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Fight Club

Poetry

Broken bottles and frantic squabbles as two fighters get down and dirty on the rancid cobbles.
Their sweat and blood staining the dirt.
Looking for that killer punch.
A right royal haymaker to get their opponent tasting the earth.
Their whole lives have built to this moment.
But so far they’ve been wasted since birth.
Endlessly killing time chasing the skirt.
Constantly competing and racing for first.

Yet here they stand again.
Two titans, these old men, only making it worse.
Both hungry for the kill.
Like old lions facing the herd.
Feeling ill, as they taste blood and it quenches their thirst.
One uncaged lunges in a rage, but the other dodges.
He’s evasive we learn.
His mind sharper, reflexes faster as he braces and turns.
Facing his foe ducking low.
Looking for that knockout blow that’ll end this damn curse.
Heavy hitter, but each fight just leaves him bitter and he’s getting jaded and worse.
Song fading as he plays out his verse.

If only he could make the other fighter see sense.
Serve him up a cease and desist.
Instead he gets to meet with his fist which weakens his wrist.
Cos he likes the other guy.
And try as he might he can’t be faking his hits.
Fights like this come around less often than a lunar eclipse.
And if he’s honest, these clashes give him an excuse to exist.
Who is he to resist?
Slowly it dawns, he’s getting to grips and getting the gist.
He was made to battle.
Cooking up right hooks coming in at a lazy angle.
Nothing phases him.
It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Scratch that, he’s a Lord passing judgement now banging the gavel.
Fists ripping through the air at the speed of sound like they were made to travel.
He’s schooling this guy with moves so fly.
Should have his own demo channel.

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What Game of Thrones spin-offs would you watch?

My musings, TV

On the way to work today I walked past a mother and a young boy and couldn’t help but notice that the level to which he quizzed her on her activities was startling. And it reminded me, in a way, of the refreshing introduction of Lady Mormont in the season six of Game of Thrones and how it’d be great to see her in a spin-off.

Then I thought, what other characters would be great in a show of their own. So here’s my list. (I should have been in TV production with genius ideas like these. Expecting the call any day now.)

Lady Mormont: the path to power
Now whilst the first cousin of scaly love fiend Ser Jorah Mormont only had a few episodes upon which to make her mark, she did so most emphatically, like a mini Cersei chastising various Lords of the North like they were little boys. Then declaring her allegiance to Jon Snow as King in the North and embarrassing everyone else to do the same. What kind of ruler would she be on Bear Island I wonder? It would be fascinating to watch her rise to power.

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Clegane: the wilderness years 
Ah, Sandor Clegane. A big and brutal beast of a man, but oddly sympathetic as each season went on. Let’s be honest, none of us wanted him to die after Brienne worked him over and when he turned up in a peaceful community led by Ian McShane’s Brother Ray we all rejoiced. I’d have liked to have seen those two team up to bring peace to the region in a buddy comedy. Brother Ray with a twinkle in his eye as Clegane grunts, grudgingly accepting the way his zen-like friend does things, perhaps uttering the line, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit.’

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Assassin’s Creed: the tutelage of Arya
The most fiesty Stark was one of the more fascinating characters to watch develop in seasons five and six. Mostly because we were slowly seeing her become a faceless assassin and taking her fate into her own hands. And I’m all for seeing her development under the watchful eye of Jaqen H’ghar. As she gets sent on missions we would get to see how she wrestles with her progression from sweet and fiesty to bad-ass killer. And each episode could be titled, ‘A girl…’. Like, ‘A girl angers the Many-Faced God’ for example.

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Olenna Tyrell: the evolution of the Queen of Thorns
Now let’s all agree, actress Dame Diana Rigg pretty much stole every scene she was in as Olenna Tryell. Not quite a Dame Maggie Smith performance, but comparisons will be made, and rightly so. And considering she came to the Game of Thrones late, it would be interesting to see what she got up to before she made her way to King’s Landing. Sharp, wily and speaks her mind. Who wouldn’t want to see her run rings around everyone?

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Daenerys Targaryn and Asha Greyjoy: a love story
Now whilst they’ve only shared a single scene in season six, there was enough interaction between the Mother of Dragons and Asha to suggest something of a hint of romance. A frisson you may say. And why not? Asha has already had a scene in which she basically ‘acted like a man’ nuzzling boobs and spanking wenches. And Daenerys seems one of the most progressive characters in terms of the relationships and sexuality. It’d be great to see them take to the seas around Slaver’s Bay and beyond, raining fire down upon their enemies and falling in love in the process. A Westeros power couple, if ever there was one.

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virus

The moody virus

Poetry

I hit real hard but I’m locked out of this guy and literally barred.
Guess I’ve pulled the mystery card.
Damn human, he barely swoons.
Somehow he’s resisting and scarily immune.
This I ask why as I’m forced to diversify.
But get nowhere facing wall after wall.
Might as well learn to fly. 
But then I become stuck for words, tongue-tied as my circuits fry.
I attack back but it’s a stalemate.
Me versus guy.
And right now, as he sings to me his verses lie.
I curse and sigh, he’s less sad sack more stone-cold samurai.
Time to step back from my game plan, be bold and analyse.
Find a chink in his armour or this whole day will be a disaster.
This cheeky, healthy freak, why won’t he just die a bit faster?
He’s basically a perfect specimen, clearly one of God’s special men.
This I want to shout from the rafters.
But it’s a lame song.
This guy will never die.
He’s got more charisma than James Bond.
From the swagger of Connery to Craig’s blonde, he’s way gone.
At least, up to the point that you think he’s died.
And so for my sins I must coax him in.
Like it’s a wedding day and he’s a nervous bride.
I mean, what way can I infect his worthless hide?
As a virus I’m not invincible.
And right now I’m feeling miserable and must swallow my pride.
Damn this man, he’s a thorn in my side.
I want to straight up brand him with my disease till he chokes on his lies.
Where’s his weakness?
I’ll find a way in, he’d best believe this.
Big deal he can fight off lesser known diseases.
There’s more to me I’m a different breed.
Focused and upbeat and no complete defeatist.
A religious jihadist with this game, no cheated extremist.
For him and me? We’ve got bad blood.
And I plan to attack in a mad rush, latching onto his Hemoglobin.
This man’s not special and needs to know that he’s not chosen.
So I advance on his defences and gently goad him.
His reflexes falter becoming frozen.
Weak cells face all kinds of hell, his body smoking.
Like vampire scum in the sun, close to exploding.
What’s the best way to throw him?
Days numbered on Death’s clock you see. 
Is this some kind of democracy where his fate rests on voting?
This I ponder with a sense of foreboding.
But right now I’m calling his tab.
Last round and all that and time on this guy is now close to closing. 

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Penny Dreadful: season three review

TV

And so endeth Penny Dreadful. Before its time some might say. Despite the fact that creator John Logan said it would always end with (*spoiler!) the death of Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), not many of us believed him.

It felt rushed, particularly as most of the characters had been flung across the globe on personal quests of their own. Suddenly they’re hurried back to London at pace, at the bemusement of fans no doubt. Fair enough conflicted Texan werewolf/gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) always had the threat of his father with which to contend, so it made sense he deal with that.

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And why not have a dishevelled Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) along for the ride? Even though he’d half lost his way he was still a better father figure to Ethan than his real dad, Jared Talbot (played with gusto by Brian Cox).

The creature (Rory Kinnear) was off on a quest of his own to discover god-knows-what in the Arctic. He then returned to London after a few episodes to reconnect with his family. It was touching I suppose, but not really the story I wanted to see and his arc felt like a distraction. In some ways it would have been more exciting to see him team up with the gang to fight a common foe.

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And speaking of common foes, this season saw the introduction of Dracula (Christian Camargo), bringing to a head his long pursuit of Vanessa Ives; which more or less started in the first season. And, whilst it was refreshing to see the way in which he pursued her, like most delectable things in life, it was over all too soon. For a baddie that big I wanted more.

Especially because the gang got two new additions, which both proved extremely interesting as characters within the first few episodes, but didn’t get the time they deserved. Namely, Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks), a stunningly attractive supernatural expert who was sassy, held her own in a fight and seemed to flirt with every character she encountered – and that was seriously refreshing when the show was in danger of becoming too dour for its own good. We also got the addition of Vanessa Ives’ therapist, Dr Seward (Patti LuPone), who gave the show a nice bit of weight and gravitas cutting through the melodrama with her no-nonsense approach.

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The trouble with a lot of it – because so much revolved around Vanessa Ives at the end of the day – is that most of the main characters didn’t interact with each to any great degree until almost the last episode. Long-form storytelling is fine if you’ve got maybe five or six seasons, but if you’ve only got three you’re shortchanging everyone, from characters to actors to audiences alike.

So I’m somewhat conflicted. Big fan, but frustrated.

And I’d also add I’ve been a huge fan of Eva Green since her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, and this show – and her character – perfectly suited her occult and otherworldly qualities. Not that it was all about her, as the rest of the cast were also outstanding. I’d go so far as to say this has been the best work we’ve seen from both Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett in a long time. Rory Kinnear, as ever, is a very fine actor and massively underrated and the others all did a fine job, too.

Perhaps, in some ways, there were too many characters and stories to explore. From Lily Frankenstein’s (Billie Piper) escapades with Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) to Victor Frankenstein’s (Harry Treadaway) experiments with Dr Jekyll (Shazad Latif) it seems like John Logan bit off more than he could chew in the time he had given himself.

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These days it seems like every show wants to be Game of Thrones but tries to leap ahead and run before it can walk. Not that you can really compare the two shows, but the point has some relevance. Whatever caused the show to end before its time there’s one thing that’s clear, it will be missed by some pretty devout fans. Particularly as it was a show of real quality and substance.

And if they resurrect it minus Eva Green, it just won’t be the same. Don’t do it. Let’s just let it rest in peace as a decent thing which ended before its time eh?

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X-Men: Apocalypse – review

Film

The thing about superhero movies (as some geeky pub conversations may go), is that they have to get bigger and more spectacular each time. To the point where there’s nowhere left to take the story. And, whilst previous X-Men films have destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge and football stadiums and such, the only logical way to head, if we’re honest, is up. All the way to an apocalypse, total annihilation. (Something of a theme this summer, I thought, having sat through the new Independence Day trailer before this film began.)

Luckily for Marvel they have a character called Apocalypse aka En Sabah Nur – the first mutant; one who absorbs other mutant’s powers and who we first encounter in the film’s opening sequence in ancient Egypt (although he may be much older). During the scene he gets betrayed by his followers – who claim he’s a false God (one of the movie’s recurring themes) – and so he ends up trapped underground, in stasis and dormant. Until… thanks to some fortune (for him, more than the rest of the world) he awakes and decides that humanity needs an Etch A Sketch style reboot.

Enter our (slightly reluctant) heroes.

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They’re all back, for the most part. We’ve got Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), now a freedom fighter, roaming the world setting fellow mutants free; Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), rocking the bespectacled Professor look, helping out Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in his house for the gifted. Then there’s Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), holed up in Poland pretending to be normal, until events cause him to somewhat snap and return to the fold in a fury.

There’s also a load of newbies. Some younger versions of characters we’ve seen before and some are entirely new. We have: Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Archangel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). Plus a few more. It’s X-Men remember, character overload aplenty.

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That said, Bryan Singer really is some sort of genius when it comes to making these characters zing. Having seen three superhero films in a row recently (Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and this) I’d say this X-Men – the ninth in the series – is, to me, not only the most complicated in terms of character juggling, but also the funniest and the most emotionally resonant.

There I’ve said it. In your face Avengers.

For those of you that keep up to date with film reviews I may sound out of step at this point. At least with critics, who have largely laid into the movie saying it’s repetitive and downbeat – and Rotten Tomatoes seems to back this up, rating it at 52%, which isn’t great. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t put this too far above Captain America: Civil War (quite possibly the best Avengers film so far), I just think this X-Men entry takes it by a nose.

I felt I cared for these characters more than Steve Rodgers and Tony Stark. I felt invested in their fates.

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Maybe it’s just that I prefer Fassbender, Lawrence and McAvoy as leads compared to Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Maybe I bought into the emotional beats more readily? Maybe it’s the comedy? Maybe this just seems more ‘Marvel’ in tone than the last Cap film. I genuinely think this X-Men is funnier than Captain America; not only for successful jokes throughout, which all land well, but in particular for another outstanding Quicksilver sequence; one which beats the last one hands down for its complexity, comedy, inventiveness and sense of danger… in that the stakes are upped from the last time he did his thing.

Whatever connected with me with this film, it remains a mystery. Maybe it’s just it had more of a sense of fun? Anyway, it was time well spent at the cinema.

And, as you’d expect with new blood coming in, it is, of course, left open for a tenth film. Which is quite some achievement for a franchise that’s been going so long. Although in terms of where we go next, that’s rather up in the air. Singer has spoken about taking the X-Men into space or exploring more of Jean Grey’s story. Now the space plot sounds like mad genius, so maybe that’s the best play. But… Jean Grey is insanely powerful as a character, so that could be good route too. Either way, with the young cast all bedding in nicely the future remains bright.

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Captain America: Civil War – review

Film

Let’s make something perfectly clear – or at least less muddy. This film is not an Avengers movie, it’s a Captain America one… inasmuch as he’s the focus and both antagonist and protagonist. But then, so is Tony Stark. So maybe it’s a Captain America versus Iron Man movie, with their respective teams in tow?

In any case, it’s all gotten a bit more serious…. more DC maybe, less Marvel. Perhaps this is right in this instance, for here the plot picks up strands from Steve Rodgers’ prior outings, as well as further mining the depths of Tony Stark’s inner torment, following everything he’s been through; including accidently creating Ultron as force for bad rather than good.

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And so we have a bit of playing against type – or role reversal – in that rebellious playboy Stark supports legislation to make our heroes accountable to the U. N., but Rodgers – a man who you’d safely bet would be on the side of the establishment – is firmly in the opposite camp. Mostly because he wants to protect his friend Bucky – the Winter Soldier who keeps getting into trouble – but also because he feels legislation clips the wings of the Avengers, stopping them from doing what they do best without the need for red tape.

So we have some nice, meaty motivation for our two main dudes, pitting them against each other. Each a titan with his own loyal followers, and so with Civil War we get some old names (Black Widow, Hawkeye), some newer but fairly established ones (War Machine, Falcon, Ant-Man, The Vision, Scarlett Witch) and some fresh blood (Spider-Man, Black Panther).

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They fly, they swoop, they shrink, they grow and they scrap their little heart’s out.

And it’s a blast.

Then, on the periphery of all the infighting we have an actual bad guy (Daniel Bruhl) who goes rather unnoticed for the most part. But he’s not the main focus, so it’s ok. He does the job he needs to do at the times upon which he’s called, but it’s Cap v Iron Man we’ve come to see really… that and the interplay between almost all of Marvel’s superheroes (except Thor and Hulk who’ve gone AWOL and the Guardians of the Galaxy lot) in one giant dust-up, plus a few other skirmishes along the way.

To do this and not give the audience a headache is really quite masterful on the part of the Russo brothers; who are really getting into their stride directing these days.

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That said, there’s a point where the movie is in danger of becoming too po-faced and serious for its own good. Thank God that, at that point, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man turn up to take the edge off most pleasingly.

Lest we forget that Marvel’s strength tends to be in light-hearted banter amid the mayhem, so it’s good that they didn’t go too far down the DC path, past the point of no return at least.

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At the end of the day we all know people in costumes are somewhat ridiculous, so it’s important to burst the bubble at regular intervals – and the final third of the movie moves into much more welcome territory. Overall, it may actually be the best Marvel film yet (I’ve yet to see Ant-Man, but from the scenes in this film it has to be on my ‘to watch’ list in the near future).

And as a final thought, props to the filmmakers for how they’ve portrayed Black Panther. With his cat-like reflexes, sharp claws and black suit he’s got to be up there as one of the coolest superheroes we’ve seen in a while. A solo film following this character would be a pretty savvy choice bet I’d say.

Roll on the next one…

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The pissed off sniper

Poetry

He crouches on the roof, sweaty but focused.
When ready his laser sight parts the crowds like he’s Moses.
Cold lens with crosshairs, he don’t despair.
Waiting till his target is closest.
He goes unnoticed.
Calm, in a state of hypnosis as he prepares to kill.
Taking pride in his job he approaches with flair and skill.
Work ethic brutal he does not care to chill.
He pauses.
From his jacket he pulls his pay packet and goes to tear the bill.
But can’t bear to lose the thrill.
Honestly, he didn’t choose to feel.
But the high comes naturally.
He gets off on this and does it with a certain majesty as he checks his gadgetry.
Kill count floating through his mind in a vivid tapestry.

Glancing anxiously, he sets his watch.
As his target stops and clocks that something’s off.
The cat’s out the box and all bets are off.
Moving with economy, we’re curious to see the next move of this deadly prodigy.
He slinks through shadows with dogged feet.
Stalking his target dancing to a morbid beat.
An assassin who plays by the rules, no sordid cheat.
Best avoid the cops he can’t afford the heat.
Be more discreet with the law of the street.
It’s time he walk the walk or chalk this down to a poor defeat.
But this score is no chore.
Surrounded by gore, he carves up bodies till they hit the floor and fall at his feet.
Pressing for confession, he gets no further than a wall of deceit.
Getting angry, he wants to brawl with these geeks.
In their last few seconds of life he can tell they’re stalling a treat and cooling their feet.
Brave goons that don’t change their tune.
Protecting their boss who’s a fool and a cheat.

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The Jungle Book: safe and sweet

Film

Jon Favreau is a funny old chap. He started out with his buddy Vince Vaughn in Swingers (1996) then leapt up to the big time directing Iron Man (2008). He now gets the big gigs, inasmuch as The Jungle Book is a beloved children’s story by Rudyard Kipling – and also a 1967 film by Disney – so he’d better not mess it up.

Happily he doesn’t, but nor does he take any huge risks. What we get is The Lion King (sort of) done Life of Pi style. In case you’ve never heard of the story it centres on young man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi), found in the forest as a toddler by panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and raised by a pack of wolves. Then pissed off tiger Shere Khan (Iris Elba) learns of his existence and vows to kill him; as man is not meant to belong in the forest.

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So, to protect his animal friends from the wrath of Khan (when did this turn into Star Trek?), Mowgli goes on a little adventure to find the man village and be with his own kind. On the way he meets seductive snake Kaa (Scarlet Johansson) and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray) then gets captured by monkeys and meets King of the Apes Louie (Christopher Walken); the latter who wants to learn the secret of man’s fire by way of catchy song.

He then has a big showdown with the cockney tiger and it’s all very exciting. You could say what I’ve described – basically the film – is a huge spoiler but c’mon, it’s The Jungle Book. For most of us we’ve known the story for decades and Favreau doesn’t do a huge amount to play with the formula.

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Granted, he’s cast the actors well enough – Elba is menacing as Khan and Murray as Baloo is a treat and helps lightens things up – but the story is fairly straightforward and doesn’t hit you with many surprises. But maybe that’s what people want from something so nostalgic and beloved? Just don’t mess it up, it’s our childhoods.

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Top 5 ‘crotch related’ movie scenes

Best Of lists

Ok, I haven’t lost the plot… not entirely. But bear with me. There’s a good number of funny movie scenes related to the crotch area that I want to share. Mostly because I thought of a few and it got me thinking of others that rose up from the dim recesses of my warped psyche.

So, here they are. What would yours be? (Assuming you’re as weird as me and want to play along.)

‘What you been feeding this thing?’ Total Recall
Arnie’s character walks into a sleazy bar where we’re introduced to his love interest – a brunette – who grabs his crotch and says the line, to which our hero responds, ‘blondes’.

‘Simon wets himself’ True Lies
Arnie again, this time in this James Cameron action flick as a spy taunting Bill Paxton’s used car salesman; who breaks down under questioning and promptly wets himself.

‘We got a bleeder’ There’s Something About Mary
We start with Stiller’s uber geek stuck in the bathroom. Then various characters slowly join him and all attempt to help, until a policeman decides to roll his sleeves up.

‘Begbie gets a surprise’ Trainspotting
Robert Carlyle’s Begbie was one of the scariest characters in ’90s cinema. Here he gets a scare of his own in a fondling session that goes awry. Carlyle makes Begbie’s reaction priceless; in that he’s horrified, but at a loss as to what to do.

‘Dallas teaches The Kid’ Magic Mike
Well into his McConaissance, a Texan by the name of Matthew teaches a green around the edges Alex Pettyfer – aka The Kid – how to take his clothes off properly. Oh, and the thrust.

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High-Rise: Is Ben Wheatley the new Terry Gilliam?

Film

The audience sits in stunned silence. On screen Tom Hiddleston, covered in blue paint, gives a pregnant Elisabeth Moss a seeing-to from behind. To which she describes him as ‘the best amenity in the building.’ So, er, what did I just see? Something many will probably be saying to themselves after coming out of Ben Wheatley’s latest offering, High-Rise.

For it is bonkers I say, unfiltered madness. And all the better for it. To backtrack a sec, if you’ve not studied up on Wheatley’s filmography, he’s not been a big name director for long. Indeed, many would still say he’s up and coming. His debut was the critically acclaimed Down Terrace in 2009, he then hit us with brutal horror Kill List, then darkly comic Sightseers, and utterly surreal offering A Field In England followed, and now this. Not a bad trajectory, all things considered.

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And his style – if you insist on pigeonholing – is perhaps a hybrid of Terry Gilliam and Terence Malick, but with added horror and insanity. So… perfect for adapting a dystopian J.G. Ballard novel then? This one focuses on the residents of a futuristic (yet set in the ’70s and to us now, quite retro) tower block, one which quickly descends into madness, hedonism, sex and violence; as the building suffers teething issues with power and food supplies and residents try to one-up each other when it comes to throwing debauched parties.

Still with me? We’re in Ben Wheatley territory here.

It’s worth pointing out that this sort of source material and auteur director is bound to attract many a skilled actor, which by golly it did, for Wheatley’s cast is, ahem, long and distinguished. We have Elizabeth Moss, Luke Evans, James Purefoy, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons and, of course, Tom Hiddleston, the latter who leads the show as the cool and enigmatic Dr Laing. New to the High-Rise he likes to hit the gym and sunbathe naked on his balcony. Which draws the eye of Sienna Miller’s character who, in turn, is pined after by Luke Evans’s character, who’s meant to be with Elisabeth Moss’s character. So it’s all a bit incestuous.

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Not that that is what it’s about, not really. But it provides a bit of a meandering story from which to hang these deranged individuals. Think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in a tower block with added mad Luke Evans. In short, it probably helps if you’re on something to watch it, as it veers back and forth between dark comedy and surrealism. Thanks, in no small part, to Wheatley’s director of photography, Laurie Rose, who has done a fantastic job.

Seldom has chaos looked quite so sumptuous.

So for audiences gorged to bursting on straight line films where you’re spoon-fed the plot (superhero flicks I’m looking at you), this is a harsh yet refreshing antidote and perhaps much-needed at this time of year. And in the way you’d pair a good wine with a nice meal, this film might make a nice double bill with In Bruges, or if you want slightly crazier, try Brazil. Or if happy to dine alone, go in armed with a dark sense of humour and an odd lens through which to view the world and you’re bound to get something out of it.

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