Viewed – 19 November 2015  Blu-ray

It has to be said, those little yellow guys from the Despicable Me movies have become a runaway merchandising goldmine, and so following their slapstick pratfalls in those two highly entertaining outings … getting their own movie was an obvious no brainer.


Kevin, Bob and Stuart are members of a tribe of ‘minions’; peculiar little guys born to serve an evil villain.  However after centuries of missteps and blunders in search of their perfect leader, the three friends are given the task of setting off on a journey to track down famed super villain Scarlett Overkill, who just so happens to be attending a villain convention in Orlando.

It’s silly stuff no doubt, but packed with energy and plenty of in-jokes and site gags.  The minions are endlessly appealing and watching them get into scrapes is a lot of fun.  One stand out chase involving The Queen and The Crown Jewels is hilariously gripping.  However the villain, despite best efforts from Sandra Bullock is tiresome and clichéd and brings very little to the admittedly wafer-thin story.  Her henchman is also pretty lame. The constant mickey taking of Brirish stereotypes got old quickly too. But that being said, with uniformally ‘gorgeous’ CGI animation (sorry, but give me hand drawn animation any day of the week over such ‘pristine’ pixels) and bags of personality in the little fellas – I still got a kick out of this. Does it do much I wasn’t expecting? No. But did it entertain? Certainly.

Verdict:  3 /5


Viewed – 13 November 2015  Blu-ray

Another movie that got a great deal of buzz around the time of the awards season, and nabbed a best supporting actor Oscar for J K Simmons.  This tells the story of a ‘prodige’ drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who wants to be recognised for his skills and be a part of a respected jazz orchestra.  However in order to do that he must prove himself to renowned tutor and conductor Terence Fletcher (Simmons).  Only problem is, Fletcher is one tough cookie and uses controversial methods to get results.


Simmons’ portrayal of this cruel and testing tutor is part Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, part Lee R Ermy drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket.  This actor I first discovered in hard hitting HBO drama ‘Oz’ as the leader of an Arian Brotherhood Nazi gang – and he was unflinchingly cruel but also charming – something he lends to this powerful character.  Teller, looking like a young John Cusack deserves recognition too and is clearly a skilled drummer who brings his character plenty of emotion and at times crazy-determination to be taken seriously.  Director Damien Chazelle fills the movie with tension and well observed character moments that make both leads more than one dimensional stereotypes – despite his tough demeanour, Fletcher does end up coming across as a man who wants to achieve greatness with his students, and Neiman although at times ridiculously dedicated in the face of some pretty nasty treatment (let’s go to the rehearsal, despite having been in a car crash!) – you do understand him.

I’d have liked a bit more going on with the supporting characters … a love story felt under-explored and fellow band members rivalry or comradery is mostly ignored.  Yet this was an absorbing movie that although I felt was familiar, and didn’t really surprise me as it drew to it’s conclusion … had strong performances and solid enough direction to make for a firm recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Happy 40th birthday to me!


Well, here it is, I have reached 40.  Wow.  I don’t feel anywhere near that age, even though I suppose it’s still young.  I started my birthday week by visiting London, seeing my favourite band and checking out the sites, then with a couple of days of relaxation, it’s now officially my birthday, and I’m off out tonight for a meal with my family.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to wish me a happy birthday or have sent cards or gifts / money etc.  I am eternally grateful and it’s turned out to be such a special day for me.  My family have spoilt me rotten and I’m enjoying every minute.

I’ve got some posts on the way over the next few days including my thoughts on Halo 5 Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider and a review of Whiplash is imminent.  Just trying to come down a little from all of the fun and excitement, which it has to be said has blown my mind a bit.  I can honestly say I am not used to being the centre of attention and probably find it uncomfortable, but these past few days have given me food for thought and I feel determined to have a fresher, more positive outlook on life and not let the past or negativity cloud my head.  You only live once (or so they say).

Garbage and a dream realised

garbagebrixtondatesWell, it was a long time coming but on Monday the 9th of November 2015, I finally got to see my favourite band Garbage in concert at Brixton Academy, London.  The near-sold out show was such an incredible experience that putting it into words isn’t easy.  I had a long wait, queuing up for a few hours before finally finding my seat and waiting again.  There was a long wait until the support act The Dutch Uncles came on, who were enjoyable even if their music seemed a bit ‘samey’.  However it was a good indication of the decibels I was about to be assaulted with.

Video courtesy of Youtuber eStorm

Following this was a really cool intro, that involved a white sheet dropping to cover the stage and surrounding area entirely, then an archival video to the tune of Garbage b-side Alien Sex Fiend showed footage of the band back in ’95 along with a commentary on their origins in Madison, Wisconsin along with news footage of Princess Diana, OJ Simpson and the beginnings of the Internet.  This all then built up to the four members being presented in tall large images one after the other.  Then it was time for the first song, Subhuman which was performed entirely behind the sheet with the members only visible as silhouettes.  Very bold and utterly ingenious.  As this occurred I recalled actually shaking with excitement, an overload of emotions and feelings that I’ll admit brought tears to my eyes.


A picture taken by my brother from where we were seated

I won’t go into too much detail of the show which spanned almost two hours and covered approximately 23 tracks spanning the entire first album and nine b-sides – topped off with an encore that threw in a couple of tracks off other albums which were Cherry Lips and Push It.  Throughout the guys and Shirley were on fine form – for a 49 year old Shirley Manson’s energy was intoxicating – she jumped and danced and head-banged around the stage like a woman half her age, and it was incredible to witness.  In between some songs she told stories, such as her strong feelings regarding the LGBT community as well as funny anecdotes like how cold she was walking to Smart studios to do some recording, and the frozen hairs in her nose inspired her to write the song Driving Lesson (because she wished at that moment she could drive).  Little moments like that and the rather emotional story of Kick My Ass detailing the tragic suicide of song writer Vic Chestnut made the night even more special.

garbage-by-frank-mojica-08Highlights for me musically were performances of Not My Idea (really got the crowd going that one), Fix Me Now (sounded amazing), Only Happy When It Rains, Stupid Girl (excellent light show), Kick My Ass (a beautiful song that again got me very emotional) and also Cherry Lips (a real crowd participation anthem).  Less effective, due to the immense sound and volume were As Heaven Is Wide (Shirley seemed to get drowned out by the guitars and drums) and to an extent Vow which felt too harsh and intense to completely appreciate.    But I’m a concert novice and it probably was too loud and over-powering at times for me … yet the good seriously outweighed the not so good, and the high production values, that glorious intro, Shirley’s sheer exuberance and various brilliantly delivered songs overshadowed any quibbles.


Garbage blew the roof off Brixton on Monday and the whole event won’t be something I’ll get over for a very long time.  So thank you Garbage – you made this long-time fan very happy indeed.


Cop Car

Viewed – 27 October 2015  Online rental

Every now and then a movie comes along that really surprises.  This fairly low key and under-publicised Kevin Bacon vehicle (no pun intended) follows two run-away ten year old boys who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned police squad car.  With nobody else around, the two troublesome friends decide to take it for a joy ride, unaware that shady Sherriff Kevin Bacon is not far away and hell bent on getting his transport back.


With the dusty baron wasteland of what looked like Arizona as it’s setting, this is a great idea for a simple, straight forward cat and mouse thriller.  Bacon as expected is on fine form; fresh from his excellent turn in now defunct TV series The Following, he’s lost none of that presence that has always made him so watchable.  Once again here he handles a creepy, dangerous character with ease.  The two young actors playing the boys (James Freedson-Jackson & Hays Wellford) were also convincing, despite moments of alarming stupidity (let’s play with a loaded rifle!).  It’s difficult to go into this without giving away several twists and surprises, so I’ll conclude by saying – director Jon Watts has filled this simple but effective movie with nail biting situations, solid performances and a swift pace, peppered with some well implemented dark humour.

A welcome breath of fresh air in an increasingly unimaginative medium.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5