Month: May 2016

Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016)

Written for RAF News May 2016

Corporal Evan Albright (Charlie Weber) is a Marine with high marks and the newest to join the forces at the US Embassy in an unnamed Middle Eastern territory, but his goody-two-shoes keenness will make him enemies before he can warn them that the Ambassador is under threat.

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Shown through the compound and assured of its high level security, the films subtitle connects the dots for you if you hadn’t sussed it already – they’re not as secure as they think. Outside the gates are some local protestors and one particularly shady looking guy (Hadrian Howard) with ties to Islamic State can be seen with a camera focussed on the guard tower – this doesn’t look like a broadcast for Al Jazeera, at least Albright doesn’t think so.

The new recruit’s standalone attitude is his weakness, looking out for himself and ‘killing’ his entire squad in a training exercise so that when he finally has cause for concern no-one cares to listen. They see him as a hot-shot, John Wayne, but he’s more like John Cena, the professional wrestler turned actor – cartoonishly American in looks and attitude: pronounced chin, inflated features and patriotic to the point of ‘pissing red, white and blue’.

With an extremely simple story, loosely based on the Benghazi attack of 2012, it is coloured in by out of place dialogue that jumps from soppy inspirational lines to throwaway quips. In amongst the Yanks are a few Brits affecting accents – the standout performance being that of Scott Adkins as Gunnery Sergeant Raines, the badass of the bunch who proves himself handy with a sniper rifle.

Once the Embassy is inevitably breached, cue endless shots of scarf-clad terrorists folding like rag-dolls under gunfire. With a bodycount so high that it gets boring, Jarhead 3 couldn’t be more different from the first in the franchise, which made a point of showing very little action. A very standard film that does exactly what it sets out to do, kick terrorist ass and chuck in in the odd buzzword to make it relevant #Oorah.

chaos reigns

I killed a fox a few nights ago. A little cub.

Thought I’d get it off my conscience and write down some reflections that it has forced on me.

I have only recently started driving, happily being ferried about my nearest and dearest and using public transport until moving out into the country, onto farmland without pavements or streetlights to connect me to anything. As I headed away from the city and moved into converted stables, finding a job outside of London, I felt like I was closer to nature – waking up to birdsong and finding my way home in the bright moonlight of the unpolluted sky. But it came to be impractical and I would need to learn to drive. This was the reality of my situation.

The novelty wore off pretty quickly having to drive an hour to and from work daily. I was talking to friend recently, a Kerouac-idolising romantic, about how he gave up his car in favour of cycling and he made some points that struck me. About how driving separates you from your community by making you so able to work further away from home instead of supporting local businesses. In one sense it would seem you have opened up access to the rest of the world, but in another you shield yourself from experiencing it, on the journey anyway. Constrained to your bubble you are transported place to place with only glances out of the window stolen from the road.artwork_duncan_trussell_family_hour

I’m reminded of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour Podcast, a few episodes from a few years back, in which he had just started cycling and had some personal revelation more powerful than the cumulative affect of all the acid he has taken. In these few episodes he would open the podcast with a lengthy monologue about how cycling was connecting him to the world, how he was experiencing hills. For Trussell, hills serve as a symbol – you work harder to ride up and you earn the pleasure and ease of riding back down. In a car you mow through them and experience nothing.

Okay I’m not a cycling enthusiast, and  am irked by the self-righteousness that usually accompanies the eco-warrior, even if I am sympathetic to the cause and have never done anything about it. It’s more that these ponderings were the very same that were plaguing me this past week when I travelling down one of these country roads and from nowhere a small fox ran out under my car.

I didn’t even feel any impact, it was just the timing. I had to turn the car around and patrol the road to see if I had in fact caught it. Sure enough there in the middle of the road was an adorable little cub, paws twitching an all. Fucksake. Hazards on I pulled up, angry and upset I had to work out how I was going to deal with this, how I was going to fix or finish what I had started. I knelt down in the road to pick him up, careful to hold him properly. In that moment, when I was worrying about what gore I might be uncovering, if I was doing any damage, he became extremely light and lifeless. In my hands no less. So there’s weak and weary ol’ me wandering down a country road holding a tiny cub that I’d just slain with my car. I walk in as far as I can and lay him down before going back to my car.

Since that night I’ve been stuck thinking about the entitlement of road using, of how there is a pecking order that has vehicles prioritised, bikes even. It’s strange that the onus is on the people around the roads to take care, rather than the other way around. There’s a short article well worth reading about the invention of Jaywalking that shows how this entitlement has been manufactured and the blame has shifted hands, how cars were seen as the intruders of roads meant for people up until the 1930s, but now vehicles are protected and there are laws that blame the people that aren’t in metal cage for not crossing roads properly.

I guess I’ll blame my actions on the fox not being alert enough, for not using crossings properly.

Taxi (1978 – 83)

Written for RAF News May 2016

When new hire Elaine (Marilu Henner) enters the grotty base of the Sunshine Cab Company in Taxi‘s first ever episode, she cuts to the heart of the atmosphere, asking why everyone here just a little angry.

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This small, tiny in the case of dispatcher Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito), but diverse group of part-time cabbies are united by their New Yorker attitudes, their sarcasm and bitterness, their incessant innuendos and quick-fire insults. Filmed in front of a live studio audience their constant quips keep the laughs coming, but the show never shied away from making a serious point, earning it the title of ‘morality play’.

Over it’s 5 series span in just as many years, Taxi would become iconic for it’s opening theme tune, it’s clownish character actors and its tendency to get a bit gushy at the end. Where Alex (Judd Hursch) would be seen as the fatherly figure of the group, the one true cabbie, episodes would often follow as he offered some of his learned wisdom to the others, or capping the show with a life lesson. But this sentiment could be found in the most cartoonish characters – the innocently idiotic foreign mechanic Latka (Andy Kaufman), lovable idiotic boxer Tony (Tony Danza), and joining from the second series the burnt out hippie and outright idiot Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd).

All the cast of the Sunshine Cab Company are larger than life, big voices with big gestures that really make the punchlines land. This is especially true for struggling actor Bobby (Kenickie himself, the late Jeff Conaway) and Devito’s Palma – who spends most of the show’s run in the dispatcher’s cage, where his petty tirades are delivered with such fury that it steals your attention, and though he is undeniably the most despicable character, he is hilarious and the centrepiece to the show.

A precursor to Cheers and even The Simpsons, Taxi is a time capsule of a sit-com, and of 70s New York, that can be reopened and revisited now that it is being released on DVD for the first time in the UK.

 

Clever Girl

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So my son has reached raptor level intelligence. Not the true-to-life chicken sized dinosaurs, I mean Jurassic Park velociraptors – in that he can open doors. He has, though, a certain courtesy, genetic or learned who can say. I was having a shower this morning and heard a sharp, deliberate knock, thinking it was a grown considerate adult until I heard the floor-high announcement ‘Knock-knock-knock’, followed by the horror-film close-up on the doorknob, as it rattled and gradually jutted around to reveal the beaming face of little Jackson, delighted with his new developments; his next stage of evolution.


 

Grow your own Jesus with Johnny Depp

A look at the character of Dr Will Caster in Transcendence. I ruin the film outright so don’t watch it if you haven’t seen it.

Check out the original article for my argument on why Transcendence is actually a very interesting and subversive film that has been unfairly overlooked and disregarded. Or don’t. Whatever.