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This is an old digital camera – I don't think it's made anymore, and it sells very cheaply on ebay. I bought it about seven years ago for photographing things I was going selling on ebay. I got it for about £25 then, with a memory card thrown in.
It's basic, but it does what I need it to do. There are three quality options for photos, and I usually go for the highest, which produces images of about 1MB in size. It has to be said, though, I don't think the quality is particularly brilliant. Sure, it shows whether there are any creases in the cover of a graphic novel, but images tend to have a slightly fake look to them, as if someone's messed around with a Photoshop filter.
It has a lot of other settings – timer, various flash options, etc. These are easily accessed via the menu button on the back of the camera. I won't pretend to have worked through every possible option meticulously, but selecting options is easy and fairly intuitive (assuming you've ever used a menu-based system on anything before). The camera is generally very easy to use, in fact. Taking photos is simple. Transferring them to a PC is very easy – you just plug the cable into a USB port and you can transfer files to your heart's content. I'm on my third PC since I've had this camera, and in each case it installed the necessary drivers very quickly and without my having to do anything other than plug it in.
But for all that, it's not great. The memory is fairly pitiful – 16MB – and if it hadn't come with a 500MB memory card it would have been close to useless. It's not very versatile - there aren't many zoom options, for instance. It paradoxically feels both too heavy and rather lightweight (the latter comes from the cheap-feeling plastic the camera's outer layer is made of).
It's very slow in saving images to the memory card. You take a photo, and then have to wait several seconds before you can take another, as it saves the last one. It would be no good at all if you wanted to take a number of photos in rapid succession, for instance of a flock of geese taking to the air from a lake or something.
Worst of all is the way it burns through batteries. It takes two AA batteries, and you get maybe half an hour of constant use out of the camera if you're lucky.
I'm happy enough with it, for all its failings. I bought it to do a job, and it still does that job pretty well. But it's fairly obsolete now. Maybe this would do if you were looking for a cheap camera to give to a young child. Otherwise, there's little to recommend it.
This BBC DVD is only £3.50 on amazon.
A boy called Kay is home from his boarding school for the holidays. He befriends a punch-and-judy man named Cole Hawlings, who is also a magician. Hawlings is being hunted by the agents of the sinister Abner Brown, a rival magician who craves Cole's greatest treasure – the box of delights.
This was a high-profile production for a kids' show. It's very special effects heavy, which will prove a problem for a lot of modern viewers. The effects are poor by today's standard. If you're indulgent of such things, as I am, you'll see the effects as part of the show's period charm. People are superimposed on odd looking landscapes and have to pretend to interact with cartoons, none of which quite works as well as it would nowadays. The effects are never good enough to allow you to suspend disbelief, but I don't see that as a huge problem.
While Kay is tolerable enough, he and his friends ooze privilege. The series has a rigidly stratified class hierarchy in which everyone knows their place. But the show treats all this poshness as part of the nostalgic spectacle, so it could be worse. The old slang is hilarious.
The child actors are decent. Devin Stanfield, playing Kay, holds things together nicely enough. The adult cast is led by two superb performances. Patrick Troughton plays Hawlings. Troughton was always a great actor, albeit one who lays the business on a bit thick sometimes. Hawlings is a winning mixture of wisdom and slyness. The only complaint is that he's missing for the middle part of the story. Robert Stephens is the diabolical Abner Brown, deploying his sinister voice to perfection. Any idiot can see exactly how his schemes are going to unravel but that doesn't detract from the acting one bit.
There are good performances from the rest of the adult cast, which includes Patricia Quinn and Bill Wallis. Wallis plays the Rat (he's a giant talking rat, basically), and the series has a lot of fun with the disgusting things he gets to eat.
One of the most memorable features is the opening credits sequence, featuring faces looming out of the stars at us, accompanied by the lovely opening theme (a twinkly variation on The First Nowell). The incidental music is a mix of lovely festive orchestral stuff and weedy synth bits done by the Radiophonic Workshop.
The Box of Delights stands up incredibly well. It doesn't explain everything but that's OK. It's overlong. Six half-hour episodes is at least one too many. The ending is weak. But overall, it's still wonderful.
The disk has some promotional stuff from the time, including a memorable Blue Peter appearance. There's also an engaging half-hour reunion of the director and the actor who played Kay.
I've been cutting my own hair for several years. Clippers are a cheap and easy alternative to paying for a hairdresser. My current pair (only my second, I think) is this Wahl model. I've had it maybe four years, so it's lasted quite well for something that probably only cost me about £25.
The clipper and its various bits and pieces come in a small black plastic case, presumably meant to resemble a toolbox. I guess this is so that men won't feel any less masculine about indulging in personal grooming.
The clipper itself is mains powered, so isn't all that portable (you might not be able to take it camping, for instance) but it has about two metres of cable, so you shouldn't have much trouble using it. I can't use it in the bathroom, which is kind of a problem as that's the only place in the house with any mirrors, but I manage.
It comes with 8 comb things to fit on the clipper to adjust the amount of hair it cuts off you. They range from 3 to 25mm. I usually use a size 3 –10mm – which trims my hair back pretty fiercely, but doesn't allow my scalp to show through too much.
It works pretty well – as well as any other I've used. It shears off big clumps of hair like no one's business. I use it without a comb on to trim my beard prior to wet shaving it, and that works well too, although I have managed to nick myself doing so (I think the instructions recommend you not do this, but I doubt you could do that much damage with it). I haven't used it on any body hair, but I daresay it would work well enough.
You need to clean it once in a while, as the remains of your hair do tend to clog it up. It comes with a small brush and a bottle of oil. If you don't clean it, it will reach a state in which is doesn't do anything except buzz. I've rarely felt it necessary to use the oil – just rubbing the brush behind the spiky bits generally does the trick.
It also comes with scissors, presumably for trimming any tufts you missed, and a comb (given how short I cut it, a comb is no use to me whatsoever).
I am a man who likes to expend as little effort as possible on personal grooming. This device lets me cut my hair easily, has lasted a long time, and lets me avoid the unpleasantness of conversing with hairdressers. And that's all I want from it.
So finally all the pieces come together – all the little hints and cameos from the earlier Marvel films pay off, and we get the big superhero mash-up we've been promised. Thor's archenemy Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back, and he's using the macguffin from the Captain America film to summon an alien army to conquer the earth for him. Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) activates his team of superheroes. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new boy Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who had a cameo in Thor) have to stop the aliens and learn to work together.
This is the best of the bunch, and makes you wonder how anyone could think of going back to individual superhero movies afterwards. The comics always had superheroes fight one another on their first meeting, and that happens here, with Thor and Iron Man going at it hammer and tongs in impressive fashion. Hawkeye is even mind-controlled by Loki for most of the movie. A lot of fun is had with the characters' interactions (although Captain America is a bit dull).
And it pays off with a terrific final battle sequence, as the aliens attempt to lay waste to Manhattan (all those skyscrapers getting smashed up might have been a bit of a sore point a few years ago...). Everyone gets to show off their powers, although the Hulk gets the two best moments. It's a special effects extravaganza, but gives us enough human moments that it's never alienating.
Everyone reprises their parts from earlier films (including a few support actors like Gwyneth Paltrow). They're all fun, although inevitably Downey and Hiddleston are the best. Mark Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, and thankfully is a great deal more endearing. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is the other new addition, and he's perfectly decent in the least promising part. Small parts are played by great actors like Powers Boothe and Harry Dean Stanton, and even Jenny Agutter gets in on the act.
And of course it has plenty of little hints for future films, including an appearance by uber-cosmic villain Thanos at the end, to tie into the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. If future Avengers films are this good, they'll be a pleasure. I just hope they don't keep piling new characters in to please comic book fans and end up like X-Men 3, when no one had a chance to breathe.
The only major problem with the film is that it makes a lot more sense if you've seen the films that lead up to it. But then if you're interested in it, you probably have…
This is readily available on DVD and blu-ray for less than £10. Worth every penny.
I have always actively resented hair products. That I have to keep my hair clean is something I grudgingly accept, but to have to pay through the nose for it doesn't sit well. I always used Boots own brand shampoo, which at 60p a bottle did everything I required of a shampoo and hardly cost me anything. Then they stopped making it.
I chose this as a replacement on the grounds that it was the next cheapest one that didn't look like a bodily fluid. I want my shampoo to look like luridly coloured slime, thanks. It's not 'natural' and never will be. It's less than £2, usually, which is about as cheap as it gets these days.
In terms of keeping my hair clean, it does that well enough. It lathers up nicely and washes out easily, and keeps my hair feeling reasonably clean for the best part of the day (unless it's particularly hot and I've been sweating a lot). And that really ought to be it.
But it does make some slightly bizarre claims on the bottle. 'Say goodbye to mundane hair', it says. But it also says 'For normal hair'. Which is it? It claims it will make my hair 'shine' – well, OK, let's suppose for a moment that I'd want that to happen. If so, I'd be disappointed in this – my hair looks and feels the same as it ever has (and I've been using this stuff for a couple of months - any transformative effect would surely have manifested itself by now).
The bottle itself is very easy to use. The label on the back, though, caused me problems. The text is tiny, in white on a pale green background. I found it incredibly difficult to read. Not that I really need to read it, I suppose, but I couldn't tell you what chemicals are in it.
It claims to be citrus flavoured, and it does smell of citrus. But it's a depressingly generic citrus which I can't associate with any real-life fruit, and has an obvious chemical element. It's perhaps fleetingly reminiscent of cheap lime-flavoured sweets, but even then, not really. I don't mind this, its not an unpleasant smell, but the idea that 'citrus' is in some way desirable in itself, without actually being attached to a fruit, is slightly depressing in some way.
Anyway. It keeps my hair clean. I just wish it would dispense with the silly claims about what else it might do for me. And it would be nice if they could chop 50p off the price.
Dental floss is all much of a muchness. I generally just go for whichever is cheapest, which usually means Boots own brand (this is less than £2). I don't use it religiously after cleaning my teeth, just to dislodge any fragments of food I can notice lodged between my teeth after meals. Bacon and oranges tend to be the worst offenders in that regard - it's always the things you love that hurt you most. I usually carry some in my pocket for just such an eventuality.
There are, I guess, two types of dental floss. One which is waxed thread (sort of round, in cross-section) and one which is tape (flat, not round). The Boots type is of the tape variety, although less wide than some brands. It pulls out of the container easily, and snaps off very easily with the aid of the little metal cutter thing. There's not a great deal else to say. It advertises itself as 'freshmint', but if you can detect a taste you've a better tongue than I have. Seriously – in the interests of this review I just ran about ten centimetres worth over my tongue. I couldn't detect any kind of discernible taste.
My teeth are a bit crooked – some have quite big gaps between them, and some are quite tightly crammed in together. This floss feels better at dislodging stuff that's stuck between the non-gappy teeth than the ones with big gaps. I'm not sure why that's the case. Obviously I'm not going to start carrying more than one type of dental floss to use on different areas of my mouth – that would be decadent. So I make do just with this.
As I only use it when I need to, a packet (or reel or whatever the noun would be) can last for months, even years. When I finally run out of the stuff, probably around easter according to my best guess, I can't see any reason I'd want to choose a different brand.
Thor is the Asgardian god of thunder, once worshipped by Vikings. Marvel turned him into a superhero, and his adventures – on earth, but even more in Asgard – led to some of artist Jack Kirby's most crazily inventive work. The film has Thor's devious half-brother Loki connive to have their father Odin, king of the gods, banish Thor to earth without the hammer that gives him his power. There he falls for a pretty astrophysicist, while back on Asgard his brother schemes with the ice giants, ancient enemies of the Asgardians.
It asks a lot of the audience in terms of suspension of disbelief, but it more or less gets away with it. The scenes in the various mythical realms are a bit CGI heavy. For the most part it recreates the Asgard of the comics, at least in terms of strangeness and scale, although the characters don't all look right (especially Volstagg, who should be much fatter). Especially good is the big clanky robot thing that Loki sends after Thor and his chums, which has a real Jack Kirby look to it.
The problem is that it's too much like all the other films in the Avengers franchise. An oafish hero learns the value of sacrifice, or something, and beats up the villains. The fights are feeling tired. The same things – cars flying around, people being knocked miles by a single punch etc – that seemed so great in Iron Man are becoming less interesting. The supernatural gloss is at least different to the science of other films. The hero's self-discovery doesn't come about by building a better suit of armour, but by accepting his limitations and redeeming himself – it can get semi-religious with some justification, although it's careful not to call Thor a god. (Sadly they also lose the hilarious faux Shakespearean dialogue Stan Lee always gave his godly characters in the comics.)
Chris Hemsworth is fine as Thor – like Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man, he makes his brattish character endearing in spite of being a moron. Also like Iron Man, the film wastes an Oscar-winning actress in a 'superhero's girlfriend' role; this time it's Natalie Portman. It throws away actors like Rene Russo and Idris Elba in nothing parts. Stellan Skarsgard is good as Portman's mentor.
Anthony Hopkins pretty much plays Odin in his sleep, doing all the things you'd expect Anthony Hopkins to do when playing a god who also happens to be a bad father. The film really belongs to Tom Hiddleston's Loki. He's fantastic – playing a trickster god must be fun anyway, but he looks like he's having the time of his life.
Weirdly, it's directed by Kenneth Branagh (in the director's commentary he invites us to call him 'Ken'. I will do, should I ever meet him). He was once touted as the new Laurence Olivier. If the original Olivier was still alive he'd no doubt have played Odin.
I’m not much of a one for brand loyalty, but my last two pairs of headphones had been Sennheiser, so when my last ones finally died a death, I went for them again. These were slightly cheaper than whatever I bought previously (I paid about £20 for them), but are just as good quality.
They plug in to your ears They’re the kind that block out an awful lot of noise from the outside world, although not as much so as my last ones. Those I could – in emergencies – use as ear plugs. These aren’t quite as good on that front. Some in-ear headphones somehow magnify sounds in your mouth – your tongue bashing against your teeth, say – these don’t.
They also seem to leak noise slightly more, although it’s hard to tell as my experiments in that area didn’t involve sticking them in anyone else’s ears. I suppose I could have done - they come with replacement rubber bits (i.e. the bit you actually stick into your ear canal).
Anyway, who cares what other people hear? It’s what you hear that’s important, right? Noise is very clear and very good. As advertised, the bass is nicely boosted, but without it feeling like it’s trying to vibrate your fillings out. It handles high volumes well, although obviously it’s a bad idea to listen to very loud music on headphones for any length of time – but there were no noticeable distortions when I briefly cranked the volume up to full on my iPod.
It doesn’t have a separate volume control, which is probably why it was cheaper than the last ones I bought – an iPod is easy enough to turn up or down by touch, so I don’t miss that. The cord is perhaps a bit too long – it’s a meter long – and tends to get tangled very easily. But that’s always the case with headphones. If I could be bothered to take better care when putting them in my pocket after use, it would doubtless be less of an issue. They also tend to bash against my lapels as I walk, a sound which carries to the earphones themselves.
All in all, though, these do the job very nicely. I’ve only had them a few months, and they’ve weathered the storm nicely; if other Sennheiser headphones I’ve had are anything to go by I expect them to last for three years or so.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this film at all. Captain America is the most tedious of all superheroes. I was pleasantly surprised.
It mostly takes place during the Second World War. Wimpy Steve Rogers volunteers for an experimental process that turns him into a super soldier. After a few false starts he ends up fighting against the Nazi scientist The Red Skull (so named because his face resembles a red skull) and his secret Hydra organisation.
Part of the problem the film has to overcome is that we kind of know how it all ends up. The film begins in the modern day as the wreckage of the plane Captain America supposedly died in is found. Anyone familiar with the comics will know what happens to various characters, including Cap’s pal Bucky. In spite of that, this manages to be undemanding fun, and captures some of the spirit of the comics pretty successfully. Marvel always treated the War as another exciting adventure for wisecracking superheroes, so don’t expect to find much actual human suffering in here. It’s fast-paced and occasionally genuinely witty, and has the requisite number of explosions.
Chris Evans is better than expected as the Captain, making the tedious, flag-waving buffoon genuinely likeable. Hayley Atwell is fine as the love interest, Tommy Lee Jones is a bit wasted but perfectly decent as a gruff military commander, and Samuel Jackson is Samuel Jackson. It has great villains, though – Hugo Weaving is fantastic as the Red Skull, and Toby Jones is terrific as his less resolute assistant, Arnim Zola.
It's perhaps a bit too much of a set-up for the Avengers film, so is probably best watched as part of the series (you can get DVD or blu-ray boxsets). But it isn't terrible as a standalone, and made me laugh a few times.
The follow-up to Iron Man suffers a bit from the problems that affect a lot of sequels. In trying to be bigger and better than the first film, it tries to cram in too much. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is dying of poisoning from the element that powers his fake heart; he’s under investigation by the US government, which wants to use his armour as a weapon; a rival weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer, is trying to outdo him; and a Russian engineer/psychopath, Ivan Vanko, has replicated his tech and is coming after him. Plus series regulars James Rhodes and Pepper Potts have a bit of character stuff to deal with, and there’s a lot of set-up for the forthcoming Avengers movie…
This kind of thing is fine in comics, where most ongoing superhero stories have two or three subplots running underneath whatever this week’s big fight is. But in a two-hour movie it feels cramped. Especially the stuff that looks ahead to the Avengers movie – there are little teasers in each film, usually post credits, which work very nicely to draw them all together and create anticipation for the next movie. But Iron Man 2 features way too much of Nick Fury, the leader of Shield, who is looking to set up the Avengers. And the arrival of Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow adds to an already cluttered film without enough room for anything to breathe properly.
Happily the fights are still fun. The final battle, where Iron Man has to take on a small army of drones with similar powers to him is fun, even if the final showdown feels a bit perfunctory.
Robert Downey Jr is still very good as Stark. He’s become even more of a douchebag by the start of this film, and he drinks too much and is obnoxious towards his closest friends. But he has the charm to pull it off. The rest of the cast do what they can. Paltrow is better this time round. Mickey Rourke is terribly miscast as the evil Russian scientist, but Sam Rockwell is great as the obnoxious rival arms dealer. Jackson and Johansson are both terrific, but it still feels like they shouldn't be in this film. But this is one of the weaker efforts overall.
I'm not a fussy man when it comes to deodorant. My only real concerns are a) will this keep my armpits from reeking and b) will I be able to smell it. (The answers I want, incidentally, are a) yes; and b) no.)
Lynx deodorant fits the bill. Sure, its branding it a little, shall we say, thuggish, but it's a good, safe option for the unfussy man. (I mean, the idea that deodorant makes you some kind of predator, like a lynx, is foolish, although maybe the argument is that it's easier to sneak up on a herd of zebra if you smell of deodorant instead of sweat. Also, lynxes are pretty shabby as big cats go. If you were Manimal, you wouldn't turn into a lynx. Am I right, guys?)
Anyway, this douses my body's natural odours well enough, generally lasts all day, and isn't obtrusive. A very faint waft if I'm wearing a T-shirt, and nothing more. Job done. I favour the dry stick style of deodorant, as it feels faintly unpleasant rubbing a slimy deodorant in my armpits, and the spray ones always seem to leave a weird aftertaste in my mouth (I don't spray it in my mouth. I'm no fool. It still seems to get in there, though).
I don't really know how to describe the smell. It's kind of like olfactory white noise, but with a tang of sweetness. It doesn't say 'Africa' to me, but I suppose they wanted something exotic sounding, and 'Africa' does well enough. Smell wise, this is more Band Aid than Toto, if you get my drift.
The only thing I object to is that when it starts to run out, the actual deodorant bit invariably falls down inside the stick part. I don't want to have to buy a new one until I've got every shred of value out of the one I'm using (it is, perhaps, a little overpriced for what it is), so I invariably end up shaking the thing trying to get the deodorant to fall out of the tube, cursing as I do. But that probably says more about me than it does about Lynx.
This is the weakest link of the films that lead to the Avengers. The Hulk is a great character in the comics, basically a huge green toddler with anger management issues. But the problem is that inevitably a leading man is going to want to spend more time as the Hulk’s milquetoast alter ego Bruce Banner than as the big green CGI monster.
Banner becoming the Hulk is rushed through in a credits sequence (this may be a sequel to the dire Ang Lee movie). In the film, he is living in Brazil, but the agents of the US government, led by bushy-moustached general Ross, are hunting him down. Eventually it all heads back to the US. Banner wants to find Ross's daughter, with whom he is in love. Ross’s sidekick, the belligerent Russian (apparently) soldier Emil Blonsky eventually imbibes some Hulk serum and becomes The Abomination, a more talkative big strong monster.
The bits where the Hulk actually gets to Hulk out are great. Unfortunately, there are only three of them. Otherwise we have to watch the charmless Banner run around looking for a cure. If had featured more of the ‘cars being chucked around, military hardware being smashed up’ stuff, it would have been a likeable film. The Hulk is fundamentally not a complex enough character to build a movie around, and Banner is just dull, so this was probably doomed from the start.
But it’s really not helped by the cast. Is Edward Norton anyone’s idea of a fun actor? He can’t even wink like he means it. He’s one of those actors who – while technically good – just leaves me cold. Another such actor is William Hurt, who unfortunately is playing the main antagonist, General Ross. Rounding out the trio of not-fun actors, Liv Tyler is dull and weird-looking as Banner’s love, Betsy. Tim Roth, an actor who can be very likeable, is horribly miscast as Blonsky – he’s way too short, and way too English.
The film makes the Hulk scary, as he has to be, but doesn’t really make him loveable. It’s removed most of his dialogue – in the comics he has an endearingly simplistic way of talking. We get one ‘Hulk smash!’ and not much else. By focusing too much on Banner, rather than the Hulk, it makes this less of a superhero film than the other Marvel films, and therefore a lot less fun.
In – I think – 2006, when I'd just paid a dentist a surprisingly large amount to remove the stains from my teeth, I decided to finally plunge into the white-knuckle world of electric toothbrushes. Naturally enough, I bought the cheapest one I could find – the Oral B Advance Power, made by Braun. (What does 'Advance Power' mean? 'Advanced' I could understand, but 'Advance'? Anyway...).
The fact that I still have the toothbrush 8 years later probably tells you all you need to know. It's durable and it does the job. It's much the same shape as any other electric toothbrush, and only has one speed setting. It's great at getting between my back teeth, and just letting the rotating head whir away at your teeth and gums for a few minutes leaves them feeling clean.
I suspect it's no better or worse than any other toothbrush as far as cleaning your teeth is concerned. My teeth are almost always white now (although to be honest I drink a lot less red wine these days, and no longer smoke, so there's less stainage generally). I don't think I've needed a filling since getting the toothbrush, so it's doing something right.
The brushes need changing every few months or so (I should probably replace them more often than I do). New heads aren't expensive (a pack of four goes for about £4 on amazon) and changing them isn't too difficult – you just yank the old one off and stick the new one on. Simples.
The one downside is that the power runs down quite quickly. Maybe four good long brushes and the little chap noticeably loses some of his vim. This is only a problem if, like me, you forget to recharge it. It does take a while to recharge if you let it run down (as I almost always do). The brush comes with a two-pin bathroom plug, so you'll need to get an adapter if, again like me, you have a bathroom with no socket.
The main thing to recommend this toothbrush is that I've had it for almost a decade and it's still going, in spite of daily use. It's also still the cheapest on the market, as far as I can see.
Various DVD and blu-ray options are available for this film – I'd recommend the blu-ray boxset containing five other Avengers-related movies.
This was the first film in Marvel’s conquest of the movie world. Boozy arms dealer Tony Stark is kidnapped by insurgents in (we assume) Afghanistan. They instruct him to build them missiles, but instead he builds himself some superhero armour and escapes amid the explosions. Back in the States, he resolves to turn his back on making weapons, and instead builds himself improved superhero armour. But forces within his own company are conspiring against him…
The main character is a total jerk, even after realising that (shock! horror!) weapons kill people and selling them isn't a very nice thing to do. Luckily, Robert Downey Jr is so effortlessly charming in the role that you won’t notice what a grade-A douche Stark is. The supporting cast is perhaps less successful. Gwyneth Paltrow is not a very fun actress, and doesn’t have the charm to trade sexually charged banter with Downey (it’s also very odd to see an Oscar winner take on a 'hero's girlfriend' role). And Jeff Bridges is inherently too cuddly to really be credible as the bad guy.
It’s fun. It’s an extended origin story, so don’t expect much Iron Man action for the first hour. But by giving the characters time to breathe, it makes us care about them. Marvel were a great superhero publisher because they were able to give their heroes distinct personalities (something it’s difficult to say about their rivals DC). This film could easily have turned into a splurge of video-game action scenes, but keeps them to a minimum.
My main issue with it is that Iron Man flies into a warzone and saves a village from being executed by a Taliban-style militia group. One can’t help but feel that this isn’t the ideal mission for a fantasy character. Although he decides that war is bad, Stark doesn’t ever think to question America’s military presence in Afghanistan. And the evil Arabic guy is a racist portrayal even by Hollywood standards.
It’s also amusing to see evil Jeff Bridges gloat about stealing Stark’s ideas for the good of his company. This is – famously – exactly what Marvel did to a number of its artists, most notoriously to Jack Kirby who had to watch Stan Lee and Marvel make millions out of characters he created. Stan Lee makes a funny cameo, as he does in every other Marvel film ever made.
All in all, a lot more fun than I expected.
A review of Arrow’s blu-ray release, currently £16 on amazon.
White of the Eye (1987) is an early example of the serial killer thrillers that became huge with Silence of the Lambs. There is a series of gruesome murders in Arizona. The police home in on a suspect – hi-fi engineer Paul White. But Paul is a family man who protests his innocence. And why is his wife’s scuzzy old boyfriend suddenly back on the scene?
The film features a lot of serial killer movie tropes that later become silly. Paul’s likable enough that you’ll hope he’s innocent, but we’re allowed enough doubts about him to be kept guessing. David Keith is very good in the role, managing to keep it real through some unlikely plot twists.
Cathy Moriarty plays Paul’s wife Joan. She’s good for the most part, but has one scene of overwrought emotion in the middle of the film that just screams ‘method actor’. Her ex-boyfriend Mike is also played well, firstly annoying then unsettling. There are lots of flashbacks about how Mike lost Joan to Paul; at first it’s not clear why we’re being shown all this, but it comes good at the end.
The unusual Arizona locations are used well. Rapid editing and camera movements subtly disorient the audience. The murder scenes are fairly tactful, apart from one, which is among the nastiest I’ve seen and must account for the 18 rating.
On the debit side, there’s a big revelation that should leave the audience gasping, but which is fumbled. And the ending can only be described as ‘really silly’.
The music is co-written by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. A lot of it sounds like the quietly discordant bits you might find at the start of a 20-minute song about Roger Waters’ tax returns, so if you’re a Floyd fan you might enjoy that.
This looks pretty good in HD, although as ever with 1980s film, it’s not overwhelmingly impressive. There’s a lot of good detail visible, and the colours look vivid. There’s a DVD as well, which I didn’t watch but briefly checked - the picture quality is as good as it can on a DVD, I guess.
The main extra is a long documentary about the film’s director, Donald Cammell, that was originally shown on the BBC. It’s very good. Although Cammell didn’t make enough films to be more than a marginal figure, he’s interesting enough to devote 80 minutes of your life to. The other important extra is a short film, a ten minute thing called The Argument. In it, a man and a naked woman in a desert argue. It’s part of a film Cammell tried to make in the early 70s. It’s like a cross between El Topo and Lucifer Rising, but sadly it isn’t nearly as interesting as that sounds.
Once again, Arrow has produced an impressive blu-ray of a film that doesn’t quite deserve the amount of love and care being lavished on it.