highlander-sword

Best bad movie accents

Best Of lists

The dreaded accent. When a casting director calls an agent and asks if their client can do X accent, the answer always has to be, ‘Of course! Are you kidding? They’re a natural!’. It’s either that or the casting director ALREADY KNOWS the actor in question cannot do said accent for love nor money, but they’re a big star and will pull in audiences regardless of whether they drift from American to English cockney to South African, and all things inbetween.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites that – God bless ’em – tried their hardest to pull off something beyond their mother tongue.

Gerard Butler

Ok, recently I watched Olympus Has Fallen and, a week or so later, London Has Fallen, and his American accent is wobbly at best. But then, the whole movie is kind of a joke, so an accent is the least of our worries here.

Jason Statham

Suffers the same fate as old Gerard, in that his American accent is like the weather. Sometimes good sometimes bad, but it’s anyone’s guess what’ll turn up on the day. Maybe it’s just action stars? They’ve never been great at accents, I find.

Don Cheadle

His stab at cockney in the Ocean’s films was truly something. And the problem was it seemed like he was GENUINELY taking it seriously and not some quirk where his character found it amusing to do silly accents.

Natalie Portman

Now it pains me to stick her in this list but her ‘English’ accent in V for Vendetta jarred with me for the entire film. Pity, as she’s SUCH a good actress too. And I bet she’s got a good accent or two in her locker. Just not in this case.

Nic Cage

Not known for immersing in a part his mediocre Southern drawl in Con Air was pretty patchy. And Italian in Captian Corelli’s Mandolin? Hey, forget about it.

Cameron Diaz

Poor Cameron, ever the sun-kissed Californian beach babe. Her go at Irish in Gangs of New York was admirable but it didn’t convince anyone. DiCaprio’s wasn’t a whole lot better, if we’re honest.

Anne Hathaway

Now for Americans, an English accent is tough at the best of times, so what made Anne think she could manage a tricky regional one in One Day? Truly awful.


Then there’s those actors that poke fun at themselves because they KNOW their accent is a big joke. They’re in on the gag.

Brad Pitt

In both Inglorious Basterds and Snatch he revelled in his shoddy accent, either put on for a scene or two (the former) or the entire film (the latter). Although he’s also come a cropper attempting a serious Irish accent in The Devil’s Own.

Kevin Costner

It’s funny, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Costner didn’t attempt an accent at all and just used his own. Weirdly, it didn’t bother me at the time. But it still makes this list. Hooray for Carey Elwes calling him out on it years later, though.

Sean Connery

What’s great about Highlander is Connery was meant to be Spanish and he simply didn’t bother AT ALL. Already a huge star he probably felt turning up was enough. He was probably right too. Given Christophe Lambert’s ‘Scottish’ was even worse.

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Has Wes Anderson lost his way?

On my mind

Sorry all, it’s time for a little rant. I tried to bottle it up but it’s going to make its way out eventually. So let’s have it and start with exhibit A, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Now I haven’t seen it since release, but I rewatched it the other night and have to say, I thought much the same the other night as I did a few years ago… in that it’s just too much. As Hall & Oates say, I can’t go for that.

And here’s why.

Ten years ago I was a big Wes Anderson fan. Huge. But I admit, I came late to the party and didn’t really discover his work until The Life Aquatic (2004). However, this STILL remains my favourite from his filmography. I love it.

Simply put: because it has indie quirk (just enough), emotion (quite a lot, actually) and a wonderful soundtrack (Seu Jorge covering David Bowie). Plus I engaged with the characters, particularly the central pairing of Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. In short, I thought it was cool. Really cool. Like Quentin Tarantino giving us Vincent Vega on the dancefloor kind of cool.

And regarding his other films, I also enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007), although not to the same level. But whatever, we were still in positive, Wes Anderson-is-great-land at this point. So that was ok.

Then he had a go at stop motion with Fantastic Mr Fox (2009). And, yeah, it was what you’d kind of expect from him dipping a toe into this type of filmmaking, in that it was genius. His style (at this time) was a perfect fit. He’d even got Jarvis Cocker in there, what a legend.

Then came Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Now this was a film I enjoyed, but found that little concerns were starting to creep into the back of my mind. For starters, the cast had grown. A lot. And it seemed Wes was becoming a magnet for them; where every actor from his past projects were like iron filings and getting inexorably dragged into his orbit for every new project. Regardless as to whether they were a good fit or not.

He has also cranked up the quirk factor too. So that now we had every character posing bang in the centre of each shot. With their movements clipped, precise, and oh so Wes Anderson. His signature style – used maybe sparingly a decade ago – was now fully locked down and his de facto approach to directing. It was like discovering sugar and wanting more, and more, and more. Or heroin. Yeah, Wes had become a junkie, shooting up on his own style. The bastard.

In short, whilst I quite liked this film, I was becoming concerned. Was it time for an intervention? Could Wes be saved? Not by me, but whatever. There was more to come…

… in the form ofThe Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). And the nagging feeling flooded back. But this time it was no longer at the back of my mind, but noticeably front and centre and tasted bitter.

Add to that the fact that we’d also entered the Twilight Zone in terms of aspect ratios. So I was now trapped in some perfectly square shot, one which had been cropped by the twee police for the Instagram generation. All complete with saturated colours galore. And there was no escape. Arrgh god, Wes, what had you done?!

Somehow, a director I loved a lot had gone and gorged on his own medicine. And you know what they tell you right? Never get high on your own supply. Well, Wes had. And now he was inflicting his habit on the rest of us. Which, frankly, is unfair.

And the biggest problem was that, in some ways, there was nothing wrong with the core story and characters. There was good stuff in there. I mean, Ralph Fiennes’ M. Gustave was a sublime creation. But it’s just that the sugar coating meant I was constantly taken out of the story. I couldn’t swallow this pill Anderson was serving up, it was too sweet, too sickly.

So the medicine, I’m afraid to say, just wouldn’t go down. But then, maybe I’m out of step with popular opinion? The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most critical and commercially successful film to date, so what do I know?

And the rumour is his next film might be another stop motion. So maybe this is a chance for him to cut back a bit on his style and let the story and the characters do the talking instead? We’ll see, but I doubt much will change. From his point of view he’s found a sweet spot and there’s nothing to suggest he intends to stop now.

 

friend

Making friends

Poetry

So you’re on a night out and things are going swimmingly.
But something splits your thoughts like divorce.
And so you’re ill at ease.
Are these people really your friends?
Or just here to witness your social life implode and slowly descend?
Cos nights alone at home got you here.
And now you’re just making amends.
And yeah, maybe fair enough and it’s all too little too late.
But you’re a problem solver.
Experienced now, you’re wiser and older.
No way will you let life dictate your slide from grace like a fallen soldier.
Cos now’s the time for that plan for battle.
Put together all casual like you’re planning your travel.
Cos you’re gonna nail this friend game with moves utter genius.
No chance you’ll be an outcast.
Doomed to insanity like mad King Oedipus.
If there’s anything that an old legend like that teaches us.
You just need stay calm and ensure your next moves are subtle and devious.
But there’s a fair chance people will say you were a sociopath.
Ego inflated… pure calculated doing the math.
Cos sometimes you stumble.
And get left thinking you’ll never get through this intact.
Stuck making small talk in some bar.
Proudly reciting dubious facts. 
Or like you’ve met your girlfriend’s family.
And you’re hyper aware of impressing her dad.
But maybe this is just a phase? 
And you’re trying it out and testing this fad.
Cos as you lay down the law and keep score you can’t help a smile. 
Then slowly you return to arresting the damned. 

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Rebel rebel (time for a punk revival)

On my mind

Oh to be weird.
Hold on, wait. I am weird.
Weirder than most.
I love to be different and David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel was made for me.
When everyone ticks I tack.
It makes me feel slightly smug (and I’m smug about being smug – how meta).
But the funny thing these days is that, yes, everyone wants to be different but, CRUCIALLY, they want to be the same.
To carve their own path, but belong.
To each be a unique little snowflake, but part of the storm.

Maybe it’s always been this way?
(Not that I’m that different really. What a hypocrite.)
And Android cottoned onto this with their ads.
Apple too.
And the biggest joke about Apple is they like to persuade us all that we’re individuals owning their products, yet EVERYONE has a sodding iphone.
Anyway, I digress.

So where does that leave us?
I mean, are there any true mavericks left these days? Those auteurs and visionaries.
Because we should face up to the fact that David Bowie’s death, if we’re frank, left us with an almighty void to fill.
And with the world going somewhat down the crapper and Britain splitting from Europe and Trump building walls around America… the need for mavericks and rebels in 2017 could not be greater.

We need a punk revival.

(For society I mean. Globally. Or at least in the UK and USA).
I mean, going punk is exactly what craft beer brand Brewdog did.
They looked at the stuffy real ale market and shook it until all the crusty old guys fell out.
Trouble is… they became a victim of their own success.
How do you stay a punk when you’re now the mainstream?
That’s the rub. 
And as we know, many rebels eventually hang up their six shooters and put down their guitars and assorted weapons and call it a day.
Resigned to sit in a comfy chair by the fire with a sherry ready for an early night.
It’s inevitable.

But there’s always new blood coming through, right? Right?!
I’m talking about the young firebrands, the future deviants, the intensely passionate leaders and charismatic and cocky outsiders who like to look at the world differently.
THAT’S WHAT WE NEED.
And, honestly, I am drawn to these people like a moth to a flame.
Anyone that likes to disrupt and cause chaos.

Simply put: they’re cool. 
It’s basically where life starts to get interesting, right?

So that’s what’s on my mind.
Rebellion.
Disruption.
Destruction.
It’s time to tear down barriers and scrap rules and let’s all just stop squabbling over stupid things like borders and religion and race and class and creed and all that stuff.
Otherwise we’ll never get off this planet.
Because, let’s face it, there have GOT to be more enlightened civilisations out there in the universe right?
It can’t just be us.
So maybe rebels can be our salvation.
I just hope they get the message, wherever they may be.
And remember folks, David Bowie ain’t dead. He just went home.

trainspotting

Choose life.

On my mind

You all know the Choose Life speech from Trainspotting right? Well recently – with the release of the sequel, T2 – I entered a little writing competition, where we were given the task of updating said speech. And whilst I put mine together pretty quickly, I thought it would be worth sharing here, as I quite like it. So here you go.

Choose life. Choose your precious smartphone. Choose narcissism and selfie sticks. Choose Uber, Deliveroo and online dating. Choose FitBits and self-improvement. Choose masturbation. Choose the herd mentality, trolling culture and the turgid crap that is reality TV. Choose giving a damn about your privacy. Choose government surveillance, tracking cookies and facial recognition. Choose the police, kettling and racial profiling. Choose isolationism, alleged protectionism and border patrols. Choose turning our backs on Obama and voting for Donald fucking Trump, walling off Mexico and Islamophobia. Choose Brexit. Choose interfering in the Middle East and Africa. Choose trusting the conniving, supercilious banks. Choose escapism, geek culture and unrealistic heroes. Choose Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom bloody Hiddleston. Choose celebrity and becoming obsessed with each new shocking death. Choose being labelled and marketed to in every possible way. Choose being a millennial. Choose Generation Z.

Choose globalisation and losing our way.

Choose life.

jon_and_samwell_the_dance_of_dragons

The S.A.D.s (winter has come)

Poetry

So you’ve heard of S.A.D.s right?
That seasonal winter disorder.
You know… the one where your social skills take flight like a ship in the night and you can’t get aboard her.
And any activity outside the house is only going to exhaust ya.
Cos you just wanna hibernate.
Well I get it bad each year.
And its tendrils settle on me like blanket fear.
But I gotta fight this trait.
Assuming that it’s a flaw in my character.
Cos maybe I’m looking at life through the wrong lens?
And I need a new kind of aperture.
But I lack skill and feel ill; chasing these good vibes.
This ain’t what the doctor prescribed.
I’m such an emotional amateur.
Trying to squeeze positivity out of every beat.
So effectively, I stave off defeat like a social scavenger.
And yeah, maybe I need a CT scan presented in a nice little 3D plan.
If that’s the case, then someone better call an examiner.
Get me signed off work for a month or two.
And yeah I can put on a positive front, it’s true.
But I need to up my game to fool my manager.
And people keep telling me to chill.
Go run a bath for my ills.
To help soothe my troubles while I drown in lavender.
But all I can do is count down the dark days on my threadbare calendar.
Looking ahead to when my mood lifts.
And I stop taking these rude hits.
And then maybe life will feel less like I’m a coasting passenger.
Toasting my demise with haunted eyes as I witness my own exquisite massacre. 

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The Pineapple DiscoLeopard

Poetry

I swear she came to me in a surreal and lucid dream.
On a mission, this little vision.
Keeping me topped up with a hot cup of elusive tea.
Cos she was my hero, this jazzy and beautiful weirdo.
Grinning at me as she plotted to cause an amusing scene.
And of course, yes, she was a potent force.
But one infused with inclusive glee.
Allowing me into her personal space and turning up after a right battle.
There she was with mad hair and a gentle stare.
She greeted me sweetly, this wonderful little Pineapple.

And yeah, as far as first meets go with a DiscoLeopard.
This one simply could not have been bettered.
Cos as I stood there all spacey, battered and weathered.
And dispossessed of thought with my mind in tatters and severed.
It was clear, this had been a night of surprises.
And if I thought I had nothing left to give I was dead wrong.
Cos from the start we didn’t shoot from the hip, but the heart.
Going back and forth like ping-pong.
Background of the club fading away as we danced to the beat of our own theme song.
Cos our chemistry was evident.
And the people round us irrelevant.
Hell, we were headstrong.

And if you thought our encounter would be short-lived.
Then damn, you’d have guessed wrong.
Cos since that first night we’ve been a little unit with a thirst to fight.
Defiantly singing our best song.
So don’t just stand there on some sort of lyrical ceremony.
Cos this is none other than our physical testimony.
As we’ve got each other’s backs in a tag team rocking tracks.
Outperforming you at karaoke.
Basically we’re the Bandit.
Running rings round you as Smokey.
So look, I’ll be candid and draw it big for you in the form of a huge emoji.
As she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
And honestly, life has never looked as rosy.
And out of all the guys out there.
I have to say, I’m still in awe she chose me.

discopineapple

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A Monster Calls: deeply sad and moving

Film

Quality over quantity. That seems to be how Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona has approached his career thus far. His first feature length was The Orphanage (2007), then the immensely sad The Impossible (2012), which was a critical and commercial success. And now, at the start of the new year, he gives us likely Oscar contender A Monster Calls;¬†a tale of a 12-year old boy who struggles to deal with his mum’s slow fight with cancer. Tough stuff. But then, cynics would say it’s awards season, so we should be prepared for some difficult subjects at the movies over the next month.

With A Monster Calls we follow Conor (Lewis MacDougall) as he suffers a bully at school and a rapidly deteriorating mother (Felicity Jones) at home. Then one night a giant Yew tree in a nearby field comes alive, turning into a monster (Liam Neeson) and presenting him with an offer: hear three stories in exchange for one ‘truth’. Conor accepts and each night the monster serves up another tale which helps him deal – or fail to deal – with his family situation in some way. Right up until the inevitable conclusion that we know is coming.

My first thought was that this film shares a lot with¬†Pan’s Labyrinth (and a fair helping of Where The Wild Things Are). It’s a fairytale, it has a young character seemingly having to tackle big problems on his or her own and grow up fast, it has magic and fantasy and, naturally, it has a big bad monster or two (some are human some are pure fantasy).

a-monster-calls

That’s it though. Here, this story is different enough. Where the girl in Pan’s Labyrinth is faced with violence (in her fascist father) and how she deals with that in order to protect her baby brother, the boy in this tale is forced to confront – and deal with – the anger within himself in terms of how he copes with his mother’s illness and truly faces his own sense of conflict.

And you’d think a giant talking tree (voiced by Neeson) wouldn’t manage to put us in the right headspace to feel deeply, but somehow, between Bayona, Neeson and MacDougall, the filmmakers manage it, quite cleverly too. Before you realise it you’re right there with Conor, desparately wishing you could take away his pain and acutely aware of the despair and helplessness he must be feeling at the fact that he’s slowly losing his mother and is powerless to stop it.

Casting Felicity Jones was a clever move, too. In someone that beautiful it’s even more painful to watch her slowly waste away (not that attractiveness has much to do with it, but seeing beauty decay, to me, is somehow more heartbreaking). And, whilst her scenes are not lengthy, you get a true sense of the bond she has with her son, and the chemistry they have feels real and credible.

Perhaps in this, MacDougall is the real revelation. Often child actors get surrounded by older ones to prop them up, but here MacDougall is in almost every scene, and you get the feeling he needs very little propping. And it’s testament to his screen presence that his performance will tug at your heartstrings from the off, but you almost don’t notice it’s happening.

Even if you’ve never experienced loss in any significant way, this film will still resonate deeply. We all fear losing a loved one and this will put you right back to childhood and straight into the shoes of the main character, having you care passionately about his fate, all the way until the credits roll. And we can’t ask for any more from a film, other than that it speaks to – and moves us – in some way.

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Best films of 2016: my picks

Best Of lists

To be fair I shouldn’t even write this post, I’ve seen a woefully low number of films this past year. So what I’ve done is split it (like last year) into favourites I’ve seen, those on my ‘to watch’ list and proper turkeys.

Enjoy.

FAVOURITES I’VE SEEN

Captain America: Civil War
Famed for their back and forth dialogue, the Russo brothers stepped up from TV to film effortlessly. It also bucked the trend of a smashy ending, which was welcome.
Deadpool
Despite the trailer ruining a lot of the jokes and the positive reviews threatening to put me off, it was still a fun blast and a breath of fresh air in the superhero genre.
Sing Street
As far as coming of age films go, this one is a treat. If you grew up in the ’80s, have been in any way part of a band or creative, this will resonate.
Rogue One
Gareth Edwards has come a long way since his debut Monsters. Here he expands the Star Wars universe in a satisfying way, giving us the familiar but twists and nice new touches.
Doctor Strange
Is it silly to doubt that Cumberbatch would be anything but good for Marvel? His performance was nigh on perfect and helped expand the MCU into new and exciting areas.
Creed
Seems young blood gives old a new lease of life from time to time. In this instance Stallone plays an aged Balboa, training Apollo Creed’s son in this surprisingly engaging story.
The Revenant
The making of this film has become almost as famous as the movie itself. With stories claiming DiCaprio went through utter hell and back to make it. It’s gruelling, but worth watching.
Spotlight
As this came right at the start of 2016 it almost slipped off my list. Not flashy nor showy, but a well-told tale making archive researching seem as engaging as it can.
High-Rise
I’m starting to think I can only take Ben Wheatley films in small doses. They’re way too stylised and I just don’t get them. That said, this film is insanity in a good way. And it’s Hiddleston as you’ve never seen him before. 

TO WATCH LIST

Everybody Wants Some!!
Hell or High Water
Hail, Ceasar!
American Honey
Paterson
The Nice Guys
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Kubo and the Two Strings
Midnight Special
Sausage Party
Green Room
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
The Girl With All The Gifts
Victoria
Arrival

PROPER TURKEYS
Maybe it’s mean calling these turkeys, but they failed to deliver on many levels, so they get what they deserve.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Hey guys, shall we have any humour in this film? No, let’s keep it as po-faced as possible. Shall we have a plot that makes sense? Nah, there’s no time. Shall we get the audience caring about the characters? Why bother, just smash stuff in the third act. Audiences like smashy, look at Transformers. ‘Nuff said.
Suicide Squad
Ok, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. This film could have been as edgy as Deadpool. Instead it’s got a dull as ditchwater plot where almost nothing happens. It’s got too many characters that serve almost no purpose (including the Joker) and I didn’t care about a single one of them. Not even the delectable Harley Quinn, there I said it.
Magnificent Seven
Now I didn’t see the original, but many people I know did. And most said this remake failed to get us caring about any of the characters whatsoever. Embarrassing, given the quality of the cast. For me, I went in cold as a newbie and thought much the same. Magnificent? Not by a long way.

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Luke Cage: season one review

TV

Take Captain America and add a dash of Superman and thread Harlem throughout his core and what do you get? Luke Cage. A badass bulletproof hero in a hoodie. Originally a character that turns up in Jessica Jones but now has his own show. And one that feels pretty different from others out there, and indeed, different from other Marvel ones too. From the opening yellow-washed, funk-inflected theme song – that’s simultaneously retro and contemporary – you get a sense that a lot of love has gone into its creation and how important the Harlem setting is to its fabric and structure.

For example, music is vitally important. Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Mohammad put it together and said they were influenced by Wu-Tang Clan, Ennio Morricone and Mohammad’s group A Tribe Called Quest. So we’ve got Western meets ’90s hip hop, with an original track by Method Man too (video below). All of which adds to its identity.

And on the character front, our main man Luke is interesting. Not immediately likeable and some may say stoic and unreadable, but there’s a fire under his surface. He’s a quiet hero, fierce, intelligent, troubled. There’s no spandex or cape and he half shuns the limelight for the most part. In reality, he’s an ex-convict trying to lay low and live his life in peace. But he’s too special to do that for long. He’s bulletproof for one thing, but it’s more than that. He has a strong sense of injustice and the people of Harlem need him to step up and protect them. So far so very Western, right?

Marvel's Luke Cage

And whilst it’s easy enough for him to hurl gangsters about (he’s bulletproof and can heal incredibly fast and has superhuman strength) he does have weaknesses. Namely loved ones, the people that he cares about. Which you’d expect. If you can’t hurt a bulletproof man, hurt those around him. Which is the approach our bad guy Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes (Mahershala Ali) takes for the first half of the season.

And I very much think this is a season of two halves. First is set-up and a bit slow burn, then the second gets more gung-ho, with Luke half on the run from the law and the bad guys at the same time. So an educated outlaw and vigilante with the common people on his side? May as well call him Robin Hood.

Whatever we call him, it’s a good first season for a show and gets better as it goes on. And it’s nice to see Marvel trying new things, but all the while building the MCU on the small screen. We’ve had Agents of SHIELD (decent and still going) and Agent Carter (had its moments but cancelled after two seasons), Jessica Jones and Daredevil (heard both fairly good but haven’t caught them) and now we have Luke Cage. It’ll be most interesting to see what happens in season two.