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Film of the week: Edge of Darkness

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I always approach remakes of iconic TV series’ with caution. Even the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as good as the film was, had to make a lot of concessions to suit the film format. Here with Edge of Darkness, the challenge of conveying the tension and drama of the central character’s quest for his daughter’s justice has to be condensed. Does it work? Well, we’ll get to that.

I suppose the big question at the time was the casting of that central character. After a few false starts and scheduling conflicts, it fell into the lap of Mel Gibson. Even the most occasional of film fans will appreciate that Gibson’s stock isn’t what it was. Unlike many of his peers who simply succumbed to old age, Mel expedited his downfall with an arrest for spousal abuse and subsequent controversy over his thoughts on the Jewish community. For director Martin Campbell, this was a big risk.

Aside from that, how does Gibson fair? I never thought of him as one of the all-time greats. His early promise shown in the likes of Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously and even to a certain extent the first Lethal Weapon film was, during the 1990s gradually watered down to a collection of facial gestures and grandstanding. The subtle was all but gone.

In this film, he is faced with the challenge of fitting an enormous amount of backstory into the first twenty-five minutes of the film. Those who remember the television series will recall how well this played out over the episodes, as Tom Craven’s daughter offers him helpful clues and inspiration in his quest. In both series and film, Craven is an experienced policeman. However while in the original, we have a determined but grounded Yorkshire bobby, this time around the action has been moved to Boston.

Whether this was to serve the plot or a device to provide the script with a typical stock macho American protagonist, for me, it just about gets away with it. Gibson is a believable senior policeman, with a respectable gravelly Mass accent. Unfortunately neither Gibson or any other actor could convey what needs to be conveyed here so we are often treated to default Gibson; quick-witted verbal put downs, nerveless accuracy with a weapon and of course silly, ‘he’s almost dead but not quite’ walks.

Really the performance is intertwined with a story that has far too much ground to cover in a short space of time. Ray Winstone also shows up early enough in the proceedings as a high level fixer. How an Englishman has risen to the ranks of American national security to reach this vaunted position is anyone’s guess but he likes cigars and expensive brandy so maybe that’s enough. In any case, he decides to channel F Scott Fitzgerald and do nothing for a while, until he decides who’s in the right. It’s not an ideal character to have in an already very busy story.

Danny Huston plays the evil megalomaniac would be nuclear arms dealer who happily flouts the laws of megalomania by wantonly looking for trouble and bringing far too much to his own front door. It is a bizarrely written character.

As well as these issues, there is, of course, the change in setting and time. While easy comparisons can be made between the unpopularity of American nuclear policy and Thatcher’s new Britain of the 1980s, there is little here to persuade me that the new location for this story is any better.

For all that however I didn’t hate it. I was reasonably engaged and it was good to see Gibson and his shtick do its thing for a few hours. There is a sense of him second guessing himself at times but that might be just me.

Martin Campbell, who also directed the original series and is in held in very high regard by 007 fans, never seems to get the credit due to him. Here he makes the best of the situation by pushing things along at a steady pace. I imagine that there would have been a great deal of mutual respect between both him and Gibson, himself an indisputably successful director.

But if all the film does is to remind or inform audiences of the excellent original BBC series then it just about justifies its existence.

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Book of the month: How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

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I have been meaning to read some of this lady’s work for some time. My only prior knowledge of her was seeing both her and her magnificent barnet of silver streaked hair on the Late Late show, albeit in a pub with the sound muted. But she had me curious to find out more. And so I finally did.

This is Moran’s first foray into writing a full non fiction title. I learned that she was once an intern at Melody Maker who rose up the food chain to become a permanent and well respected part of the publication. If I could offer one criticism it would be that this book did not tell me how she got the job in the first place. Perhaps though, the evidence is all there on the page. Moran is an excellent writer.

The acid test, if there such a thing anymore, is to see if as a man, you can survive the opening horrors of her teenage years. The chapter titles hint at this: I start Bleeding, I become furry, I am a feminist, I need a bra. It’s the kind of territory most men would avoid given the chance but it’s all handled so deftly here, you can’t help but go along with it.

It becomes clear throughout the book that Moran has had a tough upbringing. A small council house at bursting point trying to contain a large family. A frankly tragic situation with hand me down underwear and a curious habit of getting changed in the sitting room because the rest of the house is too cold. (actually I used to do this too after my bath, the 80s was a bit poxy kids)

What also becomes clear is Moran’s total coolness. The best kind of coolness, not realising it. She wears ridiculous T-shirts with no sense of irony and starts reading Germaine Greer long before the suggested age bracket.

As she grows up she meets a boy who plays in a band and it doesn’t work out. But all the way through this I can’t find any fault in her. He sounds like a right pillock and she definitely dodged a bullet.

Adulthood comes and with it the possibilities of a slightly more disposable income and perhaps a chance to broaden her sartorial horizons.

The self deprecation she brings here is often hilarious, but with some very valid points. After all surely designers don’t design clothes for normal people to wear. It’s all just pot luck. Her advice on owning at least one pair of yellow shoes went a little over my head but I guess it makes sense.

There are some excellent points raised about men and the arts and the opportunities they have received through the whole of civilisation. She rightly points out that women have achieved so little in comparison but only because their role has only been defined elsewhere. Notably this comes across in a very matter of fact fashion, rather than some tantrum. It is this kind of logic which pervades the book, with only the occasional slip or purchase of a £500 purse sneaking through.

Just as you think she might turn into one of them irritating name dropping music journalist types, she is onto marriage and having babies. This might be some of the most well constructed and even handed commentary I’ve ever heard on either subject. I share common ground with her on the silliness of the modern wedding extravaganza but the more heartfelt and poignant detail comes with her memories of childbirth; of what worked out and what didn’t, the tough choices she made and how she justified them.

I don’t know if I can fully do this book justice without sounding overly sycophantic to the feminist cause. Only to say that if there are any broad minded teachers out there looking to add something worthwhile to the transition year syllabus they could do a lot worse than buying a few copies of this and making sure the boys read it.

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Film of the week: Rob Roy

Source: Film of the week: Rob Roy

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Film of the week: Rob Roy

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Liam Neeson. Jessica Lange. John Hurt. Brian Cox. Tim Roth. Eric Stoltz!

At least three of those are among my all time favourite actors. How did I let Rob Roy slip through my grasp for so long?

It is a film that doesn’t get many television appearances these days. The channels usually go for the louder Scottish rebel. You know, the one with the blue face paint and who can blow lightning bolts out of his arse? Anyway back to this.

Rob Roy tells the story of Robert McGregor(played here by a very fit and fresh-faced Neeson) a farmer, who retains the favour of the local landlords by keeping peasant thieves away from their valuable herds of cattle.

It is the year of our lord 1713 : Both he and some other loyal subjects enjoy a fairly peaceful and idyllic life amongst the Scottish Highlands, with morning dips in the lake and sing songs at a campfire by night. So far, so good.

MacGregor and his beautiful wife Mary(played by Jessica Lange with a very respectable accent) are generally seen as the leaders of the group, with future plans and business arrangements usually coming from their home.

MacGregor’s earlier fracas with the peasants is noted by the local landlords, with his fine judgement and cool head given due praise. Around this time MacGregor begins to see the value of a business focused mind. He wants his clan to pool their resources together and buy a herd of their own cattle, with a sizeable loan taken from Montrose(John Hurt)

Accompanying Montrose is a southern vagabond in the shape of Archibald ‘Archie’ Cunningham(Tim Roth)who has returned from a faraway land. His clothes indicate a man well travelled but his behaviour is anything but gentlemanly. Roth is perfect here as a diminutive but malevolent swordsman, seemingly willing to ravage his way around Scotland til something better comes along. He is a little like Redmond Barry, except far more vicious. It is his alliance with Killearn(Brian Cox) which suddenly brings disharmony to the province. Two men with barely a scruple between them. One violent, one more cerebral.

The plot here unfolds nicely. It is easy to transport this story from early 18th century Scotland to a more modern setting if needed. The idea of the little man with notions of self-improvement getting screwed by figures higher up the societal ladder is one that never goes out of fashion.

Something I get with these period dramas. A problem I suppose, are the character names. I don’t always remember them during or afterwards. These names in many cases have long since died out. Generations and the lineage of a strong moniker lost over time. Anyway the point is that when one character is on screen discussing another one who is off screen it is vital that name is different enough to make the character stand out but maybe easy enough to recall quickly. It is particularly important in a feature film where you don’t have the settling in period of a TV series, for example.

Another important thing that any budding screenwriter must do (and I feel I should follow my own lesson here) is that in a tightly knit machiavellian plot like this you must make sure all the main players have enough to do.

All the names listed initially have their moments. Perhaps Stoltz gets the dirtier end of the stick but it’s not a Marty McFly situation by any stretch. Montrose’s interplay with his rival, the Duke of Argyll is excellent. In a film where commerce is at the forefront it is important to always note that other great measure of the time; religious persuasion. In this case it is the Duke of Argyll who carries his Jacobite beliefs in silence.

Anyway getting back to the review. I really enjoyed this film. I was swept up in it. Immersed in the ‘bastardry’ of all the bastards involved. Killearn, in particular, is a horrid little man. As comfortable in feeling up chamber maids as he is gambling on a sword fight, it is clear that while he might not have travelled as far as many, he is frighteningly familiar with the local politics. Who is broke? Who is hoping to leave? Who wants to stay and improve their lot. It is a remarkably well-rounded character for what is a supporting role.

Of course then my beloved Jessica Lange. No way was she going to travel all the way to Scotland for a jolly up. Like so often in her career she pulls at threads and suddenly the light comes in every time she’s on screen. Her role here as den mother to Rob Roy’s household would probably not be described as stand-out. But it’s certainly memorable.

And then the big fella himself. Neeson. This film was released in 1995 remember. At this time Liam was three years past Schindler’s List, with the likes of Taken and the rest not even in his wildest dreams. We are talking a Neeson here in his absolute physical prime, with Bond and Bruce Wayne rumours circling the dirt sheets daily. This is arguably the best of him in a 1990s action role. Though to categorise it as such would be unjust.

Which maybe brings me to the real unsung star of this piece. Alan Sharp, a Scottish novelist is listed as screenwriter. His bibliography is well worth exploring. And for my money, it is pretty sad that all those juicy lines weren’t worthy of least a BAFTA or Oscar nomination.

Anyway, I implore you to watch it. You might be best not to wait for Film Four or ITV2 to screen it, maybe TV3 will come through at some point. But you are all resourceful people, you will find a way.

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book of the month: The Nightcomers by Eric Ambler

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I have long threatened to engage with this man’s work. He had been writing since the mid 1930s but this particular novel was published in ’56; just before Spymania was beginning to dominate the paperback shelves. I had led myself to believe that this is where Ambler’s work would reside. But from what I read here, his genre would have to be considered more political.

We begin after the Second World War with Steve Fraser, an English engineer working in one of the Dutch East Indies many provinces alongside a group of Westerners. Prior to this point in history, Indonesia was like a hot potato. It changed hands from the Dutch to the Portuguese to the Japanese and was now barely getting to grip with independence.

Fraser and his team are finishing up the construction a dam that will no doubt line their pockets.

He has a few days to waste before his flight home and accepts the offer an apartment, given to him by an Australian acquaintance who also recommends a good tailor to visit during his stay.

Added into the mix is a Eurasian woman named Rosalie who agrees to keep him company for the last days of his stay. Such was the style of the time.

Everything seems to be fine until explosions begin to be heard around the city. There is rebellion under way as the rebels of the North plan their attack on the Nasjah government. The pair has now become hostages of the uprising, held in a half captive/half protective situation by Suparto, a representative of rebel General Sanusi, who may or may not be happy with the direction of the rebels leadership.

What really impressed me here was the relaxed, matter of fact nature of Fraser. He does occasionally judge the locals very quickly but often his instincts are quite accurate.

Some really good insight, for example, is the importance of saving face. Fraser who has a good grasp of the local dialect knows it’s better not to use this and instead lets local officials speak their poor version of English, despite everything taking twice as long to do.

The commentary on the bribe culture of the area is deft in tone and something many travelers still warn about to this day, as well as the ridiculous nature of promotion within any organisation.

Another aspect of Ambler’s writing is that he moves things along very quickly. A siege or hostage plot can drag quite easily if not handled well.

Here the writer provides just about enough detail regarding the layout of the apartment as well as the simple pleasures of having enough food and water to sustain themselves. He also renders Rosalie’s sarong very well, that most durable of item of apparel. It is these themes that really make the story work. Fraser is for now no better off than the locals, and plans his life hour by hour instead of more long term.

Having lived in Jakarta a decade ago, I could easily picture the scene around the old Dutch quarter, back then. An area long since dilapidated, with its few narrow bridges to remind the settlers of home.

As I recall it was a massive sprawl of a city and when I think of the intense sewerage and water treatment difficulties even in my time there, it made me laugh when they put Fraser’s character in charge of fixing a complex generator in the basement of the apartment block.

All in all, it works quite well as a brief historical document. Those who might be offended by the way westerners take advantage of local young women might steer clear. Does it help that Fraser remains a gentleman throughout? That he is constantly looking out for Rosalie’s safety? Maybe not.

But I think it captures the state of confusion that must have been felt in this time. How after six hundred odd years of colonialism the end was in sight for the local people and the potential for different factions to start fighting amongst themselves the closer they were coming to independence.

I must say too that my knowledge of South East Asian geography did not really affect my enjoyment. During the reading of the story, I had assumed the place names and names of the factions he was using to be apocryphal.

A political thriller with a light touch, I would read more from Eric Ambler quite happily.

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Film of the Week: We Are Your Friends

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Let’s get one thing absolutely straight. Well, maybe two things. Number one, I know about as much about dance music as I do Caravaggio. That is to say, I am an admirer but no aficionado.

And B, I like Zac Efron and rate him as a movie star.

It’s important we get that out of the way. Because when this film was released a couple of years back it seems a lot of folk couldn’t get past their bias. It scored poorly with critics and the likes of Rotten Tomatoes. The latter usually has a reliable batting average so I did approach this with caution.

Efron plays Cole Carter, a flat broke dance music enthusiast slumming it in the San Fernando valley, hoping to one day become a world-class DJ. Before he does that, however, he needs to earn enough coin to buy lunch, preferably in the local sushi bar beside the strip club. To earn his pocket money, Cole must work in a fairly exclusive nite club, selling comps like those poor unfortunates you might see in Malaga outside Linekers.

On one of these nights, he meets Sophie( played quite nicely here by Emily Ratajkowski) who quickly dismisses him as part of the help.

Cole learns a quick lesson in the food chain of life but as far this night goes, his journey is only just beginning. Like all great friendships, he ends up meeting a new pal over a high grade joint at the back of the nite club. This well to do friend( James played by Wes Bentley, who is once again enjoying posh skunk after helping Spacey let his freak flag fly in American Beauty) turns out to be a formerly successful dance music DJ himself. James invites him to a high-class party and lets him stay the night on his couch. The next morning he is reacquainted with Sophie who turns out to be James’s girlfriend, because, well, of course she is.

This chance meeting leads to open doors and an opportunity to fulfill his dream. There are ups and downs, ill-advised trips to Vegas and the pursuit of job security at an untrustworthy estate agent. Cole makes mistakes and learns, sometimes the hard way, sometimes in a more enjoyable manner.

If this was Chartbusters you might see this film displayed in a very bright coloured box. And I do mean the box. You know like when you used to get those Disney films and the actual plastic case was red and then they put the inlay card over it? Yeah like that. The box for this would be maybe neon green.

It has some pretensions for sure. The opening titles owe a lot to those surfer movies of the 70s and there is a real effort to make the frames tell the story of a night on amphetamines. In one really superfluous but admittedly pretty cool scene, Cole ends up at a posh house party/ LA art gallery deal and suddenly sees the people around him turn into fluid two-dimensional Adobe illustrator models. If you’re not in the mood you’ll hate it.

But I was in the mood. I wanted my emotions to be manipulated and was willing to be won over quite easily. In a sub two hour film you can go for a lot of things and you can do it with subtlety or with a sledgehammer. This was closer to the latter as we are treated to the rise and fall and rise again of Cole Carter. He deserts his old friends, he betrays new ones, he thinks he’s decent at the music thing, is told he’s not as good as he thinks he is. He works harder and gets better. It is all quite conservative when you list it out like that. So why does it work? Well for one Efron.

I have seen him in a number of films now, either playing a jock, playing soccer, playing a frat house neighbour and playing a Waspish grandson of Robert De Niro with interesting results. He never gives anything less than his all. Once again here, he is totally believable as a working class L.A slacker who has a certain determination to better himself.

Alongside that, to these untrained ears, the music is okay too. It’s unlikely I will add the soundtrack to my iTunes but there are a few numbers that sit quite well with me. I initially found his first main tune, where he explains to Sophie his fascinating theory of 128 bpm being the ideal rate to get a dancer on the buzz, better than the one he actually closes the film on. But after a few more listens the closer won me over.

All in all, it’s a pretty decent way to spend a few hours. The American dream is in there. Being washed down with San Pellegrino albeit, but still there.  

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SCRAPPERMANIA III

BULLET

 

Are you ready?

 

When the host for the evening asks you the question you have to say yes. Even though you have no idea what’s going to happen, no clue as to how these players of pavlovian theatre will draw you into their mad, magical world.

I am a wrestling fan, albeit slightly lapsed lately. The most recent Wrestlemania in Florida was watched with my finger firmly on the fast forward button( or the scroll in the case of Dailymotion) Four hours is a huge commitment and not altogether justified for what’s on offer. I often am more entertained by Internet fans decrying the mistreatment of their favourites, than the actual action and storylines. I daresay it keeps Vince McMahon up on many a night, trying to figure out a means of monetizing these informal Facebook fan pages.

All this means that I am, on the whole, disenchanted by the sports entertainment experience. I have gone through these stages in my life a few times. In my early teens, maybe 1994, our housing estate lost Sky One for a year and by the time it came back all WWF action had been moved to the Sky Sports channels( bar maybe one lousy hour of kid-friendly stuff on Sunday afternoon). This obviously had an effect on my engagement.

I think I rediscovered my interest around late 1996. Word of mouth, positive feedback by the true believers( and those with access to a Sky digital box) Since then it’s been very much peaks and troughs. Like any long running saga of television if you stick around long enough you will be prone to repetition. Nothing as bad as seeing the same thing over and over again.

Why is all this relevant? Well because I am pretty sure I’m speaking for many like-minded folk when I say that I still want to feel that magic every now and again. There remains that intangible, impossible to explain, buzz that comes from a live wrestling show. On a screen in your living room is good enough, but to be there in person? Wow!

OTT( Over the Top) is a wrestling promotion based in Dublin, whose product is heavily focused on the more mature, discerning fan. They are about five years in now I reckon. Their home turf is the old Tivoli theatre in Francis Street. Those of an ECW disposition might consider this their Philadelphia Spectrum. Over the last few years, the company have gradually built upon the solid foundations laid by Mainstage, Irish Whip and Wresling.IE amongst others. Domestic and British talent have competed in contests that aren’t exactly run of the mill.

There is a certain expectation that the OTT crowd has. To me the origins of the company was borne out of a desire for a more hardcore product, with cooler, more three dimensional characters and tougher, in ring action( though blading and excessive violence is rare). Mic time is a key component of whether a wrestler will be successful. Can he or she make that connection with the crowd. Coarse language is not only welcomed but encouraged. Also as an extension pre-recorded video packages are often leaked on social media in the weeks building up to a big event. These are often zero budget and hilarious.

For all this though, there seems to be an acknowledgment amongst the company’s owners that comedy and colloquial chants will only get you so far. And with the onset of the internet and fans having access to action the world over, professional wrestling has now become a far more international and artistic affair.

Since the late 70s, Japan has been the undisputed second kingdom of wrestling. Perhaps the mecca if you’re talking to certain people. Stars such as Antonio Inoki, Jushin Liger and Tiger Mask have built a cult following over here while creating enormous fan bases at home. In that time they’ve welcomed a host of North American based talent into their ranks, either on a touring or more long term basis. Notable successes here would be Stan Hansen, Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart, Chris Benoit and even Hulk Hogan who was always greeted with appreciation( not least because he gave it a little bit more over there)

The cross-pollination of Japanese and North American wrestling has always interested me. WCW made a few decent stabs at it in the 1990s but ultimately couldn’t sustain the impact due to being an absolute basket-case of a business. In the modern era though there are only two words you need to remember when it comes to the West invading the East.

Bullet Club!

But more of them later. Believe me, they won’t be ignored or overshadowed.

In the past few years, friendships have been made and reputations solidified to the point that performers more used to crowds of 60,000 in Tokyo, New York and beyond now consider Dublin to be a key area in the world map of professional wrestling. No doubt, we can’t compete with stadium-sized crowds(yet) but for enthusiasm, we certainly can.

So to Scrappermania and OTT’s maiden journey onto the wider expanses of the national stadium on the South Circular Road. The famous old boxing arena, being utilized due to its increased capacity, has surely never seen such a night of wild, inexplicable pleasure. Upon arrival, myself and my buddy Niall are told by the taxi driver that the queue was three times as long an hour previous. It is about 7.15pm and there’s about twenty minutes to first bell. Most are settling into their seats, many others queuing for beer. I am already buzzing at that this point, alcohol would help but if doesn’t happen, it won’t bother me none.

The master of ceremonies is Aengus McInally junior, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy they are halfway to already. Surely his dad never saw such rabid patronage back in the Irish masters days at Goffs?

The first match sees Grado defeat Charlie Sterling. Grado is kind of a comedy act who has developed a huge following that now far extends his original Scottish base. Despite all the tomfoolery, he is actually a decent hand, as they say. We don’t get to see much evidence of this here as the contest turns into a bit of a farcical affair. Sterling is slightly de-robed for much of the match, inviting the crowd to replace their ‘we want Brexit’ chants with ‘pull your jocks up’. In the end Grado wins, Madonna plays and we’re warming up nicely.

The next few fights are good enough. Jigsaw beats Scotty in a solid enough featherweight encounter. The exchanges are chained together well and the crowd acknowledges the artistic merit with applause. Paul Tracey, the Lord of the Manor and one of my favourites brings his old school heelwork to bear on the crowd. Tracey is made wait a ridiculous length of time by Jurn Simmons, a Dutchman with an affection for epic 80s rock and a chest as hirsute as any Fabulous Freebird could wish for. The Dutchman wins.

The Gym Nasties then face up against their former friend Justin Shape and his new partner Logan Bryce. I am kind of disappointed to see Bryce has temporarily shelved his Leinster rugby fan gimmick. Here he and Shape wear black. It is a solid match, with only an occasional botch. But the crowd are with it.

Next out is the ladies six women tag match featuring Session Moth and champion Katey Harvey. The Moth is majorly over these days. Glow sticks are handed out amongst the fans and the scene is immense. The Moth and her partners win but their celebratory rave is cut short by a shocking heel turn. My key takeaway here is that Katey Harvey is an excellent worker. I already knew Session Moth was.

The next one I nearly totally miss. Toilet time beckons and the queues are oh so long. I hear the oohs and the aahs behind me and curse my weak bladder. By the time I return from the bar it feels like I have been missing for an hour and the Lads from the Flats are all but finished against the Kings of the North. This is a contest that has seen so many iterations down the years. Martin and Workie have not always been slack jawed junkies in Adidas tracksuit bottoms. Time was they were as earnest as a couple of 1997 era Hardy boys with arguably brighter tights. I love everything these two do. I can’t think of the amount of times they mesmerised me in the likes of Good Counsel and Drimnagh. It’s a beautiful thing to see that while the costumes have changed, they remain as tight and as watchable as ever. So many high spots, so much agility. They are now joined by a third disciple in Paddy M. He has won the crowd over the past year or so. Corvin, Bonesaw and Dunkan Disorderly bring the power from the North but it’s a perfect clash of styles. I could watch them forever but of course I can’t. The northies win, which shocks the home support. But maybe they deserve a big show win at this stage.

We’re getting into the bewitching hours now. Maybe three hours in. I should be bored out of my tree but the double rums are working their magic and Marty Scurll is up next, Scurll wears his ROH TV title down to the ring which really adds an aura of class to proceedings. He fights a New Zealander called Jay White who reminds me a bit of Kerry Von Erich. This is a very classy affair and feels like the match of the night. There is a quality here that really shines through. You can tell the pair know each-other well. Scurll wins the match and in me, a new fan.

Angel Cruz fights Zack Gibson, a lad from Liverpool, loses. It is pretty well received and a nice warmer upper before the big one. On we go.

Finally it is the turn of Uptown Funk against the Bullet Club. Now I say the Bullet Club, but obviously not every member is here. Still we have three of them and they are great. The Elite Squad are hilarious but technically excellent and Kenny Omega is a Canadian superstar in every sense of the word. He carries himself like the lead singer of a super cool rock band and one can only imagine he would have his pick of any ring rat, if he wasn’t happily married. The match itself is very special. A thirty odd minute stunt fest which is as dynamic and rapid as nothing you will see on Monday Night Raw. Smiley, Will Osprey and Lio Rush set a ferocious pace all the way through and it’s a great tribute to the audience that none of the six phone this in. Why would they, when it’s been shown on ppv all around the world?

The Bullet Club get the decision but Uptown Funk are perhaps only a handful of cheers behind on the audience scorecard. The night isn’t over yet. Smiley insists on a dance off which even Omega engages in. Soon, the ring is full with the night’s other talents now inside, enjoying one last dance off. Seemingly disgusted by all this sentimentality the Bullet Club revert to type and super kick everyone out of the ring. The stage is theirs alone.

*

Overall the night has to be seen as a rousing success. Scrappermania as an entity has surely cemented it’s place as Ireland’s big night of squared circle action. In the end all tastes were catered to. The local talent remains a key factor and while it’s no guarantee they could have sold 2200 seats without Omega’s name on the card, it’s been clear for the past year or so that OTT are outgrowing their beloved Tivoli.

The groundwork that has been laid the past few years is phenomenal. The team have put on some great shows. They’ve fought in rocker bars and fringe festivals, gathering a groundswell of support to add to their hardcore base. The production too has also improved vastly since my days as a humble ringside cameraman with Mainstage. Now not only is the event filmed by a proper professional crew, the entrance ramp is often illuminated by a decent amount of pyro as well two big screens to display the latest promo offering. Last night it was on these very screens I learned that none other than Mick Foley himself will be making a guest appearance in the next big show in August.

This is a genuinely great time to be watching wrestling in Ireland. I looked around last night and wished I was a bit younger and had just a few less commitments, thereby allowing me to immerse more in this madness. But the key takeaway for me is this. OTT is very much on the map and I have no idea how big they can get.

 

Some good related linkage

 

1.For a proper review of the show, check these guys out. I used to know all the names of the moves. But we’re a long way from cobra clutches and figure fours these days. These lads will more than cover my shortcomings.

http://backbodydrop.com/blog/reviews/ott-scrappermania-iii-april-15-2017/

 

  1. The OTT twitter page is a great resource for Fan footage, wrestler retweets and other general updates

 

https://twitter.com/OTT_wrestling

 

  1. If WWE’s network of old Koko B.Ware matches ain’t doing it for you, perhaps check out FloSlam. This is basically where to go for news, views and all things international wrestling has to offer.

 

http://www.floslam.tv/

 

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Film of the week: Breakdown

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Sometimes when I’m watching old films at home with the folks I feel it’s out of a sense of duty. Who else from my generation for example would watch Tom Selleck without a moustache or Brian Dennehy being sinister if not me?

These are made for TV movies however. The likes of Ike & To Catch a Killer are cheaply produced, low risk ventures that rarely end up hurting feelings or studio execs wallets.

Somewhere between these and the tent pole blockbusters there are worthy films to be had however. B movies that are upwardly mobile with notions of greatness. Manys a career has been launched in this way. Or in the case of Breakdown perhaps relaunched.

Kurt Russell might not have been born into Hollywood royalty but he surely would struggle to remember a time when he wasn’t surrounded by all the bells and whistles of production . His uncredited debut came in an Elvis movie at the age of twelve but I remember seeing him in an episode of The Fugitive where he can’t have been much older.

As the decades rolled on he remained a staple of television programming and the darling of domestic Walt Disney output. A lot of this stuff was before my time and I’m unlikely to catch up on it now. But we can safely say he had a good grounding before what was his undoubted big Hollywood break with the The Thing in 1982.

After this turn as a Kristofferson doppleganger in the snow covered Antarctic, Russell had confirmed his abilities as a potential leading man. John Carpenter went back to him a few times afterwards( Escape from New York, LA and Big Trouble in Little China) He also worked with Meryl Streep in Silkwood, Mel Gibson in Tequila Sunrise, Stallone in Tango and Cash not to mention teaming up with his long term partner Goldie Hawn in Overboard.

The nineties saw more hits come along. Backdraft in 1991, Unlawful Entry 1992, Tombstone 1993, Stargate 1994 and Executive Decision 1996. Nothing that would give Ingmar Bergman sleepless nights but all made good money nonetheless.

But here is where it got hairy. In 1998 a film finally arrived in theatres called Soldier. It was at that time one of the biggest box office flops ever produced and almost certainly would have killed off Russell’s claims as the blued eyed American hero of blockbuster cinema.

That Breakdown came out before it is perhaps the flaw in my argument, until you realise Soldier was in production first. The sci fi opus had actually been in development for 15 years at this stage and only when Russell agreed to sign on in 1996 could they go ahead.

Director Paul Anderson(no, not that one, the other one) is quoted as saying that Kurt decided to commit to intensive physical training before cameras rolled. This fascinates me. Sure you want to look your best but surely he must have known the script was a dog at that point. Guess there’s some things Imdb can’t tell you.

Either way it is my opinion that Russell was worried. He had his box office radar on and couldn’t see a happy ending for Soldier. So after a quick look around the Screenplay super store he managed to spot Breakdown. It’s a quick enough shoot and turnaround and it makes good in the cinemas and the long and successful career of one of Hollywood’s golden boys carries on.

Think I’m wrong? That with the dates and everything else it just doesn’t make sense? Fine, go ahead and watch Breakdown again. Look at everybody’s clothes. Okay so maybe Russell and his wife would have nice clean clobber; they are on their way from Boston and wanting to make a fresh start. But then look at the Canadian tuxedo JT Walsh is sporting. Not a spec of dust. Could it be that this whole production had a small window of opportunity to get done and nobody on set had the time to age the clothes? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe JT just liked to look clean.

Anyway the film itself is based on a very decent Jonathan Mostow script and basically tells the age old story of city slickers offending simpler world weary folk and paying the penalty. Russell plays Jeff, who in his new red Jeep Wrangler that he still owes money on, is driving to San Francisco  with his wife Amy in the hopes of getting a new job and leaving his woes behind him. In a split second of distraction Jeff almost crashes into a big black pickup truck, waking his slumbering wife in the process. So sets off a chain of Hitchcockian events that do little to disprove that Democrats don’t like blaming themselves for anything and that you really shouldn’t let your wife take a lift from a trucker in the desert.

I watched this with a great appreciation for the craftsmanship of mid 1990s filmmaking. Around this point in time stuntmen and women were at the top of their game and the foreboding presence of all that cgi in Titanic was still considered by many to being an anomaly.

Looking back on it now, it seems a bit tired, a bit lacking in real sheen. The music is nondescript and everyone involved seem a bit preoccupied. Like as if they know they don’t have more than three red jeeps to destroy or that JT Walsh is getting on a plane first thing in the morning and the first or second take of this scene will have to do(JT I’m sure was golden every time, I’m more pointing the finger at the director)

Of course time waits for no man and maybe it was around this time that Kurt maybe realised that the action hero schtick had probably passed him by.

In the years that followed he has been in numerous projects that have provided him with more challenging work. This year he’ll do what everyone else does nowadays and star in a Marvel movie: playing Chris Pratt’s dad in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Proof, if it was even needed, that Kurt Russell is now proudly an elder statesman of the Hollywood set.

Unfortunately we said goodbye to JT a few years back and as such were deprived of his perpetual excellence. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic I suggest The Grifters or The Negotiator for further viewing.

As for Breakdown well I had seen it a couple of years ago ago and maybe once was enough. Anyway, it’s still pretty good, better than Soldier anyway.

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FILM OF THE WEEK: OFFICE SPACE

Source: FILM OF THE WEEK: OFFICE SPACE

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FILM OF THE WEEK: OFFICE SPACE

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It’s funny how some films pass you by. It’s much more difficult to miss things these days with media coming at you from multiple angles. Or maybe that’s the problem.

Office Space will be familiar to a generation of meme enthusiasts, perhaps more so than the film itself. Its chief protagonist in these images is the hateful, malignant Porsche driving boss Bill Lumbergh( played by Gary Cole). A character as despicable as Willy Wonka was disinterested.

The film sees Peter, a twenty-something American male whose employment involves fixing the potential Y2K issues that might affect the accounts which are all computer based at this point. His main concerns are forgetting to put new cover sheets on his documents, wondering if his girlfriend is cheating on him and trying to pick the right lane on the freeway while commuting to work.

His colleagues, Samir and Michael Bolton(just coincidence) are slightly more technically minded on the I.T side of things, though no less alienated from society.

Trouble is brewing when a couple of guys from personnel arrive, trying to save money by firing a few heads. Everyone is on edge, except Peter, whose worries have recently disappeared since a visit to a hypnotist.

In the aftermath of the clinic visit, he suddenly becomes a self-aware, carefree soul who pays no heed to the wants and whiles of Lumbergh. Nor does he have any fear of asking the cute waitress(played here by Jennifer Aniston, how did they find the money to afford her??) out for lunch.

Of course, this production is not built on plot alone. The character driven piece is designed to get the viewers(hopefully real life slackers) to both root for and rage against familiar types they might recognise from their own cubicle partitioned gulags. It is to Gary Cole’s and to a lesser extent Steve Root’s eternal credit that they are so memorable.

The film itself is no ground breaker. It has the usual ahem…staples. Anti-social psychopathic men with soup stained shirts, easy living next-door neighbours behind paper thin suburban walls. As a critique on modern American working culture its themes are easily identifiable.

Production wise it looks and feels more like a one camera comedy you might see on Comedy Central. The colour grade is dull but yet carries the assured glean of daytime television. In a way, it’s ideal for these characters who know their limitations all too well.

The film itself ranks high in the all time Imdb lists, a cult classic that steadily become more iconic with each passing year. Directed by Mike Judge(he of Beavis and Butthead fame) it remains a fine addition to that most valued of genres, the slacker comedy.