A weekend to remember


I wouldn’t say I’m a massively outgoing person as far as venturing far and wide, but in recent years I’ve tried to broaden my horizons, at least when opportunities arise.  Two such opportunities arrived the weekend just gone, not entirely planned as such but I jumped at the chance to go and see my favourite band once again … and then another opportunity came around to see a personal favourite TV sketch show’s live tour.

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Probably over a year ago I booked tickets to see Garbage again in London as well as meet up with a friend I’d made last time I went.  Some months later VIP meet & Greets were announced, and so yeah, once again I was going to meet the band and get a photo taken.  The whole experience this time around was even better than I’d experienced in 2016 at The Troxy.  For starters at Brixton Academy, the meet & greet q&a part of the VIP experience was in the same room where the photos were to be taken and it was a small, intimate affair with me sitting amongst 50+ fans within touching distance of the band (!!).  It was so surreal as it wasn’t as if I was sitting before my favourite band, but almost like old friends … it all felt so nice and relaxed and really f’ing cool.  I didn’t say much, as I knew I’d clam up (again) but did get a chance to say how fantastic I thought they were and that Version 2.0 (of which the tour was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary) was my favourite album of all time, by any artist.  I got my photo taken which turned out to be more of a fun thing, with me posing with the band and all pretending to be zombies, with outstretched arms etc. lol.

The VIP experience also meant early entry so I was pretty much at the front (one short girl in front of me, so I had an awesome view) and what was the actual concert like?  In short Garbage (Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker) were on electrifying form, belting out the hits as well as more obscure b-sides both word-perfect and with an energetic response from a sold-out Brixton Academy crowd.  It was intense, heart-pounding, utterly feel good and the best I’ve seen them perform.  Garbage are such a skilled and talented band and once again delivered an evening of rockin’ good entertainment that didn’t disappoint.

LoG

Two night’s later I was heading off to Liverpool to see The League of Gentlemen at the Echo Arena and this British sketch comedy four-piece that started out on radio before creating a cult TV show of the same name were utterly brilliant.  They went through a plethora of their most famous sketches and iconic characters to deliver a 2hr+ show of bonkers humour, one-liners, political satire and toilet humour with no end of imagination and charisma.  Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gattis and (behind the scenes / co-writer) Jeremy Dyson are one of the best comedy groups Britain has spawned since Monty Python and that … is not said lightly.  Translating the sketch-based comedy of the show worked well on stage and the sets and costumes were all very well done and seemed to go off without a hitch, aided by what appeared to be some funny ad-libbing and natural glimpses of the guy’s personalities.  This show was partly a celebration of their 20th anniversary as well as a hinted at farewell to the characters unless this talented four-piece find a way to work together again at some stage … we’ll see.  For now though, me and a couple of friends as well as the sold out crowd had a ball.

As far as my usual weekends go, this was pretty intense, rather exhausting but utterly fulfilling, creating memories I’ll look back on for years to come.  So a big shout-out to Garbage and to The League of Gentlemen for making the past few days so very special.

Craig.

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Police Academy


Viewed – 12 February 2016  Blu-ray

I recently received the box set of this once much loved but ultimately milked to death franchise that I recall enjoying a lot in my formative years.  I hadn’t really given the movies much thought in probably the last twenty years but the prospect of checking out at least the first one was surprisingly appealing.

Police-Academy

This follows the story of a law being passed that relaxes the rules on citizens joining the Police force.  One such scoundrel is Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg – remember him?) who following an altercation at a car park is arrested and given one final chance to ‘clean up his act’ by the Police chief whose had enough of seeing his face at the station.  Mahoney therefore is forced to join the Police Academy alongside a number of other oddball characters.  Here we’re introduced to many of the other series stalwarts … the gun-obsessed Tackleberry, the man-mountain Hightower, the squeaky voiced Hooks and series fave; the sound effects spouting Jones (Michael Winslow).   We also get a love interest for Mahoney in the gorgeous shape of Kim Cattrall.  There’s an immediate familiar charm to this movie, helped by a memorable theme tune and highly entertaining, albeit cartoon-like characters (who can forget the dictatory Police-Academy-Mahoney-Jones-Lieutenant Harris, or the bumbling Commandant Lassard?).  The humour is pretty tame and light by today’s standards but in the tradition of similar slightly risqué comedies like Animal House and Porkies, we still get plenty of innuendo, some gratuitous female nudity and even a podium blowjob scene (!).  It never gets too crude though and there’s a fun-loving free spirited innocence to it all that most modern comedies should take notes from.

Looking back on this kind of comedy, the Blue Oyster bar scene, as comical a moment as it is,  would probably be a definite no no today.  Also the word ‘fag’ is thrown around occasionally, whereas sex-mad heterosexual guys are portrayed as heroes.  Have we really come this far since the eighties?  Yet with that being said, there’s no denying how entertaining and fun I still found this even if my brain has been ruined by much more outrageous fair.  An 80s comedy classic worth re-visiting..

The Blu-ray boasts a very clean and at times eye-catching image quality especially for this type of movie.  Colours are well realised and even though I feel a bit of grain reduction has occurred, overall it’s a good looking presentation.  The audio in DTS HD Master Audio lacks some punch and the dialogue whilst clear is a little scratchy.  Extras consist of a very welcome commentary with the director and much of the cast (including Guttenberg) and we also get a behind the scenes doc.  Not too shabby at all.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Little Shop of Horrors


Viewed – 03 November 2014  Blu-ray

Director’s Cut & Theatrical Cut

This was a firm favourite for me during the eighties.  Some of my favourite comedy actors, such as Rick Moranis & Steve Martin are pulled together in a quality musical-fantasy-love-story-horror-movie that shouldn’t have worked but for some reason it did.  I must have watched that old VHS a ton of times.  So we come to this Blu-ray release and how does it shape up all these years later?

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

The story is about a nerdy flower shop assistant called Seymour (Moranis) who is secretly in love with the glamorous but ditzy Audrey who happens to be in an abusive relationship with psychotic dentist Orin (Steve Martin on brilliant form).  The shop isn’t making much profit however and the grumpy owner Mushnik is tempted to close doors until Seymour reveals the strange and unusual plant he stumbled upon.  Suffice to say it attracts business to the shop big time, whilst Seymour gradually discovers the cute little plant only seems to feed on human blood.

First and foremost this is a musical with some real sing-a-long foot tappers such as the brilliant opening title song performed by a re-occurring gospel / motown trio, as well as stand outs such as ‘down town’, ‘mean green mother’ and the excellent power-ballad ‘suddenly seymour’.  No shock this was based on an off-Broadway musical by the same name.  The cast mostly excell, with Moranis, a stalwart of the put-up-on loser role he did so well in movies like Ghostbusters … proving a surprising singing talent.  Less effective is Ellen Green as Audrey who granted, is meant to be dippy and silly but grates from the moment she appears (that voice).  Thankfully we get Steve Martin in an extended cameo and his rendition of ‘you’ll be a dentist’ is personally the highlight of the movie.  Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops also voices monster-plant Audrey II brilliantly – larger-than-life, menacing and also kinda adorable (initially) …and damn can he belt out a number!  The animatronics and puppetry here is also first class and in this age of wall-to-wall CGI stands up very well indeed, probably looking better than if the movie was done today.

Little Shop Of Horrors is often not mentioned in the same sentence as musicals like Grease and The Sound of Music, but deserves to be – it’s a great deal of fun..  It’s very artificial (often embracing the fact it was all filmed on a set) and quite absurd and over-acted, but this is also much of the charm.  A comedy musical classic not to be missed.

The Blu-ray is a mixed back,.  First it houses two cuts of the movie, with the extended ‘director’s cut’ boasting a lengthy alternative conclusion which I didn’t care for.  Other than that the movies are identical.  The big let down for me is that both versions are not exactly bursting with detail and look rather fuzzy and dark in high-def.  Thankfully the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack manages  to deliver the songs and crisp dialogue well, so it’s not a complete disaster.  Extras consist of a Frank Oz introduction and commentary on the director’s cut, outtakes, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes documentary.  Not bad but the underwhelming treatment of the movie itself and the purely curiosity value of the director’s cut still makes this disappointing.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5