28 August 2012

Even Drug Dealers Don't Work Weekends

Layer Cake for me is one of those films that you put on after a few years and then realise is a forgotten favourite. You know how occasionally you'll get back with an old partner and remember what it was like to love them in the first place? Well it's kind of like that, I imagine. I say ‘imagine’ because for anyone in my history the only emotion I have is pure unadulterated contempt. There's so much hate running through me that at times it genuinely makes my balls hurt. I have recurring nightmares about getting back with one girl. In the dream I sleep with her and then remember exactly why I dumped her in the first place. I wouldn't mind but the scene starts the next morning so I don't even get to re-experience the fun of sweatily spaffing up the psycho's fat meat-muffin. The nightmare that begins with post-fuck horror is depressingly my equivalent of a wet dream, none of the joy, all of the shame. The bitch has left more scars in my head than she did on her own arms which is a ratio I hope will one day corrects itself. Until that day however I'll keep my fingers crossed, continue my downward spiral into misanthropy and get back to talking about Layer Cake.

So I hadn't seen Matthew Vaughn's crime thriller in a good few years but there was a point where I experienced it almost monthly. It was like my equivalent of a period I guess and I'd get fucking grouchy if anyone disturbed me. It seems to me that there is a British Gangster film that emerges every decade and that defines that current era. The 70's had Get Carters grim up North revenge thriller and the 80's had The Long Good Friday in which Bob Hoskins was plagued by the IRA in a London smothered by the shadow of Thatcher's big, hairy testicles. For the 90's it was probably Lock Stock, which appeared at the height of Brit Pop as bands like Blur sailed high with their cheekiness and mockney personas.

Layer Cake starts with Daniel Craig's nameless business man explaining to us why it's ok to sell drugs. His logic is that it'll be legal one day and so why not profit in the short term by supplying something that clearly has a demand. To be honest, he puts up a convincing argument. If we ever want to win the war against drugs then legalisation and rehabilitation seems like a more practical solution than prison sentences and demonisation. In my opinion, addiction to anything is as much a disease as cancer, leprosy and religion. I'm not saying that drug dealing is morally justified but that Craig's character is right. He's simply an opportunistic salesman who has found a gap in the market. As statistics will prove more lives are ruined each year through alcoholism and cigarettes than ecstasy or marijuana. He might be a cunt for what he's selling but he's no more of a cunt than the governments who profit from those other substances. At least he's not a hypocrite as well.

Like an old battered whore, Craig however has decided that enough is enough and it's time to get out of the game. Unfortunately for him though he's got one last job to do which for anyone in movies basically means you're probably going to die. Unfortunately Craig is reluctantly tasked with finding the missing daughter of Michael Gambon. I'm a huge fan of Gambon and so it's nice to see him turn up here even if he is shit-stained with so much fake tan that he looks like a gangly David Dickinson. Although Craig begins his investigations, matters complicate themselves with the appearance of some fucked up Serbian war criminals. It turns out they've had some Ecstasy pills stolen from them and they wrongly believe he is the culprit. As is so often the case when you piss off old Johnny Foreigner the only way to make peace is allow him to decapitate you. Craig therefore has to return the pills he never stole or learn how to live without a head. To be fair though it can't be that difficult to survive minus a bit off the top as Paris Hilton has so far managed without a brain since about 1981.

There are a couple of films that could be the definitive British gangster film of the naughties however I think this one slightly edges it. Like the country at the time, Craig is confidently and yet unknowingly marching towards an economic downfall. He has that post 90's yuppie feel to him and possesses the ability to pull the kind of sarcastic facial expression that only we English can. Most importantly however it is a London set crime thriller that does not in anyway feature the crackling cockney fart that is Danny Dyer. As well as having a self-reviewing and misspelt surname, Dyer is a medical condition known as movie AIDs and has appeared in a string of cinematic shite since about 2004. He's kind of like if Jason Statham had an underachieving, Down’s syndrome brother who has failed to mimic exactly what he does. If Ray Winstone took a dump, left it in the sun and it grew some hair then it would be an acting force far greater than Dyer could ever hope to be.

The other thing that Britain was renowned for in the naughties was of course our relationship with America. To some people, it looked like we were their bitch but in reality we were simply mentoring them. It used to be Britain that ran the world- if the yanks want to take over then there's no harm in a bit of support from their predecessor. It's therefore interesting to see that the very British Layer Cake was critically complemented for seeking inspiration from the sleek, smooth aesthetics of the very American Michael Mann. However for me, this is less Michael Mann and more Winding-Refn. It deals with similar themes to Pusher and has the same pulpy look as Drive. Either way, it makes the place look a lot fucking cooler than it actually is. If London is mutton then Layer Cake is whatever skinned farmyard animal that it wears to look like Lamb.

Adding to the sense of coolness is the music which features some great songs, one of which is the classic “Gimme Shelter”. That song has been used in so many gangster films that I'm sure that the Rolling Stones must be the official sponsor of organised crime. A claim which can only be backed up by Keith Richards, who is seemingly being protected by a force so intimidating that it has scared off death itself. I'm not saying I want Keith to die but it just doesn't seem fair that the 60 year old ex junkie can fall out of a palm tree and survive. I'm only 23 but I'm convinced that if I trip, I'll break a hip and then fester on the floor until my corpse looks like a mouldy rug and people wipe their shitty shoes on me.

The other and more obvious reason why Layer Cake is so cool is clearly thanks to Daniel Craig. James Bond is Britain's greatest cultural icon and it's clear from this why Craig was selected to play him. Like any male I have a huge man crush on 007 which I think is partly due to Craig's hypnotically beautiful eyes. They're so blindingly blue that they're like two giant swimming pools that I just want to swim in. Unlike most times I've gone swimming, I'd try really hard not to urinate. I can honestly say that I would never want to piss in James Bonds eyes. That's a statement I can't make in regards to Piers Morgan whose eyes are less like a swimming pool and more like two slimy portals to a soulless world of smugness and sweat. In fact the only time I wouldn't piss on Morgan would be if he was on fire which as we all know is unlikely to happen thanks to the layer of grease that protects his skin from Earth’s atmosphere. I know Morgan is nothing to do with Layer Cake but you should never pass up any chance to refer to him as an arrogant, cunt with a face like a rancid tumour inside a walrus' scrotum.

Considering that this film was prior to Craig being cast as Bond, it's enjoyable to watch the scene in which he wanders around with a gun pretending to be him. The other scene I particularly look forward to here is the encounter between Craig's associate Morty and a tramp. Here, Morty follows the standard practice of what to do if a tramp asks you for some money. He gives him a little bit to start with and then when the tramp asks for some more he caves his fucking head in. Beating a beggar up is a bit like rubbing a dogs nose in its own shit. It sounds cruel but sometimes it's the only way to get them to stop.

So all-in-all, Layer Cake is a brilliant film that needs to be watched. Not just because it's great entertainment but because it's a snap shot of what Britain was like in the early naughties. The other possibilities were In Bruges and Sexy Beast but I ruled them out due to them both being set abroad. When it comes to my country, I can't say I'm very patriotic but when it comes to British films I can say I'm proud. Sure there are more Danny Dyer movies than there should be but fuck it if they keep him off the streets and out of trouble then fine. That fact that Danny Dyer has a film career is simply a testament to our equal opportunity schemes that allow un-dead foetus's to appear on screen. Everything else aside Layer Cake is worth it simply for Michael Gambon's facts of life speech. You’re born, you take shit… you get out in the world, you take more shit…climb a little higher and you take less shit, until one day you’re on that rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake son…” Like a modern day “If” by Kipling that to me is pure poetry!

Follow this blog or I'll fucking cut you.

13 August 2012

Birth Of A Hunter

Drinking has never been something I've been particularly fucked about. I'm not exactly tea-total but I can happily go a few months without touching alcohol. That's not to say I can't see the benefits of going out and getting a little wankered now and again. If it wasn't for that liquid brain-breaker, I wouldn't have had so much fun puking in people's homes, flipping mates over in locked portaloos or having a young girl wrongly accuse me of rape. I say wrongly because despite that pissed tart's slanderous accusations, the closest I came to sex that night was pissing up against the same bin as a mate. As far as I'm concerned we didn't maintain eye contact whilst slashing so that's not even half a notch on the bed post.

Booze for me is simply an expensive way of making shitty night clubs tolerable. For others though it's a way of life with underage kids practically frothing in their knickers at the prospect of purchasing a two litre bottle of cheap cider. Whilst they were doing that, I'd however be venting my rebellious teenage urges by wanking furiously and buying 18-rated DVD's. The very first movie I managed to buy whilst still too young was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and it blew my sober teen mind. I loved every second of it and by the time the credits begun to roll, I was a huge fan of it's original author, Hunter S. Thompson. In fact there was one summer shortly after where I think I convinced myself I was actually him. I'd walk around in a Hawaiian shirt with large sunglasses stopping only to loudly mumble “Look, there's two women fucking a polar bear!” or “We can't stop here, this is bat country”. Sure that makes me sound like a tit, but fuck you. If emo's are allowed to wear black and cut themselves than why shouldn't I pretend to be a sixty year old junkie? That's not weird is it?

The Rum Diary therefore had a lot of expectations from me. Not only was it based on another book by Thompson but it had Depp reprising his role as the gonzo nutcase. Even more excitingly however was that it was also to be written and directed by Bruce Robinson. For anybody who was ever male, British and a student, his Withnail and I is a film held in higher regard than the bible. Sure that religious book of bollocks might have inspired a larger cult following but does it feature Richard E Grant downing lighter fluid and then manically asking, “Do we have some more?” I can't say I've read it properly but unless that scene is hidden somewhere between the homophobia and the anti-science crap, I don't think it does. Plus what drinking games could you make with the Bible that could compare to the classic one of keeping up with Withnail himself? I suppose you could down a shot every time you read a line of bullshit but at that rate you'd be unconscious before Eve munched down on her forbidden Granny Smith. Also when did Snakes stop speaking our language by the way? Either that's a plot hole or both Adam and Eve spoke Parseltongue. If there are any religious folks still here then let me know! Either way maybe you should read your own crap properly before you condemn Harry Potter for it's pagan propaganda.

For some reason, The Rum Diary took forever to arrive on our cinema screens which just built up the anticipation for it. When they started filming in 2009 I was a young student, unable to grow a beard and full of optimism. By the time of it's release in 2011, I was dancing between menial jobs and unemployment with my youthful optimism having been shagged into the grave by broken promises, sexual trauma and the depressing realism of life. All that change and I still can't grow a fucking beard. Luckily however I am still a fan of Hunter Thompson or at least the legacy he's left behind. I'm sure that in reality he wasn't quite as erratic as Raoul Duke or any of the other personas he presented us with but the myth of who he was still allures.

Thompson committed suicide in 2005 after spending his life causing trouble for those figures generally in politics that he considered to be bastards. The biggest of those bastards must surely of course be Nixon. In fact it was allegedly his hatred of Tricky Dick that dragged him into politics and made him so prolific as a political writer. What's endearing to know is that the venom that spewed out from Thompson's typewriter continued regardless of the circumstance. After Nixon's death and during Thompson's obituary for him, he wrote things such as, “He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president” and “He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.” I guess my point here is that although the legend of who Hunter S might slightly cloud the truth, the onscreen depictions can't be too far from fact. He certainly wasn't a man afraid of saying what he thought or doing what he pleased. Kind of like Paris Hilton but with substance and relevance to humanity.

After such a long wait I finally managed to watch The Rum Diary last night and am relieved to say that I loved it. It's not as funny as Withnail and I or rapidly anarchistic as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but I liked that. The Rum Diary has sought after it's own identity so that it can exist as it's own entity and not simply a companion piece to those two other cult classics. Where Gilliam's 1998 adaptation zips along on a cloud of drugs and schizophrenia, this film is much slower, more relaxed and thoughtful. I know this is about a man called Paul Kemp and not Raul Duke or Hunter Thompson but lets face it they're all variations of the same persona.

Despite being filmed a decade after the 70's set Fear and Loathing, The Rum Diary actually takes place in the late 50's. Casting Depp was therefore imperative not only because he'd played the man before but because he's one of the few humans who looks younger as each year goes by. I'm pretty sure that the ageless fucker was actually the inspiration for Benjamin Button. I'm also genuinely thinking of tracking Depp down and eating him like he's a fucking chicken nugget. I'm not into voodoo or any shit like that but I'm convinced that devouring the flesh of this immortal might surely slow down my own ageing process if even only slightly. Worst case scenario is he dies, I grow old and none of us have to worry about any more crappy pirate films. Everyone's a winner!

So The Rum Diary tells the story of Paul Kemp, a younger Thompson who, after becoming a failed author, accepts a journalism job on a crappy newspaper in Puerto Rico. As the paper declines, he becomes increasingly more exposed to the shitiness of the world and the pleasures of various hallucinogens. In some ways it's almost the Gonzo equivalent of Casino Royale as our rookie main character slowly develops into the cocky end product that we're used to. Thompson's persona here is surprisingly contemplative and significantly less self-assured than the maniacal Raul Duke.

Whereas Kemp wakes up with bloodshot eyes due to excess drink, Duke wakes up with a Z carved into his head due to excess drugs. By toning down the psychotic drug use, Kemp is a lot more relatable and even likeable than Duke who is great fun to watch but too insane to understand. If Duke's rampage of destruction is comparable to the Hulk, then Kemp is the more controlled Bruce Banner. There's traces of the monster in him, but for now at least he can keep it contained.

Despite the coherence of his speech and stability of his swagger however, Kemp does occasionally find himself in the middle of typical Thompson scenarios. There's cockfighting, car chases and of course an unhealthy amount of intoxication. Although Kemp leans more towards booze than an adrenalin gland, that's not to say that this film lacks any drug related belly laughs. After taking one substance Kemp witnesses an associate's tongue protrude a few feet out of his mouth sort of like a junkie Jar Jar Binks... Which I'm assuming is probably what he is now considering the decade of hate that the Gungan fuck up has received. There's also an amusing scene here in which he tries to fend off some attackers by blowing fiery booze at them before accidentally lighting up a chasing policeman's face. Easily done I guess...

Considering that this is Bruce Robinson's first film in 17 years it really shows what we've been missing out on. His script is funny, melancholic and a complement to Thompson's book which it apparently only shares two lines of dialogue with. According to interviews, Robinson was harassed out of director retirement by Depp who pestered him back behind the camera. There's a scene in this film in which the two main character's drunkenly order a steak whilst the establishment's staff refuse to serve it. It's hard not to compare this to Withnail's famous, “we want cake and tea” scene and see exactly why Depp rightly felt Robinson would be the perfect man for the job.

Although the best bits of this film might be Kemp's early Nixon rant or his experimentation with narcotics, it's the theme of the film that impresses the most. The disappointment Kemp feels as he witnesses the decline of the American dream adds an air of sadness to a character who has previously seemed too insane to feel things as human as emotions. Duke is hellbent on chaos because of the things that Kemp has witnessed and so as a sort of pseudo-prequel The Rum Diary is another success.

Also I'm aware that I earlier stated that both this and Fear and Loathing are two completely separate films and have then proceeded to compare them a lot. However like any book adaptation or remake they share enough DNA that their differences are what makes them interesting. Kind of like having two brothers with one being a priest and the other raping goats for a living. On the one had their individual achievements are the focus but you also can't help but wonder how and why they differ. I guess in that specific case it would be that one shags animals and the other shags choir boys.

So after such a long wait, fans of the Gonzo King should rejoice. The Rum Diary is an enjoyable watch for both expanding on and slightly explaining the mind of Hunter Thompson. If you've never heard the phrase, “Buy the ticket, take the ride” then this will be an easy introduction to one of America's most important pop culture figures. If there's one piece of advice that could be taken from this film, it's as Kemp sits on his partners lap whilst driving a car. As the vehicle begins to bounce and the two men seemingly start to bugger each other he spots a police car. His plan to escape the situation without arrest is a rather ironic plan for Thompson having spent his entire life being paid to be so different. He simply intends to, “Try and look normal!”

Follow this blog or I'll fucking cut you.

6 August 2012

The Marriage Delusion

People think that marriage is a thing of romance however the current divorce statistics seem to be throwing a bit of a knob into that anachronistic cunt of a theory. Marriage isn't about love, it's about a bride being made to feel like a princess for one exploitatively pricey day. If marriage is a sign of romance then surely the most romantic thing is to simply remain with someone because you want to and not because you're entrapped within a contract. With so much paper work, you may as well have Gordon Gecko announce you as man and wife. Unlike the sneaky church, at least he's refreshingly honest about his love for greed.

It's not about being seen in the eyes of God either, it's about being seen in the eyes of everybody else. How about you get married in a registry office and invite only close friends and family? Then, you can use the twenty grand you've just saved on something a little more useful like a house, a family or the inevitable, equally-costly divorce. If anybody was willing to contribute to the higher cost, suggest to them that, that money instead be set aside to help your children's future. If I'd bought someone a toaster for them claiming they'll spend their life together and then they break up then I want my toaster back. They might have made a mistake but I don't see why I should be taken for a ride as well.

In my experience, one of the predominant reasons for the current popularity of marriage is the brainwashing abilities of the average schmaltzy film. It's with some relief then, that Blue Valentine was made. Anybody who thinks a big white flowing dress is about 'love' should be forced to watch this whilst strapped to a chair, their eyes pinned open and listening to lovely, lovely Ludvig.

The film starts about eight years into the marriage of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Time has not been kind to either with Gosling having turned into a balding Jason Lee and Williams's face permanently smacking of dense bitch. The movie fluctuates between time periods showing both the demise and the birth of their relationship. With these parallel stories both echoing and reflecting each other, it sort of plays out a bit like a more brutal version of The Godfather Part 2.

The break up section seems to be set over the course of the last few days. In an attempt to salvage their husk of a relationship, Gosling books the two into a motel room for a night of love, romance and finger-banging. Williams seems somewhat less than enthusiastic probably because she clearly resents him and partly because the room he's booked has no windows and a shitty spaceship theme. As crap as that sounds though it does have a cool spinning bed and is more believable than any of the sets from Battlefield Earth.

Just because she's trapped in a room with a man she can longer stand, she refuses to enjoy herself. That bitch needs to turn her frown upside down and be a bit politer when someone goes down on her. To say his attempt at eating her out was a bit awkward would be an understatement. Before she rudely stops him, he looks like a dog licking an infected ear and she looks like she's just sniffed a cat's arse hole. This was an uncomfortable experience to watch and worse still, one that I found it very difficult to masturbate to. In the end their emotional wounds and my cock were about as raw as each other.

The flashbacks show Gosling to be a removals man with Williams studying to be a nurse. They meet as she visits her dear elderly Nan in an old folks home and spots what she thinks is him stealing from some doddering old gent across the hall. He decides he loves her and attempts to prove he's not a thieving sinister by doing his best to stalk her. He later finds her on a bus and despite being legitimately creeped out, Williams is quickly won around by his infectious man-child ways.

These flashbacks are genuinely sweet with the talked about ukulele scene being a particularly heartwarming highlight. However, the sweetness is tinted with a tension as we know what miserable fucks these two fun youngsters will become. They both show so much potential which diminishes every time they get a little closer. It's an interesting romance film when you don't want the two loved ones to get it on because you know how shite their lives will eventually become. It's therefore kind of like a slasher film where you helplessly watch the two wide-eyed, love struck twonks walking obliviously towards the masked killer that is marriage.

If this was a horror film however, then it would probably be closer to The Wicker Man than Halloween. Whilst the happy couple head towards the “I do” knife, we slowly realise marriage might not be the only villain. The film's depiction of ageing is also one of depression with time seemingly sapping any energy or will out of all of the characters. Gosling and Williams obviously go from singing and dancing to ranting and rejection. They also meet in an old peoples home were the soon-to-be-dead residents have become irrelevant and vacant. Even Williams's father goes from a strong 1950's belt-beating type to helplessly locked out of his own home and attached to an oxygen tank. Like Goslings character, I too decided a while back that I wasn't going to die but from this point on I think I'll also do my best not to age either. Fuck the free bus pass, I'd rather retain my ability to develop those randomly unexplainable erections. Where boners are concerned, it's best to have and not need than need and not have.

Considering this is a film focused more on acting than style, the performances are satisfyingly strong. Beyond the equally pissed off wife in Brokeback Mountain, I haven't seen Williams in much but she's certainly got the knack for being a convincingly soul destroyed spouse. Ironically for a film about loss, Heath Ledger was originally cast in this film before dropping out because of a schedule clash with death. The other irony is that before learning this I couldn't help but be reminded by Blue Valentine of his section in I'm Not There. It would have been interesting to watch Williams and Ledger play a couple heading for divorce considering they'd already done the research of divorcing each other in real life. As method acting goes, that level of preparation must surely be up there with De Niro's pasta  eating Raging Bull rampage.

However, in The Joker's absence, Gosling is an equally worthy replacement. Especially when he's making nothing but quality films in what I presume is a cinematic apology for The Notebook. Like Drive, this thankfully goes someway to helping me forget that sentimental slab of shite but it does still linger in the memory like a loud, wet, syrupy turd. Although I probably preferred Drive, I can't help but think that watching his marriage break up was a lot more painful than seeing him mash up a goons wanking hand with a claw hammer.

Out of the two characters, Gosling originally has an easier ride by playing the more likeable of them. However, with his manchild ways comes a lack of responsibility and ultimately, aimlessness. Although Williams starts off as a sour faced bitch, we slowly realise what's made her such a moody trout. She's trapped in a situation with a man who needs to grow the fuck up. I therefore can't help but notice another criticism of marriage as two characters who shouldn't be in a relationship remain so because of the promises they've made and the guilt of breaking them. They might have wasted a decade of their life together but hey at least they've still got my gift of a toaster. Kitchen appliances always help me through the dark times in life.

If you liked Nil By Mouth and 500 Days Of Summer and wondered what they'd look like if blended together then Blue Valentine is your answer. This is much truer to real life than those alternate brainwashing, fairytale bullshit stories. Arguably my beliefs have been just as cemented by this as the deluded's are by all that Richard Curtis crap however this is different. The crazies are having their views inspired by an unrealistic hope whereas mine is being reinforced through regretful recognition. I'm not drawn to cynicism, I'm drawn to the truth. It's not my fault that there isn't much difference.

If you like films that are well written, directed and acted then this is for you. For those who believe in all the happily ever after shit then this should be a must watch. I'm aware that some people beat the odds and stick together through choice but it's rare. I have one friend whose parents aren't divorced, with his Dad regularly drawing pictures of his Mum in a hat with a stick. Although he's clearly doing it to take the piss and constantly depicts her shortness in an offensively exaggerated way, it's sweetness can't be unnoticed. However the point is that those who stay together will do so regardless and not because of a signed-with-blood wedding certificate. For those infected with the disease of wanting to get married because it's 'what they've always dreamt of doing' then this film should be provided as the cure. In the way that the Government makes safety films for twats who fly kites nearby pylons, this too should be forced upon people from a young age. It won't stop the suffering but it might at least prepare you for it.

Follow this blog or I'll fucking cut you.