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I had heard about ChatRoulette for a while and last night I had time to kill and an exam to procrasinate for so I figured - what do I have to lose? In a sentence, ChatRoulette puts you into a video chat with a random stranger. You can then next the person at any time to be replaced with another completely random person. === What should you expect? === Predictably the vast majority of participants are young men/teenagers sat alone in their bedroom staring, glassy-eyed into their webcam with a faint look of boredom. Ironically, exactly what I was doing. Other than that, a lot of people go on in groups, usually teenagers. Couple of lads getting drunk in for an evening or a couple girls just killing time. The demographics, from the study featured in the video at the bottom found that ChatRoulette consists of 70% males, 15% females and 15% perverts which I think is fairly accurate, although I didn't see that many perverts myself (I'll get onto that later). === Pros === - My first and main positive point, which is actually what makes this site so great is that you will meet some really interesting people. I had some great conversations. One guy was absolutely convinced I was in his freshman English class. Many only lasted a couple of minutes but one I had with two girls from New Jersey went on for over an hour until their webcam froze. It sounds cheesy but making other people laugh can't help but make you feel good. Also, being told your pretty damn good looking every once in a while doesn't hurt. It's probably the closest you can get to real human interaction over the internet. - Let's be honest, it's a really really cool idea. It's like a scaled-down version of The Truman Show. === Cons === - Unless your a pretty girl or doing some kind of trick, (for example, there's a guy called Merton who sings songs and plays the piano for you then uploads the video to Youtube) you WILL get nexted A LOT. At least 8/10 people will next you within two seconds of seeing your face. This can be a bit of a kicker to your self-esteem, especially if it's someone you particularly want to talk to. Don't take it personally, most people are only looking for a certain kind of person/people. I'm sure a lot of people don't even think about it before they do it. This can be tiresome though if it goes on for a while. - ChatRoulette has almost become synonymous with seeing the male genitals. However, this has been exaggerated, although you probably will see a couple. During my three hour session, I only saw about three penises which I immediately skipped. On a sidenote, since there is no moderation there's a worrying amount of children viewing the site. - There are people who use an application called ManyCam to fake a webcam feed. They then display a shock image like Goatse or Lemonparty then film your reactions with a screencamera. The more patient ones will use stolen webcam footage of a cute girl or celebrities and coerce you into doing something ridiculous or halfway through she explodes or a scary face pops up or whatever. Just take precautions, ask them to wave at the camera, watch when they're typing etc. - A minor one but communication is often difficult as you frequently end up with people from non-English speaking countries like Russia. Great video about ChatRoulette (not mine, remove the space that Dooyoo forces on me for some reason): theawl.com/2010/02/chatroulette-explained-hot-girls-dont-get-nexted
If you're not familiar with Yahoo answers (although you should be, since it clogs up Google searches like a sticky mould) it's a simple concept. People ask questions. People answer them. And you get points. My main problem - and it's a big one - is the appalling answers. I've noticed the quality of answers tends to vary by the type of question. Questions regarding politics, history or race tend to be answered with immense stupidity whereas questions about technology, computers and maths tend to be answered accurately. So vaguely speaking, the more opinionated the question allows them to be, the more stupid the answers you will get. However, you can get idiotic or abusive answers even with mundane questions. Here's a not untypical response to a question asked politely by a girl called Sammi who wanted to know how she could change her name without incurring the wrath of her parents. Not an unreasonable question yet the first puzzling response is "your a spoilt brat Samantha and any variation of that name is great" If you want shock/hilarity just look up any question related to race or politics then marvel at the palpable ignorance. My second problem - it's near impossible to tell how qualified someone's answer is. This can be irritating if two articulate people are giving you totally contrasting answers. There's a "Top Contributor" feature which they give to active members but I've seen them give out stupid answers as well, so it's hardly foolproof. There's also a source box but they can write whatever they want in there without consequence ("I'm a doctor, I've been to the moon, I used to be the president etc. etc.") so it's effectively pointless. Other features include a points system which attempts to encourage activity by awarding points to level up like some terrible RPG. However once you reach Level 2 and can rate other answers, there's little point in going on.
One of my main reasons for this purchase was cosmetic. This TV is gorgeous and looks so much better than the so many black-spaceship/chrome glorified computer monitors that saturate the small TV market nowadays. It seemed to have everything I wanted - 1080p, built-in Freeview, USB port, media player... and all for £210. Then again, I'd never heard of Technika but soon found out they were Tescos own range of budget TVs. So when it was delivered and I couldn't turn it on I wasn't too surprised. Okay, that's not entirely true, I could turn it on, it just wouldn't display a picture. Like, at all. The light was on but nobody was home. The customer service guy, who tried his best, couldn't revive what was obviously an internal hardware fault and he offered me a replacement or a full refund. I opted for the refund, as this experience hadn't exactly been a stamp of quality for Technika. In the short time I owned this TV, despite never turning it on, I did notice a few other problems. The Tesco website falsely claims this TV has component input (the red, blue, green cable slots I needed to play my Xbox in HD). It does have a HDMi slot though, so I would have needed to buy a HDMi cable for it to work. The slots it does have are inconveniently located almost on the side of the TV, so unless you awkwardly drag the cables across so they're almost being pulled out, they're forever dangling out off the left hand-side of the screen. I'm aware this review is going to be of little interest to people who want to hear about the features, picture quality etc. but let this serve as a warning, if you do end up buying it, just be prepared to put it straight back in the box for pick up the next day. Now I'm not going to generalise an entire brand based on one bad purchase (though if you want consensus, just do a bit of Googling - it's generally not good), it might have had the best picture ever, I'll never know. But let's just say, it would not surprise me if they were so preoccupied with making it sexy and cost-effective they forgot about making a reliable product. I'm also not alone as a quick internet search of Technika will tell you. Whatever the case, I doubt I'll be buying anything Technika anytime soon. Annoyingly, this model (along with many Technika TVs) are delivery only so there's no way of ensuring a model works beforehand nor can you pop back for a quick refund, forcing you to wait til the next working day for the deliverymen to turn up. I should say - for balance, I have read reviews from people whose Technika TVs worked. So they're not all duds.
The premise of Metro 2033, set in Moscow, is that a nuclear war has made the surface of the earth uninhabitable as well as giving birth to a new breed of ferocious mutants. Human life has continued inside the metro system, where new societies have formed including the warring factions of Nazis and Communists. You are Artyom, a man who has lived his entire life confined in the metro, attempting to save his home station from the unknown forces that seek to destroy it. All sounds pretty awesome to me. In fact, my main attraction to Metro was the story, and I convinced myself that even if everything else sucked I'd still like it based on the premise alone. At least, so I optimistically thought. It turns out, despite the awesome set up, the poor game play completely lets it down. The graphics are well polished, on par with those of Bioshock and COD:MW2. However, somehow they have managed to completely fudge the character faces. Try being immersed in a game when your fellow comrades look like skin grafts from a PS2 game. This is a little irritating but nonetheless Metro still manages to create a convincing and detailed atmosphere. No, what really lets Metro down is the abysmal gameplay. For example, there is one not atypical level where you have to repeatedly kill the inappropriately named "librarians". Which are a sort of giant sloth walking on it's hind legs. The routine is as follows: one appears, you shoot it for a couple of minutes while running around in a circle (they're just slow enough not to catch up with you) then eventually it dies. It requires no real skill unless you're stupid enough to stand still and be joylessly mauled to death. Once is acceptable but after that it gets boring very fast. It doesn't help that any movement feels clunky and mechanical. Even the actual act of shooting is unsatisfying, as enemies don't seem to react. It's like you're shooting them with water pistols. The gas mask idea is a good one. The idea being when above ground, you must replace your air filter couple of minutes to prevent imminent death. However, the gas masks get damaged when you're attacked causing massive static cracks to appear on the screen and remain there until you find a new one to replace it. Although clearly intended to be a realistic perk, it's just an annoying inconvenience. What's the point in designing detailed and elaborate landscapes when you can barely see it through invasive cracks in the screen? The ammo-currency idea is original and leads to more tactical play as you have more choice in which type of ammunition to use, rather than simply using whatever the games gives you. The AI is also horrendous. More than a few times enemies have completely ignored me, been frozen to the floor or after being shot, run off in the completely wrong direction. Although this can be funny, it is also quite annoying, and an amateur mistake for a game that tries so hard to be realistic.
Nearing graduation Lloyd Dobler falls in love with valedictorian Diane, although his friends raise their doubts, he plucks up the courage to ask her out, eventually coercing her to come with him to a house party, beginning their relationship. On the surface Dobler appears to be easy to relate to. He's just a genuinely nice guy. There's not much else to him otherwise, he's has no real problems in his life and no real character flaws. It's repeatedly stated that he's an underachiever but his reasons for this never make it into the plot with any real force nor is it noticeable had we not been told. In fact, the only thing, really, in his life is Diane. What a sweetheart. Diane is equally spotless, perhaps even more so with her fellowship to some prestigious English college. Before the end of the house party, our two characters meet practically a conveyor belt of far more interesting characters who merely have a brief intrusion on the narrative before slipping straight back out again. A goatee-d ginger man who dresses up as a chicken every year, a lovelorn New Romantic-type who can't handle his drink, a gang of misogynistic know-it-alls who hang about outside at a petrol station. All of whom are far more interesting than our little lovestruck couple, yet all simply disappear after their short cameos, leaving us stranded with the mind numbingly dull antics of Dobler, Diane and her Dad. It makes you desperately want to rewind and follow what happened to the New Romantic once they so abruptly dropped him off at his house. But no. Instead we're stuck in the same claustrophobic triad. Post-party the rest of the film is just a collection of sickeningly sweet scenes with our lovestruck couple. Aw, he's phoning her in the pouring rain. Yawn. Aw, look he's teaching her to drive. Yawn, yawn. Aw, he got kicked in the face because he was so happy to see her. Again, yawn. Aw, he's babbling inanities to her on the telephone... I could go on. Eventually it's just, do I honestly care any more? Am I mildly autistic or something because I'm feeling absolutely no emotion towards either of these people? I know it's supposed to capture all the joy/vomit-inducing sweetness of young love but frankly, young love is usually far far more awkward than this. This is like some preppy schoolgirls daydream. And most young people aren't as clean cut as these two, at least not if they're interesting. There is some relief from this torment as we near the end as the accusations surrounding Diane's Dad reach boiling point and we're allowed something else to watch. But even that's not exactly gripping. Anyway, it's too little, too late. The soundtrack is also horrific. If people actually listened to that in the 80s then god help us. I'm going to compare this film with another teen film I watched only yesterday, Can't Hardly Wait. Apologies if you haven't seen it but I'll be brief. This would be a bit similar to Can't Hardly Wait if it had a lot less humour with less developed, less interesting characters and only one plot line. That was the thing about CHW, there were entertaining distractions. Whereas this is just a continuous one-track crusade, not letting go for anybody, anyone or anything. To give the film some credit, it is fairly well acted and almost entirely original. It is also far more realistic in it's portrayal of teenagers, not resorting to the overblown stereotypes so often flung in our faces by teen flicks. I will concede the keyman thing was also a little funny. But it's still boring.
Directed by Deborah Kaplan High school has officially ended, someone is planning a house party and the most popular guy/biggest jock in the school, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli), has just broken with his prom queen girlfriend, Amber (Love-Hewitt). Preston (Ethan Embry) a fairly normal albeit sensitive kind of guy, who has been longing for her since the day he first saw her four years ago sees the upcoming party as a chance to make this dream come true, dragging along his anti-social best friend Denise (Lauren Ambrose). Meanwhile the geeky William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo) plots his revenge on Dexter for years of bullying and white wannabe gangster (Seth Green) over-prepares for his optimistically predicted night of love making. Although it is a fairly typical (I found similarities to Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti, The Last American Virgin) American high school coming of age movie with the almost compulsory requirements of a house party, geeks, jocks and alcohol, Can't Hardly Wait is still entertaining and surprisingly not entirely predictable. Okay, maybe I'm being a little generous there. With films like these, you only need a couple of brain cells to work out the end result - as in who's going to end up with who. I don't think I'm going to blow anybody's tiny minds when I say Preston ends up with Amber. It might as well be written in the summary. But that honestly doesn't matter, because when the filling is this good does it matter how it ends? Besides, there certainly are unpredictable elements which my integrity won't allow me to spoil, so it's by no means an entirely straightforward story. Kaplans attention to detail is commendable. There are a lot minor characters, who appear often with little or not relevance to the actual plot, such a compulsive thief who can be spotted in the background stealing random items. Most notably the dysfunctional band, who have amusing petty arguments over whether they should be wearing the band shirts or the fans. Then there's the stoners, Denise's second cousin, the famous former school lothario, an angel stripper... There are also quite a few emerging actors knocking around here, if that's something that gets you going, such as Jason Segal in his first film role credited simply as "Watermelon guy".
Directed by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network - both great films) Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and E. G. Marshall Shot in black and white (but if that puts you off, you're a numpty) The judge delivers a charge of first degree murder, a young man stands solemnly in the dock as the jurors retreat to a back room. They are certain of his guilt. An "open and shut case" one of them remarks his mind made up. Once they reach a unanimous guilty verdict, he will be put to death by electric chair and they can all go home. They do a quick straw poll but to their dismay, there is one dissenter who is hesitant to send the man so quickly to his death. Gradually the articulate smooth-talking architect (Henry Fonda), known only by his juror number, 8 begins to sow the seeds of doubt. It soon becomes clear the jury is more diverse than they first appear. When 8 goes to the bath room to wash his face, he is confronted firstly by an impatient slimy salesmen who accuses him of doing a "soft sell" then by a house painter who responds to 8's argument conceding he's "just a workin' man. My boss does all the supposin'" Even though we never leave the confines of the jury room (save for a few minutes), 12 Angry Men is a clearly structured, complete film with a beginning, middle and end. The dialogue is so rich and revealing resulting in fully fledged characters, yet at times satisfyingly subtle. The multiple conflicts that occur between the drastically contrasting characters makes it so more than just about a man's life. The trial itself is just background, the ending is predictable and you can guess what's going to happen to the unfortunate accused from the outset. Instead the film is more about these twelve men, their qualities, motivations and in some cases weaknesses. One of the most powerful scenes of the film occurs when prejudice juror number 10 finally descends into a racist rant (the defendant is only shown briefly but appears to be Italian or perhaps Hispanic) and as his anger intensifies, one by one the jurors silently leave the table and turn their back on him, leaving him confused and exasperated. It is a moral tale of the triumph of simple honest reasoning over prejudice, bitter hatred and careless indifference as well as providing an entertaining education on consensus building. It is understandable how the thought of watching twelve men talking in a room might appear dull but trust me, it is so much more. Twelve Angry Men is an enthralling claustraphobic drama, amazing. Give this a watch, I guarantee you won't be dissapointed.
Waiting... is an independent drama/comedy film centering on various restaurant staff members at Shenanigans steakhouse. To give an indication of the level of humour in this film, the main gag which runs prominently throughout the entire movie is the "penis showing game" whereby male employees must try and get others to unwittingly look at their penis. You see, it's funny because it's genitals. Another hilarious scene sees the food of a consistently complaining lady (predictably) being altered with dandruff, spit and pubic hair. Just so funny. It's really too much. In all honesty, I didn't laugh once. Although a complete flop as a comedy, I did manage to extract some enjoyment from the films multiple and varied characters. Dean, one of the more likable characters, has been working in the restaurant since he left high school and after hearing of a successful former classmate, is beginning to feel disenchanted. Monty, a lecherous smug smartarse who has a thing for highschool girls, is the sort of (to be blunt) douchebag who if I ever met in real life would instantly activate my murder reflex. My stomach shudders every time he speaks. Annoyingly, I think we're supposed to find him all "cool" and "edgey. Nah. On the sidelines are Calvin, who struggles with public toilets and women, Raddimus the head chef, the 17-year old hostess, Mitch the frightened new guy who is essentially just a lazy excuse for the writer to explain everything to us and Dan, the childish, desperate manager. There's also Naomi, a waiter with overblown anger management problems, an angry tattooed cook, a philosophical dishwasher and two white stoner wannabe-gangster busboys, T-Dawg and Nick (Clerks anybody?). There are also two forgettable blonde girls, one of which is Dean's girlfriend. It's not a film with much of a storyline. Or any storyline in fact. The only thing of any significance that happens is to Dean (and you can probably guess what that is from my short description of him). Other than the oh-so-funny interactions with the customers, the film consists mainly of character development. That said though, due to the large number of characters it inevitably wears thin. We just about never leave the steakhouse which makes it a lot like watching goldfish in a bowl. I did eventually find myself rooting for the two characters that I actually cared about (Dean and Calvin) when I came to the realisation that everyone else was a vile excuse for a human being. And that these seemed to be the only two people with tangible, structured problems. To give credit though, when Mitchell (spoiler - kind of) finally lets it all out, this is more or less what I had been thinking the whole film. Except about ten times angrier. It's not much, but it's something to watch and it sustained my attention all the way through and despite being incredibly unfunny, I didn't fall asleep or anything (that would be a great tagline). One thing is certain; I will live in fear of complaining in restaurants for the rest of my life.
I have been drunk quite a few times in my relatively short life but the worst and most formative experience I ever had with drink was at a house party a year ago when I was 16. I arrived on an empty stomach and after quickly getting rid of the cans I brought with me; I then helped myself to the alcoholic contents of the fridge (which I later learnt belonged to other people). Later, after some bad dancing, I managed to make my way back into the kitchen where I ended up swigging a bottle of spirits, just to have something between my lips. I remember someone vaguely telling me to stop drinking it due to the volume, I stupidly ignored her. I was also told afterwards that I had been smoking weed at this point as well, which if true, couldn't have helped. I then spent a while by the sink splashing cold water on my face. Literally stood next to me were two people I knew well and the three of us had been talking (although I can't imagine I was saying anything intelligent) for a while. Eventually, the pair of them got a bit friendly and he began to feel her chest. Now for some reason, I saw this as an invitation to join in. Needless to say, it was out of order and I was lucky not to get punched in the face. I can't remember what happened after. I think I went for a piss, as I remember having to kick out two guys who were rolling joints in the tiny bathroom. Not too long after I wandered out and tried to collect myself as I sat on the doorstep but it wasn't too long before I threw up. To my credit I did try to hold it in for as long as I could. However, for some reason, it didn't occur to me to go and throw up in the toilet or the sink or wherever, instead of infront of a bunch of people. Nope that never occurred at all. I ended up at the end of the driveway with a few other drunks and their carers. I was still vomiting in bursts, to the delight of others. Then when there was nothing left of my stomach, I must have spent at least an hour lying on the pavement. By then two girls had seen it as their duty to get me up incase I passed out or something. They were actually quite cute but frankly, all I wanted to do was go to sleep so I decided to shout abuse at them or anyone else who tried to help me. Thinking back, it was actually quite admirable they even bothered. Eventually, I was dragged upstairs by the host who dumped me in a room with a few other drunks where I slept for the rest of the night. On the plus side, I woke up totally hangover free although a little bewildered and left after thanking everyone who had bothered to help me. I was annoyingly reminded about what happened for at least the next two days, varying from a misplaced praise to downright derision but mainly a sort of amused indifference. Regardless of what other people thought, it was a truly wasted (in the non-alcoholic sense of the word) night. Although I'm sure it was nowhere near the worst thing that could have happened to me (I know someone who was hit by a car when she walked into the road while she was drunk, luckily she wasn't too badly hurt) it was enough. Before this, I never thought drink could affect me so strongly. It had always been just a sort of mood enhancer, which at worst would impair my vision slightly or make me walk slightly funny. I've always been careful with how much I drink since then. I genuinely never want to drink that much again and it's amazing there are people who go out and do this every week just for kicks. I should mention, I've had many nights where I've been drinking and had a great night. It's only when you overstep your limit when things start to go downhill.
As with most 24 hour news channels, BBC News 24 can be incredibly tedious - except when theres an intresting or important breaking story, then I'm glued. And that's when BBC News truly comes into it's own. The BBC are such a huge news agency that they're able to get details/videos/photos before anyone else. It's these big news stories which really make the channel. Normally though, it's far more dull. But that doesn't matter too much, because normally (I imagine) not that many people are watching. It's not exactly meant to be watched in long sessions. When it comes to 24 hour news, I tend to favour BBC over Sky for one reason only. Sky is annoyingly peppered with disruptive adverts. So let's say I wanted to quickly check what's going on, I get greeted with an advert for talcolm powder or whatever. There is alot of emphasis on political stories, which is good in my opinion. I don't want my news to be full of pointless gossip, I liked to be informed but sometimes it can be just downright boring. The layout's pretty simple and uncluttered. Just a little ticker tape across the bottom with the time. I also enjoy the countdown thing they do every hour, makes me feel like I'm at a rave. Unfortunately for BBC News 24, good news doesn't occur as often as they'd like it to. This results in them stringing out good stories for as long as possible and making nothing-stories into something-stories by repeating them over and over. The presenters aren't anything to talk about. A bunch of middle-aged robotic smiley-faced autocue readers. As long as they read the news without stuttering all over the place, then they've done their job. The sport section is also a pain because 99.9% of the time it's stuff I don't care about. Someone scored a goal, someone hit a wicket, someone got sold from Something City to Something United for an outrageous sum of money... ad infinitum. Yeah, I don't care. If I wanted sports news (which I don't) then I'd be watching one of the sports new channels. The entertainment segment (or E24 as it's called, because that's cool apparently) can range between stupid fawning over celebrities and fascinating insights into the industry. By far the best thing about this channel is the fifteen-odd minutes of Mark Kermode, a film critic who I admire immensely, who's wheeled in once a week to provide his excellent critique on the newest box office and DVD releases. Even though it's usually just a shortened version of what he's said on his radio show, it's still good to see him in the flesh. 'Click' a 30 minute show about tech-related business, is pretty intresting although I find the presenter a little creepy. BBC News 24 is also viewable online, which is great.
Brief summary: Teenage Dirtbag is a 2009 high school drama starring Scott Michael Foster and Noa Hegesh about the relationship between two mismatched students who become close after they're placed in an English class together. The pair are Thayer (Foster), a neglected deliquent-rebel-stoner type who is trapped in a family of one-dimensional characters and Amber, a popular cheerleader. I usually don't care about acting, it's all the same to me as long as they're moving their face about a bit but when I look into Foster's big blank eyes all I see is a man desperately trying to remember his lines. The extras are especially bad. At times I wondered if Thayer and Amber were the only two students in their class with souls due to the eerie silence exhibited by their classmates. At one point, Thayer jumps on a table and starts shouting, nobody says a word. They just sort of look at him, like dead eyed automatons. Thayer reads some weird poetry, which would normally warrant a call to social services, nobody says a word. Thayer and Amber have a shouting match in the middle of class, again nobody says a word. It's just weird. Has the director never been into a school before? Or were the extras not paid to show emotions? Plot points are pointlessly introduced and then just left for dead. For example, a large amount of screentime is devoted to her forced change of partner at cheerleading practice. Nothing more ever becomes of it. The conflict doesn't resolve itself. It doesn't expand, it doesn't even move the story along. It's not even funny. The more I think about it, the more pointless those scenes appear. The potentially influential creative writing teacher Rosco is introduced. In one scene, he is seen sat alone at his desk with a concerned look on his face while making notes on Thayers poetry. However, again, nothing becomes of it. And again, you're left wondering what the whole point of that was. What actually makes this film any good is ongoing relationship between Thayer and Amber. It's difficult to pin it down but it was weirdly interesting to watch the pair of them. Perhaps it was the stupid gossipy teenager within me that wanted to know if they'd get together or not and voyeuristically watching them argue. And if I'm honest, the whole school cross-clique thing appealed to me albeit slightly, even though it's been flogged far beyond death. Never mind the fact that the pair of them combined make for enough cliches to choke a horse. The ending is also incredibly limp, a sort of frantic last-minute scribble of an ending. Afterwards, the writer probably bit his lip and said "That should keep the proles happy," Also, I thought the whole thing felt very televisual, like a TV movie. If I could explain why I would but it just did. I genuinely felt a little perplexed writing this review as even though looking back with even a half-way critcal eye I can see it dripping with things I should hate it for - I did actually enjoy it. Just not very much though.
Basics: Buffalo 66 is an independent drama/weird romance film written, directed and starring Vincent Gallo. I had never heard of Buffalo 66 until a week ago on a film podcast despite it being out for well over ten years now, so I think it's fair to say, it's quite an obscure film. Obscure maybe, but now I am so very glad I watched it. Billy (Gallo) has just been released from prison where he embarks on his first adventure - finding a place to piss. It becomes clear quickly that he's a compulsive liar as he boasts of being stood in the lobby of an expensive hotel while yakking to his parents on a grimey payphone. Intending to visit his parents as a free man, he kidnaps Layla (Ricci) a teenager taking part in a nearby dance class and coerces her into pretending to be his wife in order to maintain one of his numerous lies. A peculiar relationship unfolds as Layla takes fondly to her captor. Billy, the centerpiece of the film, is a troubled character to say the least. There are many things to dislike about him: pathetic, abusive and egotistical. He's a creep. As we progress though, we discover his vulerabilities and the uncaring background which has made him. In the end, it's difficult not to sympathise. He is not just taken at face value, his life is put on show. In true cause-and-effect fashion, his equally pathetic football-obsessed parents are not without responsibilty. The film plays out his painful memories, usually of their child abuse, that appear on cue using a strange movie-within-a movie technique (if that makes sense) are dotted throughout the film. Gallo helps reinforce the stereotype of independent films being all artsy and avant-garde, playing around with the camera angles whenever it suits him. Of particular note, the awkward dinner scene, where the camera keeps switching from one side of the table to the other. The ending was one of the best I've watched it a long time. It's a short scene but it gets the point across wordlessly. It's all in unwritten personality contrast and Gallos acting is flawless to the extent that such a dramatic change in his character hits you. Forget fireworks and shoot outs, that's all I needed from the ending. A somewhat legitimate criticism, would be the fact that Gallo does pretty much everything. Writing, directing, acring, music. Hell, might as well be called the Vincent Gallo show. But I don't care, for the end product is good which is all that matters really. Ego trip or no ego trip. What more can I say. I truly enjoyed this film and will probably watch it a few more times in the future.
A Serious Man is a drama/dark comedy directed by the Coen brothers and starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Sari Wagner Lennick. Set in the 1960s, we encounter the various troubles of family man Larry Gopnik (Stuhlbarg) in a suburban Jewish community. Even though Gopnik is the center of the film, it would be ironic to call him a protagonist, as he does so very little. Instead, he sits idly by as he becomes gradually swamped with problems and all he can seem to do is cry "Why me?". Unable to cope with these problems by himself, throughout the film he sees various rabbis who each offer their own unique pieces of "advice". Running alongside this, is the story of his young son. A habitual marijuana smoker approaching his bar mitzvah. This certainly isn't a conventional movie, I'm sure some people will find it boring and self-indulgent. Of course, I disagree entirely. I was totally absorbed by almost every character or line of dialogue so I wasn't bored for a second. The Cohens make Gopnik into someone you can sympathise with, although his utter lack of action may be frustrating to some. It is very much a movie of just "stuff happening" often with no meaning whatsoever. Much like life really. Gopnik just wants to get on with his life, by doing the right thing - trying to be "a serious man" but he can't. If this film could talk, it'd be nudging me and saying "Sometimes shit just happens,". The dialogue is excellent throughout. I will concede however, despite being billed as a comedy the film isn't laugh out loud funny (I think I laughed once through the whole thing). It is often far too bleak for that sort of thing. There are many little quirks which added to my enjoyment, the dream sequences hit a particular cord with me and I felt they added an extra dimension, giving deeper insight to his character: revealing his fears and desires. This film has really stuck with me. It was the type of well crafted piece of work you mull over in your head over and over, trying to uncover deeper meanings or simply just revisiting your favourite scenes. I'm immensely glad I watched it. Seeing the guy who plays Howard from the Big Bang Theory have a cameo role as the junior rabbi was also a welcome surprise.
The most recent film by acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino, the "Inglorious Basterds" are a group of ruthless undercover Jewish American soldiers fighting in Nazi occupied France. It stars Brad Pitt as their heavily accented leader, Aldo Raine, Eli Roth as Donny "The Bear Jew" and Til Schweiger as Stiglitz. Their story is also intertwined with those of Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), a French-Jewish girl and the lone survivor of a mass murder conducted by the "Jew Hunter" Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and Lt. Archie Hickox (Michael Fassbender) a British film critic chosen to head "Operation Kino". Like a lot of his films, it's split up into chapters, most focusing on one drawn-out scene. Yes, the scenes are long but they're mostly satisfying and each the episodic layout makes it feel as though the film is coming together episodically. As you probably know - but in case you didn't, it's wildly inaccurate historically. Now it's not that it makes it a bad film - at least not for me, it just takes away from the all-round seriousness of the film and inject a sort of Kill Bill style comic book element. So don't go in expecting Band of Brothers. Now despite, I liked how Tarantino stuck to the key character facts of the time. For example, a lot Nazis were educated, well spoken men who had family and friends, even though some of the things they did were obviously evil. He could easily just have made them just faceless murderbots who spoke of nothing apart from the evil Jew. The bar scene was without doubt the most memorable part of the movie for me. Here I was reminded just how good Tarantino is with set pieces of dialogue, such as the diner scene in Reservoir Dogs. I was totally gripped. The acting is great. I especially enjoyed Waltz's performance as the menacing "Jew Hunter". The attitude Tarantino takes towards violence in this film is morally questionable. I got the impression that during the final "act" in the closing moments of the play, we were supposed to be applauding as though justice was being done. Instead, all I felt was repulsion, as you should do when watching an act of cold cruelty. However, it is a Tarantino film. You'd be silly not to expect violence and profanity. Also, it isn't a very funny film but there was quite an amusing moment where Brad Pitt tries his hand at speaking Italian.
Dog Day Afternoon is a 1975 crime film starring Al Pacino and John Cazale. It is claimed to be based on a true story although John Wojtowicz, the man whom Sonny is based on, claims it is only about "30% accurate" - which isn't too bad I guess. The robbery goes wrong from the get go with one of his accomplices almost immediately losing nerve forcing Sonny (Pacino) to let him leave. And things begin to go downhill from there. Before you know it Sonny, along with his highly-strung accomplice Sal, find themselves surrounded by police but have no intentions of giving up. If you're thinking "bank robbery... must be a lot of gun battles," you're very much mistaken. In fact, I was surprised how very little action there was. Drama and tension is everything in this film. Despite the realistic tone as well as being based on a true story, it doesn't dispose of the feeling that "anything can happen" feeling. There are some truly unexpected reveals which make the film all the more gripping. Not being old enough, I won't be so bold to say that this film captures an era rife with social tensions but I'm sure that it at least does a damn good job. References to attica and Vietnam make this more than just a confined film. The convergence as well as the portrayal of the complex relationships between the various groups is staggering. The crowd, the police, the media, the relatives - their lives all weaved together and their intentions all so very different. As for the acting; it's Al Pacino. All you need to know there. He's propped up well by his supporting cast as well, so no problems on that front. The whole thing feels astoundingly "real" and you can almost feel the claustrophobia. There are so many intricacies which make this film enjoyable, definitely worth a watch.