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SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2016 – DVD & ON DEMAND REVIEW ROUND-UP

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2016 – DVD & ON DEMAND REVIEW ROUND-UP

In addition to my cinema reviews I also watched an eclectic mix of TV shows, big movies and art and indie flicks this month. As usual I have packaged them into bitesize chunks for your perusal. As usual marks are out of eleven.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

AMANDA KNOX (2016) – NETFLIX

The despicable murder of Meredith Kercher caused a media and legal storm in Italy over ten years ago now. Amanda Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito were charged and convicted before appealing against the crimes. This intriguing documentary lifts the lid on a case where the media and Italian legal system are on trial as much as Knox herself. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

CIRCLE (2015) – NETFLIX

Well-written-one-location-low-budget film finds many strangers in room fighting for their lives.  Social, religious, gender and ethnic demographics become key to the choice of “who dies next”; in a nifty, intelligent thriller which critiques humanity in an entertaining fashion. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

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DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) – NETFLIX

Tarantino’s classic revisionist slave western gets better on every watch; and I would have to say that it is arguably, amidst the stylistic flourishes, his most satisfying narrative as a whole. The bone-crunching violence and bloody shootouts are a joy, yet Tarantino also draws emotional power from the love story between Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington’s enslaved couple. Meanwhile, Christophe Waltz and Leonard DiCaprio ride off into the sunset with the acting honours. (Mark: 10 out of 11)

ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) – TCM

I loved this Bruce Lee Kung-fu classic when I was growing up. Now, it just seems like a slightly tired James Bond rip-off in terms of plot, however, Bruce Lee was a martial arts master and movie star; so it is his charisma and fighting skills which really shine through now. (Mark: 8 out of 11 – for Lee!)

GOOSEBUMPS (2015) – SKY CINEMA

This is a pretty decent meta-fictional comedy-action film with Jack Black hamming it up as a mysterious writer whose creations wreak havoc on a small town. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

GOTO – ISLAND OF LOVE (1969) – DVD

This is a very surreal drama from critically acclaimed Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk.  In the past I would have loved insane stuff like this but I couldn’t get my head around the weird inhabitants of a prison colony acting out warped love rituals while trapped on an island. (Mark: 5 out of 11)

THE GUEST (2014) – FILM FOUR

The Guest (2014) is a smart, funny and violent B-movie which makes merry hell of its’ “cuckoo in the nest” plot.  Dan Stevens is brilliant and has all the charm and looks of a bona fide movie star in the making and a good shout for the next James Bond. I’ve seen this a few times now and it is a genuine under-rated classic. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) – ITV2

Soppy time-travel love story which kind of does and doesn’t make sense stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It’s a likable film with fun concept and pleasant moments.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

MATCH POINT (2005) – NETFLIX

Woody Allen’s excellent London-set thriller builds slowly and pays off wonderfully by the end. The characters are well drawn as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers young existential tennis pro darkens his soul through poor life decisions. Emily Mortimer, Scarlett Johannsson, Brian Cox and Matthew Goode complete an attractive cast in the excellent Dostoyevsky-laced crime drama. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

PEOPLE JUST DO NOTHING – SEASON 1 (2014) – NETFLIX

This is a funny Gervais-influenced-Office-style-mockumentary-comedy which follows the shenanigans of a West London pirate radio station. Satirizing youth culture and we get a peek into the lives of the likes of MC Grindah and feckless mates.  (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

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SAW (2004) – SKY CINEMA

While it started a tortuous never-ending-cash-cow-franchise, never forget the original Saw is a genuine horror classic from James Wan and Leigh Whannell. You get two guys, one cell and a hell-of-a-dangerous serial killer on the loose that leads to some great twists and bloody murder. The ending alone is still a gob-smacking treat as you put together Jigsaw’s fiendish plan. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR – SKY CINEMA

Roberto Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s sequel to the mind-blowing violent-noir-comic-book-digital-backlot-splatterfest Sin City (2005) was eagerly anticipated by me. This had the same hard-boiled dialogue, bone-crunching violence and some fantastic imagery, but aside from Eva Green’s terrific femme fatale it lacked the impact of the first film and fell a bit flat. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

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SONS OF ANARCHY – SEASON 3 (2010) – NETFLIX

The third revving-crunching-porno-shooting-explosive season had Jax and the other gang members battling the Mayans, the FBI and going on “holiday” to Ireland to take on the “Real” Irish Republican Army. It’s a real soapy mix of violence, bullets and familial-led drama with enough plot turns and jaw-dropping set-pieces to keep you entertained throughout the fast-paced episodes. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

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THE FINEST HOURS (2016) – SKY CINEMA

This Disney disaster movie set in the 1950s is a very watchable human drama sensitively directed by Craig Gillespie. It flopped at the box office, yet Chris Pine and Casey Affleck are on very good form in the leads and there are some great set-pieces too on the sea. The real star is Carter Burwell’s epic music but in my opinion the film deserved a bigger audience. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

TO THE WONDER (2012) – DVD

This is a beautifully shot yet overlong and pretentious love story with banal Olga Kurylenko and a depressive Ben Affleck sleep-walking through his role. Terence Malick is a fine auteur but despite the wondrous scenery and vaguely interesting structure this bored me overall. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

THE TIN DRUM (1979) – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW

THE TIN DRUM (1979) – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW

**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**

I’d never seen this film before and am so glad I did because it now in my top twenty best films I have EVER witnessed. It is a tour-de-force of writing, directing, acting, design, narration, humour, drama, sound and imagination. Based on Gunter Grass’ exceptional novel The Tin Drum – directed by Volker Schlondorff – it is set in the realistic backdrop of post-World War 1 Germany, and during World War 2, before veering into magical realism and surrealism to present a giddy allegorical tale of some wonder.

The comical opening contains a prologue which sets the ambiguous tone of humour and darkness.  It establishes the ancestry of our leading character Oskar Matzerath (amazing David Bennent) and clearly echoes and influences current filmmakers such as Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coens and Wes Anderson with its’ curious oddity. From there on Oskar himself enters the world and while initially reluctant he is forced into life and what a life that is!

Born with the mind of an adult, at the age of three, Oskar decides that he will NOT grow up for as long as he chooses. Anyone who crosses him is subject to a visceral scream which is loud enough to shatter glass. In addition, Oskar also smashes a tin drum incessantly revealing a psychotic pathology which disregards the pain and suffering of those around him. My reading is that Oskar is representative of the rise of fascism and Hitler in these difficult socio-political times for Germany. This idea is further supported by the fact his mother has two men chasing her affection; a gruff German grocer, Alfred, and gentler Polish man, Jan; and either could be Oskar’s father. These are divisive and confusing times for Germany, and a child, especially one who is as precocious, strange and violent as Oskar.

The meat of the film is continual conflict, death and dark situations. The scenes on the beach with eels being captured using a dead horse’s head is full of symbolism and a black humour I will never forget.  More conflict for Oskar ensues as he rejects all authority including religion.  When his mother dies, seemingly from overwhelming guilt, and his friend, a Jewish toymaker, commits suicide following Nazi oppression, Oskar’s life is further stained by death. Latterly, the film enters a stage where – while he is still physically a three-year-old – he hits puberty and become sexually active. The explicit sex scenes involving Maria, a sixteen year old shop girl, are disturbing and unforgettable and this leads to further conflict with Oskar’s father who eventually marries Maria.  Anger and jealousy provokes Oskar so much he literally runs off with the circus and becomes part of a troupe that entertains German soldiers during the war. It is not long though before further tragedy strikes and his strange romance with dwarf singer Roswitha, ends suddenly with her demise.


The Tin Drum is intense, visceral and brave filmmaking. While it uses history as a backbone, its’ muscle, skin and clothes are eccentricity, allegory and insanity. It was one of the most financially successful German films of the era and won the 1979 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I guess I missed it because it is rarely shown on television, no doubt due to the controversial sex scenes involving 11 year-old Bennent. Overall, it is one of the most original stories I have seen on screen and the child actor who played Oskar was a revelation. I have rarely been so horrified, moved and made to laugh as much as I have by a recent cinema visit. I would heartily recommend this film to anyone serious about making films and those who demand intensity in their cinema viewing.


TOP TRUMPS #1 – THE BEST ROCK BAND NEVER!

TOP TRUMPS #1 – THE BEST ROCK BAND NEVER!

I was on holiday with my son playing Top Trumps.  Well, we
didn’t take a holiday to play Top Trumps but we were on the plane
playing DC Superheroes and SpongeBob Squarepants Top Trumps and I had the idea of doing a Rock ‘N’ Roll supergroup top trumpy kind of thing.  Who’s my favourite drummer, singer/front-person, bassist, keyboardist, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist?  And why?  Well here are my picks for what could be the greatest rock band that never existed. Of course, it’s highly subjective and on any given day I may go another way on some of these choices.  If you agree or disagree let me know.  Or don’t.

THE DRUMMER – KEITH MOON

The Who’s wild man of rock and roll was an all or nothing legendary figure that beat living hell out of the drums on some of the great rock tunes of our time. A sweaty, ferocious and fiery figure he lived by the booze and by god he died by it too. It was his attitude as much as his technical ability (not that I’m an expert on this) as he played with the Devil in his eyes and the sticks. Read the book Dear Boy – it’s a great read about a man who didn’t just raise hell but lowered heaven for us mere mortals too.

THE BASSIST – GARY “MANI” MOUNFIELD

Mani wasn’t just in ONE of my favouritest ever bands – he was in TWO:  Mancunian baggy geniuses The Stone Roses and Scottish junkie rock ‘n’ rollas Primal Scream. He transformed both bands with a Cheshire Cat grin, Northern wit, all-round charisma and powerful playing.  The Roses really took off after Mani joined them and their first album is one of the greatest debuts ever in my opinion.  For the Scream he brought a dominant, driving energy to their punky-post-industrial-wasteland-blues.  Fookin’ legend man!

RHYTHM GUITAR – JOHNNY MARR

Marr was the musical hurricane behind probably my favouritest band ever The SmithsWhile Morrissey got the majority of the publicity with his daffodil-sway-dancing, provocative and poetic lyrics and barbed media-jousting tongue but Marr’s guitar sung like an angel on a series of classic albums notably:  The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder. He would go onto be a guitar-for-hire for bands such as: The The and The Cribs and recently released his debut solo album; which wasn’t that bad actually.

LEAD GUITAR – JIMI HENDRIX

Would anyone argue that Johnny Allen “Jimi” Hendrix was the greatest guitarist that ever lived and breathed?  Perhaps fans of Slash?  Or Jimmy Page?  Or Clapton?  Or many more?  Anyway,  he made the guitar sing like demon, and anyone who saw him live was very lucky as he died at such a young age.  Hendrix bridged the gap between blues, psychedelia and rock fusing them in a thunderous mesh.  And within a few short years he went from backing the Isley Brothers to headlining Woodstock. As well as creating some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever he was a pioneer, mastering feedback and popularizing the wah-wah pedal. Hendrix would be an incredible influence during his life and after he was gone.  That’s why he’s my choice for lead guitar.

KEYBOARDIST – RAY MANZAREK

Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t but I don’t think Manzarek gets the credit he deserves for his playing in 60s rock superstars The Doors.   Of course, Jim Morrison was so charismatic that it’s often impossible to take your eyes off his performances, deep growling vocals and magnetic rock star looks. Indeed, it’s so easy to forget the bookish man sitting behind the organ providing the wall of sound in support of the drug-fuelled hell-raiser at The Door’s front of house. However, his rhythm (he also supplied bass), funky, sprawling, rock, pop, classical keyboard-tinkling spanned many different styles, genres and sounds giving the band their originality for the time.  Morrison may have provided the cheekbones but Manzarek provided the backbone.

WORDS – MORRISSEY

I used to listen to The Smiths all the time when I was a teenager. Still do. People used to say to me that Morrissey was miserable, moaning and tuneless.  Well, to me it was the complete opposite: uplifting, angry and poetic. He disliked much of life around him and gave short shrift to people who got him down.  In my little room he spoke directly to my confused young mind providing a wonderful intelligence, dour Northern humour sprinkled with mordant wit and crafty word play.  He wrote from the heart and the gut and most importantly the brain. His words often echo around my mind when I’m in certain situations and in my mind the greatest poet/lyricist ever.

SINGER – RICHARD ASHCROFT

This is the most interchangeable of choices.  For a long time the front-of-the-band was held by Lizard King Jim Morrison. Then I considered Morrissey or even Freddie Mercury but the latter’s arguably too theatrical for me. Then I thought hmmm… Blondie would be a cracking choice or even Zak De La Rocha of Rage against the Machine; just to give the band something a bit different. Even Dolly Parton, who has a lot of front and sass was a consideration but I just couldn’t hear her singing Morrissey’s words. Bono, Bobby Gillespie, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Liam Gallager, Robert Smith, Axel Rose and many more went through my mind and then just at time of writing I decided that Wigan-born-ecstasy-driven-poet-come-wizard Richard Ashcroft would be the man to bring this bastard home.

In The Verve Ashcroft’s angular looks and thousand-yard stare are just magnetic as he just throws every emotion into the ring when belting out a tune.  Probably not the most gifted technically, yet, within that voice there is pain and sorrow. Plus a world-weary emotiveness within his visage; like a starving vampire desperate to die in the light. I went for him for emotion, feeling, energy and attitude. On any other day, as I say, it could’ve been another singer.  But today it’s him.