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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Breaking Bad Pre-emptive Spoiler

Walt dies.

Or something.


I doubt it to be honest.

I don't know really. Why not just wait until tonight?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Medical School: A Survival Guide - Part 2

Hello, dear reader, and welcome to the second volume in my handy medical school survival guide. What delight is to come next in our exodus into the deep chasm of textbooks and panic sweat that is medicine, wherein no light or hope shall ever escape?

Replace hope with a solid bowel movement and you're talking about Jimmy Chung's.
Well we've already made it as far as the actual medical school so the next thing you're likely to encounter is the thing I touched very briefly on last time:

Chapter Two - The Lectures

Yup. Those. These are the very things what the title of this blog suggests that I should be paying attention to more often. Which I isn't. Like.

I is fighting the system with my crippling illiteracy, yo.
So you've got up at 7am, trekked to the medical school through howling winds and lashing rain and you're now sitting in the lecture theatre, lightly steaming with your laptop open, ready to be learned like a bitch. You manage to connect to the painfully bad WiFi, download the lecture material and- oh. Today's lecture seems to have been replaced with a series of slides written in something akin to Aramaic detailing cryptic clues as to the location of the real presentation. Shit, the lecturer is here...and he's opened up the same powerpoint. Now he's talking about the various pathways for immune response to infection while showing a diagram with so many lines it looks like a pretty photograph of global flight paths.

Am I missing out on something important here?

At least some of the slides keep it succinct.
Be prepared to annotate what's already given with what the lecturer is telling you, especially when you're looking at a diagram with lots and lots of acronyms on them. That way you at least have a context for the stuff you're looking at when you finally get round to writing it up about six months later. I would encourage you to ask questions, but the unwritten rules of lecture theatre etiquette dictate that doing so is social suicide, so just hope you get it or get used to being confused. Leave the questions to the post-graduate students, they don't have any friends anyway.

Look at them. Smart. Studious. Friendly. World-wise. Makes you sick, doesn't it.
A lot of people don't come to lectures, they say all the info is right there in the powerpoint. No. Just no. Even if the information is there, everything is usually condensed down into little bullet-points, devoid of context or unnecessary definite and indefinite articles. I've missed lectures before and sat wrapped in my duvet with the remainder of last night's bottle of gin pressed against my fevered brow, staring at the same four lines of text for three hours with no idea what these strange shapes are trying to tell me. It's not fun and it's not productive.

Any self respecting alcoholic knows you drink more to get rid of the pain.
So the lecturer is just as important as the stuff you're looking at? Yeah, pretty much. But what are they like?

Good question, reader. A quick Google for types of lecturer comes up with over 10 million results and a countless number of these are various websites giving you painfully unfunny accounts of the "5 types of lecturer at unay" or some similar title. These are bollocks. You have one lecturer and one lecturer alone. The one that doesn't want to be there.

Behind those cold dead eyes a trapped soul yearns for a fire alarm.
Now sure, you get the "funny" lecturer, the "boring" lecturer, or the "weird" lecturer who shows you one too many pictures of penises (it happens more than you think), but despite how they deliver themselves they all share the common trait of wanting to be anywhere other than the lecture theatre. You have to remember that in medicine, these men/women/goats in a lab coat are actual doctors or medical professionals who have a contractual obligation to teach your sorry ass how to pretend you know what you're doing while you make people die slower. They could be doing doctor shit but instead they have to take time out of their day to stand in front of you and have violent, traumatic flashbacks to when they were in medial school. They want to be there less that you, and its not unheard of for them to speed through slides like a rat with an electrode in the pleasure centre of it's brain or take a pager bleep as an opportunity to cut the hour short.

"Oh, dang. Would you look at that, my pager went off again."
"Sir, that's just an empty Tic Tac box with a whistle on it."
That said, their part is vital in making the impenetrable powerpoints a little more malleable and they usually soldier on, bless 'em. But what about you? What are you doing during all of this, as the guy at the front with a funny accent grumbles about liver metabolism and shows you random pictures of penises?

I see.
The one and only rule of lectures: make sure you have a comfy notepad.

Circle of Dante's Hell Most Similar To

Anger (The Fifth Circle) - 
Much like the depths of the River Styx, lectures draw you into "a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe". As for being accosted by a Catholic loyalist, that will depend entirely on who is taking the lecture.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Friday the 13th Special: Top 5 Survivors

The attentive few among you may be aware that today is not Friday the 13th. Nor is it even a Friday. To be honest, that whole title is a bunch of filthy, filthy lies. I'm not even planning on doing a list article (more shameless Cracked plugging, because those guys really need it). I jest. Yes, this article is a little late for the titular day of unluckiness and gore and such, but I'll be damned if I'm going to give myself more work by not playing by my new posting schedule, so you'll read this five days late and bloody well enjoy it!

He's still on call for another week; don't make me page him.
To celebrate Jason Voorhees' official nameday, I thought it might be nice to commemorate his insatiable desire to horrifically murder vast swathes of people, leaving but one man (or, more likely, one buxom blonde woman) standing, usually soaked in blood and fear pee. So, for your viewing pleasure, I have collated a list of my top 5 survivors in cinema, ranked by the percentage survival rate of their situation in comparison to real world versions. A bit like if I were to suggest the least safe medical procedure performed in a film compared to your likelihood of bleeding to death while doing it in real life.

Another landslide victory for improvised amputations!
So lets get this party started with a couple hundred horrific drownings.

5. Rose Bukater - Titanic (1997)

Rose DeWitt Bukater (sadly of no relation to the father of the year) is Kate Winslet's character in James Cameron's sombre and modest 1997 Oscar trawling net. She's the one with, y'know, the naked posing and the outstretched arms and shit. She falls in love with Leonardo di Caprio's baby-like complexion and cries when it gets all covered in frost at the end while she sits on a very large door watching him freeze to death.

"Just to clarify: if this boat sinks, we'll need a piece of debris this size to fit both of us, right?"
Rose is lucky to have survived one of the largest commercial naval disasters in human history, racking up an impressive 1514 deaths out of a total 2224 passengers (yes, Wikipedia, don't judge me). That's a staggering 68.1% dead boat. Hold on, turn that around. That means there was a one in three chance of survival. There have been worse odds...

Whingy bastards.
Actually, if we delve a little deeper into the statistics, we notice some interesting stuff. Out of the 144 first class women aboard the boat, a mind-numbing 4 died. Yeah. Four people. Hell, we see one of them drown in the actual movie, meaning there are only three more spots to be filled before Rose's survival is inevitable.

Taking one for the historical accuracy team.
Survival Rate: 97% - Another reason to advocate upper-class white guilt.

4. Chuck Noland - Castaway (2000)

Castaway is a very simple concept: everyone loves Tom Hanks and movies that contain a Tom Hanks. Everyone also loves beaches. And volleyballs. Subtract all of the excess fat from the formula, like other actors, and you have the perfect Tom Hanks movie.

To create drama, remove volleyball.
For this one I looked up (read: Wiki'd) commercial plane crashes that occurred in 1995, the year the film is meant to be set. Now, firstly, I'm more than aware that the plane that crashed in the film was a cargo plane, and that only looking at one year is hardly representative of a whole, but I'm two list numbers in and I've already eaten a half pack of chocolate digestives, so screw accuracy

Out of the rather low number of 10 crashes (I have a feeling this may not be an extensive list) and a total of 646 passengers, 67 survived. Plus one dog. That's a 89.6% chance of being dead inside an exploding metal cigar. Unless you're a dog. Apparently the Hollywood invincible dog law really is true.

They don't even die when you hit them with meteorites.
However, these are all land crashes, and our good friend crashed over water. What's the score on the doors for that? There was one water crash on the list I looked at and, of the 18 passengers, not a single one of them met a grisly demise. By these numbers, Chuck was guaranteed to survive. Even if we actually take into account the plane he was on, with a crew of 4 excluding Chuck, that only brings the death toll to 4 out of 22, which ain't too shabby for a type of crash which is usually considered un-survivable. There's even been quotes in everyone's favourite dubious publication, The Economist, that "in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero".

But then again, Tom Hanks is even harder to kill than the most adorable puppy.

Survival Rate: 81.8% - It's too bad the number isn't lower; we might have been saved from Lost.

3. Mr. Pink - Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Everyone has seen Reservoir Dogs, yes? Good, then I don't expect to have to explain the plot, characters, or why Madonna likes well endowed gentlemen. 

Hat stands.
This one was a toughie to get some nice, juicy numbers for, so I've decided to change the stipulations a bit. "Surviving" here counts as not getting caught by the police after the robbery. Now, we never find out the fate of Mr. Pink, and although it is quite heavily suggested that he might have been caught, it is possible that he might have gotten away, so survivor he is. Plus he didn't get riddled with bullets, so there's that too.

How could you shoot that adorable face?
To the number crunching! There have supposedly been 14 high profile robberies in the US in the past 80 years, including the Goodfellas Lufthansa heist. Of the total of 94 people involved in the heists, 14 were killed, 74 arrested, 5 went into witness protection and one is still as yet uncaptured. This means that Mr. Pink has a 14.9% chance of going the same way as his compatriots and getting gunned down, dismembered or, in one hilarious case, bitten by his pet snake while trying to milk it. If he's OK with prison, he's got a 79% chance of being served his meals for the rest of his life. But to get off scot free? Nah, not likely. 

Better get used to the soap never being left in the tray...
The trouble with these things is that in real life, if one guy gets busted, they all get busted, so the story seems to go that each member usually gets picked up one by one over the next few years. Luckily, in Mr. Pink's case, he's the only remaining survivor, so there's no-one left to rat on him, plus they didn't even know his real name if they could still speak through all that lead. Maybe, just maybe, he did get away with it.

Until they released the composite sketches.
Survival Rate: 1.1% - There's always witness protection if you're a great big girl's blouse.

2. Chev Chelios - Crank (2006)

Why is Jason Statham so awesome? Does he douse himself in so much gorilla pheromone that it actually seeps through the TV screen and makes everyone watching equal parts jealous and aroused?

Fight the urge to hump a table leg.
Whatever it may be, Crank is essentially the natural conclusion of distilling enough Statham and injecting it directly into your own eyeballs. Plot? P'shaw. Guns? Yes! Killing things? YES! Public sex, drug use, swearing and more guns? *noises inappropriate for children* 

The easiest way to introduce your children to the concept of sexual gratification.
This film is insane, and every last minute is absolute amphetamine-induced joy. But the climax takes the biscuit (spoilers), with Chev Chelios (Statham) chasing down the generic bad guy in typical action movie fashion. Soon, the fight takes to the air in a helicopter but they both fall out and Chelios manages to snap the generic bad guy's neck. Then Chelios smooshes into the ground AND TOTALLY FUCKING SURVIVES BECAUSE STATHAM.

So what is the actual likelihood of that happening? Well, to start, this site gives us some relatively reliable numbers for skydiving fatalities in the past ten years, amounting to a total of 557 deaths since 2004. How Stuff Works says that, in the US, around about 3 million jumps are performed every year by approximately 350'000 registered skydivers. So, by the power of maths using completely unreliable source material, that suggests that if you are a skydiver in the US, there is a 0.16% chance that you will die if you keep jumping for ten years. Not, like, jumping constantly for ten years; just, you know...fuck it.

"Question my authority and lose that adorable little hand, Timmy."
But that's not really what we're asking. How many people have hit the ground and survived? I can't find a number, but not many. A quick Google gave me about 6 people in the past ten years who have essentially hit the ground running if you will, smacking the Earth like a scolding mother, and lived to tell the tale. So if we add them to the 557 people who didn't, we give ourselves a nice 99% chance of dying horribly from the most epic head-butt of all time.

Survival Rate: 1.07% - A pretty sure-fire way of disposing of people you don't like. Unless their name is Jason.

1. Sidney Prescott - Scream 1-4 (1996-2011)

This is an article inspired by the classic slasher movie so its only fair that the winner is from the series of films that so expertly dissected, analysed, mocked and rebuilt the genre over more than a decade. I adore the Scream series; they're horror films inhabited entirely by people like me: self-aware, pop culture-literate arrogant bastards. What's not to love?

This guy. Don't love this guy.
The protagonist, Sidney Prescott, is terrorised over the course of four films by killers who don the titular Scream mask, taunting her and the other victims with horror trivia, in essence telling them how they're going to die. It is genius. And exactly how I would choose to commit serial murder.

I mean, me? Serial murder? Never.
So, horror movie trivia, kids: you have ten teenagers looking for a good time and one deranged psychopath. By the end of the film, how many people will be left? One! That's right! Everyone is dead except the sexy protagonist. Maybe, just maybe, her love interest will survive with a couple of mortal wounds, so that's two at a push. So, what do you think the likelihood is of that same person surviving the same situation four times over is? 

We'll wait.
Yeah, the chances of surviving a murderous rampage a second time over is ludicrously unlikely, but in the Scream series there are three recurring characters who refuse to die four times over! Way to ruin the formula, stupid fi- oh, I see. It takes a second for satire to catch up with me.

Why didn't I pick either of the other two for this list? Because Sidney is the target. In every movie she's the one the murderer wants to kill. And any guesses as to how many of those survive in real life?

You'll be one in the minute if you don't put that hand down, you wee bastard.
There's a hint in the crime. Murder victims ain't meant to survive, otherwise it isn't murder. Duh. There is a 0% survival rate for murder victims, but more interestingly is the likelihood of being a murder victim. This handily confusing graph gives the incidence rates for murders from 1970 to present in the US. If we take the rates from 1996 to 2011 and average them, that gives us 5.7 murders in every 100'000 of population, or in my beloved percentages, a 0.0057% chance of being killed by some dude for some reason.

"Do you see the thing that your action has influenced me to do?! DO YOU?!"
Some separate dude tries to kill Sidney four times, which means she faced those odds four times. Maths, take it away:

The likelihood of being a Sidney Prescott is 1.06x10^-9%

That means that in our current world population of 7'179'714'000 people, there are seven poor sods who have been attacked by a different murderer four times. And to you, we salute you.

Survival Rate: Negligible - The moral of the story is get killed the first time round, it'll save you the bother.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Medical School: A Survival Guide - Part 1

You, yes you! Are you interested in a career in medicine? Are you interested in knowing more about medicine? Or being a medical student? Are you simply a regular reader of this blog? Are you lost and slightly confused by this sudden and unwarranted barrage of questions? Do you require medical assistance?

If so then sit down, apply pressure to your gaping wound and read on, the magical healing properties of my amazing literary prowess shall tend to you as I give you a whirlwind tour of the ups, the downs, the further downs, and the rock bottoms of choosing to do a medical degree, all divided into handy, deadline-filling chapters for your ease.

Medical school is hard. Like really hard. I think they use tungsten or something, definitely don't try biting it. There's long hours, tough material, strict rules and a very unusual collection of colleagues to deal with, so if you think you want to do it, it's best going in knowing the basics. I am, obviously, an expert seeing as I have survived a whole year, so listen to my every word and take it as gospel. There will be a test.

"Would you all pass your answer sheets back up to the front, please."
Without further ado, let us begin our endless journey into the fiery chasm of medical school. I'll be using my university as a template but I assume in my infinite knowledge that these things apply at least to every single other medical school in the world.

Chapter One - The Place

I go to Dundee University. For those of you who are not from Dundee or are lucky enough to have never passed through or heard of it, here is a map of the university campus that I definitely did not lift straight from Google Maps:

Also handily displaying every part of Dundee you don't want to go to in grey.
A nice, big uni campus. This is literally the beating heart of Dundee, the whole city has essentially become completely student-oriented. If you need something, it'll undoubtedly be somewhere near here. You'll probably live here, or at least very nearby. Along with everyone you've probably met up to this point.

Here is the same map including Ninewells Hospital, where the medical school is based:

That's a good 40 minute walk from the hospital to the campus. The sad truth is that most cities were not designed to accommodate for the poor sods who, in general, have no car, a crushing hangover and need to make this nightmare of a pilgrimage every day. Sure, there's the bus (or even a bike). But that's money (and energy), and spare change is to a student like Unobtanium is to a steroid-fuelled space marine. Extremely valuable, hard to come by, and protected by very violent smurfs.

You can feel the murder in his eyes...
Some medical schools might be luckier with a lot of classes taking place on campus, or even a nearer hospital, but in general if you choose to study medicine at any given university, you might as well pretend you've gone to a completely different one to any of the people you might know studying a different course. You are alone. And in Ninewells, no-one can hear you scream.

As for the hospital itself, you've got a whole world of pain waiting for you. Y'see, hospitals are very organic beings. They've usually been around for a long time in some form or another, and they've sort of just evolved to fit their needs, with extra floors, wings, departments, wards, clinics and torture chambers added and removed as and when it has been deemed necessary. That's great for the overall functioning of the hospital, but a wholesome source of angst for a student who had probably arrived having only just got the hang of the layout of their old high school.

"I'm too young for this!"
This is extenuated when you get on wards or clinical placements around the hospital where you don't have a herd of equally as confused-looking students to follow. You've usually got to try and find this place all by yourself, with nothing but a Doctor's name and a ward number to help you. 

You set out on your expedition, wary yet hopeful, and find a sign for your ward. Success! This will not be as hard as expected. You walk down a long corridor and up a set of steps, pass through some double doors and- Shit. There's a door with a keypad. You don't have access to such advanced technology! You shuffle about for a bit until some guy in a lab coat lets you through. You wander around inside this wing for a bit until you realise there isn't an exit, stumbling through a corridor of offices before bursting back out of the door you came in again. But wait, this isn't the same hallway, you must have taken a different turn. You need to get one more floor up but there are no stairs. You frantically walk-sprint down another corridor, ending up on a ward which doesn't seem to have a number, doctors and nurses staring at you as you clutch the front of your newly ironed shirt now drenched in fear-sweat. You trip and land on a patient's bed, an old woman yells. A nurse asks if you're OK. You scream a series of incoherent words before passing out and falling against a clinical waste bin.

True story.

Actually, the true story had more minotaurs in it.
Hospitals are labyrinths, but with less awesome music and David Bowie, so you're bound to get lost. Even if you're in the right place and need to find a bed, a chair or some of the ever-present hand sanitizer, it is almost certain that they will vanish. The important thing is to not panic and find a nice-looking doctor to ask for directions. That said, consultants are usually too busy to notice you and nurses are annoyed by you before you even approach them. Your best bet is junior doctors, they usually still retain a faint glimmer of a memory of what it's like to start studying medicine so they should be sympathetic. They're usually the ones in the harness, carrying a small hillock of files, being whipped by the other staff and conscious patients.

This is the one and only time it is a good idea to approach a person in a gimp costume.
We've not even touched on the usually binary heating situation in these places (one minute you're using your nipples to carve a path through the ice, the next you're carrying your notes around in a camel-back), what an anatomy lab looks like (don't lean on the body bags and you'll be fine) or why a single microbiology practical will be set in a lab approximately as difficult to get to as Hitler's dinosaur factory on the moon, but these pale in comparison to the last, and most important place you will find yourself in:

The lecture theatres.

They put in another red chair for each student who takes their life here.
Lectures will be getting their very own part in this mini-series, but I thought it important to mention them here. Lectures are your bread and butter, they are your alpha and omega, your Riff Raff and Magenta. You will spill blood, sweat and tears in these rooms. You will probably get more sleep here than at home. Lecture theatres will be your home. You will by all accounts die here.

"I think perhaps you'd better come inside..."
All I can do is make you aware of the inevitable. You may not like these places and their very strict unspoken etiquette, but you'll certainly grow to know them, even need them. Maybe, just maybe, you will someday love them.

Circle Of Dante's Hell Most Similar To

Limbo (The First Circle) - 
Finding your way around medical school, you will be surrounded by those much smarter than you; scholars, doctors, philosophers, possibly even a dude with a snake's tail who judges you. You will pass through seven gates to approach your destination, but there is still a long, long way to go. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Now I've Seen It, Now I'm Never Watching It Again

I have a very love-hate relationship with magic. On the one hand, I love the concept of using sleight of hand and mind tricks to create an impressive illusion or even to influence another person, but on the other my insatiable ego cannot withstand the frustration of not being able to work out how the trick was done. It's like loving Ben and Jerry's but at the same time seething with each delicious spoonful due to your lack of knowledge of ice cream production.

How they get the fish in there will forever be a mystery.
In keeping with that, I also have an equally tempestuous relationship with movies about magic. The Prestige is another masterpiece of Nolan-ness, merging the best of Victorian garb and David Bowie with Wolverine, Batman and a giant cloning machine, making it essentially the Three-Course-Dinner gum of the film industry; why would you ever need anything else? And yet, at the same time, I can never seem to fully enjoy it. I think it's partially due to not enough Bowie, but mainly because in a medium where you could be watching aliens blast the ever-loving shit out of each other with planet-sized balls of boiling plasma, magic is just so bloody difficult to make impressive on the big screen.

The fact that the movie's epilogue turns you into a giant blueberry doesn't help proceedings either.
Now You See Me is the new magic movie on the block, all hip and cool and with light-up trainers and a shiny Charizard. The poster tells us everything we need to know, with a high angle shot of the main characters standing in an aesthetically pleasing arrow formation being the universal sign language for Hollywood crime caper movie. Our rag-tag group of unlikely tricksters and fast-talkers will come together to pull off the most mind-bogglingly complex robbery (that the least coked-up Hollywood writer that day could scrawl on toilet paper before passing out) leaving the authorities, and the viewers, in their wake until the massive twist at the end that brings everything together. But this time there's magic! Magic makes everything awesome.

Except Harry Potter, which manages to consistently achieve absolute mediocrity.
The film starts out strangely promising with a sensationally well done opening sequence that had my brother Googling how they did it. Soon, we're introduced to a quartet of various magic styles, each promising a potentially novel contribution to the crime caper genre. We're hoping for sleight of hand to make keycards or phones vanish and reappear, mind tricks to bypass security, being locked in the safe they're trying to break into and then breaking back out of it. That kind of stuff. The classic tropes of magic being turned around and used to perform a daring heist.

Yeah... That doesn't happen.

It's probably easier if you guys just stay like that until I've finished talking.
Now You See Me, in a very suitable style for it's subject matter, spends the majority of it's 2 hours of Chinese water torture tricking you into believing it might actually be a good film. Starting out in humble beginnings with a joyous romp through the world of card tricks, mind reading and escapism, all of a sudden we're thrown into a overblown mess of nonsensical plot twists and some tosh about a secret organisation of Egyptian magicians (Egypticians). The whole movie holds a certain air of The Box; plenty of promise at the start, then, well, the rest of the movie happens and proceedings take a decidedly harsh nose-dive. Unlike our grumbly-voiced fable-equivalent of a wooden plank with a nail in it, however, this film not so much as crashes into the north tower in an explosion of frustration and terrible CGI, but more glides slowly into the Hudson river, leaving everyone involved confused, angry, and slightly damp.

Pictured: A subtle metaphor for poorly executed deus ex machina.
This film zig-zags around the mess of a plot arc and film styles faster than a sexually confused 14 year old scrolls through porn tabs on his brother's laptop. One minute you're watching the slow, well thought out set-up to a daring heist, then the next you're thrown into a painfully dull car chase and the whole thing becomes a completely unremarkable action movie. Another minute later and you're watching Chinese people peeing on each other. You're tossed around so much that by the hour mark the whole thing runs out of puff and just starts to peeter out. It's not often that I get genuinely bored watching a film, but by the fourth time Morgan Freeman's equally as fed up-looking character (who's only purpose is to act as a way of providing tenuous explanations for each trick in the film) blows the whistle on the "Four Horsemen"'s escapades I found myself anxious for the whole thing to be over. I nearly cried when I checked the time and found another half an hour to go.

And you guys complain about the long wait for the inevitable.
To try and achieve a modicum of structure to this witty and scathing critique, lets lay out each issue in a more bite-sized manner. Firstly, the plot. This is one of the many occasions where the use of good old Scorsese levels of all-encompassing greed to drive the plot forward would have been a good thing. Instead we have the frankly ludicrous introduction of a secret cult of super magicians half way through the film which act as the motivation of our central characters to perform their various police-evading feats. Why? Is there some amazing magic knowledge they will achieve? Are they trying to take over the world? No. They just want in the club and have to do three big stunts to prove their worth. That's it. The whole film is just a fraternity initiation.

With less robes, paddles and homo-eroticism.
As for the acting? I dare you to watch this film and find a single character who is original, charismatic or just not genuinely bored. Even the supposed comic relief by Woody Harrelson (no banjos to be found either) is dampened by the fact that he delivers every line with the same enthusiasm as the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Then there's Isla Fisher, or as she shall now be known, The Human Answering Machine. On paper, sure, she did her job. She turned up, she read lines, she walked from point A to point B and waved her arms about a bit. But her delivery makes that guy selling jewellery on channel 6000 at midnight on a Sunday look as three-dimensional and dynamic as a porn star's breast. In layman's terms, she sucks balls.

Bingo balls.
And then there's the special effects. Now this may just be me, but if you're going to make a movie about people performing a ludicrously complex robbery which needs to be logically explained by the film's end, you need to base it relatively firmly in the boundaries of reality. And if the gimmick of your movie happens to be based on real life magic tricks, then surely it should be of the utmost importance that everything you see being performed on screen (magic-wise anyway) is actually happening. Evidently the makers of Now You See Me did not share my sentiment because most of the events in the film that could have been done in real life was instead created using the wonders of CGI. Even a fucking spinning cloth is computer generated. How hard is it to set up a load of wires and pulleys to do exactly the same thing? Or if you really have such a pixelgasm for this bollocks, why not hire someone with more experience than a college course in MS paint?

A thousand graphics students just submitted this as their portfolio.
Costumes? Bland. Set design? Unnecessarily garish and shiny. Action? Boring. Every time something new is introduced to this movie, you hope that it'll make the ordeal a little better, but it just digs the knife in deeper and reminds you that yes, you have wasted two hours of your life watching a very big budget children's birthday party.

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Drinking a Bottle of Cough Syrup Whilst Smoking Weed -
Seems like a good idea at first, and is enjoyable for about ten minutes. Then your eyeballs turn to steel and ants start screaming your mother's maiden name at you until you hide under the kitchen sink for the rest of the evening. You are never getting that night back.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Machete Don't Blog

You may know of Robert Rodriguez as Quentin Tarantino's non-union Mexican equivalent, or as the director of Sin City and Planet Terror. I, however, was first introduced to him in my youth through the wonder that is the Spy Kids movies. You know, the ones about kids. Who are spies. Also there are thumbs. Like, literally characters that are just thumbs.

And these things. The fuck was up with this movie?
Why is this relevant to my current post which, due to the title and inclusion of a large poster above, is evidently not about the Espionage Infants series? Other than having the same director, of course. The reason is because there is another, even more awesome link between these films and our subject for today, Machete. They both have Machete in them.

"Yes, Ben. Danny Trejo is indeed in Spy Kids as the titular kids' Q-like inventor uncle. What of it?"

Well, diligent reader, what you may not be aware of, unless you read Cracked as painfully religiously as I, is that Uncle Machete from Ignoring Child Protection Laws: The Movie is actually the very same Machete as the one in Machete.

Spy Kids is, according to Trejo, literally what Machete does when he's not...machete-ing stuff. With machetes.

So yeah, that's pretty awesome. A BIT LIKE THIS FILM. I mean, holy shit man. Just wow. Sorry, I don't usually make my opinion known this early on, but dear lord. Ugh. Lets just get going with talking about the ins and outs before I make a mess of the floor.

By spilling my glass of milk in excitement. Yes, milk. You people sicken me.
We've all seen some of the seedy underbelly of cinema that is exploitation movies. You've got your torture porn, stoner movies, nunsploitation and so on. They all hinge on one gimmick and are usually ludicrously bad. Or worse, they're Saw sequels. Machete revels in being a part of the family, with horrific special effects blasting all over the screen, spectacularly cheesy one liners at every corner, comically deadpan delivery and ridiculous characters pushing the convoluted plot forwards. This film is, essentially, the distilled essence of the pure fun and over-the-top spectacle of movies wrapped up in a little package with a handwritten love letter to 80's exploitation films signed with a tiny spritz of eau de Rodriguez.

This time it's a jizz joke.
Ignoring the fact that I just used two identical pictures twice in a row twice in a row, I'll give you a bullet point list of some of the awesome that can be found in this movie:

  • Danny Trejo - 'nuff said
  • Steven Seagal with a katana
  • Michelle Rodriguez with an eye patch
  • Jessica Alba
  • Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez in the same scene (see picture above)
  • Lindsey Lohan as a junkie nun with an uzi
  • Nudity
  • A priest with a shotgun
I could keep going but I'm having enough trouble as it is choosing which of these moments to screenshot and put as the next picture.

Nudity was the obvious choice, but for the sake of fairness I replaced the nipples with Seagal's face.
Genuinely, if you aren't usually a fan of stuff exploding and utterly senseless violence you should still give Machete a go, because I guarantee you there will be at least one moment in the film that you watch and can do nothing but grin gormlessly at for the next ten minutes due to its unbridled epicness. Be that the beautiful one liners, the obligatory Tarantino-esque discussion between security guards about the ethics of hiring cheap Mexican labour, or the use of a pimped up car as a weapon, you will find that one moment when the clouds of doubt break and the holy light of pure, unadulterated movie genius shines down upon your ignorant brow, showering you in the sweet bliss of awesome.

Somehow that guy just strollin' by in the background is far more captivating than the endless face pummelling. 
 So on to the bad stuff. Firstly, the previously mentioned bad acting. Now there are genuinely some really good actors in this movie. Robert de Niro plays a spectacularly greasy evil politician (there's a lovely little nod to his heyday when he steals a taxi for a car chase) and Danny Trejo, although expectedly wooden, is still a convincing badass. Then there's Little Miss Perpetually Miffed.

Arriving from a abruptly abandoned pirate stripper party.
Why does Michelle Rodriguez never smile? What terrible childhood trauma did she experience in order to become this disgruntled toughie who only shows her feelings by speaking in monotone slightly louder than normal? Surely expressing slightly more than the emotional range of Kristen Stewart's hot water bottle from time to time wouldn't hurt, right?

But she's not alone. Steven Seagal is, well, you know, Stephen Seagal, so there's that too, and some of the extras provide some atrociously delivered lines. Then there's the bad special effects and ridiculous storyline.

But this waist-deep-in-shit feel of the whole film is it's endearing feature. You have two choices in this situation: wait it out and hope the dysentery kills you before the critics do, or fashion a crude beach ball and have some god-damn fun.

Before entering the pool area, ensure your children have been vaccinated for Hepatitis B, C, H and the latest version of Microsoft Windows.
Machete does the latter. It came into existence as a joke advert in the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse Double Feature (and was, interestingly, the only good thing about it). It knows its meant to be bad, so there's no expectation for anything other than plain old violence, silliness and one of the most enjoyable movies in the past decade.

Lets just hope Machete Kills manages to keep our metaphorical beach ball of shit afloat when it rolls around later this year.

Tagline: "MORECHETE!"

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Following a Mexican Maid Around, Making Up Her Life Story -
You just know that these people live secret lives as awesome gun-toting vigilante badasses. Who are also spies. And priests. Priest spy assassin robot Mexicans! I bet a tenner that hoover has a katana hidden in it. A flaming snake katana! With lasers! HAND ME A FUCKING CAMERA.