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Theo Robertson

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And It's Goodbye To The Beta Band, 4 June 2016

Heard of The Beta Band ? Don't worry if you haven't because neither had I until the start of 2011 when I used to work with a chef called Alan who I'll always remember for two reasons

1) He had a very pretty senorita called Maria as a girlfriend

2) He also had an alternative taste in music

Something dubious about the second bit because can you imagine working at a busy airport kitchen with Radiohead blaring away for ten hours solid ? One day Alan did redeem himself by playing a song that encompassed sunshine and Summer with a chorus of "If there's something inside you want to say , say it outloud it'll be okay I will be your light , I will be your light, I will be your light"

"Who's that Alan ? That's a brilliant song"

"The Beta Band"

Can you play that again please . What's it called ?

"Dry the rain"

That night I finished at some ungodly hour , rushed home after a long commute and got on to youtube and Wikipedia and researched every single piece of info I could about this obscure band from Edinburgh only to find they'd split up and I scratched my head wondering why I'd never heard of them

With hindsight an experimental , quirky , alternative indie band is difficult to market , especially since the mainstream was moving more in to bland pop with pretty girls and boys singing songs someone else wrote for them without being able to play an instrument . The band itself probably didn't do themselves too many favours . This second and final appearance on LATER was probably TBB last chance to grab a neutral audience . Assessment is an obvious attempt to bring out a commercial hit which it was to a very small degree reaching number 31 on the charts ( Broke from 2001 is to date their biggest hit which reached number 30 in the British charts ) while Space is a typically off-beat track but not really an indicative track from their 2004 album Heroes To Zero which has songs containing a cruel beauty of finality such as Wonderful , Simple and most especially the closing track Pure For . Indeed it could be by this point the band had given up on making a breakthrough and the band played their last gig at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh in December 2004

And so farewell to The Beta Band . An alternative band whose sad , haunting lyrics of unrequited love and loneliness will last me for a lifetime . Even if you're extinct you can still be an inspiration to others who were previously unaware you ever existed

Carol (2015)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Light , Gentle Touches On A Heavy Subject, 30 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Todd Haynes ? Yeah I remember him . Something of an auteur when it comes to independent film making , but just because someone is an auteur it doesn't make them superior to the journeyman type of director . Indeed auteur can defined as "A director who is somewhat unimaginative in telling a visual narrative" . He also directed SAFE one of the most frustrating films I've ever seen . With CAROL Haynes directs a film featuring a lesbian love story . As the opening credits rolled I also found out it was a Film 4 production . Todd Haynes , lesbians and Film 4 Productions . I don't want to sound like George Dubya Bush but if there was such a thing as an axis of film evil this might just be it


I'm very surprised then as to how much and how quickly CAROL drew me in to the story . Of course it's somewhat predictable in the early stages with a young shop worker Therese noticing and becoming infatuated by an older woman called Carol but everything is done with a deft , delicate slightness of touch it's difficult not to be caught up in the story . This is down to Haynes and the two protagonists played by Rooney Mara as Therese and Cate Blanchett as the titular Carol . It's rare that I see a film where an actors expression says a thousand words but you're able to instantly see thought and subtext being portrayed without a single word being spoken . It's also rare for a film nowadays to be poignant without lapsing in to manipulation and grief whoring

It's not perfect . It gets a bit melodramatic towards the end and the slow languid pace will undoubtedly put some people off but it's not a film produced for the local multiplex . Likewise if the protagonists had been a middle aged straight man and a hetrosexual young woman we'd have an entirely different and possibly as unlikely story but let's appreciate CAROL for what it is - subtle Oscar bait material that might just surprise the Oacar board in 2016

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Not Brilliant And Not A Musical, 29 December 2015

While exploring Mars an expedition get caught up in a sandstorm and have to beat a hasty retreat leaving behind the body of a dead team member . As it transpires he isn't dead but soon will be as it'll take too long to mount a rescue mission and his supplies will have run out long before then

A return to form from acclaimed director Ridley Scott . Oh hold on I'll use quotation marks because that's not really my opinion "A return to form from acclaimed director Ridley Scott" . I'm afraid I found this rather boring . Matt Damon finds himself trapped on Mars struggling to survive . Early in the film Matt takes off his spacesuit and glancing at his inhuman well buffed torso you know every hetrosexual woman on the planet will want to use him as their own personal lick toy if he makes it back to Earth . Remind me and 3.5 billion other mortal men why we want him to survive this ordeal ?

I'm afraid I'd forgotten his characters name because my disbelief was never suspended long or hard enough to think I was watching a real life character trying to survive a real life situation but more of an actor appearing in a Hollywood movie . "Luckily I'm a botanist so I can grow things" he states. Wow , how fortunate is that ? Very fortunate I'd say and this type of good fortune reminds you you're watching a contrived story . It does try and bring science fact to the narrative but at the same time when you've got the actor who played Boromir in THE LORD OF THE RINGS explain why the rescue mission is called "Operation Elrond" this tends to underline the fact that you're watching a movie

One puzzling thing is that it's picked up several Golden Globe nominations - in the comedy/musical category ? This is ridiculous since the film is in no way a comedy or a musical . Its style is somewhat reminiscent of these films in the 1980s with either a diegetic or non diegetic musical soundtrack blasting away . Anyone consider APOCALYPSE NOW a musical ? I didn't think so . That said I did slightly respect THE MARTIAN more than the rather overrated INTERSTELLAR . It's just that when you compare it the breathtaking achievement of GRAVITY a couple of years ago or the thematically similar THE REVENANT then you'll probably find THE MARTIAN a bit lacklustre in comparison . I also think because of voter politics - Inarritu won best director at the Oscars last year - the Academy Awards might just give Ridley Scott a long overdue Oscar in 2016 , but to be honest he's made better films than this one

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Lesser Hammer Due To A Lack Of Horror, 29 December 2015

Brits of a certain age will remember the days when BBC 2 used to show horror double bills during the Summer months . The Universal franchise from the 1930s and 40s always seemed to be treated with a lot more respect than the Hammer films in that they were broadcast in chronological order where as with Hammer the scheduling was much more patchy . This early Hammer horror produced in 1959 made a solitary appearance on one of the double bills and to my knowledge it never made another appearance on network TV . Directed by Terence Fisher who was by far the best of the Hammer in-house directors and made a point of watching it as an antithesis to the gore and torture porn that qualifies as horror in the 21st Century

Perhaps I have become desensitised to old school horror ? because THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH is a fairly bland film compared to what we get nowadays . On seconds let's analyse this a bit further - it'd probably be fairly bland compared to what the studio were also making from the same period . Fisher seems to be under the impression he's making a period drama and the colour scheme and sets are not unimpressive . It also contains some other Hammer hallmarks in that woman are well endowed in the breast department and everyone who has a foreign accent is not to be trusted but the film is rather too talkative and found myself having to constantly remind myself that I was watching a horror film and not something by Michael Powell and that must be seen as a failure of sorts

The Visit (2015/I)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
It Improves As It Goes Along Which Isn't Saying A Lot, 29 December 2015

M Night Unpronoucable name ? Is he still making films ? Is he allowed to still make films ? He is ? , just not with other peoples money ? Makes sense since he's been producing one flop-buster after another so I'm guessing THE VISIT is a result of not being able to raise enough finance rather than any artistic reason . At least camcorder / lost footage movies don't cost much

The downside is that this sub-genre is very self limiting . In other words when you've seen one you've effectively seen them all . They start off slow and mundane and slowly wratch up the chills and scares . This one doesn't get off to a good start with a couple of young teens called Becca and Tyler sent off to visit their maternal grandparents . I don't want to sound like a xenophobic Eurocentric but these two teens don't strike me as your typical American teens . They both come out with words that will have you reaching for a dictionary and Tyler occasionally uses British idioms like "Bloke" . Maybe M , Night whathisface originally wrote this in a British setting and forgot to rewrite it for the Stateside setting or maybe it was ghost written by the late Christopher Hitchens ? Regardless you'll be hard pressed to find a more unlikable kid than Tyler

To give some credit to the writer/director he does manage the hit the horror high notes and suspense the further the story progresses and did find myself slightly surprised as to how well done some of these elements were done . I shouldn't really be surprised because with SIGNS the director did show he could give an audience sleepless nights with simple scare tactics . The downside still remains in that the same director was being touted as "The New Spielberg" with THE SIXTH SENSE less than 20 years ago so making a fairly average film considered to be better than much of his recent output is the epitome of a backhanded compliment

23 out of 44 people found the following review useful:
Worthy In Award Season But Rather Sullen And Instantly Forgettable, 28 December 2015

You can understand the timing of this film's release . Get it in to the cinemas before a certain date and it qualifies for Oscars . On top of that being a recent release it'll be fresh when peoples minds when they cast their votes . With a weighty topic involving a true life story , good performances and other technical merits you can see what the producers of TDG are hoping for but to be honest it's a rather cold uninvolving film that doesn't really seem to exist except as Oscar bait

You'll probably know the premise before going to see the film and if not then both the posters and trailers will fill you in as to the basic story . Eddie Redmayne plays Einer Wegener and Alicia Vikander plays his wife Gerda . Something is not quite right with Einer and it's not just his constant infectious smile . When Henrik played by Ben Wishaw turns up the central idea of the movie is ripe for some cruel black comedy

Ah now I know what's wrong with TDG - it sinks under its own self importance . From the limited amount of Danish films I've seen there seems to be a competition as to make the most depressing film possible where audiences crawl lemming like to the cinema and transform in to grief whores . Tom Hooper realising the story is rather uncinematic uses some arty shots and the performances are fine and probably touches on the point that in a sexual relationship people have an irrational desire to be martyrs for one another but like Hooper's THE KINGS SPEECH the material would be perfectly suited to a television screen or even the theatre but lacks the scope to be true cinema . It also lacks the charm that THE KINGS SPEECH had and that's got to be judged a fundamental failure

Trumbo (2015)
7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Fair Bio-Pic That Runs Out Of Steam, 28 December 2015

Dalton Trumbo ? Yeah I've heard of him . A screenwriter who because of his leftist sympathies lost his job as a Hollywood screenwriter and was even jailed for his beliefs . This film cogently titled TRUMBO tells his downfall and eventual resurrection

It's something of a film of two halves and the first half is superior due to the political paranoia and the personalities in Hollywood at the time . Big John Wayne is not happy there's filthy reds everywhere trying to undermine democracy ? Perhaps it might be a good idea to ask the Duke what was it he did to defend democracy in the second world war ? When the film does its best to be abrasive and scathing it's excellent but unfortunately it doesn't do it a large enough degree . I've no idea how hardline Trumbo was when it came to left leaning politics but he's portrayed here as more of a liberal rather than a Trotskyite or Stalinist . That said most official communist parties in capitalist democracies at the time had policies more in keeping with liberal democracy rather than murderous tyranny and the film doesn't really concern itself with politics and is more about a decent everyman trying to carry on with his art in a fairly simplistic manner

This ends up becoming somewhat problematic in the second half where the family man aspect becomes overdone . Despite being a cinema release and featuring the occasional use of the F word it's not really a film that feels truly cinematic . The whole look and feel of TRUMBO gives the feeling it's a made for TV production , a sensation magnified by having Bryan Cranston in the title role . Cranston might find himself up for an Oscar nomination but I've got a feeling TRUMBO will be another film getting a handful of Oscar nominations but will win nothing

Tempus (2015)
Memorable Due To The Technical Aspects, 28 December 2015

I got a very nice message from writer/director Ian Clay asking me to review his short film TEMPUS . Ian mentioned that shorts are rarely seen and he's right . They're normally under-seen and are usually labours of love . If someone sends me a polite message I'll respond by giving an honest review

Ian mentioned the technical boys had a lot of previous experience including make-up artist Greg Cannom who is the recipient of three Oscars ! To be honest there's not a lot of narrative but being just under four minutes long including credits there doesn't need to be . The premise is man runs towards shack where his wife lies dying and it's the visual journey rather than the journey itself that is the main focus . Despite having a number of award winning artists working behind the scenes it was cinematographer Ben Griffin working on his second project . The major breath taking moment is when the protagonist reaches the shack

A well done short film due to the technical achievements

Jesus Camp (2006)
Holy Sh*t It's The American Taliban . Get Chris Hansen In Here, 27 December 2015

If there's one thing guaranteed to cheer me up it's religion . I don't mean I'm going to be spiritually touched by the hand of God , I mean I'm going to feel morally and intellectually superior to some Muppet talking about eternal afterlives and other nonsense . A documentary about evangelical Christians might just be the sort of thing to lift me out of festive gloom ( Christmas humbug) and if this had confined itself to deluded adults spouting metaphysical mendacity it probably would have . However a factual feature consisting of child abuse isn't going to cheer me up and neither does I suspect to any other rational , decent human being

The film opens with Mike Papantonio hosting his radio show decrying the religious right with Christian callers phoning in saying they can't understand this new militant type of evangelical Christianity . Of course right away you might think this is merely selective and biased and the callers might be criticising rival Christian sects . God might love us all but he really hates heretics does he not ? Cut to a stage version of APOCALYPSE NOW with children is cameo face paint dancing to a heavy metal soundtrack . Instantly you're reminded of the line in the movie where Chef states "This is pagan idolatry man" . You said it mate . This event is the brainchild of Becky Fischer who lives up to every outsider view of Americans . Loud , ugly and clinically obese by many pounds she wastes no time in making this audience member concerned with the junk coming out of her mouth rather than the copious amounts of junk food she stuffs in to it "We have too many Christians who are fat and lazy" If you don't believe Americans suffer from an irony deficiency then this documentary will make a believer out of you , believe me . I'm doing my utmost best to be diplomatic and guard my back by saying not all Christians are like this , not even in the American bible belt . She continues and there's a rather disturbing use of the word "training children" . Let's think about that for a second . "Training children" . You train a dog , not children . Maybe she meant "condition children" since as human beings we're all products of social conditioning to a degree , but that would be concede Karl Marx is fairly correct in that a belief in God is simply down to cultural environment and the degree of belief and what God you believe in is down to culture . Worse Fischer then starts saying that children should be trained in faith in much the same way as terrorists are in the Muslim world . Hmmm train the kids to blow themselves and some infidels up you mean Becky ? Please tell me you didn't literally mean that ?

The documentary then focuses on three children , Levi , Rachael and Tory and while Christian theocratic nutjobs like Becky Fischer need put in to a straitjacket and forcefed anti-psychotic medication the children here are poor wretched victims of deluded and bad parents . Tory shows us her dance moves and states "When I dance I really have to make sure it's really God because people will notice I'm dancing for the flesh and people sometimes notice that" Tory is a ten year old child FFS ! These children are victims of child abuse . It's not the sexual abuse associated with the Vatican based Christian cult but it's still child abuse and comes from superstitious nonsense . Maybe Chris Hansen and Richard Dawkins should join forces and do a show called TO CATCH A Christian CHILD ABUSER . If nothing else it's more evidence than God was , and is the worst man made invention

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Cheap And Confused And Cynical Cash In, 27 December 2015

Tom Hardy plays Reggie and Ronnie Kray ? Hey let's make a tie in movie and release it straight to DVD . Don't worry about developing it because the other film will market this one so it's just a case of releasing our film first

That's the impression I got and THE RISE OF THE KRAYS is painfully under-developed . As the other commentators have pointed out the titular characters are played by actors who bare little resemblance to the twins . Worse than that they're not good actors either . Simon Cotton is fairly dreadful as Ronnie and resembles a not very good actor playing an East End gangster . I suppose I should be charitable and say the cast and the rest of the production team were probably under heavy pressure with deadlines but even so the poor production values are a constant distraction

I can understand what director Zackary Adler tries to do with some scenes and that is to express in a cinematic style the mental illness Ronnie Kray suffers from , but considering the subject matter is an expressionistic film featuring violent gangsters really the place for a study of schizophrenia ? Probably not . Again to be charitable at least the production team don't come out with the old clichés of "Any old ladies getting mugged and he twins wanted to know about it . They stuck to their own , we were safe in those days etc etc" . The Krays are portrayed as unpleasant characters but this is also an unpleasant badly film too

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