looking forward to listening to.  Life goes on.  I'm now 7 years older than Kurt Cobain was when he died and 10 years older than he was when he recorded that album.  At 34 I still feel fairly young and the 20th anniversary of this record is a bit scary.

The Omega Man - DVD review

I read the novel 'I am Legend' by Richard Matheson when I was a young teenager about 20 years ago.  I liked the book but I don't really remember it too well.  I saw the 2007 Will Smith film but I don't actually remember it too well now. 

I am Legend tells the story of the last man on Earth, a man who is immune to strange disease that has turned the population into vampires.  He tries to develop a cure for the disease to allow the human race to continue.

The Omega Man was the second version of 'I am legend' to make the big screen in 1971.  It has a real '60s vibe to it with clothes, haircuts and attitudes from that time.  The 'infected' have a Charles Manson vibe and are referred to as 'the Family'.  Charlton Heston manages to get a shag despite being the last man on Earth.

The Omega Man is entertaining but dated.   It was good to see it after many years.  Modern audiences probably prefer the Will Smith version.  There is also another  version called I am Omega that I intend to avoid as it sounds a bit dodgy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Private Eye - the First 50 years by Adam MacQueen

I'm not sure when I first started to read Private Eye.  It was a long time ago but certainly during the Ian Hislop era.  I think I initially enjoyed the cartoons although I probably didn't really understand very much else in the magazine.  I haven't always bought every issue but I buy as many as I can.  I've very much enjoyed a lot of the output this year, especially the downfall of the News of the World.

This book by Adam MacQueen is a high quality history arranged in alphabetical order.  The bad things that Private Eye has been guilty of over the years are presented in as much details as the good.  Homophobia, sexism and public schoolboy-ism are presented as much as crusading investigative journalism and good jokes.  The in-fighting amongst the staff is also described in unflinching  detail.  Hislop appears to have sorted things out and got rid of some of the more unsavoury aspects of the magazine.

Private Eye as a magazine is both anti-establishment and of the establishment.  The UK is a better country because of Private Eye and I hope it keeps going for another 50 years.

 Private Eye Website - you still need to buy the magazine for the good stuff

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Complicity - DVD review

Complicity is an old film now.  It came out in 2000.  I saw it at around the time of its release, either in the cinema or on video (old skool).  It is based on the novel of the same name by Iain Banks.  When I was a teenager Complicity was one of my favourite books, probably because I wanted to be a journalist at the time, because I used to worship Hunter S Thompson and because music by bands like the the Pixies is referenced. 

The film seems a bit quaint now.  It was never a big critical or commercial hit.  Jonny Lee Miller was cast as the lead character, probably off the back of his role in Trainspotting, another drugcentric Scottish film.  Interestingly Keeley Hawes, later to find fame in Ashes to Ashes, is the female lead here.  In the decade or so since I last watched this film I had managed to forget most of the plot.  It's OK, if a bit clunky.  I mainly enjoyed playing 'spot the minor Scottish celebrity' and seeing the Highland scenery.  I think the book is slightly better although I suspect that it is best enjoyed as an angry adolescent.

The soundtrack sounds a bit dated now.  It's a shame the film couldn't afford the Pixies.  We were left with some pre-millenium indie rock that doesn't have much bite.  The film is OK but it's not a masterpiece.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Crass - There is no authority but yourself

I started to listen to Crass when I was about 12.  I was given a mix tape of hardcore punk stuff by a guy a couple of years above me at school.  The tape had the track 'Big A, Little A' on it.  That song is one of my favourite songs ever to this day.

Crass were long gone by then (1989).  Their records were still available in the second-hand sections of Glasgow record shops so I quickly picked up The feeding of the 5000, Best Before and Stations of the Crass.  The music had energy although it was obvious that on some records they couldn't really play their instruments.  Of more interest were the lyrics which really seemed to speak to me.  They told me that everyone was equal.  They told me that the government was bad sometimes.  Now, 22 years later I know that some of those ideas don't really fit with my day to day life as a doctor but I guess the basic principle of trying to be good still lingers on.

I found a link to a good documentary about Crass in Facebook.  It's a well made film and you can watch it on youtube.

This film tells a slightly different story to the normal rock documentaries that I watch.  Very much worth watching.

I picked up the remastered Penis Envy  CD last week as well,  It sounded good.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Super - DVD review

I thought this film would be a bit dodgy.  I'm not sure what made me feel like that.  I guess I hadn't looked at it too carefully.  Even though I was worried about quality I was still keen to see Super mainly because I'm a comic book nerd.

It's actually a bit better than I thought it would be.  The cast is top notch and it's a real indie film.  Frank, the central character who becomes the Crimson Bolt, is a bit of a pathetic figure but you do feel sorry for him.  He loses his wife (Liv Tyler) to a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) and he is inspired by God to become a super hero and fight crime.  He does this by hitting people with a wrench.

He then obtains a sidekick (Ellen Paige) from behind the counter at his local comic shop.  His sidekick seems to take an unpleasant amount of joy from random violence.

Bits of this film are funny, bits are sad and bits are violent.  It's intelligent at times.  It is similar to Defendor  but it's not a clone.  One to see if you are a superhero nerd.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Limitless - DVD review

I borrowed this DVD from my dad.  I wasn't expecting very much because I read a fairly unexcited review in a film magazine.  It was a bit better than expected.

The story is about a writer who hasn't being doing very much writing.  He has been stuck in a rut and his girlfriend leaves him.  He runs into an old friend who offers him NZT, a drug that will boost his mental abilities.  When he takes the drug his life changes.

This film was entertaining enough.  Robert De Niro always lights up the screen.  In reality Ritalin is apparently abused by some students to improve exam performance.  Worth watching.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everybody loves our town - a history of gunge by Mark Yarm

I was hit by the wave of Seattle grunge when I was a teenager.  Nirvana were a big band for me.  So were Mudhoney.  Sub Pop was an iconic record label.  I had less interest in Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.  I listened more to hardcore punk like Black Flag, Minor Threat and the Dead Kennedys or alternative rock like Sonic Youth, Big Black and the Butthole Surfers.  I guess I thought that Pearl Jam, etc just weren't authentic.  Now I realise that is a bit of a daft notion but I was full of daft notions when I was younger.

Everybody loves our town is an oral history of the Seattle music scene.  It's made up of interviews of people involved in that scene in the '80s and '90s.  It's a sad story.  Lots of people die and lots of people ruin  their lives with drugs.  It sounds like it was a grim existence and that people had a lot less fun than they should have.

It's difficult to know what went wrong in Seattle but I guess the drugs must  have been a big bit of it.  Alcohol clearly had a role too.  This book is interesting but it's also depressing.  I guess part of the value of this book is the way in which divergent opinions and memories are presented side by side.  We don't know who is telling the truth (if anyone is actually telling the truth) but we do get a more rounded picture.

Good for fans like me but read it on a sunny day.

Troll Hunter - film review

I wanted to see this film from the minute I heard about it.  The concept made me smile.  Troll Hunter is presented as an 'edited found footage' film in the style of the Blair Witch Project.  I hated the Blair Witch - it was probably the only film where I wanted my money back at the end.

Thankfully Troll Hunter is a much better film.  The background story is that several students decide to make a documentary about a bear poacher.  They follow him about until they have a close encounter with something nasty in the woods.  They then learn that he is a government sanctioned troll hunter.

This film is well shot and funny.  I'll pick it up on DVD but I'm glad I saw it in the cinema.

10 years on from 9/11

It's difficult to believe that 10 years have passed from the terrorsit attacks of the 11th of September 2011.  The attacks took place 2 days after my 24th birthday.  I'd been in medical school that morning having travelled south from Glasgow the day before.  I had returned to my communal student house early that day because I was tired from travelling.  I hadn't been watching the TV that afternoon.

I heard the news when my flatmate returned to the flat and told me that terrorists had crashed planes into the World Trade Centre in New York.  I found it difficult to believe.  I think I listened to Radio 4 for a bit to confirm the news.  I made a decision to try and avoid watching the television so I didn't see the horrible scenes in New York.  I pretty much managed to do that.

I guess that the events of September the 11th changed the world.  Wars started and a lot of people lost their lives.  Further terrorist attacks hit Madrid and London over the next few years.  Despite all of this my life went on in a fairly unchanged manner.

The media is full of images of 9/11 at the moment.  It's really sad.  I wish people were less crazy.  There is no way to stop stuff like that happening. 

My thoughts are with all the victims of 9/11, their families, and everyone who has subsequently died in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Castle Waiting - volume 1 by Linda Medley

I picked this graphic novel up on a whim in my local quality comic shop (Plan B Books, Glasgow).  I like to try out new comics every so often and the production values on this book are great.  It's a hardbound 450 page book on thick paper stock.

The story is about life in a castle that was once the home of Sleeping Beauty.  The premise is that this is what happens after 'happily ever after',  The book starts off with a nice retelling of Sleeping Beauty before it moves onto the story of Jain, a pregnant woman escaping a violent husband.

The book has crisp and clean art with clever story telling.   This book is well removed from the average adolescent boy superhero market.  It has a feminist theme in story lines dealing with the need to escape from bad relationships and female independence.  It isn't preachy but it is good fun.

Castle Waiting is an unexpected joy and I would direct anyone who likes good storytelling to this book.  I understand that production is currently on a hiatus in America but hopefully new material will emerge at some point.