Friday, April 23, 2004

Looking into other people's front rooms whilst walking home in the dark

(Prurient Nocturnal Activity)

Guest Reviewer of the Week DEBBIE says:

Well it's an open invitation, isn't it? If someone is happy to eschew net curtains and leave their heavy drapes open while the light is on at night, they can only WANT people to look in. Why then do they look so cross when I pause to contemplate their choice of wall hanging and why do they snap the curtains shut when I press my little face up against the window just to see whether that really is the same IKEA bookcase that everyone on the planet has?

This really is one of my favourite pastimes. You don't have to go out of your way to do it (just walk home from work), it doesn't cost anything (usually) and it doesn't take much time (unless you see something really interesting and invite yourself in to look at it). It is also terrifically exciting - once I thought I saw a fire but sadly it turned out to be someone sitting in a chair below the window smoking a cigarette. When you are outside in the dark, it is fascinating how cosy, welcoming and in every way more appealing other people's lives really look. I have a theory though, that every other room in the house has no furniture and plaster crumbling off the walls. This is the show room where are 5pm the show family gather onstage, waiting for an audience. They sit in their perfect clothes on their perfect sofa while their perfect cat sits prettily on the window sill, whereas mine just sits on the dining table and licks her arse. At the end of the day, however, when there is no longer the excuse of absent mindedness to
leave the curtains open, they close them and start scratching their private parts, arguing over the TV channels and then retire to bed in the coal shed like normal people.

One could argue that this is a somewhat perverse pastime, but to be honest, we all do it whether we mean to or not. It is almost comforting to see little snapshots of suburban life. Yet why is it, that our weirdest neighbour, (you know the one who sticks anti-war posters on his door and sits with his mad guard dog on the garden wall in a tin helmet and open toed sandals) NEVER leaves his curtains open. I dread to think what goes on in his front room....but all the same I'd love to know!


Wednesday, April 21, 2004


By Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

JAMES says:

If you like shows like NYPD Blue or CSI, realistic takes on the superhero genre, crackling wit, stylish cartoony art, an undertone of sexual tension, dark secrets, satire and fighting, you’ll like this series about cops having to police a world filled with super powered heroes and villains. If you don’t, I don’t know, you might like it, you might not. I’m not a mind reader, you know. Now clear off, I don’t want you hanging round here any more.


The Getaway

(Video Game)

JAMES says:

This excessively violent game involves driving round a realistically rendered London, killing people. Not really much in the way of variety to be honest, but it does have some excellent moments. The first time you drive down Oxford Street and see all the shops in the right places, you feel so happy you stop watching the road and run someone over. You also get a great buzz when you smash through a police line then skilfully drive between triad and yardie cars, making them crash. And you’ve got to love a game that you can pause and look in your A to Z when you get stuck. However, this realism can be a bit disturbing.

The other day, for instance, I spent the morning playing the game, going around Charing Cross stealing buses and causing mayhem, then I went there in the real world in the afternoon, and it made me feel quite uneasy, let me tell you. There are also quite a few problems that would affect anyone, Londoner or no. As I say, it lacks variety, and when it does try to mix things up a little, the results are pretty bad. For instance, there’s a section where you have to sneak through some laser security beams. Unfortunately, your character has obviously been shot in the head at some point, as he is incapable of turning round without also running in that direction. It is also impossible to just pick this up for a quick go. Every level has an opening scene that can last up to 10 minutes, which you can never skip. You also get to the point where you’ve sat through the opening sequence, and the first section of the level, and are getting incredibly bored/pissed off with the bit you’re playing, or need to get to bed/watch TV/pay some attention to your significant other/eat. However, you know that if you stop you’ve got about half an hours solid game play to get back to the point you’re at, so you have to plough on, no matter how unenjoyable you’re finding it. Or give up, I suppose.

Finally, the system dispenses with traditional items such as a map or health register in an attempt to be more realistic. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why most games have these things. Aimlessly driving around London with only a left and right indicator to tell you the way can be incredibly infuriating, and by the time you’ve reached Trafalgar Square for the 5th time you’re ready to kick the TV in. And to avoid having health, you get progressively bloodier the more you get shot, which is quite cool, and you can reverse this by having a little rest, which is just really boring.

To sum up, good fun occasionally, but frequently very tedious.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Spending Time in Houston

(Spending Time in Houston)

Guest Reviewer OUR SISTER HESTER says:

I should have know that selling my soul to an oil company a few years ago would have ugly consequences; embarrassment when meeting new people and trying to answer the "so what do you do?" question, constantly trying to justify the company's latest decision to drill in a site of outstanding natural beauty to myself in order to sleep at night and so on.

One of the things I stupidly had not foreseen was the ridiculous amount of time I would have to spend in Houston, Texas. "The Lone Star State".

Now, to some people this may not sound so bad; steaks the size of a newborn baby, sunshine, living in a hotel with swimming pool where someone else washes your pants. However, when you get your 2nd confirmation in one month for 12 nights at the Holiday Inn, dreadful images of Alan Partridge float in front of your eyes. Well a very fat and pasty Alan Partridge; the diet of steak, bbq ribs and burritos coupled with a complete lack of sunlight (air conditioned hotel to car to air conditioned office to in day out) is not great for the complexion and figure. For me, personally, it is the TV ads every other minute, complete lack of marmite and tea made with "creamer" that get to me the most.

Also Houston itself is pretty crumby, spread out over an area bigger than London with about 100th of the population. Space is not wasted though: every man, woman and child does own at least one filthy great SUV - vehicles that are bigger than a bungalow and use about as much petrol as concord mile-for-mile.

Still, the people are great and they honestly do wear cowboy boots.


Monday, April 05, 2004


Dir: Takeshi Kitano

NEILL says:

Samurai movies make me deeply happy; Takeshi Kitano movies make me deeply happy. There was really no way this was ever going to suck. Many people are killed in spectacularly violent ways, there are transvestite Geisha assassins, and there is a very amusing scene where a guy gets hit on the head a bunch of times with sticks. This, people, is Art. A steady flow of richly absorbing and frequently beautiful vignettes are interspersed with surreally bloody action, building up to a rollicking violent climax. And just when you think you couldn't be enjoying yourself any more, everybody starts tap-dancing. This is not a film overly worried about pansy-ass notions of 'authenticity', god bless it. I would like to voice my fervent personal hope that Takeshi's first period movie is not his last; that instead it marks the beginning of a whole new 'Samurai movies' phase in his career. If the guy were ever to make a samurai movie with the grace, depth and beauty of 'Hana-Bi'... well. I imagine it would be quite cool, that's all I'm saying.



Dir: Gus Van Sant

JAMES says:

There are drawbacks to going to the cinema with someone else. Sure, you look less like a lonely pathetic loser psychopath, and you have someone to steal popcorn from. On the other hand, you need to have an opinion about a film as soon as you walk out. Not wishing to appear like an uncritical fool in the inevitable post-screening discussion, I took a negative position towards Elephant. Thinking about it afterwards, however, I was unsure that this was how I felt about it. Then I decided I was right.

One thing I had no problem judging was the cinema we saw it at. Have you ever been to the Odeon in Wardour Street? It’s rubbish! First of all it’s basically in an office block, on the 3rd floor, no less. After the non-descript elevator ride I was surprised to find we got in without needing to give a password to some doorman. The cinema was smaller than my office, and the screen itself was about the size of my sister’s TV. And they call this a West End cinema and charge you 8 quid? Madness.

Being in a place that small, I was very aware of the rest of the audience, and I think the people who walked out half way through had the right idea. They would’ve got a nice but quite short tableau on American high school life, like an arty Saved by the Bell. It was when all the guns and stuff came in that it lost me. For those who don’t know Elephant is Gus Van Sant’s ‘response’ to the Columbine shootings, and from what I can gather he was against them. However, the film didn’t seem to have anything more to say on the matter than that gay nazi kids shooting other kids was a bad thing.

And this was where the uncertainty came into my views. Does a film need to have a message to be worthwhile? Can it just be a thing as and of itself? I think in this case it can’t. In exchange for the couple of hours of your life you give to it, a film needs to entertain, educate or enlighten. Especially when you take on an actual event that took peoples lives. Elephant just struck me as a bit empty. Plus, the girls changing room scene certainly didn’t reach its full potential. Van Sant should consider watching Porky’s if he ever makes a sequel.