Monday, July 6, 2009

Fly me to the Moon... doo da daa da da da daah...

To my distress I've been meeting people out there who liked the new Transformers movie. In fact, when I went to see it I heard people laughing at the wretched 'comedy' on screen, and speaking favourably of the relentlessly tedious action. Putting aside the sheer hideous sleaziness, the misogyny and racism and the emotional bankruptcy of the film - how the fuck can people find this to be anything other than two and half hours of pompous gibberish dialogue, lobotomised comedy filler, nonsensical shouting and staggering general boredom and disgust engendered by unfeasibly annoying robots dueling with paper-thin characters in a non-stop macho, territorial, verbal, pissing contest?

It's awful. I kind of enjoyed the silly, fast and screwball first one, but this shows nothing but contempt and - I hate to say it - but I'm pretty pissed off at the message it must be giving the kids. So why do so many people declare a fondness for it, with the maddening words "It's just an action movie, Pete..."

And then I feel compelled to kill them.

Just had to get that out of my system on this blog, otherwise it'd be festering within me. But seriously, if you liked that film, punch yourself hard in the face please.

Thankfully we have a couple of fun looking summer movies on their way. The first of which is the new Potter movie, which looks pretty good. Or at least the trailer does. I like the idea that we'll get to see Death Eater attacks on the muggles and the entire thing looks pretty epic. Just hope the troubled production and all the delays work in its favour in the end.

The other film is Moon, starring Sam Rockwell. It's an old-skool sci-fi head-scratcher and features Sam Rockwell as a solitary miner counting the days, weeks and months of a lonely shift on the moon seperated from humanity. His only company on this lunar mining facility is a conversational computer with the voice of Kevin Spacey, working that happily pre-psychosis Hal 9000 vibe. He's due to be relieved from his profitable but lonely hell in a few weeks. And then, something happens. Check the trailer out for a notion of what:

Pretty cool, huh? The film was shot for an astonishing five million dollars, and looks ten times that. It's had nothing but rave press so far, and the accomplished direction by David Bowie's son recalls that seminal 70's sci-fi flick Silent Running, only without Joan Baez warbling all over the soundtrack, thank God. I'm hugely looking forward to this Twilight Zoney adventure, and though I loved the action packed Star Trek reboot, I'd dearly love Hollywood to get back to these idea-driven sci-fi films, instead of the toys & comic-book optioning franchise path they're ploughing right now. (Hah! Fat chance!)

God speed, Moon.

What's that? Can't wait to see Sam Rockwell walking around in moon-pants in his squalid student-flat style Moon base? Want to hype yourself up with more Moon related movies? Worried about the voices asking rhetorical questions that Pete's hearing in his head? Then distract yourselves with the following quality movies!

The Right Stuff

All about America's first astronauts, and the driven, unruly test pilots who became them. Based on the Tom Wolfe book this film is fast and funny, epic and beautiful and features actors whom you'll be constantly pointing at shouting, "Crikey! It's him! Whatshisname!" Featuring Fred Ward, Jeff Goldblum, Smithers/Skinner/Lovejoy bloke from The Simpsons, Lance Henrikson, Ed Harris... basically everybody.

Here be the trailer:

For further Fred Ward awesomeness, don't forget Tremors, by the way. Y'know, the one with the big worms underground that can feel you moving and munch on hapless Arizonians. Kevin Bacon also stars in this one too, to my mind, his best film.

In the Shadow of the Moon

Catch the big gorgeous trailer here:

A little light on details, but this is an enthralling and visually stunning race-to-the-moon documentary. Oh, and finally - to all those who say that the landings were filmed in a studio - the actual landings would have had better production values. Also, go join the gaggle of Michael Bay fans punching themselves in the face.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Picnicface - They're Real, apparently.

Picnicface are left to right: (Standing/sitting on car/elevated) Kyle Dooley, Brian Eldon Macquarrie, Cheryl Hann, Mark Little, Evany Rosen - (Sitting/crouched) Bill Wood, Scott Vrooman and Andy 'Flaming Swan' Bush.

Certain of you with any sort of awareness on the net may have come across an amusing You Tube video called 'Powerthirst', and indeed its sequel, Powerthirst: Redominator. It's a highly amusing spoof of those energy drink adverts beloved of the States and features barking exhortations like, "Now comes with Preposterous amounts of Testosterone: PREPOSTERONE." Funny stuff, and naturally it started a craze with a wearying number of god-awful copycat efforts, and even worse, redubbed shite.

After all this one would be forgiven to throw bricks at the people who made the sketch, a Canadian comedy troupe called 'Picnicface'. But you'd be wrong, and even if you made the attempt I'd hurl my body betwixt them and the mob like some mayoral bodyguard.

Possibly shouting, "Noooo." But quietly, because they might be in the middle of a novel and highly witty new routine.

Because, wow - Picniface are really good! I mean, really. They shame Mitchell & Webb's sporadically amusing effort, and piss all over that ghastly Corden & Horne abomination. How can unpaid low budget comedy be so good? Because you can't throw money at scriptwriting, you fools. You've either got it, or you haven't. Picnicface trade in a rare thing, genuinely novel sketch material. Most sketch groups parody existing films or television shows and occassionally established books. Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, James-bloody-Bond. Whilst this can be sporadically entertaining (a recent Mitchell & Webb effort contained some laughs with Bond gambling in the mode of village fayre fruit cake weight guessing) it is - let's face it - pretty lazy. It's a mined out vein whose gags rarely even attain the riffing of a decent pub conversation. Picnicface come up with new ideas, character based ideas that so far have eluded any pattern. Witness 'Hey Africa!' - a Sesame Street style educational skit torpedoed by a deranged professorial host. Or the thing of beauty that is 'Changeroom Redux', a surreal sunny David Lynch meets Christian fable. Then there's the epic 'Realzone', a perfect introduction to the group that is endlessly quotable, and graced with original music that is both parodic and yet surprisingly funky. These are ideas that would never occur to the TV hacks, and would be dismissed by less confident comedians lacking the imagination to pull them off.

This happens more often than you'd expect.

I love you Picnicface. They're not perfect, by any means. The two women of the group seem to be struggling when fronting material - they're great performers, but lack a distinctive voice and crucially gags, see the reasonable informative but not inspiring 'Women in Comedy', or the 'Diaries of Dopey', an idea that doesn't quite click and goes on a bit too long. To say they're surplus is wrong though, and I suspect they've some damn good material in the live shows from their joint-writer presence in other sketches - if there's one frustrating thing about Picnicface it's the drip-feed release speed of sketches. Their priority is their live shows.

The stars of Picnicface appear to be Andrew Bush, who directs and produces the sketches and usually plays the straight man (though his timing is impecable - check his 'Lawyers' sketch), Kyle Dooley who brings a lot of physical comedy to the team and has the enthusiastic/brooding psycho thing down pat and Mark Little, arguably the star of the show. I'm pretty certain Mark will be headed to either even greater things, or more troublingly super-star entrapment in laboured comedy vehicles ala every other once great comedian such as Ferrell and Stiller. I'm betting on the former though. Mark Little, of distinctive face, squint and voice surges through the sketch material effortlessly playing a variety of roles, usually antagonistic. He seems to have this strange hybrid character of jock-nerd and is the go-to guy for old-man eccentrics or fucked-up child abusers. That's enough hyphens. He also is pretty passionate about comedy, in interviews he dismisses a good chunk of the sketches they produce as inferior and disposable, and argues pretty hard for an even tighter quality control. He's even gloriously arrogant enough to attack US indie-comedy's sacred cows, citing Mike Judge's (to my mind highly amusing and thoughtful) comedy 'Idiocracy' as having only one decent joke. I certainly hope the scrawny bastard's on a mission, because I can't think of many other upcoming comedians making me laugh, and there's certainly fuck all British ones.

In summary, if you're so disillusioned with sketch comedy that you can't be fussed to click on their videos and check them out, I can not do otherwise than nod with sympathy and yet grit my teeth in frustration. And then bundle you in a burlap bag, drive you to a remote location and force you to enjoy in a remote internet-cave. But Picnicface ARE worth your time, I'm not arguing that they're God-like saviours of comedy who are sweeping YouTube in a messianic march of laughs, but they ARE fucking good. And you should watch.

Three of the Best:

Realzone - My personal favourite.

Powerthirst - the sketch that started it all.

Growing Boy - ace concept this.

You can find more Picnicface sketches on Youtube here - - also check for 'Lawyers' under the usergroup 'Collegehumour', which has other good amateur stuff, like work by Flight of the Conchords Kristen Schaal, sharing a sketch called 'Fact Checkers' with God-like Bill Murray.

Picnicface also have a presence on Will Ferrell's rather splendid 'Funny or Die' website, which is a place where users upload their own sketch videos, other users give the thumbs up or down and champions are lauded and inferiors banished. Indeed, such is Picnicface's talent that Ferrell endorsed them, and indeed invited them to a meet. Nice chap, that Ferrell, check out his landlord videos. On no account visit the British Funny or Die section however, as it appears to be tragically dominated by mainstream TV British sketch artists recylcing their material, such as bloody David Walliams and Matt Lucas. Their mediocrity compared to such inspired amateur efforts like 'David Blaine's Street Magic' speaks volumes.

And finally Picnicface have their own website, Duh.

So please, please, please give Picnicface a chance. I leave you with their official logo/coat of arms, one that signifies excellence in my book:

He's Back. And This Time He's... Back.

Hey kids!

Yes, I'm back. Despite crippling indolence and as-of-yet no internet in my new flat, I am writing things on line for people to read with their eyes again. This isn't going to be a big post, and it's not going to cover the big gap between St Patrick's Day and this balmy July 3rd, though I can assure you that it involved ghost towns in Nevada, navigating ten foot snow drifts around the beautiful Lake Tahoe and moving house from one part of Cardiff to another, slightly nicer part of Cardiff.

In fact, I love my new house. It's wonderful. It's all light and airy and big and art deco and it makes me feel hideously smug as I sit down with a cup of tea in the garden listening to ABC's Lexicon of Love come warbling through the open windows. This is a good thing as two major things got me down quite heavily recently...

One was the revelation that the job post I'd be training myself up for, that of a scale 3 senior music library assistant, that the big-wigs of the council had promised us, has been snatched away to be replaced by - argh - temps. As such the career ladder, as stubby and rickerty as it was in this public sector job, has now disintergrated in my hands leaving me with a foolish and innocently hurt expression on my face and splinters of helpless woe in my palms. Or something. The only balm is the fact that our new manager is brilliant.

The second was Transformers 2. It is arguably the worst film I've ever seen. I'm thinking about posting my 2,500 word review on this blog, but for the fact that I'm not sure if I fancy most of this site being taken up with angry swearing. It is obnoxious and terrible, and if you think otherwise, you're an idiot, frankly.

But I don't want to end on a sour note, so I will add that pesto is brilliant, and combined with spaghetti and cheese makes a fast, nourishing, cheap dish. And that you should all go listen to Vashti Bunyan, she's rather good and her delicate vocals match this summery weather quite nicely.

Oh, and I've been asked if I want to help two bright-young-thing colleagues in making a newsletter for the library. Hmm, wonder if I can print my Transformers review in it...?