Anyone else surprised by this?

770px-Eurovision_Song_Contest_logo.svgObviously a slow news day* over at The Independent (I’ve already spotted two other non-stories this morning, about Jeremy Clarkson standing for parliament and Rudolph Hess’ secret war files):

It is renowned for having one of the most tortuous electoral systems known to voters. Now the Eurovision song contest is itself in danger of receiving nul points after allegations of vote-fixing and bribery.

Officials from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the annual event, confirmed yesterday that it was investigating claims that jury members were offered bribes to vote.

The accusations were made in Swedish press reports, which cited an anonymous delegation member involved in this year’s contest held in Malmo, Sweden. According to the source, attempts were made by several delegates to fix votes. Azerbaijan, the source claims, tried to buy high scores from jury members with “enough money to live off for a year”.

The last few years have shown an increase in what can only be described as random voting. Sure, neighbours are still voting for each other (hello, Greece and Cyprus!), but some of the newer entrants have done surprisingly well, despite having rubbish acts. Paying Lithuanian students to vote for Azerbaijan? Nothing would shock me at this stage.

And all over a song contest… *shakes head wearily and tuts*

Mind you, on a slightly more serious note: just like the Olympics and World Cup, the Eurovision counts disgusting dictatorships among its participants.

Doesn’t anyone else find it ironic that countries like Russia and Belarus desperately want to win what is to gays a combination of Christmas and all our birthdays come at once? Azerbaijan itself isn’t exactly a beacon of tolerance.

Denmark won in 2013, but one of these less salubrious members could take the crown in 2014. And then where would we be? Don’t think I’d be hot-footing it to Russia to celebrate Eurovision 2015.

On the other hand, I suppose that hosting it is dependant on winning it.

Unlike the Olympics and World Cup, where recent events have shown it’s money and more money every time.

*cough* Russia *cough*

*cough* Quatar *cough*

Which behoves democracies to actually enter songs with a chance of winning.

*cough* Bonnie Tyler *cough*

Or…we hope one of these homophobic countries wins and we collectively shame them into doing something about their homophobia and use the Eurovision Song Contest to effect societal change.

Which is a sentence I never thought I’d either read or type.

Oof. Time for more coffee, I think.

 

(*Obviously a relative term, as I was all over this story as soon as I saw the word “Eurovision”)

I’m a “shusher”: out and proud

Let’s cut to the chase: I disagree with basically every point made in this article by Anil Dash – even though I can sense he has purposely set out to antagonise people just like me.

In essence, he’s taking the side of the ass-hats in cinemas who make too much noise, play with their phones and generally annoy every human with manners trying to watch the film.

People who have fun at the movies can make almost any movie better. When the first Transformers movie came out, one of the key moments in the film is the first time the leader of the Autobots transforms in grand fashion from tractor trailer to giant robot, and pronounces “I am Optimus Prime”.

At that precise moment, the guy next to me, a grown man in his early 30s, rose to his feet and shouted “YEAH!” while punching his fist in the air. I could see from his sheer emotion that he’d been waiting for this day, to hear this voice say those words, since the moment his stepdad walked out on his mother. This was catharsis. This was truly cinematic.

Seriously.

If this guy had done this next to me during a film, considering his cathartic release would not have been top of my responses.

Telling him to sit the hell down would probably be closer to the top.

You know how I have fun at a cinema? By staying in my seat, turning my phone off and keeping it in my pocket until it’s time to go. I also do other crazy shit like sitting still, not shouting at the screen when I disagree with events unfolding in the film and generally keep to myself.

I know, right? Crazy…

According to Dash, I’m a “shusher”:

The shushers claim that not giving a film on the screen one’s undivided attention is apparently unspeakably offensive to the many hardworking scriptwriters and carpenters and visual effects supervisors who made the film.

Nope.

I just want to enjoy the film in peace and quiet and not have some troll-faced youth wave their brightly-lit smartphones around like they’re trying to guide an aircraft to its stand.

I’m not making up the rules. They are clearly spelled out (albeit by annoying cartoon animations) before the film starts. I can summarise them as “shut up” and “turn off your fucking phone”.

People who treat the cinema like their own living room do my head in. I don’t care what they do at home, but in the cinema, we’re supposed to be bound by the same social contract. When they break it, they’re not setting out on establishing a social reconstruction of what it means to be a cinema-goer in contemporary London.

They’re being a dick.

Review: Red 2

Oh my.

After the debacle that was G.I. Joe-My-God a couple of nights ago, I tried to banish the Ghost of Crap Films Past by heading to the cinema. @Frankdjs and I went to our local cinematorial establishment to see Red 2.

In summary: most excellent.

Compared to his performance in the film-that-shall-not-be-named, Bruce Willis was great in Red 2. But he was overshadowed by the marvellous Helen Mirren. I’m still making up my mind about Anthony Hopkins: he may have given an inspired performance, or simply recycled his role in Howard’s End.

Anyway, he could read my shopping list and I’d pay good money to see it. Hellen Mirren too. I’d pay just to see her stand in a corner glaring at passers by. And to see them and John Malkovich leaping around and shooting the place up was just inspiring.

Old people these days, eh?

Interestingly, there was another overlap between Red 2 and G.I. Jaysus. Byung-hun Lee. He of the amazingly toned body (which gets an outing here – keep a look out for the “scanner” scene) and the high kicks and other violence. He played “Storm Shadow”, who is also a snappy dresser and likes to kill people. G.I. Joes specifically.

He has it in for Bruce Willis in this film too. Lee should watch out that he’s not typecast. Ahem.

Some fun action scenes and cameos from Catherine Zeta Jones and Brian Cox added to the entertainment, but it was the series of quips and one-liners from John Malkovich’s LSD-addled ex-spy that made the film for me. Him and Mary-Louise Parker.

Just some great casting.

In contrast to G.I. Jackanory, I sincerely hope they make another Red sequel. Or just film Mirren, Malkovich and Willis down the pub.

Either way, I’ll go see it.

I’m easily amused.

G.I. Joe. My. God.

Did you see what I did there?

After my review of available unwatched films last night, we eventually opted for “G.I. Joe Retaliation”.

A decision that, even now, I still sorely regret. It was beyond awful. So very, very awful.

It may, in fact, surpass the massive awfulness of all of the Transformers films, combined.

I mean, I knew it was going to be bad, I’m not a complete idiot. But I thought they might have learnt a thing or two after the critical slaughter they experienced following the first foray into big screen G.I. Joe.

Where to start…?

I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, but if anything I write below this line helps you to decide not to watch this steaming pile of crap, then I will have saved you wasting a valuable two hours of your life. Continue reading “G.I. Joe. My. God.”

Review: The Wolverine

I went to see “The Wolverine” this afternoon, the sequel to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. If you want the really quick review, I’d say it was an improvement over “Origins”, is pretty slick but a little long and over-complicated.

It has several things going for it:

  • We get to see more of Wolverine’s past, this time in Japan during World War Two.
  • The film explores the impact of Wolverine’s (near) invincibility and the fact that he’s left a trail of destruction and death all through his very, very long life. Basically, he’s grown as a character since the X-Men films. He still gets plenty of cracking one-liners though, don’t worry.
  • Wolverine fights ninjas… lots of them. This is something we’re accustomed to seeing in the comics, but on the big screen, it’s extra special.
  • The action scenes are really quite impressive, especially the fight scene in and on top of the bullet train in Tokyo.
  • There are ninjas. Did I mention that already? Oh, and the Yazuka.
  • On a personal note, the film got me extra excited about my upcoming trip to Tokyo. You may not experience the same levels of excitement. And to be honest, I think I’m over-estimating my own chances of encountering ninjas while I’m there.

On the downside, there are a few niggles. But as they represent potential spoilers, stop reading here unless you want to get more of an insight into the film that you’d like.

  • There are a couple of completely pointless characters featured. it’s almost as if the studio was determined to use some comic characters so they could claim the rights to them? I always thought Viper was more of an Avengers villain (at least, a Captain America villain), not a regular in the X-Men comics. They could have had a quicker and more focused film if she was left out from the get go.
  • I know it’s a complete fantasy, and you have to suspend belief at the door, but I thought the way Logan’s powers are reduced (in essence, he becomes vulnerable to injury) was weak.
  • The leading lady is lacking in the charisma department. And that’s a bit of an understatement. She’s verging on transparent. Beige wallpaper. She gets shot at, kidnapped (at least twice) and sees death all around her throughout the film. But her facial expression remains that of something waiting on a bus.
  • Speaking of which, there are numerous dream sequences featuring Jean Grey – the X-Man who became Dark Phoenix and killed off too many characters for Logan’s liking. So he had to kill her. Anyhoo, I know this as my sad life has been dedicated to reading too many comics. My point is, the average punter may well have been left completely confused by Fake Jansen’s role in the film. There is no real explanation of who she is or why he keeps seeing her in his dreams.

Finally, the film ends of a bit of a weak note. Personally, I’d have loved to have seen a reference to another Wolverine story, but instead it just fades off.

Overall though, it was well made and entertaining. Hugh Jackman was, as ever, excellent as Canada’s favourite claw-wielding mutant. And really, this is the film that should have come first.

Next stop: “Days of Future Past“.

Review: Man of Steel

I went to see Man of Steel last night and, for the first time in a while, didn’t go to the cinema with any expectations. Truth be told, I was only going to the film out of a sense of obligation.

It was about a superhero. I live and breathe superheroes. Ergo, I must go and see it.

I’ve never been a fan of the Superman films. While I’m definitely more of a Marvel fan than a DC aficionado, I loved the last three Batman films. And the trailers for Man of Steel that I’d seen in the cinema left me feeling this could be a positive new departure for the Superman franchise.

Some minor spoilers follow, so don’t continue unless you’ve already seen the film or just don’t care. Continue reading “Review: Man of Steel”

Review: World War Z

World-War-Z

I read World War Z shortly after it was first published and loved every single page of it. Without spoiling anything for anyone, the book explores the impact of a “zombie plague”, which reanimates the dead and turns them into crazed, blood-thirsty maniacs.

It’s neither gentle nor subtle, but is a compelling read.

Chapter by chapter, we get an insight into how the world endured the plague, told from the perspectives of multiple and diverse characters from all over the planet. It paints a picture of almost total societal collapse and utter chaos.

So when I first heard that it was being made into a film, I was a little nervous. These multiple perspectives could make it very difficult to portray on screen, while trying to make it accessible enough for most audience-members. Unfortunately, this complexity was left out of the film, and it mostly centres on the experience of Brad Pitt and his family.

It does touch on how the zombies impact the rest of the world, but only places where Brad gets to visit.

Sigh.

Hands up: it’s not a deep or world-changing film, but if you like zombies and scares, this is for you. The panorama set-pieces are very impressive, particularly the scenes in Jerusalem and New York. Very difficult to tell what was green screen, so you get really drawn into the action.

There are plenty of adrenaline-soaked action scenes and heart-stopping moments when zombies appear when you least expect it. There was more than one scream in the cinema where I watched it, which is also a good sign for a film like this.

They almost went for a very neat ending, but veered off at the last minute to something less clean and more like the original novel. All in all, an entertaining couple of hours in the cinema, watching something definitely made for a big, big screen.

Just make sure you don’t scream…too much!