TV: How I Met Your Mother (2005 – 2014)

How I Met Your Mother @

So after nine years no one grew up.  That’s what I can’t get over about the end of How I Met Your Mother.  No one grew up.

Even as a fan of the show, I’ve found the final series to be a more of an obligation than a joy but once we met Tracey it really picked up again and, generally speaking, I’m about the same age as the characters and that really helps because, you know, ‘it’s funny cos it’s true’ etc.

Anyway, the punchline was fumbled and in such a way that the rest of the series now has a bad taste about it.  Tracey was stuffed in a fridge and How Your Mother Was The Second Most Important Women In My Life is a terrible title.

99.9% Recommended

Film: The Missing Picture (2013)

The Missing Picture @

Like a lot of people my age, I first became aware of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide through the BBC’s children’s TV show Blue Peter (1958 – ).  In 1988 the annual appeal was The Great Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale for Kampuchea (in 1979 they had done a similar appeal to bring food to the survivors of Pol Pot’s utterly fucking warped ideology).  Mention Blue Peter appeals to people of my age and this is generally the one they will remember, no surprise as we were 8 and just starting to look outwards and understand the world a bit.  It stuck with me and when I saw The Terminator (1984) for the first time about three years later it was the Cambodian skulls that I was brought back to.

Even having spent a further 26 years looking out at the world, Rithy Panh’s documentary telling of the Cambodian genocide is still a slap in the face.  It’s a tale told using simple clay figures and archive footage that drag this tragedy of mass numbers into a very personal and staggering story of humanity, will and survival.  What works is the simplicity of it all, a simplicity that still manages to raise large questions about freedom and the meaning of recorded images.

This is a great example of abstracting a subject into focus.

Highly recommended.


Here’s a clip from the Blue Peter appeal of one of the presenters interviewing the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Film: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of The Planet of the Apes @

There’s plenty to like about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  From the genre building blocks and Kong iconography, the well staged action scenes and the numerous character parallels, all playing out within a story that remains engaging despite the inevitability of it all.  But what’s really impressive is the simple patience on display.  The opening, signed and subtitled section introducing us to the apes and their culture, slowly building the apes’ abilities and our acceptance.  The emotional rediscovery of lost images.  The Weight.  The step back into darkness.

Here is a film that takes it’s time and rewards you with monkeys and machine guns.

Highly recommended.


 I saw it in 3D and I can’t see that it added much but there were a couple of moments that jarred.  The most obvious was when a character was searching in a room and the deep focus allowed a box in the foreground to be in focus.  The focus foreshadowed that the box would contain what the character was looking for but it didn’t.  It just seemed for a moment that no choices were being made and the scene was a little lost.

Film: A Story of Children and Film (2013)

A Story of Children and Film @

I really like Mark Cousins.  He talks about films in just the right way.  His voice is the voice of a man describing a precious jewel, a voice that betrays love and knowledge, a voice half lost in the dream of it all.  He skips from film to film as moments remind him of moments and from E.T. (1982) we are sudden four or five films and half a world away.  Or perhaps it’s because he presented BBC 2′s Moviedrome, the cult film series that was my first informal film school.

A Story of Children and Film is just that; an exploration of children in cinema and the common themes that Cousins finds there.  Like his The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) I think your enjoyment will hinge on how much you like Cousins himself and how open you are to a true selection of world cinema but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s 106 minutes of joy and Cousins really understands that film is a medium of consecutive moments.

Highly recommended.

Film: The Hooligan Factory (2014)

The Hooligan Factory @

Like Mike Myers’ Austin Powers character, The Hooligan Factory suffers from the realisation that it’s target is both long gone and laughable in it’s own right.  As a result there is an initial feel that we could just be watching one of those films but, after a relatively laugh free first thirty minutes, this spoof finds it’s stride, gets comfy in what it wants to do and hits a level of stupidity that lifts everything and suddenly the laughter follows.

And there are some big laughs here; from running gags about an undercover police officer and ‘true’ hooligan auto-biographies to numerous moments of ludicrousness, and a visual gag involving a postbox that could be used as legal proof that ‘silly’ is comedy gold.  In each case the ideas are solid and the excellent cast, especially director and co-writer Nick Nevern in the role of Dex (all barely contained, bubbling over nutter), really deliver.

For the sake of full disclosure I’ve got to admit that I only picked up this film because I went to school with one of the writers about 200 years ago.  In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect but funny is funny and there is plenty of that on display.


Still chuckling about that postbox.

Film: RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop 2014 @ problem here isn’t, and was never going to be, the rating.  The film was always going to be different and a different tone could easily be part of that.  The fatal flaw is the lack of focus that means the film keeps threatening to be about something quite substantial without ever getting to it.

It’s enjoyable, I suppose, in a throwaway sense but as it’s based on such high-end source material and it has Jose Padilha, the director of the blistering and highly recommended (if a little fascist) Elite Squad (2007 and 2010) movies, behind the camera being ‘so-so’ is just as damning as being terrible.

Film: One from the Heart (1982)

One from the Heart @

Filmed entirely on sound stages with only the slightest of plots, Coppola’s love letter to the good old days of the Studio movie is an odd fish but still quite wonderful in it’s own right.

The film marries a small, street level, working class story with the kind of lavish treatment usually only afforded to the glitterati (those who glitter) and, admittedly, this does cause a slight disconnect because the staging suggests a grandiosity that doesn’t appear to be on it’s way… but there is great comic play between all the actors, the soundtrack by Tom Waits and featuring Crystal Gayle compliments the film perfectly, 4:3 framing and then Frannie (a perfectly cast Terri Garr) and Ray (the much missed Raul Julia) dance in the street and the whole thing comes together.  A delight.

Highly Recommended.

Film: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug @

So after avoiding it for some time I finally got around to watching the second part of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of The Hobbit.

Hmm.  The barrel scene says it all really.  Here is an interesting, fun escape with danger and thrills smothered in a mass of overblown nonsense and noise.  Characters do impossible things that render them indestructible and therefore uninteresting, and the whole thing quickly becomes tedious.  Repeat for most scenes.

Jackson clearly loves this world and the characters but this film really needed more distance from his The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003); a different director, one movie and just generally ‘less’ would do it.  Still, I’ll watch the last one because dragon.

Film: Streets of Fire (1984)

Streets of Fire @

If you wanted a definition of ‘cult movie’ Streets of Fire would do it.

Pitched as ‘a rock and roll fable’, it tells the simple story of a guy rescuing a girl from a biker gang.  Because it’s a Walter Hill movie it does it without irony, embarrassment or regret and, like it’s cousin The Warriors (1979), is pure comic book escapism.

From the opening shot of neon reflected on a wet street to the final showdown, the film is alive with a beat and energy that jumps off the screen.  It’s not just the fantastic soundtrack (Ry Cooder, The Blasters, and two brilliant tracks by Jim Steinman), it’s in the hard boiled dialogue, the editing, the unapologetically 2D characters and the blended 80′s and 50′s art direction that gives the whole thing a timeless sheen.

Strictly speaking not a great film, but nonetheless a wonderful must-see movie.

Highly Recommended.