And here we are, once again, on February 14th, Valentine’s Day – one of the most pointless ‘special occasions’ known to man.

In a break with tradition, I’m being good this year.  The last few years, I’ve been an absolute dickhead, but not this year.

What I have been doing is booking a table for two at a restaurant for the evening of Feb 14th, and then going on my own.  It really messes with people, to be there, looking sad and abandoned on Valentine’s Day.

If I’m in a particularly cruel mood, I’ve also taken along a ring-box, putting it on the table.  That really gets to people.


This year though, I’m not doing it.  Instead, I’m off to see John Wick 2. Which will be mental, ridiculous, and hugely entertaining.

Attention Span

Yesterday, there was a bundle of news coverage about Apple’s supposedly-upcoming “Cinema Mode” for iPhones and iPads as part of the next iOS release.

This will (again, supposedly) allow people in cinemas – and other darkened environments, one assumes – to check their phones without disturbing those around them, mainly through use of a ‘dark’ colour-scheme, so the display doesn’t glow like a lighthouse.

In fairness, this annoys me on a regular basis at the cinema – there’s always some fuckknuckle who wants to check stuff while ‘watching’ a film, leaving their phone’s volume up, or some other piece of vacuous self-centred idiocy. But really, a phone mode to cater for that?

It irritates me that so many people now seem to be utterly incapable of sitting for a couple of hours and watching a film. There’ve been a couple of films I’ve seen recently where it seemed like everyone else was eating popcorn (or sweets, or both) from rustling paper bags throughout the film, and/or then sodding off out to the toilet and whatever else.

As has been noted before, I really don’t understand people. I don’t get why someone would pay to see a film, spend even more on food and drink, then either not be able to sit through the film without breaks, or without checking their phones. If you’re going to do all that, why not wait til it comes out on disc/download/TV and watch at home, where you can pause, rewind etc., and not worry about missing bits while you go to drain your microscopic bladder?

Mind you, I also don’t understand why cinemas insist on putting all their food/refreshments in noisy paper bags. Surely there must be another option by now? A fabric version or similar? Or larger bags/tubs that allow hands in and out without touching the sides?

Birthday Weekend – Aliens

For the birthday weekend, once I’d done Le Manoir on Saturday, and Dinner for lunch on Sunday, it was time to make my way down to the Royal Albert Hall, which was showing Aliens on a big screen, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the soundtrack.

Aliens is one of my favourite films, and one I’ve seen far more times than I’d care to admit – both the original release and the Director’s Cut / Special Edition. But I hadn’t seen it on a big screen for a proper cinema-style presentation, and definitely never with a live soundtrack!

And it was great. I’d wondered how they’d do soundtrack/music from the orchestra while keeping the dialogue and other sound-effects, and there’s obviously been a fair amount of work involved in doing this. I assume that the music soundtrack is on a different channel (or whatever) from the other bits of audio, so it’s more a case of ‘not playing’ one track, but I don’t know.

Regardless, hearing the music live enabled me to notice bits I hadn’t appreciated before – subtle in the recorded version, obvious live – such as the drum roll that’s used for all the more militaristic scenes, and other small thematic pieces along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing – well, except for the seats, which were some of the most uncomfortable in Christendom – and now really want to see other films show in the same way. It’s bloody brilliant.

Swiss Army Man

Last night, I went to see Swiss Army Man – and it’s definitely the strangest film I’ve seen in a long time. I’m glad I got to see it, though.

The first five minutes tells you pretty much everything you need to know – Hank (Paul Dano) is a man alone on a deserted island, trying to commit suicide, and a corpse (Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on the beach. The corpse is loudly deflating, which disturbs his final moments, until he realises that he can use this farting corpse as an escape from the island, and rides him like a jet-ski out to sea.

And that’s just the start.

It’s worth pointing out that if you’re easily offended, just don’t even contemplate seeing this film.

But it’s not just gross-out fart jokes and weird stuff with a corpse. That would be too simple. There’s a *lot* more to this film. It’s strangely emotional, and says quite a bit about modern manners and squeamishness as well as about solitude, loneliness, and how people are.

In truth, I came out wondering what the hell I’d just seen – but also glad I’d seen it.  Even having seen as many films as I have, I really have no valid reference points for describing what it’s like.  And that’s an even harder task when also not giving anything away about the film.

I liked it, but I didn’t. I could see it again, and I’d come out just as confused as I currently am about it. There’s a lot of good stuff, and certain images will definitely last longer than they perhaps should.

I think it’s too much to call it ‘thought-provoking’, but it’s also not dumb, and there is stuff that keeps echoing back afterwards.

In short, I just don’t know about this film. I’m hard-pressed to recommend it, because it’s just *so* odd. But it’s also not bad, and if it weren’t so odd I’d say yes, go and see it.

A very Marmite “love it or hate it” film, I think.


I don’t normally bother writing about films – although maybe I should, it’d certainly provide a significant increase in posts here – but last week I saw two that I rated really highly, so there we go, some thoughts.

Hell or High Water

First of them was (as you may’ve guessed already) Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges. Honestly, I think it’s about the best film I’ve seen this year.

The story is basically two brothers who are robbing banks to raise money, and the old retiring Texas Ranger who’s trying to catch them. So far, so cliched. But it’s well written, the dialogue is excellent, there’s a dry humour through it, and there’s also larger motivations.

The film focuses a lot on debt, low income, Evil Banks and the like. Many of the shots show roadside ads and hoardings for loans, debt relief and so on. The pair are robbing the banks – all of which are branches of Evil Bank – for a reason, and in many ways it’s hard to see them as being “bad”.

Jeff Bridges as the soon-to-retire Texas Ranger is a crusty, grumpy joy, an old fat man who’s done his time, and sort of wants to leave, but worries about what he’ll become without his job.  The way he talks to his Ranger partner has to be heard/seen to be believed – but it is believable.

All told, I loved it – I’d happily see it many more times. There’s way more layers than you expect from the basic summary, and a moral ambiguity to it that I enjoyed – the “bad” people aren’t really bad (kind of doing bad things for good reasons) and the “good” people aren’t above playing with the lines and limits either.  Totally recommended.


Morgan, on the other hand, is a very different film – except, in some ways, it’s not.  Where Hell or High Water is massively masculine, all the major characters in Morgan are women (which I think is nothing but a good thing)  At least two of those characters are pretty bloody terrifying in their single-mindedness.

Basically, Morgan is a genetically-engineered being, with the appearance of a late-teen/early-twenties woman. You’re never actually told what she’s been engineered for, but it becomes pretty clear.  But it also raises questions – if you’re going to create something with human-level intelligence, what happens when you keep that thing locked up? Answer – the development isn’t the same as a human. (File under “Sherlock, Shit, No”)

The other primary character is Lee, sent in by “The Company” to assess the risks around Morgan after a particular incident.

Needless to say, things don’t work out well.

It is, in parts, very violent , with a couple of scenes that are gory, but in context with what’s happened. At least one is surprising and shocking. But again, it makes sense in the context of the film.  It’s action, but with some thought and some big ideas hiding inside it.

Again, I loved it – although from seeing the reviews etc. afterwards, I appear to be in a minority. It hasn’t done well at cinemas, and only lasted the one week at my one.  Some of that is because it just hasn’t been promoted by the cinemas and studios, some of it is that a lot of people and reviewers didn’t like it.  I hope it sees a bigger audience on TV, Netflix, download, disc, whatever – because I think it should have done far, far better than the current figures are showing.

I love that it’s so women-led as a film, and I want to see more like that. It has its flaws, don’t get me wrong – I’d figured the final ‘twist’ by about the third scene, and there are holes and questions throughout. But those can be set aside (or could by me, anyway) until afterwards.  I thought it was dark, different, and brilliant.

Cinema Seating

This year, my local cinema has started a process where people book specified seats, rather than just “first come, first served seated”  I don’t mind it at all, it makes sense and should make life easier for everyone.

Except, well, people.

Every film I’ve gone to see, there’s been a noticeable percentage of the people who either don’t sit in their booked seats (for whatever reason) or just seem to be confused by the whole concept of how the seats are organised into rows.

It’s a simple process – or is to me, anyway. If you stand at the front, with your back to the screen, the seats go from row A at the front to row Z (or whatever) at the back, and from 1 on the left to 100 on the right. It’s simple, but it confuses so many people, it’s really quite scary.

Really, is this concept so difficult to comprehend?


The Weekend of Quiet

As planned, last weekend was fairly quiet – and much needed.

The only booked thing I had in was to get someone from nPower’s third-party partner company in to look at my electricity meter. I’m going to write about that in a different post, because it gets long-winded, and slightly farcical. (As do all things nPower)

Other than that, I didn’t do much. The total of activities was

  • Visit the cinema (twice)
  • Keep up my walking targets, so I did wander round Milton Keynes etc.
  • A bit of shopping
  • Sorting out the back yard, including buying new pots and plants, and getting them installed/planted.
  • Other very small odds and sods.

So it was decent.  It would’ve been better if I’d actually been able to sleep well too, but there we go, that’d be pushing my luck too far.