Film Blogathon 04/17: Black Hawk Down


Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down, the film that spawned a thousand videogames.

Based on a true story (the key word there is ‘based’), this is the story of a disastrous US Special Forces action against a warlord in Somalia.

Black Hawk Down is not without its flaws, but is well worth another look – even if you have already seen it – and well worth a first look if you haven’t.

I had forgotten the brilliant soundtrack. Every note is evocative, every tone sounds authentic (even though it isn’t).

Also worth mentioning, and a point too easily overlooked, is the international cast.

Just, for a moment, taking away the American actors, we are left with:

Ioan Gruffudd (Aberdare)
Ewan McGregor (Perth)
Ewen Bremner (Edinburgh)
Hugh Dancy (Stoke on Trent)
Orlando Bloom (Canterbury)
Tom Hardy (London)
Željko Ivanek (Ljubljana)
Kim Coates (Saskatoon)
Eric Bana (Melbourne)
Treva Etienne (London)
Razaaq Adoti (London)
George Harris (Grenada)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Rudkøbing)
Jason Isaacs (Liverpool).

Although Black Hawk Down is staged well for the relentless realism of urban warfare, it shouldn’t be seen as an accurate retelling.

The strength of the film, however, is the constant, incessant, punishing chaos of urban conflict.

Depicted well is the complete confusion and disorder, the total absence of a cohesive strategy, the massive underestimation of a well-armed enemy, and the crowning glory of idiocy; the tactical errors heaped upon even more and even greater tactical errors, of the US command.

In the words of the Prussian military tactician Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke ‘No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy’.

This film shows how chillingly accurate that phrase is, whilst continuing to maintain, and turn up the suspense.

Black Hawk Down is an easy four out of five, or an eight and a half out of ten.

Film Blogathon 03/17: Lost Boys

Lost Boys

Not lost, just clueless. And by the way gang, ONE OF THEM ISN’T A BOY!

I watched this skillfully-directed but very badly-edited, film for the first – and last – time, last week.

What a difference five years made.

From baggy, meandering Lost Boys in 1987, to the tight-as-you-like production of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, and Donald Sutherland as her watcher), in 1992.

I’m still not sure whether I was supposed to take Lost Boys seriously, or if it was an attempt at schlock-horror, or even a stab at camp comedic send-up.

I don’t know.

I do know that I didn’t hate Lost Boys.

I didn’t even hate the film when IT BROKE THE VAMPIRE LAW, when it said you could become a vampire by just chugging a couple of mouthfuls of vampire blood from an old bottle, like you were some kind of down-on-your-luck blood-addicted wino from the wrong side of the tracks.

I didn’t even hate the film when the main motorbike scene had far too many implausible points for my brain to accept.

Lost Boys is just a mess of a film.

And it left me wondering what it could have been, if it had the courage of its convictions.

There is probably a great film in the script of Lost Boys waiting to get out.

But what I saw was more like a film of a script called Escape From Mediocrity.

Lost Boys film rating: Meh.

Film Blogathon 02/17: Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

You know those annoying syrupy films so self-consumed that they can’t see the joke at the centre of their own reason for existing?

Well, Pitch Perfect isn’t one of those.

This is the story of an all-girl A Capella group at a fictional co-ed US university.

I approached Pitch Perfect thinking it was going to be a large helping of sugar-coated gloop, just like (shudder) Glee.

It isn’t!

Instead, this is more like 112 minutes of Mean Girls The Musical (that’s the best analogy I can come up with); a film with a strong line in self-deprecating humour, and an occasional sideways glance at itself.

The writing is so sharp that it allows the odd nugget of cunningly-hidden adult humour to skilfully glide over the heads of younger viewers.

Production is OK (could have been better in places), but the film is shot with such articulate intelligence that it develops a likeable character of its own.

Yes, there is intelligence in Pitch Perfect. And it is a good example of smartly articulate story-telling.

But it isn’t a documentary, so lighten up people.

Although I enjoy the way Pitch Perfect allows some of its characters to develop, I do have a problem with Rebel Wilson, or maybe my problem is with the Fat Amy character.


Aside from this minor issue, Pitch Perfect is a nicely-paced feel good film that is a bucketful of family entertainment.

And easy and thoroughly enjoyable watch.

Which you should.


Film Blogathon 01/17: Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2

I saw Now You See Me – the first one – a while ago.

It was a good fun flick, all about a group of magicians called The Horsemen, and how they use their magical powers to take down a bad guy.

So I thought I’d give Now You See Me 2 a go.

You know when you crawl out of bed at 3am, barely awake, and totter towards the bathroom, and just as you walk in you stub your toe and the vicious pain flashes your brain like a lightning bolt, straight in to your cerebral cortex?

And in the three seconds immediately afterwards, you believe that things can’t ever get any worse?

Well this is worse.

This is so much worse.

This is even worse than being force-fed a non-stop diet of Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie on permanent repeat cycle for 36 straight hours.

Now You See Me 2 starts with a Houdiniesque trick being performed in dangerous circumstances.

The trick doesn’t end well.

Fast forward to a very long and tedious voiceover from God.

I can’t remember what God said, it wasn’t very memorable, although God had a Really Great Voice.


There’s a cop who has spent a year looking for the Horsemen because they went in to hiding after their last gig.

So, the Horsemen have been Working On Something for months.

And then we’re at a posh software unveiling ‘do’, and the Horsemen are walking around talking in to their wrists and listening to their fingers in their ears and wearing dark glasses and being mysterious and talking REALLY REALLY FAST and a woman cuts off her hand with an electric carving knife and someone hypnotises someone else and then this guy (don’t know who) but he was key in the posh software ‘do’ exposes himself as a fraud and then the Horsemen burst on the scene and the audience claps and cheers and there’s lights and lasers and then the FBI shows up and then the Horsemen show goes tits up and then there’s more running and more REALLY FAST TALKING and sliding down construction tubes and landing in laundry baskets in a kitchen because yeah, laundry baskets and kitchens always go together in nobody’s world ever, and then the Horsemen find out that the slidey tubey thing they jumped in to from a rooftop in New York has dumped them in the middle of a Chinese city in actual China YES IN ACTUAL CHINA then on the soundtrack there’s some hardcore Chinese rap (not wrap, ahahahahahaha!) and then God calls the FBI dude but on a phone not through Divine Intervention and then we’re back in Macao riding around in some badass blacked out Landrover Defenders and there’s a badguy who is the Annoying Twin of one of the Horsemen and the badass blacked out Landrover Defenders rock up at the Sands Hotel and there’s some REALLY LOUD HENDRIX and then we meet the guy who stuffed up the big Horsemen show that went tits up and OH MY GOD IT’S HARRY ACTUAL POTTER.

With a beard, for sure, but it’s Harry Actual Potter.


Harry Actual explains to the Horsemen that well I don’t know what but something about privacy and science and not magic and when they slid down the tubey thing in New York they were hypnotised in to a trance then put on a private plane and flown to Macau and then pushed down another tube which woke them up in a laundry basket in a kitchen in Macao and that’s how the tubey slidey thing worked.

What Harry Actual Potter wants, Harry Actual explains, is revenge. He wants the Horsemen to steal something as revenge because he was wronged by a business partner. Why don’t you just magic him Harry Actual, I shout at the TV.

Oh, by the way. Morgan Freeman = God.

And now, back to the film.

*time passes*

God and the FBI dude are on a private jet from I don’t care where to somewhere else I don’t care about and I may have lost the will to live here and then the Horsemen are Planning Their Big Heist that they’re going to carry out for Harry Actual Potter and it involves stealing a computer chip that wait for it just happens to be the same size and the same shape as a playing card and who the heck saw that coming?

Yeah, we all did, right?


There’s a superdooperdatacentre which can cater for 820 squillion miles of digisynpatic hypertechnical buzzwords per nicrosecond.

There’s some distraction from the Horsemen and while the distraction is going on one of the Horsemen gets his hands on the chip that’s shaped just like a playing card and then the Horsemen are being searched and while they’re being searched they flip-pass the chip around between themselves and it’s all starting to get really ridiculous as the card/chip switches from the person who is being searched to another person who is being searched to another person who is being searched to another person who is being searched back to another person who is being searched back to another person who is still being searched back to another person who is still being searched until finally THEY HAVE ALL BEEN SEARCHED and they’re leaving the hypercool datacentre and then there’s another game of slight of hand and then the Horsemen are out with the card/chip…

I fell asleep.

I really don’t know what the point is of Now You See Me 2.

But if you want to go and see a film with people talking REALLY REALLY QUICKLY and walking around fast and lots of deception and acres of special effects, and an incomprehensible storyline, then this is the film for you.

Either the film is too clever for me, or I’m too clever for it.


I’m out.

Not even God was any good in this one.

It’s rubbish.

Don’t see it, you’ll only encourage them.

Film Blogathon 00/17: First Thoughts


This is another fine mess you’ve got me in to.

It’s the last time I listen to you.

You and your ‘good ideas’.



The film blogathon.


The object is to produce ten film reviews.

In a month.

This month, to be precise.



Once upon a time and in a land far, far away, I used to write film reviews for real cash money.

They weren’t much cop, those reviews, but that wasn’t the point.

I would bang out a bunch of worms words, send them off to a faceless cog in the wheel of the uber-capitalist world of publishing and, a couple of (if I was lucky) months later, a cheque would slip through the letterbox.

And promptly get eaten up by my overdraft.

But that was the point.

I got paid for it.

So when my ideas self said to my non-ideas self ‘I know, self, let’s bang out ten film reviews in a month just to keep on top of the writing game’, it all seemed so easy.

But here, now, on the first of June 2017 (pinch, punch, by the way), it looks much less easy.

Still, the paramaters parameteurs parameters are fairly easy:

  1. Avoid using the word parameters
  2. Be witty
  3. Don’t be dull (see #2 above)
  4. Avoid sweeping generalisations (unless sweeping generally is a Good Thing)
  5. Be engaging
  6. Keep the swears down to less than 5 10 20 Really Bad Words per review
  7. Review any film that seems worthy of a review (doesn’t matter whether it has been seen before or not. It’s a film crying out for a review? Review it!)

And that’s it.

Ten of those.

In a month.

Easy, eh?

We’ll see.

*strokes beard*

Oh yes, we shall see.

And you need to check out Young Masher, during this testing time.

And Dave is joining in too!

They’re keeping us all company.

Anyone else up for it?

June Blogathon

I’ve given this a lot of thought.

Young Masher‘s February Blogathon went very well (as one would expect).

The reviews were excellent:

  • A Stunning Triumph (The Times)
  • A Hit, A Palpable Hit (The Observer)
  • Cor, Look At The Tits On That (The Sun)
  • Blogger Sees Alien Spaceships On Mars (The Star)

Last June I dipped my toe in to the Blogathon water with the Music Challenge.

This year I would like to do something similar, but a little different.

Running through June once more, I will be aiming for a Film blogathon, but with a slight difference.

In the month of June I aim to watch, and comment on, ten films.

It’s that simple.

They won’t exclusively be first-run films, though some may be cinema viewings.

Some may be films seen on terrestrial, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or whatever.

They may be films I have seen before.

Or not.

There’s not even a guarantee that the films I blog about may be films I like!


Ten blog posts, over a month, on films I have seen in that month.

Easy, yes?

In that case, please feel free to join in.

Blogathon 28/17: Candles

I’m going to a gig tomorrow night.

Actually, that’s not correct.

We are going to a gig tomorrow night.

We are going all the way down south to that Birmingham.

To see Elbow.

How are you going all the way down south to that Birmingham to see Elbow (I hear you cry)?

Well, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, one day in November, when the driver took a hand off the wheel and thrust a numbered envelope at me.

I opened it (as I had opened at least half a dozen numbered envelopes over the last 90 minutes).

And inside were two tickets to see Elbow.

What was in the other numbered envelopes (I hear you ask)?

So very many things.

The first envelope contained a different sort of ticket.

A ticket to ride.

As we pulled in through some anonymous-looking gates in the middle of the Leicestershire countryside, I clutched my ticket for a half-hour private ride around the sky with East Midlands Helicopters.

East Midlands Helicopters

East Midlands Helicopters

Forty minutes later, and less than an hour after I’d been given the first envelope, I was airborne.

1,000 feet above the Nottinghamshire countryside.

We crossed over the village where we live, banked to starboard over the house, then straightened up before turning to port and heading across the countryside before reaching the centre of Nottingham.

We had a good look at Nottingham Castle, Trent Bridge cricket ground, and the two Nottingham football venues.

Despite being early November, the sunny, spring-like, cloud-free day gave us a fantastic view of the countryside for miles around.

It was a stunning birthday gift.

But it didn’t end there.

Back on terra firma other envelopes were thrust at me.

There was the lottery scratchcard (which bore me a fiver).

There were other lottery scratchcards (that steadfastly refused to bear anything).

There was an invitation to lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.

Lunch at Jamie Oliver's

Lunch at Jamie Oliver’s

And the tickets to see the Iron Maidens (later this year).

There were the tickets to see It’s A Wonderful Life in full Cinemascope on the very big screen.

I could go on with the list.

And on and on, with the list.

I felt very proud, honoured, and a little embarrassed, at the end of that early November day.

I still do.

Last year was an emotional time.

And I had the best (and most emotional) birthday, to cap a heck of an emotional year.

Thank you, Sam.

Blogathon 27/17: Self-driving car

I like my new car.

I Bluetooth my phone to the in-car entertainment system and amazing things happen.

I can read incoming SMS messages on a display.

I can view and autodial my contacts by voice-activated command.

I have full hands-free/speakerphone capability as I trundle around the countryside.

I can plug my iPod Classic in to the in-car entertainment system, and access any of my many playlists/podcasts.

The external lights are fully automatic; in normal daylight the front lights are permanently on.

But when it gets gloomier or darker front and rear lights come on.

And if there’s nothing in front of me travelling in the same direction, and nothing coming in the opposite direction, the lights automatically go to full-beam.

And back to dip again, when something is in front.

The wipers are fully automatic.

The sensors on the rear bumper activate a visual display and audio warning if my reverse parking is too tight.

If I’m closing too quickly on the car in front, an audio and visual warning pops up.

If I ignore these warnings, the car brakes itself!

If I run low on fuel, the SatNav automatically offers to route me to the nearest open filling station.

But for all these safety features – and more, that the car has – I have found one significant gap.

The radio allows me to accidentally listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon.

I mean, with all that technology on board, you’d have thought the designers would have sorted that out, wouldn’t you?

Good grief

Good grief

Blogathon 26/17: Security, security, security



Not just because the current President of the USA is a Russian asset, but because security lives with me every day of my professional life

In Costco yesterday I found myself looking at two types of home security system.

There was the all-in, multi-camera, stream to any device and record 30-days on to a dedicated DVD solution.

Home CCTV system

Home CCTV system

I quite liked that, especially as all cameras have day/night capability, and can be panned, tilted, and zoomed remotely.

Then there was the single camera, continual-stream to your tablet/phone solution.

Single Camera CCTV Stream

Single Camera CCTV Stream

I quite liked that too.

But frankly, if I bought the latter, I would probably point the camera in to the house, just so that I could keep track of what the cattens get up to while we’re all out.

And the former?

Well, it’s a good-looking product, but it comes with a hefty price-tag.

While I’m mulling over the differences between the two products, and while considering whether or not I really need one, and if I do need one, why am I not utilising the NAS as the storage device…

Let’s look at another security thought.

I put a new layer of security on my nice new mobile phone last week.

It’s a fingerprint reader.

No more do I need a PIN of four random digits.

Now all I need to do is press my finger (not telling you which one) to the magic pad on my phone, and hey presto!

Robert’s your Mother’s Brother.

And nine times out of ten my phone unlocks.


And it unlocks itself very rapidly.

For the tenth time, I just apply my finger again, and for half of those times it lets me in.


I suppose there’s a problem with the other 50% of the tenth time.

When it refuses, repeatedly refuses to let me in, at the point where I exceed the number of attempts, the phone locks me out.

For 30 seconds.

Yes, it’s only 30 seconds, so who cares?

Well, I do.

Because then, to let me back in to my phone, I have to revert to a PIN.

So this morning, for instance, after we’d been swimming, the phone just didn’t want to know my fingerprints.

I found a couple of online articles in the academic world that confirmed that fingerprints change after water immersion.

And I do a lot of washing up, so my fingertip cells are continually expanded.

This is not good for fingertip recognition software.

It is also not good for playing guitar!

Or, rather, having soft fingertips on the left hand isn’t good for toughening up for fretwork.

But anyway, back to the CCTV options.