Sunday, March 31, 2013

Buy My House

Quite some time ago (a ridiculous time ago) me and my brother inherited a house. It was a little tired, and in need of some repair. We gave this chap we thought we could trust money to do the house up.

He did do some of the work, but he spent most of the money on another project, which evidentally did not work out. So then he wasn't able to raise the money to finish the work. Thus, after a number of years the work remained unfinished. And worse still, there was a severe leak which resulted in part of the ceiling caving in and much of the interior being ruined.

So, after much indignation, me and my brother set about doing the job ourselves. It was not fun. It has been hard. It has been expensive. The full day it took my to pressure wash the front and back gardens and the driveway was particularly unpleasant. It was only just above freezing, I had mud splattered up my trousers beyond my knees and lost all feeling in my right foot.

Anyway... The house is now available for purchase, should you have a spare hundred grand or so available. It's in Abergele, North Wales, a lovely little bungalow, newly decorated. If you're interested, just let me know!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things I've Enjoyed: Dexter Season 7

TV’s favourite serial killer has been stalling a bit of late. Dexter uniquely is a series with a conclusion all its viewers already know – that Dexter will be found out. How it happens is the source of much suspense and intrigue, but its postponement through six seasons has dragged the series into a pretty uninspiring direction.
After all, it’s a show with a fairly high concept, and one that lends itself easily to formula. Right from the off, It could so easily have been a police procedural with a dark edge, with Dexter pursuing a  new killer(s) each season, trying desperately to stay ahead of his police cohorts.
Early seasons seemed to rally against allowing the show to fall into this pattern: after Dexter’s parlay with the Ice Truck Killer in season 1, the following two seasons stayed mostly away from serial killing nemeses, pitting Dexter against more ordinary monsters, people so easily and willingly corrupted by the prospect of killing.
It wasn’t until the fourth season that Dexter found himself up against another serial murderer, that of the Trinity Killer, played by John Lithgow. It was a hard act to follow; it was the best season yet, and Lithgow was much and justly awarded for his performance.
Things have been much slower since then, the following seasons serving up new killer enemies who were less engaging and leading to less revelations and explorations of our hero’s character. Even with a complicated character like Dexter, there’s only so much you can say or do with them.

But now, finally, the cat is out of the bag. Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter), Dexter’s foul-mouthed sister, knows. It’s as if the writers have let out a sigh of relief, suddenly the show can move forward again, and it does so with gusto.
Deborah’s not the first to discover Dexter’s secret (another factor against the show’s credible longevity) but unlike others, she has no sympathy or empathy with Dexter dark doings.
We’ve always liked Dexter, no matter how much he’s stretched his moral code, we’ve always identified with him as an outcast who presents a false face to the world, despite his darkness. But for the first time, we get to really see him from someone else’s perspective, and it’s not a nice picture.
That’s how season 7 plays out; it’s asking one fundamental question: just what makes Dexter different from the people he kills? For him, it’s the code that targets his urges only towards the guilty. But for Deborah, seeing him with his mementos and dangerous compulsive urges, he could just be another psychopath making excuses for their actions.
So this time around, there’s no single over-arching plot. Instead, the show plays out a variety of scenarios which test their relationship, effectively playing out the argument for and against from episode to episode.
Two larger storylines run through:  the first pits Dexter against a mafia enforcer who doesn’t take kindly to Dexter disappearing one of his associates. Deborah’s horrified at how Dexter’s actions snowball into multiple killings, drawing others into the crossfire and compromising both their safety. But she also gets a chance to see Dexter as an avenger, someone who’ll do anything to protect her.
The other storyline, the more interesting of the two, sees Dexter become interested in another killer, apparently reformed. Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski) was the kidnapped girlfriend of a serial killer, but escaped prosecution for being underage and claiming not to have been complicit in his crimes. But when Dexter finds out otherwise, and suspects further killings, he goes after her, only to become romantically entangled.
Unlike Deborah, Hannah accepts Dexter completely. She has killed to further her goals and accepts that Dexter also kills to meet his own needs. We’re left to feel ambivalent towards McKay, who, like Dexter, is attractive and pleasant on the outside but harbours secrets within. We get to see something of her painful past, see her with her guard down, but crucially, unlike Dexter, we’re never given access to her inner monologue.
She remains aloof, and is no doubt intended to give us the same impression that Dexter gives Deborah. Someone who is all surface, some one who habitually lies, and no matter how much we might like them, we know ultimately cannot be trusted. As the season progresses Dexter is forced to make a choice between the two women he loves, one who accepts him as he is and another who might not be able to live with who he is.
Dexter does, of course, have a supporting cast, though their less showy, but reliable performances gets them little notice. The writers are clearly fond of Desmond Harrington’s Joey Quinn, a character who puts on a good show of street-savvy smarts but is desperately short-sighted . He hits a new low this series; like watching a car crash slowly, we both can and can’t believe he’s so stupid.  Sadly, though, there’s still no good material for Masuka (C.S. Lee) or Batista (David Zayas).
One of the best things about Season 7 is that for the first in a long time, Dexter is starting to feel unexpected again. There’s a crucial moment at the series’ climax that honestly made me sit up straight and shout “f**k” – you really won’t see it coming.
That’s the power of taking the brakes off. In the last days anything and everything might or could happen. There are rumours that the show might go to a ninth series – let’s hope the writers don’t give in to studio pressure. The show has benefited so much from pressing ahead it would be a shame to spoil it by stalling again.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Comic Book Villain of the Week

The super villain Snowflame enjoys superpowers that include superhuman strength, super speed, immunity to pain and pyrokenesis. He gained these powers by taking cocaine. Lots of cocaine. In fact, the more cocaine he took, the more powerful he got.

No, apparently he wasn’t just imagining it. In his own words: "I am Snowflame! Every cell of my being burns with white-hot ecstasy. Cocaine is my God -- and I am the human instrument of its will!" He really, really, loves cocaine.

He appeared in issue two of New Guardians, a short lived series featuring a band of mostly new heroes tasked with protecting the earth from threats that might endanger mankind’s evolutionary course.

They battled with Snowflame’s drug cartel, initially with little success as his henchman rather unsportingly shot them. Fortunately, they just happened to be impervious to bullets for some reason and mounted a successful second assault which ended with Snowflame being thrown into a comic shed which promptly blew him up .

It was turning out to be a bad week for the New Guardians, in the previous issue several of their number were infected with HIV after being bitten by a creature called the Hemo-Goblin. Because, of course, that’s how HIV works…

It was the 80s; that’s how you dealt with issues, with ignorance and stereotypes. Was Snowflame Columbian? Of course he was…

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

February Film Highlights

I'm in the process of making a new 50 word blog, but for the time being, please visit the old one.

Quatermass II (1957) Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, Vera Day. Dir:Val Guest.
Quatermass II 50 Word Film Review

Unusual meteor fragments lead Quatermass to discover a secret government base and a horrifying secret. Bodysnatcher-esque story but more overtly horror focused. Like the first movie, it’s done in a grim documentary style, giving it a realistic quality, but builds to a bigger, more suspenseful climax. Donlevy still rubbish though.

Flight (2012) Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood. Dir: Robert Zemeckis.

A pilot safely crash lands his plane, saving lives, but was drunk and high at the time. Starting with bravura heart-racing crash sequence, this is a fascinating portrayal of addiction, with Washington putting in a performance that isn’t showy, but affecting and totally convincing.
Superbly played, written and directed.


Bananas (1971) Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales. Dir: Woody Allen.
Bananas 50 Word Film Review

After being dumped, a lonely man travels to South America and gets involved in a revolution. Too scattergun to be considered satire, but admirably gag-heavy, with more hitting than missing. A fierce pace crams tons into 90 minutes and silent comedy sequences give early hints at Woody’s willingness to experiment.


Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams. Dir: Roger Mitchell.
Hyde Park on Hudson 50 Word Film Review

President Roosevelt begins a new affair just as he is due to be visited by English royalty. Frustrating failure that can’t find its focus. It’s clear what scenes interested the makers; royal sequences are frequently delightful, Murray and West’s exchanges are particularly great. The romance, however, is flat and lifeless.


Paul (2011) Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Jeffrey Tambor. Dir: Gregg Mottola.
Paul 50 Word Film Review

Two geeks travelling across America encounter a real life alien. Almost entirely forgettable. Pegg and Frost’s humour seems to have been watered-down for the American market;bland and joke-starved, the characters are one-dimensional, the plot repetitive and dull. And Paul is not cute or funny, just irritating.


Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow.
Zero Dark Thirty 50 Word Film Review

A CIA agent obsessively pursues a lead for over 10 years in the hunt for Bin Laden. For my two-cents: Bigelow hardly endorses torture; it’s depicted ugly with the results of dubious value. Shows the hunt as grim and arduous, performed by obsessive, numbed, damaged people. Absolutely cracking drama.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Serving Very Hot Food...