I've moved house! Click here to go to my new blog, The Pop Culture Cynic.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

So One Flat Said to the Other Flat...

This flat planning is really starting to take shape now, isn't it? We've looked at the twee-as-fuck (a technical term) kitchen and my pipes-and-sharp-edges themed bedroom, so shall we move onto the last room that is likely of interest to myself and you lovely readers? The living room. The beating heart of any home: for entertaining guests, hanging out, or just relaxing, it's got to be perfect. And boy, do we have plans for this...

The geeks are coming to town!

If this isn't the first town you thought of, piss off.
I mentioned that Georgia had the privilege of heading the style of the kitchen in exchange for mine and Nadine's (my other flat-mate) complete control over the living room. Boy, have I taken the opportunity to abuse that power. Shall we have a look at what it looks like at the moment?

Brown and blue, a beautiful combination.

The skeleton wore panamas way before they were cool.

I didn't actually move when I took these; the whole room swivels around the cube.
It's pretty bare at the minute save for the flat skeleton, Stan, and a companion cube; all of the furniture, sofas, tables and such, came with the flat. But there's plenty we can fiddle with in here.

Let's begin with posters. I picked up a couple of extremely clichéd "look, I like movies and I'm quirky and interesting" posters for my room in halls at Dundee Fresher's Week last year, but they're a little tattered now (a set of keys found it's way through the Trainspotting one, because halls) and I like a change of scenery, so I went shopping for some new ones. I think on a whole, with Blade Runner, Dirty Harry, The Great Dictator and Oldboy, we've pretty much managed to cover a respectable variety of cinema greats spanning a lengthy time period, plus they'll all look awesome in a nice frame on the wall. A frame which I have still yet to source for the rather large 102x64cm prints that I bought.

Not the first time I've had trouble with things being too big...
Furniture-wise, Georgia managed to pick up that nice DVD cabinet in figure no. 1 for twenty five squidoodles, and it fits in relatively nicely with the battered hunks of wood that came with the place. So all that's left is to add a couple of lamps, for light and shit, and to fill the room with soft furnishings and useless shit.

And it shall all be geeky! We've found: Portal bookends; Portal or Star Trek coasters; a Tetris lamp; Pacman cushions and Facehugger plushies. The idea of creating a green pipe pouffe is also being thrown around, and no, that is not enough geekgasm in one room! Sadly I have yet to find a Bioshock Big Daddy figurine to put in our fish tank, so the planning for the room is so far incomplete.

Now it's 11pm the day before this post is due and I have Whisky Galore to watch (which I'll review on Friday), so I'm going to stop writing and go to bed. Goodnight, or if you are part of my Russian reader demographic, good morning. Go get ready for a day of being drunk and getting into car crashes.

Fair morrow, my fine comrades.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Wake Up Alan, Someone's Reviewing Your Game

I like movies, so I review them from time to time (yes, I just hyperlinked my own blog on my blog. Blogception!). So, in a rather dangerously creative train of thought I told myself, "Ben, you also like video games. Why don't you review them?". But surely a blog entirely about reviewing stuff is boring, Ben, is there not another way to talk about my hobbies? "No!" I replied, before slapping myself in the face and throwing myself into a glass table, classic Durden-style.

Internal Sudoku disputes can get decidedly heated.
Reviewing it is then! But I'm lazy and playing a whole video game before talking about it requires a mind-boggling amount of effort on par with what it must feel like to revise for things, so instead I shall play a game until something funny and/or interesting to say about it dribbles out of my mouth and I can collect it from my spittle cup.

A rare photo of Salvador Dali creating The Persistence of Memory.
As is the long-standing tradition here on my blog, the thing I am reviewing is, shock-horror, horror. Hmm, when you have two of the same word together in a sentence it never sounds quite right, right? Ah well, but yes, horror, that's where I was. Survival horror to be exact.

Thanks to the wonderfully enticing Steam summer sale, I have ended up with a lot of new games to play and very little money. One of said games is Alan Wake, the Stephen King novel-cum-Twin Peaks episode of a game that came out back in good old 2010. I started playing it this very evening of writing and it has somewhat piqued my interest, so lets put on our gaming socks and give it a wee gander, eh?

Pictured: No gamer, ever. Where does that position even come from? A zoo keeper dodging monkey shit?
Firstly, I need to get this off my chest: the fuck, Alan?! You are shamelessly ripping off pretty much every aspect of one of the best TV shows ever and passing it off as your own work. Whereas Deadly Premonition is constantly hailed as the spiritual equivalent of a Twin Peaks video game due to its crazy story line (because if you don't understand it, it's apparently Lynch-esque) and obsession with coffee, Alan Wake is like the guy who steals your lunch and convinces everyone it was always his in the first place.

If you have no lunch, he takes your wife and children instead.
If there were some kind of nod to Twin Peaks at any point in the game, even if it were just in the form of one of the clever little QR codes the developers have slipped in at a couple of points, I might forgive them. Actually, no, I wouldn't. I love that show too much and it hurts me to see such blatant plagiarism.

Ready for the list? Cause I've made a list. We've got a remote American logging town (we'll let them off, that's quite King-y too), strange supernatural disturbances, a crazy character with an eye-patch, the small-town doctor whom we first meet in the police station conference room, the squeaky-voiced police station receptionist, a creepy bespectacled woman completely aware of the town's dark secrets, always desperately clutching an inanimate object, and a trademark vehicle used as a repeating image throughout the game/show; hell, there's even a creepy cabin that doesn't exist in the real world. That's so many parallels that, by law, these two shouldn't be allowed to meet lest the universe fold into itself and implode.

Thank god for backwards-talking midgets and red curtains to help tell the two apart.
You know how I mentioned Deadly Premonition's coffee addiction? That's actually in this too, in the form of 100 coffee thermos' scattered around the game for you to hunt down. And, granted, after a quick Google I have found one reference in-game to Twin Peaks, in the form of the name of the achievement you get after collecting every last one of said flasks of liquid hyper. That's it. That's like stealing you research partner's notes on how to give animals superpowers, taking all the credit, then naming your grandkid's laser-spewing goldfish after him. A reference so obscure and difficult to notice that it's actually more insulting with it being there.

It would have been kinder just to kill him with it.
Now that we've swiftly got that out of the way, shall we have a look at the game itself?

The core mechanics of the game are very simple; light is good, dark is bad. The titular Alan must fight off evil monster thingys that have possessed the townsfolk by shining his torch at them then nailing them down with a couple of nice heavy bullets. Light also has the added advantage of stunning enemies, so combat usually entails juggling between keeping each baddie a safe distance away using a quick blast of the torch and filling those who's defensive darkness shield thingys have been broken down with a healthy dose of lead. But seeing as this is a survival horror game, it's not quite that easy: your torch runs out of juice faster than your sexually frustrated grandmother's vibrator so you're tasked with constantly hoarding shitty batteries, a fact which leads to the most hilariously misguided use of product placement ever in a video game.

Energizer: It keeps going and going...for ten seconds. Then it doesn't.
I'll give credit where credit is due, this light/dark thing is used very well in pretty much every aspects of the game. Standing under a street light restores Alan's health faster than normal, like some weird man/plant; enemy health is shown on screen as the lens glare from your torch; and the flicker of a light in the darkness often acts as the only real guide to the player's next destination, other than a thankfully minimalist mini-map in the top corner, as you stumble through the forest. The distance between these "safe havens" can be pretty large at points, meaning you feel real relief on stumbling across a lit cabin with some supplies in it, making venturing back out into the abyss all the more unsettling.

"It's fine, I'll just stay here and watch terribad Twilight Zone episodes until morning."
Although this definitely isn't one of the scariest games I've ever played, it does have its moments. As I said above, you start to form quite an attachment to your veritable smorgasbord of light sources, and when that generator runs out or you realise you have no batteries left and only one bullet in your revolver (you have to repeatedly tap the reload button to reload, a nice touch) with three axe-wielding monsters charging you, it is one of the few occasions in video gaming where you feel genuinely vulnerable and alone. Plus, unlike some games which insist on forcing jumpy bits on you, often accompanied by a tell-tale titbit of creepy music, Alan Wake just throws them in and hopes you'll spot them. 

There was a moment early on in the game where I went to check out a cabin off the beaten path and, upon finding the light switch and some ammo, thought I'd take a moment to listen to the radio. While doing so I started pissing about, shining my torch at stuff and jumping on the bed, when I happened to turn towards the window and OH MY HOLY SHIT A GUY JUST WALKED PAST.

After voiding myself and having a little cry, I restarted the checkpoint to take a screenshot.
So it's pretty creepy and there's a nice gimmick. But the same could be said of some portions of the 2008 version of Alone in the Dark. And this is the worrying thing, if you've ever played that interactive bleach-enema of a game you will start to notice a couple of similarities between the two. Both had a nice idea as their central concept (light and fire as weapons, respectively), sure, and some relatively pretty graphics.

Both were also marred by terrible cameras, however. In Alone in the Dark, trying to solve one of the many cumbersome puzzles was like trying to remove a kidney stone with nothing but your bare hands and a car jack, unnecessarily difficult and uncomfortable due to a terrible choice of equipment. In Alan Wake, your own body is always in the way and you spend half your time wiggling all over the place; I don't know how it manages it, but no matter what you're doing, whatever you want to point at is always undoubtedly hiding behind one of your bloody elbow patches. This is most obvious when fighting, there have been numerous occasions where I've started attacking one enemy and all of a sudden I've got some other guy who's used my own meat sack for cover getting all up in my grill, messing up my shit.

So not rad, dude.
And that's not all. Although I agree with the choice to remove any crosshairs to aid immersion and such, the developer has opted to use the torch instead. For those of you unaware with how light works, it spreads over distance. If you're using a laser pointer, no biggie; with a torch, it spreads quite a bit, and when you're trying to use an area the size of a dinner plate to pinpoint a head shot, it's ruddy annoying. It's just lucky then that the common survival horror trope of painfully scarce ammo is rarely an issue here, and it's more than acceptable to take the safe route and unload into a torso for the sake of safe, swift deadification. 

"It looks like my bullets have taken a shine to you." Zing.
So should you play it? Yes, why not. It's fun, scary, has plenty of character, even if half of it is stolen, and the awkward camera and aiming system are by no means game-breaking; if anything you could argue that it adds to the atmosphere, your character inexperienced with firearms and ever wary of someone sneaking up behind him. And although I can't say anything about the overarching story, I'm only halfway through as of writing this post, I imagine the finale will be the expected horror fare at worst. And that's a compliment.

What You Could Do Instead

Drink 100 Cups of Coffee and Wander Around Town at Night -
The coffee will take care of the erratic movement, hallucinations and bad aim, and being in a public place gives you plenty of people to terrify while you pee in the middle street, screaming the lyrics to Sugar, Sugar by the Archies.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

So This Flat Walks into a Guy...

This post is late. Again. I'm sorry. Again. It won't happen again. Again. Unless the dog happens to eat it. Again.

But Ben this is a blog post, there's nothing to eat, unless your dog has a good stomach for silicon and glass. And you don't even have a dog anyway.

Fooled yet again by that blasted species!
Enough of your nit-picking, conscience, or I'll have you taken round the back of the building and shot. Did I not make a good enough example of dignity and restraint? Didn't I?!

Ahem. So due to my unwavering laziness I have once again found myself behind on posts, so you'll have to do with another gripping update on the plans for my new flat, complete with atrociously framed photographs taken with my disappointing camera phone. I'm naming and shaming you, HTC One X+. Go think about what you've done.

I'm not angry, just disappointed.
We began with my bedroom, so I think we should move into...the kitchen. Now whereas my room and the living room (which shall be covered next time on Blog Filler Decorating) are most undoubtedly my domain when it comes to design choice, the kitchen belongs entirely to my good friend and flatmate, Georgia.

I couldn't think of a caption worthy enough to put under this picture.
Georgia is so twee it hurts. When her blood clots, it turns into doilies. Her cat is shaped like a teapot and shits cupcakes. As such, the kitchen is very swiftly turning into the set of a Famous Five novel. Here's what it looks like so far:

What do your elf eyes see, Legolas? Those attentive few among you could probably spot the tell-tale signs of an insidious twee infestation in each of these picture. At the top there you'll see a frying pan on the wall. Its about the same size as a digestive biscuit, and not one of us knows where the hell it came from, it was just in Nadine's kitchen storage box. Who buys a frying pan that's even too small to cook up your morning meth in? So any self-deprecating-respecting person would obviously take the opportunity to use it as an ornament, thus it is now on the wall; and to finish off the look we're now sourcing a mini wooden spoon and spatula to go with it.

It's really just a lucky coincidence that the tiles in the kitchen fit in so well what with that lovely floral pattern and beautiful shade of light brown. It reminds me a little of that final trickle at the end of a really thorough enema. That said, it does add the finishing flair to a room that already has a set of bright pink oven gloves, a cheesy "Friends" picture frame (currently displaying some airbrushed happy people, not us), a Marmite biscuit tin and the crowning glory of the room, the clock. Just, wow, that clock. My parents actually have one very similar to it at home but somehow this is just so much worse; I was forward-thinking enough to take a quick snap of it before we put it up.

All it's missing is for all the crockery to dance and play music on the hour.
Whoever made this either thinks that shade of yellow has a lovely subtle tone to it that doesn't make your eyeballs grow hair to try and dull it's glare or has not yet bought a new crockery set since they inherited their current one from grandma von Trapp.

But this is not enough, oh no! To really offset that yellow and brighten up the room a little more, we're going to get a lovely artificial sunflower in a jug to go on the table. Under the thinly veiled sarcasm I do actually like the look of that. And the home-made lemonade kit with matching ice bucket. Then all that's left is a nice menu board, which I believe we may actually be making ourselves, and some cookery and cocktail books to go on the shelf in the corner.

You may now vomit kittens into your antique cake stand.

The colours all taste the same and I felt sick after eating more than two, a bit like french fancies.

But It Could Be...

A Cocktail Bar

How awesome would it be to have your own bar! Who needs a place to prepare food when you have an unlimited supply of booze and a library of drinks recipes. Plus I'm pretty sure there's a dietician somewhere who insists that living off straight spirits and glacé cherries is a safe and healthy way to maintain a good figure, so that's a bonus. 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Stay Awake While I Talk About Stay Alive

You may or may not have noticed, but I kind of like horror movies. Of the staggering 4 reviews I've done, a mind-blowing 50% of them have been on horror films. That's like at least half of all the movies I've watched for this blog. Dafuq!?

You. Right now.
And if there's any type of horror movie that will draw me in like a celluloid siren (totally the name of my punk rock band) with it's mesmerising promises of audio-visual wonder, its the cheesily bad budget flick with a spectacularly over the top name and a usually too-good-to-be-true premise. That's why I've sat through such classic masterpieces as My Super Psycho Sweet 16 and the slightly more upper class Wrong Turn slasher movies. Although, that said, up until I just googled that link I didn't realise there were five of them... Someone's got their weekend entertainment lined up!

When I become a parent, these films will be my babysitters.
Oh yeah, um... Gore warning for this post in case some of you are squeamish. If you aren't but happen to recommend this to any friends who are, it might be a good idea to direct them to this helpful advice before they read any further. Say its just underneath the eyeball kebab.

So, any guesses as to what this review might be on, class? No, Timmy, it's not Beauty and the Beast. Or Brokeback Mountain. Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Timmy, have your parents taken the time to measure your Kinsey rating, or activate your Netflix's parental control settings for that matter? Anyone else got a suggestion?

"Shut the fuck up, Timmy."
Yup, it's a horror flick, this one to be precise. Stay Alive is my kind of movie. Horror, video gaming, low budget, an IMDb rating below 5 and a unique(ish) gimmick; in this case it is a mysterious video game that kills you if your character dies in-game, essentially like an interactive rip-off of The Ring.

To celebrate the occasion, lets shake things up a little. I'm straying from the usual style of reviewing through the process of screaming retrospectively at the computer until words come out in a random order and I shall instead attempt to write my critique on the fly as the film plays out so you may experience the full onslaught of my undiluted wrath. For you safety I suggest you change into clothing that does not contain nylon and ensure you have adequate birth control measures in place for your pets. When you are ready, we may begin.

This is not adequate birth control. However nor is it animal cruelty, and thus the world is balanced again.
Ok, got my cuppa and a Dip Dab. Lets do this shit. Opening credits, nothing special here apart from the tell-tale sign of a low-budget movie: the title of the movie is also the name of the production company. This is going to be good, I can feel it.

Holy shit, they really pulled out all the stops here, that CGI is just...ooft. Oh, wait, its meant to look crappy, its a video game! One which appears to have borrowed very heavily from the grandparents of survival horror: Resident Evil and Silent Hill. A big creaky mansion (former) and nothing but a torch to guide you (latter). This is actually slightly creepy, and despite the pasted textures the graphics are on par with what you'd get on a PS2 game, so not too bad. I'm going to assume this is the murderous game that we'll be seeing a lot of in the next 90 minutes, where you apparently die in the same way that your character dies in the game. At least it has the courtesy to make little polygonal versions of each of the main characters so we know which one is about to die horribly.

They should have made it GTA IV, I want to see what happens when you glitch to death.
Although on a game design stand point this thing must be boring as hell. There only seems to be one type of enemy in the whole game, a horde of expressionless zombie children who enjoy being shot at. The variety of enemies on show here makes Call of Duty look as accommodating as a gay pride rally on free anal lube day. You'd be lucky to actually hit any of the enemies anyway thanks to the lack of a crosshair and the slowest camera turning speed this side of a Katamari. It's almost like this game wasn't designed to be played, but to be watched... A scathing remark on the state of modern video games as they become too cinematic, maybe? 

These identical rotten children represent the collective imagination of the film's writers.
Was that a very poorly executed nod to The Shining pig mask scene I just saw there? You people are just trying to cram this thing with as many pop culture references as possible, aren't you? From Fatal Frame to Q*bert, there's even an entire scene based around a Silent Hill 4 reference; it's just too bad you evidently got mixed up with which game you were meant to be talking about, cause not one of the things you mention in this scene is possible in that game, but they totally are in the first one. Ten for effort, two for accuracy.

You are the Eddie the Eagle of the referencing world.
So the premise is set and that whiny guy from Heroes is killed off in one fell swoop; efficiently done, Stay Alive. Ah, here comes some plot development in the form of the token funeral where our protagonist will undoubtedly find out about the evil killer game from another guest who has a complete disregard for the feelings of those present. 

Wow. The sister of the recently deceased teenager has her priorities so skewed that she thought it necessary to bring her dead brother's video games to his funeral to give to his friend? It's good to see that this guy's closest friends and family have the integrity to bounce back from his sudden, violent death like a hunk of ripe halloumi, but it's a little insensitive to be sifting through his belongings the afternoon of his funeral. Who does that?! If I die I do not want my family and friends starting to sort through my DVD collection before I'm even in the ground!

"Stop the funeral! I forgot to take his watch!"
There's some really original characters being introduced here. We've got the hunky protagonist with tacked-on childhood trauma issues, the annoying best friend whom we'll enjoy watching get dismembered, that geeky guy (Malcolm in the Middle appears to be taking his place here) who will be the first to inform the other characters of why they keep on dying before promptly sacrificing himself for the good of the group, some other character who'll be the first to die because we have absolutely no emotional attachment to him, hot goth chick cannon fodder and the blonde girl who will almost definitely survive. And breathe!

Sadly those are the well developed characters in the bunch. We are also exposed to some truly memorable police work from the movie's resident investigating officer. You receive your first clue on a case from a witness who voluntarily gave you the information including an alibi verifiable by four other people and the first thing you choose to do is accuse him of committing the murder. Bravo. And you don't even have the courtesy to obstruct the view of the body from the general public. Or to get acting lessons. This guy waddles around the set like a large, brown, human-shaped seal and acts with about the same amount of enthusiasm as a old lady shopping for new compression stockings. Hell, she'd probably make a better cop than all of the guys in this movie combined; chubby's deputy is so eager to get killed by the game that he pretty much trips over himself to get to it.

"You. Throw yourself on the enemy until he tires out his stabbing hand. I'll be awkwardly shuffling round furniture."
Boring characters and bad acting aside, it looks like we're getting to some proper gore now. Sure, deaths one and two were pretty tame, a hanging and some very shiny garden shears to the neck respectively, but it looks like victim number three will be getting smooshed good and proper by the EVIL HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE OF DOOM! *spooky ghost noises*

The fuck? The camera just cut away, and now he's lying on the ground with what appears to be a small graze on his forehead. Where's the being run down by angry horses? Where's the horseshoe imprint on the face and body sliced in two by carriage wheels? This sucks...

And now you burn a NES controller for no reason, you blasphemers!

You're actively trying to make me hate you, aren't you?
I think I'm losing faith here. So all of a sudden the video game is actually the incarnation of the undead soul of some evil woman and blah blah something something there's been nowhere near enough focus on the game or on people dying horribly. Shut up with the crazy witch lady mumbo jumbo and get back to murdering, we're more than halfway through and only three people are dead.

My bad. This incidental shot of a sheet of paper says she's a vampire from Transylvania.  And you have to exorcise her.
Make your mind up on which monster you want to pretend a real life serial killer totally wasn't, for chrissake!
At least one character acknowledges the ridiculous concept of a murderous video game and attempts to debunk it for approximately eight seconds. Luckily goth chick jumps in to make a very convincing argument for the crazy murderous game camp by essentially spelling out the entirety of the completely inconsequential and horrifically inaccurate lore surrounding our main antagonist along with everything we already knew thanks to the posters and movie tagline. I missed most of it because I just got a Plants vs. Zombies update and now seemed like as good a time as any to check my Zen Garden.

Why would a person go outside to smoke and just casually wander into a construction site miles away from the house they were in? Is the whole street a no smoking area? Plus it is extremely irresponsible to light up in a place most likely packed with dust and flammable materials. You're just asking to be burnt to a crisp, goth girl. Nope, just a good old throat cutting? Fine then. Sigh.

The deaths here are approximately 80% more imaginative and entertaining.
No! You do not suddenly change your own rules during the finale, that completely destroys the point of the film. That is like a horror movie number one no-no! I'm afraid that is the final straw. Nope, there's no point trying to redeem yourself now, you've muffed it good and proper. I've had enough. My critique has become angry and disjointed and I don't know what to do any more. Cue conclusion.

The story is clichéd, the characters have been torn straight from a TV Tropes page (minus the crippling number of in-jokes), the script tries too hard to force pop culture references out like a constipated Tarantino and the special effects are appropriately video-gamey, even in the real world. This is exactly what I was expecting when I sat down but I'm still disappointed. Every time I watch one of these I really hope from the bottom of my heart that I'll be surprised and somehow, against all odds, the film will dazzle me with a rich story and conservative scares that are all but lost in the big-budget, gore-tastic, Hollywood-ized, hyphen-riddled affairs we're used to. Alas, I will continue my search with earnest, for there is no such film here. Stay Alive, go sit on the naughty step and think about what you've done.

Just shove Timmy's corpse over. Rigor mortis has stuck him like that.

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Making Your Own Halloween Costume at the Age of Seven -
There's always so much promise and enthusiasm, but you're inexperienced, can't make head nor tail of the source material and lack adequate resources for the job. Eventually it just ends up awkward and you're the laughing stock of everyone involved. 

Wait. It's actually more like my first sexual encounter...close enough.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

So This Guy Walks into a Flat...

Good morrow, my little munchkins! This blog post is not late, I assure you; it just so happens that today is the day that I pretend to live in Amchitka. Not that it matters anyway, I had one blog view yesterday. ONE. All this hard work and look how you repay me! With not even existing. You people disgust me; apart from that one person. So (you people - 1) is more appropriate. Thanks maths.

Now I did tell you that I'd keep you up to date on the goings on of things that weren't me watching movies (which is still totally awesome, isn't it?) so I would like to introduce you to my new flat!

Furnished and everything.
That's a cupboard. Nice, isn't it? It's in my room. I think I'll probably store more stuff in it. This, incidentally, was probably the cleanest part of the flat when we first got to poke or heads in the door; the whole place was disgusting. I wish I could say I had taken before/after photographs but I was too busy vomiting into my hands because I didn't want to go near the toilet that smelled of rotten eggs to really make the most of the opportunity. To get the place up to liveable standards it took us a solid three days of cleaning, only stopping to eat, sleep and procrastinate. But at last its starting to look less like a trashed Young Ones set and more like home.

We're keeping the bike though.
I thought it might be nice for you to see a bit of a transition from 'bare, rented flat' to ' My Flat, God-sarnit!'. As such I'll give you a walk-through of the interior design choices of each room along with what I would rather turn it into over the course of a few posts to aid my laziness and lack of imagination. This is undoubtedly a good idea because, obviously along with all of my other talents, I also have as much interior design experience as James Cameron has modesty, so sit down, shut up and feel my knowledge penetrating your squidgy flesh.

This post is also available in my new book of erotic fiction: "Blog Me Harder"
Seeing as you're already in the sex dungeon bedroom cupboard (get the fuck out of there, it's kind of creepy) we might as well start with my room. 

Where I will sleep.
Next to where I will sleep.
Where I will sleep when I should be working.
 I decided in a fit of peak over a gin and tonic one evening that due to my rather bold purchase of grey Tesco bed linen my bedroom shall be adopting an equally dreary industrial/geometric theme. In that vein I bought the lovely, cheerful print of a man with an umbrella seen next to the desk there to go above the bed. There is only one small problem with this design choice.

The walls are yellow. Not a nice pale "oo, isn't that refreshing, darling" kind of yellow, more a "you should probably go get that checked out" kind of yellow.

"Yup...Definitely cancer."
I'm not an expert on this but industrial usually means like grey and stuff, yeah? Big sharp corners and billowing smoke. Pipes and origami unicorns. Yellow means what? Custard? Sand dunes? Radiation? Hey, radiation! That could totally work! An industrial theme with a radioactive slant; I could get a cushion for the bed and everything.

Etsy, you're always there for me when I need you most.
Now we're getting somewhere. So what else do I need? More stuff for the walls, methinks. Oo, how about a big black and white canvas print of something movie-ey but still with that mechanical feel? Like that scene from Alien. Or the opening shot from Blade Runner. Or I guess I could just get a picture of Pripyat.

Makes for a good talking point at parties.
So radioactive cushions and a ghost town, this is really shaping up to be a room that gives of some chilled vibes, dude. More practically I've been looking for a good ol' fashioned cork pin-board, for pinning things to things, and a clock. For...clocking things? Then all that's left is all my usual shit from home: clothes, computer, books, crossbow. Essentials.

The only thing I have no idea what to do with is the shelf above the wardrobe. The attentive few of you may have spotted it in the picture above and I'm completely at odds as to what it could be used for. The boring choice would be a lamp. I refuse to be boring! This room needs a mascot, something that fits in with the theme, but is also close to my heart. Something that will watch over my domain while I'm at uni learning how to kill people and get paid for it. Something completely and utterly fucking awesome.

"£528? You take payments in human blood, right?"

But It Could Be...

A Torture Chamber!

What else could this room be? Sickly, tortuous wallpaper. A nice big storage cupboard for the bulkier equipment. It's perfect. All you'd need to do is replace the bed with an operating table, or failing that, a large sacrificial altar (Home Bargains has an offer on for them at the moment: Buy one altar, get a free virgin) and a cheap set of gardening equipment and you're ready and rearing to go! Anatomy dissection, eat your heart out.

Human heart cooking methods can be found in my new cookery book: "Cannibalism and You: The Joys of Cooking and Devouring Your Loved Ones"

Friday, 12 July 2013

My Post with Marilyn

Eddie Redmayne, you are the luckiest bastard in the world.

If you don't know who our good friend Eddie is, you may remember him as Lispy McLisperton in the recent big budget adaptation of Les Grumpy French Musicians. Good movie. Might do it at a later date.

"Tho long ath you don't poke any more thun at my thpeech impedimenth."
But I do digreth- I mean digress. Why is Mr. Redmayne so lucky? Because he has the wonderful honour of being the humble love interest of both Emma Watson (that would be Hermione Granger, you heathens) and Michelle Williams, who plays our titular leading lady in My Week with Marilyn, 2011's biopic of the fabulous Marilyn Monroe. You probably haven't heard of her, she isn't well known.

"I gave prepubescent males erections before it was cool."
The sad truth is that the majority of people will have passed over this little gem. It's a BBC Film, which means it's influence will not have extended far from our cold, frothy shores and, although they have come out with some wonderful films in the past, they still bear the stigma of being a TV company funding movies. And that's how stuff like Komodo gets made.

When it comes to biopics I get a little picky. I'm a big fan of overly dramatic Oscar bait, however I can't abide those dreary musician biopics with the plot of guy gets famous, guy ends up on drugs, guy loses everything/commits suicide (apart from a select few with a little more thought to them) or, heaven forbid, the far worse sports alternative. Moneyball was terrible. It wasn't even an underdog story; they had to force the "oh god, we're not going to make it" moment when the opposition gained a couple of points against their already crushing lead. It was like watching a formula one driver stop three feet from the finish line and start shitting himself because he only lapped the next driver six times.

Although it could be because I understand baseball about as well as anyone understands Guyball.
However, I digress once again. Based on the books (a novel way of gathering inspiration) The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn, Marilyn, as it shall now be called for the sake of the word count I've just increased by explaining the reason for calling the movie Marilyn, tells the story of Colin Clark, the author of said books. The film follows his relationship with Marilyn Monroe during the shooting of Laurence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl where he acted as her personal escort around London for, oh, I think about six or seven days. Ish. But here's the important bit: it's really good! Hurrah for another movie I like!

Right, on to the reviewing. Some of the main criticisms of this film centre on the rather unusual spacing of characters on screen and the slow, overly romanticised script which swings from light-hearted comedy to retrospectively foreboding tragedy, stating that these aspects create a disjointed, confusing experience. I disagree wholeheartedly. Although it could be seen as the work of an inexperienced director and an incompetent writer trying to cram as many Monroe moments into one plot as possible, I think far more thought has been put into what may initially seem a very bland affair.

Much like the humble digestive biscuit. Seen here sporting a very fashionable, yet traditional, chocolate glaze.
Yes, to a keen eye the characters seem to be performing on an almost two-dimensional plane, and the script does indeed read at times like a piece of wonderfully flamboyant amateur theatre. But, in the context, this works to the movie's advantage. I'm a film buff, however I am also notorious for getting a little swept up in the moment, often disregarding subtle cinematographic effects, but even I became aware of the rather unusual positioning in the film. Although, contrary to many other critiques, I do not think this was unintentional.

Much in a similar vein to the more stage-oriented theatrics of yesteryear that this film is set amongst and, more abstractly, to the flamboyantly melodramatic life that was that of Marilyn Monroe, I like to think that the director's intent was to draw attention to the question that is often asked when inspecting the life of this woman: At what point did the Marilyn on stage stop and the Marilyn off stage begin?

It may be water that has been tread so often it's turned into jelly (that's how jellyfish are born, children. Because science!) but it is an interesting question none-the-less, and one that is addressed very well in this film if my theory is to be believed. The flat spacing of the characters lends an uncomfortable atmosphere where it appears that every person is there not to interact naturally with each other, but instead to be seen. This seems to be most extrapolated in the scenes with Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) and the rest of the production team on set, possibly making a subtle jibe at the often attention seeking off-screen actions of celebrity actors and directors, both past and present.

The script, meanwhile, dips and dives through highs and lows which would be more at home in a rather twee romantic comedy and a Lars von Trier movie, respectively; best not to muddle the two up. The weaving plot slots perfectly into the almost bipolar peaks and troughs of elation and depression that Marilyn was prone to experiencing, and further illustrates the instability of her celebrity lifestyle and her fragile psyche creating a rather unsettling confusion where we aren't sure whether we're meant to feel happy or sad in any given scene, let alone how the character is going to feel in the next five minutes. Or whether she's just going to get naked, again.

Of course there's nudity, and of course I was going to screenshot it.
I took the liberty of doing a little of research to review Marilyn which essentially extended to watching The Prince and the Showgirl and a bit of light Googling, so for my hard work I thought I'd treat you to a little snippet of the level of detail the makers of Marilyn went to to (chuffa chuffa too too) emulate the film being used as a backdrop for theirs. It's hardly a patch on Kubrick levels of detail but on watching the original it is nice to see all of the little nods to Olivier's original. I would sincerely recommend having a quick peruse of it, simply to understand the splendid job Michelle Williams did of copying Marilyn's unique personality on and off camera.

2011 on the left, 1957 on the right, and somewhere there's probably a lighthouse.
Williams manages to beautifully capture the essence that made Marilyn so special on camera before immediately transforming in the blink of an eye into the vulnerable, self-doubting child kept hidden behind the lens. Some haunting lines uttered in these moments by Williams, although sadly diluted by other things going on in the scene on one occasion, provide an unnerving insight into "what it must be like to be the most famous woman in the world", a comment uttered during a welcome cameo by Derek Jacobi (think Henry V, or if you're an uncultured worm like me, Underworld).

Over the course of the film, she triumphs in the difficult task of taking a woman so unbelievably larger than life and taming her essence to a sympathetic person lost in the splendour of Hollywood to the point that even she is unsure of who she really is any more. Although other actors are marred by the light script (Judi Dench) or simply don't fit into their roles as snugly, this is all made up for by Williams' performance, and her portrayal of a woman so beloved by all yet so misunderstood is so captivating that I've spent the entire review pretty much talking about nothing else and is certainly a performance to be remembered.

"Thank you, and goodnight."
I must be honest, I have a very soft spot for the little corner of cinema where the movies about movies live. There's something captivating about getting to peek behind the camera even if, technically, you aren't. It's like when you visit their house they're the kind of people who give you free reign of the fridge and have a full set of toiletries laid out on you bed for you. Plus they don't mind when you bring round that woman you met at the pub who smells of blood, gin and cabbage.

They'll even burn the sheets and disinfect your wounds. Such good people.
But do not fear, this review is not biased simply because a character shouts "cut!" a couple of times. They'd have to do that at least, ohh...twelve times?

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Buying a Good Quality Fake Watch - 
You know it'll never be as good as the original, but despite the painted-on clock face and misspelled brand name you can't help but love it, because it's the closest you'll ever get to the real thing.

NB. Number of times "Marilyn" was said in this post: 16