The Best Film… Ever!

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“Martha’s Vineyard has everything. Clear skies. Gentle surf. People flock to its Atlantic beaches every summer to splash in the waves. But there was apprehension in the air at the weekend after multiple warnings that one or possibly two great white sharks were cruising the waters close to its beaches.” (Leonard Doyle, The Independent).

I don’t know about you but the prospect of some deathly pale unfortunate, splashing about in their bright yellow Speedo’s, is quite a grim visage in itself without adding the image of said unfortunate being taken apart by a 14-foot Great White. That being said, and by way of a muse, it was this report that drove me to put virtual pen to paper and give my sickeningly biased, and love-soaked opinion, on what has been my favourite film for as long as I can remember… Jaws.

Never has a film affected me more, and on so many varying levels.  I can’t quite remember when I first saw this movie, who I was with, or any of the subsequent nightmares.  I know I was young and I know it scared the hell out of me.  I would hazard a guess that over the past thirty years I’ve watched it more times than I could honestly consider healthy… I remember one particular summer when I watched the thing once a week!

Regardless of my own prevailing nightmares, a relentless fear of water, and a continued fascination with sharks, Jaws was a seminal movie for many others and has directly shaped the way modern cinema offerings are produced, marketed and ultimately released.

Made in 1975, it was the first movie to be dubbed a summer blockbuster, the first film to be released nationally or ‘wide released’, the first to be distributed and marketed simultaneously (a practice that still continues today), and the first to cross the $100 million dollar profit mark. While we’re on a stat trip I’ll have it noted that Jaws eventually grossed approximately $470 million worldwide – that equates to almost $2.5 billion in adjusted 2014 dollars. That’s higher than Titanic, The Avengers, and sits just below the biggest grossing film of all time, Avatar – and all without the need for stupid 3d gimmicks to increase the ticket price.

Now for the history bit…

Peter Benchley’s novel was already flying off the shelves before producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown received the option for it. Knowing it would make a great movie, but unsure of how it could be filmed, a ridiculously young Stephen Spielberg stumbled upon the pages and foolishly signed up to direct. Shooting the movie began in Martha’s Vineyard before either final draft or the model sharks had been completed, and with this foolhardy optimism, the cast and crew began an estimated 55-day principle photography shoot – a shoot that would eventually wrap on day 159!

The months that followed saw the overall production budget spiral, the model sharks frequently malfunction, the script re-written several times (and by several different contributors), the expiration of the Screen Writers Guild contract, relationship tensions between ‘the veteran’ Robert Shaw and ‘cocky upstart’ Richard Dreyfuss, to say nothing of the growing distaste shown by the wealthy inhabitants of Matha’s Vineyard towards the cast and crew of the movie – as David Brown acknowledged, ‘… [The residents] didn’t particularly care for a movie invasion, and didn’t like to see an artificial shark parked in the sea channel where their homes faced!’

Groundbreaking cinema obviously requires you to break some ground, what those associated with Jaws failed to realise is that you also need to break parts of yourself too! A tough shoot, tougher environmental factors, and some difficult cast relationships, the making of this movie could be mulled over for many hours and indeed has via several books and a few documentaries. However, while all of these varying autopsies of the film are worth a look, and thoroughly cover the making of Jaws, I want to explore some of the reasons why this film is the classic it is, and perhaps more importantly how it continues to thrill all who see it – including myself.

‘… the screams started, and they never stopped …’ These words, offered by David Brown when asked to talk about the initial test screenings, still ring true today and is one of the film’s greatest achievements. I struggle to think of another movie, ticking the boxes that Jaws does, that could equally stand the test of time with such command and grace. It’s amazing how this film had the same effect on my nephew (aged 14) only last year, as it did with me over 28-years ago (and also aged 14 at that time) – and let’s not forget that my teenage nephew is a child of the modern comic-book movie invasion and has been fed CGI and digital movie-making from an early age.

Often cited as an action movie, other times a thriller, occasionally by some as horror, and with strong elements of comedy and well-mapped suspense, Jaws manages to cloud any kind of genre definition. I’ve seen the movie plenty of times and still don’t know what to term it. As a child I remember being completely terrified by certain parts of the movie (severed head mysteriously left in a boat anyone??). As I got older the film broke into two sections, the build-up, and the stuff on the boat. As that impressionable child, the part on the boat was always my favourite, as I started to appreciate movies for their story-telling and dialogue; the build-up became my preferred section. These days I love it all equally.

Suspense, horror, action, comedy, buddy film, guys on a mission, a family terrorised – it has all of the above. Now tell me that’s not good entertainment?

Talking of covering all bases, Jaws leaves nothing to chance, especially in its casting. The three principles (excluding the shark) worked to perfection. In-fighting aside, Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw played their parts in such a way that audience empathy is secured within seconds of meeting them. As an ensemble cast I struggle to think of any better, and they own the screen with their charm and credibility.

In fact, all characterisations are on the money and are never allowed to detract from the story. Every second of this movie is there for a reason with nothing on show that could be deemed as excess baggage or self-indulgent filler. The Mayor, the various fishermen, the families affected by the events, all is perfectly pitched and totally in sync with both the actual surroundings depicted in the movie and the audiences’ own preconceptions of life in a small town undergoing such an ordeal.

Waxing lyrical any further on individual cast members, and whilst easy to perform, is too obvious. Anyone who has seen this film knows just how good they all are, and how they enrich the story and take it beyond the simple monster movie it could have been. It’s like asking someone to make the noise of a shark coming at you… everyone does the dur-dur, dur-dur, dur-dur theme tune. Just like the string arrangement played during the Psycho shower scene, these things leave a mark on your subconscious and are never forgotten.

Even that half submerged camerawork is now an industry standard when shooting anything at sea – forcing the audience to engage with the events on screen as if right there.

For me, and what makes this film great, is that it has it all going on – all the genre stuff, great acting and direction, picture perfect locations, that relentless soundtrack and the overall primeval fear of the last great predator on Earth chasing you down.

There is an elemental terror about what is under the waterline, and Jaws exploits this again and again, through changing generations and cultures, using subtle camerawork, strong narrative and enduring performance.

Who needs a bigger boat?

Paul Millard 2014

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Homicidal Tendencies

A few weeks ago I decided to count up the amount of people I had killed over the past five years.  I’ll be honest, I was expecting a pretty high number, but upon giving it some thought I have to say I was really shocked.  I wasn’t prepared for just how prolific I had been.  I was also pleasantly surprised by my diversity in victims: men, women, children, animals (I like to skin these); black, white, Asian, European, Inuit.  I’ve done ‘em all.

It was also pretty alarming just how little can spark me into an apathetic killing spree.  Let me elaborate.

In fact, this happened only a few weeks ago…

I’m driving back to my house and trying my best not to kill anyone.  I’m taking it easy in my beaten-up car and obeying all the signals and demonstrating good lane discipline.  It’s a little rainy and the road is wet, but visibility is good and the traffic is moving along nicely at this time of night.  Then… it happens.  Out of a clear blue sky some air-headed pedestrian strolls into the street and takes the full brunt of my front grill.  The guy disappears under my front tyre and I bump uncontrollably over his collapsing body.  Looking in the rear-view mirror, it’s clear this guy is now nothing more than an abstract smear on the road – and I’m in utter bewilderment at the stupidity of the fucking idiot that has just broken my ‘no killing’ attempt to get home.

I go off in total anger.  To hell with it… why am I bothering to conform to a society of people that can’t even cross a road safely?  Selecting the semi-automatic that I like to keep fully loaded, and with wild abandonment I let a few rounds off.  Without even aiming I manage to take down a few people walking into a nearby park.  I hear the screams (that always accompany my target practice), and I’m immediately urged to stop the car, select my silenced MP5 and let the big dogs hunt for a while!

That night I killed around sixty people.  Sick, eh?  To be honest, what’s really sick is the amount of stories I have that run along this same adrenalin-soaked vein.

There was an occasion when I stumbled upon a woman cooing at what I thought was a baby in a pram, it turned out to be a revolver!  The crazy bitch lunged at me with a scalpel and I had no option but to empty an entire clip into her skull.  One time I was following this guy I needed to kill, got a little sloppy with my execution method and ended up taking out a dozen or so police officers.  I was riding a horse (whom I had been with for many adventures), that got spooked by a rattle snake and bucked me off – I retaliated by giving my new Winchester rifle a run out… I had to buy a new horse after that incident as things got a little messy.

Trust me, this shit happens all the time, and usually someone, or something, gets dead.

I don’t blame myself; I blame how the social order I live within has raped and desensitised me to the vile criminal behaviour I frequently indulge in.  I blame movies and how the power of celluloid has corrupted my mind with visions I can never forget.  I blame music for providing the torture and emotional hobbling the movies simply couldn’t get done.  I blame my parents for wiring me this way, and then my wife for allowing me to become such a vicious and competent killer – Christ! She even brings me tea whilst I’m butchering and dismembering whoever ‘deserves’ it that day!

Perhaps more than anything, I blame a guy who went by the name of zllEnVyllz.  He was the bastard that introduced me to this world, he got me set-up with the right equipment and tools, he encouraged me to select certain scenarios to experience and thrive within.  He more than anyone else told me it was okeydokey to kill, and then laughed at my attempts to best his efforts.

Such savagery takes up a lot of my time and I’m kind of addicted to it all now.  Looking at what I’ve become, and the monster that dwells inside of me, I often wonder why I ever agreed to buy that damn Xbox from him!

Paul Millard 2014   (Gamertag:  MacNu1ty)

… And if you were wondering, the games were Grand Theft Auto 5, BioShock, Hitman Absolution and Red Dead Redemption.

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A Trifecta of Awful Movies – Elysium, R.I.P.D., Gravity

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This all happened over one weekend… actually, it was within a twenty-four hour period that I watched these movies – three movies that will forever be nothing more than a complete waste of my time and effort (such as it is!).

Let’s try and get this over with quickly, and start with the first shitty-arsed puppy that wandered into my DVD player and took a dump.

How anyone can make a film in which your direction stops any sense of performance from the likes of Matt Damon and Jodie Foster is simply beyond me.  In a similar vein, I struggle to understand how the same person who wrote and directed the intergalactic, funny racism, fest District 9 (which is well worth a watch if you haven’t already), can also produce such a spiteful, pox-ridden 109 minutes of shit-awful cinema.  It seems Neill Blomkamp leads the way in both, and clearly had a few bills to pay by making Elysium.

It’s awful, and in so many ways.  The premise is one that is so well trodden it recently had new carpet laid.  Earth has gone to shit, all the sexy, rich people have built a new Earth (which is a Halo-type thing called Elysium and is really sparkly and stuff), one man who lives on shit Earth but wants to be on Halo Earth makes a stand for reasons that I’m now too bored to explain.  Seriously, that’s the movie.

The special effects may be very cool (as were those used in any episode of Heroes – and look how that turned out!), but the story and characters are just poor and trite.  Why is it that “bad” Earth always looks so dusty and beige?  Also, why is it that the better place has to be made of titanium and LED’s?  Why is it that the main baddie always relies on a single, unstable, counterpart to execute their diabolical plans?  Can we not come up with something a little more different?

Speaking of different, let’s look at the main players.  You have Matt Damon’s character that is fuelled by his own self-preservation for most of the film, until he has a heart-felt moment of realization that leads to perhaps the most obvious and predictable self-sacrifice I’ve ever seen.  Jodie Foster plays a female Dick Cheney and employs a voice that is almost impossible to place (and hilarious to listen too), and then there’s Sharlto Copley – everyone’s favourite weirdo – his character is perhaps the worst of the three, and again suffers from the same vocal bullshit as Foster.  Let’s be honest here, the South African accent is staggeringly poxy at the best of times (Lethal Weapon 2, anyone?), and offers nothing in the way of being either sinister or dangerous – it’s just annoying.  Why not get a little British up on that thing?  We all know a good Brit accent is the scariest when it comes to portraying a messed-up, yet strangely intelligent, psychotic.  As the villain of the piece, you would think he would run with it (as the guy is clearly a gifted actor), but no, and by whoever’s design he keeps it one-dimensional and similar to those baddies you get on an episode of Ultimate Force.

Predictable, jarring, and stupid – avoid Elysium like it’s a UKIP representative.

With a similar waft of shit, I then went on to watch R.I.P.D. and was once more utterly spellbind by the quality of dreck it offered.

Only marginally better than Elysium, it suffered so many of the same problems.  With a story that was nothing more than a slight reworking of The Frighteners, or Rentaghost, this movie deals with an alternate, spectral, universe that us mortals are unaware of but exists in the same space as it were.  This realm is maintained by a police force, much like our own, and is made up of dead cops (which is very cost effective vis-à-vis training and staff development).  Once more, a baddie wants to mess around with the mortal world and hatches a cunning plan to do whatever he does to achieve whatever it is he… sorry, I’m bored writing this.

We again have some reasonable special effects (think Men-in-Black, rather than The Hobbit), and a stable of thoroughbred acting talent in Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon and Mary Louise-Parker, who all manage to make the most of some pretty awful dialogue the team of writers came up with (6 in total!).

The director on this one, Robert Schwentke, tries his best to tame the gaggle of voices that clearly marred the script, but fails to find any consistency with either the universe or the characters.  However, the saving grace this film has is an overriding sense of never taking itself too seriously.  Again, this has a faint smell of Men in Black, and offers the movie a much frayed lifeline away from complete oblivion.

With this said, and if I was going to watch any of these movies again (and I won’t be), I would plumb for R.I.P.D.  Jeff Bridges is always worth a watch and never fails to provide a little something in the way of performance, and Mary Louise-Parker is also good value for money but for very different reasons… va-va-voom!

And so we come to the point where I enter the marginalised world of those who fucking hated Gravity, and thought it was stupid and idiotic in every conceivable way – and in a few ways that haven’t been conceived yet… that’s how inconceivable the stupidity of this movie is.

If I had a penny for every time someone has told me how great this movie is, well, I would only have about 46p, but it would still represent a lot of people who loved this film – I’m just not sure why.

Was it because of the visuals?  Well, they were certainly nice to look at and gave an awesome sense of how important we are down here, but so hopelessly unimportant up there in the galactic wilderness.  Maybe it was The Clooney and Sandra Bullock?  George and Sandy (to a degree) do give a nice performance, but nothing that would get you teetering on your seat and clawing at your partner in tense frenzy.  Special effects?  Again, they were nice, well-crafted and unremarkably typical of so many films that have come before it (Sunshine, Armageddon, Serenity, etc., etc.)  So what else?

It may have been how the movie pretended to give a visceral and realistic representation of a catastrophic accident in space, but pretty much ignored all aspects of physics whenever the plot needed it too – I particularly liked the way in which a place that is known to not have any gravity, suddenly gets a dose of gravity in order to provide a sentimental moment (exactly why couldn’t Sandra hold on to George??).  I also liked how the two astronauts, who you could assume have spent a significant amount of time together in training for their mission, seemed to know absolutely nothing about each other.  Is that realistic?  Is it what the director, Alfonso Cuarón, was going for?  Is it even remotely plausible?  Or is it another loophole taken in order to flesh out the plot?  Shit, even the guys in Deep Impact shared a beer and spent time getting to know each other before they took to the skies.

And no matter how hard I tried, I could not get close to Sandra Bullock’s character.  How the fuck can you have a half-hearted astronaut?  Everything about her felt like a student working in Blockbusters, when in fact they really wanted to get back to campus and do something they actually enjoyed.  The first five minutes where you watch her try to repair a satellite, moan about not getting it done and huffing and puffing about how difficult and time consuming it is, made me pray for the accident to come and kill her!  Do NASA really employ 14 year-old, whiney, obnoxious, emo car mechanics to fix their space shit?  I’m no expert… but I’m guessing they don’t – so fuck off back to Twilight!

I could go on but I’m starting to bore myself again; and quite frankly, this film stank out my living room so much I actually started to realise how good Elysium was!

Anyway, with the end credits of Gravity, my weekend of sci-fi was terminated with the resounding roar of an Airbus 777 carrying sick babies from Africa, plunge into a special needs school as it was being visited by the entire Royal family.  It was fucking monstrous, grotesque to the extreme and wholly implausible.  And if this is the state of current sci-fi, then we shouldn’t be surprised by the countless comic book movies appropriating the genre.

Thank fuck for television… and its repeats of Star Trek, X-Files and Firefly!

Paul Millard 2014

Oh… and here’s Mary Louise-Parker

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Norm Macdonald tweets about Robin Williams

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A transcript of Norm Macdonald’s tweet from this morning, about meeting Robin Williams was the first time…

 

It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman and I had to follow the funniest man in the world.

I was a punk kid from rural Ontario and I was in my dressing room, terrified.

I was on the phone to a friend back home when the funniest man in the world ambled by.

There was no one else on the floor. In shock, I told my friend who just walked by. Only the funniest man in the world.

I guess he heard me say his name, cause in an instant he was at my side.

He [acted like a] Jewish tailor, taking my measurements. He went down on his knees, [and] asked which way I dressed.

I told my friend on the phone that the funniest man in the world was on his knees before me, measuring my inseam.

My friend didn’t believe me so I said, “Could you talk to my friend, sir.

The funniest man in the world took the phone and for ten minutes took my friend’s Chinese food order!

I laughed and laughed and it was like I was in a dream because no one else was there. No one.

[He said] the place was out of Moo Shoo Pork, and there was nothing he could do about it!

He angrily hung up on my friend and I was about to thank him when he said I hadn’t even tried the jacket on.

Then the funniest man on earth dressed me, a complete stranger, and I remember he ended with a Windsor knot.

He spoke mostly Yiddish, but when he finished he was happy with his job and turned me to a mirror to present myself to me.

No one witnessed any of this. No one.

The funniest man alive was in my dressing room [for] a good half-hour and was far funnier than the set I had to do soon.

When he left my dressing room, I felt alone. As alone as I ever remember feeling.

Until today.

Unacceptable.  

 

RIP to a true original of the species.

 

Paul Millard 2014

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Robin Williams

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I was awoken at 4am this morning by a text message from a friend who informed me that Robin Williams had passed away.  He was 63 years-old.  As I write this, most of the international news agencies and media outlets are confirming suicide as the probable cause of death.

For those who did not know the genius of his comedy, go check out A Night at the Met with Robin Williams.  It was recorded in 1986, showcased Robin at his absolute best, and won a Grammy.  Quite simply, it’s a performance that once seen, is never forgotten.

For those who did not know the genius as his acting, go check out The World According to Garp.  Filmed in 1982, it’s a wonderfully subdued performance, and testament to the largely forgotten “coming of age” movie genre – a genre that was rife in the 1980’s and encapsulated the teenage years for most of today’s 40somethings (myself included).

I honestly can’t think of anything more to say.  In short, it’s a tragedy that Robin has gone so soon… and anyone who loves comedy, and knows their history, will feel the awful gap in any humour being found this morning.

RIP Mork from Ork

Paul Millard 2014

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Be My Virtual Saviour

A lot must be considered when picking the right religion to be on-line ordained into.  Due diligence is key to finding the right path to enlightenment, and whilst it looks very easy for those tambourine-rattling, devil-dodgers on Songs of Praise and The Only Way Is Amish, a degree of actual commitment and clarity of mind is critical for spiritual success.  My personal journey began on a Saturday morning, and only after I had managed to sit still for a full five minutes without the need to check football scores or snipe on Twitter.

During a rare moment in which my kid wasn’t trying to break my spirit and with absolutely nothing better to do, I managed to reach a strange inner stillness – the kind you get when idly watching the fat bloke in your office stuffing a KFC into his monstrous face.  Almost without thought I reached out to my laptop and clicked the Google icon.  Courageously battling the obvious urge to immediately watch porn, I entered the mystically sensitive sentence, ‘Ordain me, bitch’, and sat back.

I was now locked into a sea of organised beliefs, all clambering over themselves to stake a claim on my soul (such as it is).  This is when the real inflection and quest for the glorious and the divine began in solemn plight.

There were so many to consider… The Universal Life Church, Spiritual Humanism, The Open Ministry, The Pacific Life Church, First Nation Ministry, to name but a few.  If enlightenment was on the menu, then I was starting to feel a little stuffed – a feeling said fat bloke from the office will never experience.

The Universal Life Church was very appealing and offered a lovely line in redemption, soul saving, and a very reasonably priced Ordination Package.  For a measly $26.99, you could own a “… beautiful credential for your wall, a clergy badge, a plastic personalized wallet card credential, parking placard, and a Minister Window Cling.”

As an opening offer this one was hard to turn down.  $26.99 for all that lovely plastic shit!  It was tempting.  However, I was soon turned off The Universal Life Church upon reading what I could get from the Spiritual Humanism site.

Not one, but three packages to choose from!  $14.95 would get you the Basic Clergy Service Pack (Really… who wants to be a basic clergy?), the Advanced Clergy Service Pack came in at $39.95 (now we’re getting somewhere), and finally the Deluxe Clergy Service Pack walked on water at $89.95 (I want to be a righteous weapon of God, please?).

The deluxe package was bringing all the good shit, Ordination Certificate, quality ID badge, manuals, CD-ROMs and lots of other stuff including a whole mess of baby naming certificates, marriage certificates, affirmation of love certificates, to name a few.  Ok, so an official pardon certificate for molesting altar boys was not included, but I’m pretty sure you could have ordered one via their online store.

Now, you would think that my quest for cost-effective enlightenment was over, and deluxe divinity was awaiting my PayPal account?  Hell no.  Much like the road to Damascus, my journey would be long, difficult, and littered with the occasional mound of donkey shit.  So with this in mind, I made myself another torturous cup of coffee, laboured hard to open the second bag of chocolate, and pushed my twisted and gnarled body back into my wonderfully comfortable sofa (cross-shaped), and flicked on the TV.

In between episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I continued my quest.  The First National Ministry had a very basic web design, and for those blessed with a higher calling, they seemingly failed to make use of higher jpeg resolutions.  The Pacific Life Church appeared to be more interested in selling T-shirts and tote bags to religious zealots with healthy bank balances.

… and as for The Open Ministry, well, they looked cheap and nasty – religion for the pound shop brigade.

In short, the more I searched for the perfect religion to be ordained into, the more I was getting side-tracked by the lovely Heather and Tamara from Orange County – two women that once ordained, I fully intended to brain-wash into my new cult.

Holy shit… I would need to sort out a cult!

All of that organization and grooming I would have to do.  I would need to find a compound to preach from, stock up on food and water – enough to outlast any police stand-offs.  Where the hell was I going to buy Ak-47’s and rocket launchers from?  It was all getting too much.  I’m naturally lazy and shiftless, hard work is something I try to avoid at all costs.  Seriously, I get a little clammy when asked to do the washing-up, how was I going to handle the logistics of my congregation’s eventual mass suicide?

Un-nailing myself from the sofa, I paced the room in lonely contemplation and inner reflection.

Suddenly, as I walked past my DVD collection, the enlightenment I sought was blasted into me like the sound-waves emitted from a celestial chorus.  Falling to the floor, with the tears of a thousand sinners upon my cheeks, I gathered myself up and three minutes later was ordained into the one religion I could fully commit too.  I was now a recognised minister, capable of marrying people, christening kids, procrastinating spiritual advice, and a worthy foot-solider awaiting the Rapture.

I could now drink White Russians, go bowling anytime I liked, wander around in a bathrobe and generally mimic one of my all-time favourite movie characters – safe in the knowledge that I was doing all of the above in the name of spiritual harmony, wellbeing and sanctified lethargy.

The Church of the Latter Day Dude is my sunbeam, and in The Big Lebowski I had found my shepherd.

Rev. Paul Millard – 2014

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The Space Lizard Next Door

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Is it me, or does there seem to be more people these days that might be carnivorous space lizards, hell bent on controlling the Earth and systematically enslaving the entire population – who they intend to eat as part of some intergalactic sushi bar?   You know what, let me dial it back a little and explain the concept.

The whole space lizard way of thinking was the brainchild of ex-football pundit and part-time messiah, David Icke.  It goes a little like this:

Flesh-eating reptile humanoids, living in underground bases around the world, have infiltrated every facet of human life and are the key players in a world-wide conspiracy.  In fact, many of the world’s leaders, decision makers, cultural icons and royalty are decedents of these space lizard people – who according to Icke, originated from the Alpha Draconis star system… which is, for those that are interested, just left of Krypton and two hundred yards before the Death Star turn-off.

Now, I’m currently living in Portsmouth, England, and while this place does not appear to be one of the hive locations for the space lizards, it could well be twinned with one.  So, as perhaps the only genuine human (keep your jokes to yourself!), living in Portsmouth, I need to ask a question… where is the real downside to this theory?

I mean, how cool would it be to have space lizards walking around, staffing pound shops and creating government policy?  What a hoot!  Prime Minister’s question time would be insane.  Just imagine the BBC broadcasting our beloved PM lying under a giant heat lamp, with the Defence Minister shedding skin and all the back-benchers eating flies, cockroaches and other examples of junior minister.  Say what you like about the licence fee, but I would certainly watch it.

Joking aside, what is the lizard conspiracy against humans – apart from wanting to dip us in hot sauce and chow down?  What could be worse than that?  Are they going to wreck our rock solid banking system and plunge most of us into negative equity?  How about dragging our arses into questionable wars with other lizards from sunnier, middle-eastern, climes?  The best conspiracy theory I heard was along the lines of the secret installation of a government no one actually voted for, and is working against our better interests and systematically rear-ending us into oblivion… oh, hang on!

How about the proliferation of an endless stream of mediocre talent shows, designed to slowly brainwash our kids into manufactured consumers who are controlled by social media and influenced by Justin Blabber and Miley Montana?  Is that the best shot they have?  We’re already living that shit and guess what, I’m still standing.

And if their plan is to simply turn Earth into a posh gastro-planet, what’s so wrong with eating humans?  It wasn’t long ago people were losing their stupid minds about eating tuna because the nets were also catching dolphins and asylum seekers.  We’re so limited in our taste.  We can’t eat swan (only the Queen can – another lizard!), monkey chunks don’t actually exist (but sound yummy), and beef will send you crazy from cow, hoof, swine-avian flu or some shit.

Maybe it’s time to enter a new food group into the mix and get ourselves some earlobe stew with dick mash.  If we have any doubts on the health implications of eating orange-coloured Essex drones, try feeding it to those bastards on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here – they’ll swallow anything in return for a contract to sell frozen food on national television.

And how about when these space lizards die, just think about what we could do with the skin.  You could have a lizard-skin suit made from the remains of William Hague, a bunch of nice wallets from Prince Phillip, how about a whole fucking closet from the Kardashians?  We need to do something with these things once the MTV gravy train runs out, why not recycle and look fashionable all at the same time.

I guess what’s more worrying is not so much the prospect of space reptiles controlling the planet via their New World Order, but the fact that so many people are gullible enough to believe such horse-shit.

I’ve done minimal research into this, I just couldn’t bring myself to verify facts on space creatures that live underground and hold civil service jobs.  But with that said, and from the little research I did achieve, it seems some 47 countries have vocal supporters of David Icke’s theories and rainbow-thinking bollocks.  Icke himself regularly preaches the word to hoards of paying clowns crowds.  The guy has built a very nice line in seminars, books, and public addresses.  It’s amazing, such influence and power sounds vaguely lizard-like – maybe Icke is nothing but a scaly-skinned traitor to his own people… lizards… whatever!

Perhaps the best statistic comes from our brothers and sisters across the pond.  A poll taken in 2013 calculated that over 4% of Americans believed in David Icke’s theories – I’m guessing that 4% were all lizards, or tourists from Portsmouth.

Paul Millard 2014

(First published in The Spoof – February 2014)

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A Zombie Holocaust

I know the title is a little sensational, largely misleading, and not even close to rational or truthful.  However, you take a walk around any high street or shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon, and the heading of this week’s rhubarb becomes very real and alarmingly honest.

By the way, I’m not talking about the zombies seen in too many movies, or the ones stumbling around a dozen TV shows.  I’m not referring to the types found in every videogame since 2006, not even the one wailed about in that shit-awful song by The Cranberries (although I think that zombie was less about eating brains, and more about the socio-political issues facing Ireland… an easy mistake to make I’m sure you’ll agree).

No, these zombies are far more relentless and come in far greater numbers – certainly more than anything a team of hacky Hollywood script writers could conjure up.  Without the need of a toxic spill, a troupe of rage-infected monkeys or the Umbrella Corporation, these unfortunate collaborations of limb, fluid and tissue appear without any noticeable ingress and swarm en masse with a single, unifying purpose.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to those ruinous bastards (usually men) who shamble behind their partners on that unavoidable, vomit-inducing, Saturday afternoon shopping trip.

We’ve all seen them, ambling around shop doorways and eerily peering inside, vacantly observing the frenzied shoppers inside, all in the vain hope of spying their significant other.  They can also be found leaning against walls or handrails, glowering into space and dribbling into their ready-nit scarves.  Occasionally, you may see one of these sorry mofos trying to mimic the actual behaviour of their “handler”, with lacklustre attempts to engage in the rows and rows of identical jumpers and skirts, all in the hope of appearing semi-normal… and not dead inside.

You don’t believe me?  You think I’m exaggerating this stuff and trying to be all humorous and shit?  I was in my local town only a few days ago and I took the below photos as proof.  I wasn’t in some hide, waiting for these things to appear… I was sat in a sodding Burger King!  Check it.

 

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And this is just a tiny fraction of the pandemic now facing every guy who would rather be doing anything else on a Saturday.  It’s a silent, despair-inducing, sickness that attacks without provocation or aspiration.  Regardless of race, religion, social standing or financial positioning, the look found on these people is waiting for you.  All it takes is one nanosecond of weakness, observed and exploited by your devious, self-serving partner.  This is how it works…

Right off the bat, you find yourself in the car (and perhaps more remarkable, you’re the one driving it!).  Already baffled by the cunning ruthlessness of your usually soft and mushy spouse, a jeremiad of inconsequential nonsense is spoken at you.  She drones on about her week, her stupid TV shows, and her awful friends – who are all no doubt cocooning their own partners in a similar web of mall-seeking bollocks.

Wiping the blood from your eyes and ears, the inane babble is only halted by the view of the multi-storied car park.  With pay-and-display paid and displayed, you exit the car and slowly begin the transformation into a bag-carrying undead piece of shit.  Your will is not your own, your mind is not your own, your coffee is not your own… as she inevitably always wants whatever you have.

I’m not kidding around here; it only takes three visits to the same store to turn any fellah into the first stages of zombification à la SuperDry.  Chase this with a ten minute examination on the implications of owning two pairs of pink Converse, and you are all but ready to succumb to an afternoon of mindless wandering.

With three hours in, the gangrenous rot of imposed consumerism has not only settled into your lymph nodes, but has also ravaged the immune system of your relationship with your partner – someone who clearly has no issues with dragging your frustrated carcass around Debenhams.  In fact, you begin to question what kind of banshee you have chosen to be your special honey-bunny.  What was once a loving soul-mate has now deformed into a cross between Gok Wan, and the spiteful sister of that Jigsaw bloke from the Saw movies… and all because she needed a new pair of skinny jeans and a “few bits” from Accessorize!

As the cashiers and shop floor robots get twitchy for closing time, the last remnants of your humanity are rinsed from your body with the swift efficiency of a Hotpoint spin-dryer.  “Full Zombie” is achieved and you are eventually led to the car, bags in hand, car keys in mouth, and soul in the fucking crapper.

However, all sagas have an ending, and this one is no different.  From the confines of your home; and only after it has been suitably sterilised and medically certified, the infection can be addressed and neutralised in short order.  A slow rehabilitation process is realised and your return to being a semi-human is at hand.

With a belt of Jameson’s whiskey, a snifter of Hendrick’s gin, and a few ounces of “Mike down the Road’s Weed”, the effects of Saturday shopping are despatched.  The love lost for your shit-bag partner is soon rediscovered – with promises of never putting you though that pain ever again.  You are given assurances that next time she will go shopping with her sister, and in my case, I get to snuggle up to a bacon sandwich and Test Match Special.

Paul Millard 2014

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P.S.  Should you agree/disagree/don’t give a shit with any of my rhubarb, then put your money where your mouth is and leave a comment…  no need to provide your name or email address, just your inner thoughts!  Easy.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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I love films that look at excessive behaviour, whether it is gangsters, people who used to work for gangsters, or biopics about dead people – The Doors (Jim Morrison), Man on the Moon (Andy Kaufman), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (a few are dead, the rest are in prison).  In fact, I was frequently reminded of The Smartest Guys in the Room when watching The Wolf of Wall Street.

For those not acquainted with the documentary, The Smartest Guys (as I’m now going to term it), is an absolute powerhouse of a movie, detailing the rise and fall of what was America’s most innovative company, Enron – a business with a one-time value of an estimated $100 billion.  It encapsulated the realisation of the American dream, and was promptly uncovered as being nothing more than a massive criminal conspiracy.  An epic smoke and mirrors show, all conducted by some very, very clever men – with testicles the size of medicine balls.

With a similar swagger, The Wolf of Wall Street is all about the excess and the conspiracy, fun and decline, instant fortune and rapid failure.

I loved every second of it, and was immediately inspired to re-watch.  However, that pleasure will have to be taken another time, partly as a result of the three hour running time, but mainly due to the damage my four year-old boy would sustain if walking in on me watching this film.  For a Marty Scorsese film there is hardly any violence, but the language and graphic sex depicted throughout is outrageous – and utterly fantastic.

So, whilst I’m all in on the sex and expletives, the prospect of my son overhearing some of this film and then calling me a ‘cocksucker’ over the breakfast table, is not desirable.

Based on the true antics of one time Wall Street titan, Jordan Belfort, this movie tells a very simple tale of greed and excess, while offering a loud ‘F-You’ to any molecule of morality or realised consequence of action.  As a Wall Street broker, Jordan Belfort spun a web of bollocks like no other.  If any of this portrayal is accurate, and I’m pretty sure most of it is, then this guy was a virtuoso in the field of unquenchable demand from a pool of illusionary supply.

This film’s vision of greed is only matched by its utter entrenchment towards excess.  In fact, the necessity of sexual conquest and fanatical drug use often overpowers the ability to successfully perpetuate the crimes Belfort and his army of clones are chained too.

In typical fashion for such films, the decline is eventually realised and as the wheels fall off the fun-bus, poor old Jordan loses everything (to a degree).  Roll credits.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but that’s exactly what happens.  This film is a very basic, one dimensional telling of an all too familiar rise and fall story.  In some hands this would be a serious problem, but with Martin Scorsese it’s an absolute joy to behold, much like Goodfellas.

I think we’ve all heard how good Leonardo DiCaprio is, and the balls-out performance he gives, so much so that I really have nothing more to add.  He is immense and totally sells the shit-bag character of Belfort perfectly.  In fact, I’ll extend that to all those around him, even the usually awful Jonah Hill puts in a decent turn – clearly, working with people other than the vomit-inducing Michael Cera and that talentless twerp, McLovin’, helps his nauseating attempts to remain relevant.  Keep working with real talent, Jonah, and you might just survive the oblivion usually reserved for your type.

However, with source material provided by Terrance Winter, and based on Belfort’s own book, I would defy any actor to not have a hoot when speaking this dialogue.  The blackness of the comedy is a welcome break from the usual frat-pack stuff, and is akin to Seven Psychopaths and the works of Joseph Heller and early Coen Brothers.

DiCaprio is a force of nature when delivering his sales speeches, Johan and crew are equally memorable with their episodes of living in overabundance, even Matthew McConaughey has a cameo that is up there with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross – yet another film about the quagmire world of vicious sales and vulgar sales people.  In fact, the pleasurable assassination of sickening sales drones is a ripe topic to poke a shitty stick at.  Speaking from the safety of personal experience, your average sales person is perhaps the perfect example of base arrogance with a slimy, snake-oil void of charm or empathy.  Whilst they may weave a picture of familiar friendship and helpful requirement, the reality is more akin to the arena of prostitution – but without the integrity or valour of screwing someone honestly.

It’s clearly a perspective Hollywood loves, with the likes of the aforementioned Glengarry Glen Ross, The Wall Street movies, Boiler Room, Tin Men, and to a lesser extent, Death of a Salesman and Jerry Maguire.

With The Wolf of Wall Street, this interpretation of greed dominating veracity is almost faultless.  Granted, you are not going to see any original use of lighting, camera position, or a more diegetic soundscape.  The story is very linear and seldom strays from what you already know is coming, and the acting – which is solid – is not breaking any new grounds or challenging the craft.

With this said, it’s a testament to the film that none of the above actually matters, and would only detract away from the real focus of the film – an A to Z route map of the glory of excess and egocentric bullshit, and the stark recognition of its consequences.

Paul Millard 2014

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