Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Cowboys & Aliens"

The long-anticipated (at least by me) Cowboys & Aliens, the latest from indie actor turned blockbuster director Jon Favreau, makes no real sense, but it would probably be less fun if it wasted time boring us with logic. Taking a variety of stock Western characters – the mysterious man with no name (Daniel Craig), the feisty heroine (Olivia Wilde), the ruthless landowner (Harrison Ford), the doughty lawman (Keith Carradine), the annoyingly earnest child (Noah Ringer), the weak-willed saloon-owner (Sam Rockwell) – and adding a small-scale invasion by vicious creatures from outer space, (cf “Attack The Block”), it’s very entertaining. The performances are flawless, and the incongruity of the CGI in the Old West setting merely adds to the general dislocatory effect. Given that the aliens are sufficiently advanced technologically to have travelled across vast galaxies in ships equipped with laser-blasters, they seem curiously vulnerable to Earth bullets, knives, arrows, etc, but such minor practical considerations are of less import than the general theme of disparate forces coming together to fight a common enemy. It probably won’t live long in the memory, but one applauds the audacity of the premise, and the slickness of its execution.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jongleurs / "Killing Cupid"

Not having attended a stand-up comedy show in several years, I took advantage of a Groupon deal, and treated myself to a Saturday evening show at Jongleurs, currently situated in the cavernous “Icehouse” room at central Cardiff discotheque, Oceana. MC-ing was jovial Mancunian John Warburton, whose job it was to soak up the excess energy of the assembled stag-parties so that the featured comics wouldn’t have to cope with too much self-indulgent heckling; and he gave excellent banter. Not so with the first on the bill, Scouser Jamie Sutherland, whose rather commonplace material (Easyjet, recycling) failed to maintain audience interest, although I guess the problem was less his writing than his rather brittle persona. Next on the bill, Brendan Dempsey didn’t have that problem, having used his acting experience to create a character - the likeable Irish curmudgeon at odds with modernity – who had little trouble connecting with the crowd. Headlining after the interval was Sinck, a black ex-teacher from New York who set the tone with his walk-on music - “Move Bitch” by Ludacris - and joked that the recent riots made him feel at home. While some of his material was familiar (U.S./U.K. language differences, airport security, middle age) his slick, interactive style meant that he carried it off well. The major part of his set dealt frankly with sexual matters, and was uproariously received; thus, he departed in triumph. An enjoyable night, which I didn’t ruin by staying for the disco.

Recent news stories have suggested that people have abandoned books for new-fangled phones, etc. My experience is quite the contrary – I’ve never done as much reading as I have since I discovered iBooks and Kindle for the iPod Touch, and the multitude of free e-books available from the associated web-stores (and others, such as the excellent, leading to such inexcusably belated discoveries as E.W. Hornung’s Raffles stories, Sacher-Masoch’s “Venus in Furs”, Houdini’s “The Miracle Mongers”, and “The Theory Of The Theatre” by Clayton Hamilton - a century old and full of astute observations. I actually paid (a whole 49p) for “Killing Cupid” by self-publishers Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, intrigued by media coverage of its popularity, and the amusing premise – stalking victim takes umbrage when her stalker loses interest. A hybrid of chick-lit and psycho-thriller, taking the form of two complementary sets of journal entries, it’s an undemanding read without being as clunkily written as many similarly-pitched “airport” novels, and while there are a few typos and other errors which might have been excised by an editor, the story keeps one gripped, and the central protagonists are deliciously neurotic. It should make an entertaining two-parter for television - assuming that the authors aren’t as deluded as their characters in claiming to have sold the rights.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Super 8"

J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” is about grief, young love, and the allure of filmmaking. Not to mention something huge from somewhere else. Self-consciously a tribute to the oeuvre of the film’s producer, Steven Spielberg, and set in a small Ohio town in 1979, it follows a group of pubescent amateur filmmakers who get caught up in a train crash (spectacularly realised) and the ensuing military cover-up. The special FX are as magnificent as one might expect, and the child cast, particularly Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning as the would-be couple, are charming, but it’s Kyle (“Early Edition”) Chandler, combining the roles of bereaved husband and action hero, who carries much of the emotional weight. Towards the end, Abrams ladles on the sentimentality in a shamelessly manipulative manner; but the fact that his main protagonist is the film-within-a-film’s make-up artist/model-maker rather than the writer/director is a clever comment on contemporary commercial cinema, of which this is a technically flawless example.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Cardiff Big Weekend 2011

The Admiral Cardiff Festival Big Weekend, held on the lawn of City Hall, is one of the highlights of the year, and 2011 was another classy event, once more marred by the weather. I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance and so was able to cherry-pick my entertainments (and avoid the portaloos).

Friday’s “local bands” evening, promoted by the Swn Festival, provided a good chance to catch up on young people’s exciting hairstyles, and once more witness a mosh-pit merry-go-round. First on stage were the enjoyably heavy metal inflected pop-punky Battle Of The Bands winners Death Before Sunrise – perhaps unsurprisingly not entirely dissimilar to Lostprophets. Next up were perky West Walians OK, whom I’d already seen supporting Darwin Deez a few months ago; they sounded no less like the Wombats than before (not necessarily a bad thing), have added an amusing new guitarist, and went down well with the youthful audience, although anticipation for headliners Funeral For A Friend was heavy in the air.

On Saturday evening, I went down intending to see Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – to find they’d been replaced by reggae legend Horace Andy (most famous for “Skylarking” and his work with Massive Attack); his traditional reggae vibes (“for conscious people”), provoked some pleasingly bizarre dancing. My principal focus (on an evening later headlined by Gabrielle) was L.A’s Vintage Trouble, following their electrifying appearance on Jools Holland’s “Later” in April, and they didn’t disappoint, with their modern take on 60’s/70’s soul, part of a profoundly welcome move toward a human, non-Black-Eyed-Peas-esque take on the genre (cf Cee-Lo, Talib Kweli, Fitz And The Tantrums etc.). A guitar-bass-drums line-up, fronted by the charismatic Ty Taylor, they were highly impressive, and ecstatically received.

Apparently they’re not the coolest band in the world, but I won’t hear a word said against Sunday night’s headliners, ski-chalet-rockers The Feeling – “Fill My Little World” is a classic pop song, and I have fond memories of seeing them play at the Cardiff Barfly several years ago. Even though they’re now past their commercial peak, they still managed to attract a large and hugely appreciative crowd on a soggy evening. One could hardly claim that they turn into rock beasts on stage, but the live experience does add some rough edges, and their encore of “Fight For Your Right To Party” had to be seen to be believed.

Hats off to the council, sponsors, etc. for persisting with it in hard economic times.

Monday, August 08, 2011

BBC Writers Room Rapid Response - "I've Been Expecting You"

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my script, "I've Been Expecting You" was chosen as one of the three best-regarded entries into the BBC Writers Room competition to find Rapid Responses to the Murdoch/phone-hacking scandal. Given the nature of the events concerned, I think it's safe to assume that many perfectly good writers will have had their work ruled out for containing libellous/defamatory material, but still, it's inordinately pleasing.