The freaks come out


You’re a freak it’s official.
I mean honestly, if you weren’t around would anyone actually miss you?
Freaking people out with your peculiar ways.
You’ve got an unsettling cheek the way you gaze.
But you’re not phased.
You hit up social settings like you’re lost in a maze.
Your movements odd, like a drunken daze.
Gears grinding your brain you never cease to amaze.

But I confess, I’m a freak too.
Maybe we should be freaky geeks together?
We’ve really got no excuse.
Hitting the town dressed in our weird finery.
Me with a trimmed beard like a hipster wannabe.
You the trickster, so bizarre even you believe.
We’ll sweep through clubs like a freaky disease.
Submitting to our desires, wants and needs.

But… we leave room to breathe.
To be ourselves.
There’s no point getting our freak on if we can’t raise hell.
Pretty soon, others join us.
Our numbers grow.
And so our weird, wondrous wave begins to flow.
People want us to leave and say we’ve got to go.
‘Cos we make them itchy and get under their skin.
But we just grin and take it on the chin.
Nothing can touch us.
We might be weird but we’re a blunderbuss.
A gilt-edged battering ram.
We refuse to be gone with a ‘wham bam, thank you ma’am’.

Still… the battle rages on.
Freaks versus normals, we’ll not rest ’till the job’s done.
Some say our crusade is selfish.
But we say if the cap fits, wear it.
There’s no way we can just grin and bear it, this state of affairs.
There must be a place for us in society.
If not you’ll start to see cracks and tears.
Because, normals, like it or not, you need us freaks.
What we offer you, we have to say, well, it’s unique.
‘Cos if we were gone you’d feel dismay.
We’re colour and without us you’re simply just set to grey.


Pimp science!


Ladies and gentlemen I’m a mad scientist.
I’ve taken some bad drugs to see if I’m limitless.
The thing is this, I don’t know what they’ll do.
I’ve not checked the effects, from my sex drive to my nervous system.
I don’t have high hopes for my disposition.

But my line of work, it’s all about pushing the boundaries.
I’m a chemical blacksmith and this is my foundry.
They say drugs are bad but I know they’re bound to be.
Because round our street, the place I grew up, we experimented.
I was a terror with test tubes.
Putting every chemical under the sun to best use.
Leaving my subjects a mess ‘cos they expect abuse.

But make no mistake, this is no cruel punishment.
I’m here to astonish those that can stomach it.
Except those on a bad trip that descend into funny fits.
Got the money to pay? Your brain will end up in runny bits.
Or you’ll float and fly.
Take a toke of what I’ve got, don’t be shy.
Get red eye as your pupils dilate, hips gyrate and sense of shame says goodbye.

Fellow scientists tend to love my lab too.
Like kids on a sugar rush playing with test tubes.
They often get burned though.
Trying to steal my secrets I weed out the turncoats.
Those that once showed loyalty end up learning the hard way.
I’ll slip you something on the sly and rewire your DNA.

But don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work.
The stuff I give people makes them smirk or go beserk.
That’s the risk you take.
I’ll insist you try everything on my list before you bend and break.
There’s always a chance we’ll stumble on a magical formula.
One that’ll warm you up and light up your nebula.

Back in the lab you double drop and become a love fiend.
Your heart stops as seratonin fills your blood stream.
With this ecstasy you can hardly breathe, but go again.
Needles, powder, poppers, they’re all your friends.
God, when did this happen?
I’ve moved from scientist to pimp.
Peddling pills and potions to give punters a thrill explosion I’ve lost my way.
I want to be bad and spend time in my lab but at what cost do I get to play?

It’s time I remembered how to make shit.
Mixing the right drugs I need to get back to basics.
But let’s face it, selling product is amazing.
Some say it’s a lazy phase but I’m awash with cash.
I’ll crush the competition, I’ll get tough and all that jazz.

But as I said at the start, I’m a mad scientist.
Those bad drugs worked but I’m just not limitless.
And the thing is this, the money’s all gone.
I’m all washed up my career down the john.
And there’s heavies at the door ready to collect.
So with my last intellect I spy a way out.
Hurray! A blue pill went astray.
I move fast like a greyhound.
I pop it and go euphoric, all my troubles fade away.
This scientist will live to pimp his wares another day.
At least, that’s what I hope and pray.
Chances are I’ll find out the hard way.


Legend: Hardy gives us both barrels


Ronnie and Reggie. They almost sound sweet don’t they? Like Bill and Ben the flower pot men. But they’re not. Far from it. Ronald and Reginald Kray were possibly the scariest two brothers you could hope to meet (or pray not to meet) in London in the ’50s and ’60s. Born identical twins in 1933, they worked their way up the organised crime ladder to become owners of nightclubs and casinos, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, politicans and high society types alike.

Quite a story you might say, it would make a good film. Well, it’s been done before. In 1990 Gary and Martin Kemp (of Spandau Ballet) had a crack at it and did ok, receiving mildly positive acclaim. Yet they never quite had the cajones or screen presence to really do these two guys justice.

Fast forward fifteen years and we get a much slicker production, bigger budget, better cast and, most importantly, a lead that is nothing but menace and screen presence, Tom Hardy. As an actor Hardy had had a few decent parts for a few years until Nicholas Winding Refn cast him as Charles Bronson in Bronson. A towering, menacing performance that not only put him on the map, but showed the world that right here is an actor with real swagger, real menace, and intensity in buckets.


And so the parts kept coming: an unhinged MMA fighter in Warrior, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road… yet he still hadn’t really fully opened the taps. He still hadn’t showed us what he could do.

With Legend, now he has. Most actors would relish the opportunity to play a legendary gangster, but two? Well, now you’re just being too nice. Not that being too nice is something you could associate with the Krays, but if it was just ‘a hard man’ you were after you may as well call Vinnie Jones. What Hardy has done so masterfully with this film is provide depth and likeability to both Ronnie and Reggie.

You root for them (sort of). Now that’s a hard task, and a hard ask of an actor. You need endless charisma and screen presence, and you need to pull off a convincing double role (acting opposite yourself, or a stand-in or a broom or something, it must be confusing).


In terms of story this film is based on a book by John Pearson, The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins. It was written and directed by Brian Helgeland (of L.A. Confidential fame) and focuses on Reggie and his relationship with his wife Frances (Emily Browning) and how he dealt with his increasingly volatile brother Ron.

We cover a fair amount of ground, from the start of the Krays’ rise in power to their involvement with the American mafia and British Lords and politicians. At times Helgeland veers slightly into black humour territory, particularly as Hardy gives us that wild-eyed psychotic stare that made Ron seem so menacing, channelling more than a good dollop of Bronson in the process. With Reggie he had a harder job, showing a sweet side as he wooed Frances, then turning quite frighteningly on a dime to show intense menace if something displeased him.


In both performances he utterly convinces, sucking you in, compelling you to watch what – as either Ronnie or Reggie – he’s going to do next. The rest of the cast (David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, briefly) do a fine job, but ultimately this is the Tom Hardy show and there’s barely a second of screen time in which he doesn’t dominate.

And as far as British gangster films go, this has to be up there with the greats such as The Long Good Friday, Get Carter and Layer Cake (underrated in my book). Even if you take the British bit out, this is still a gangster film worthy of that title alongside other classics from around the world. It may be a touch long and the story may lack a bit of punch (despite much punching going on) and momentum, but one cannot argue with the committed intensity of Hardy’s two performances. They’re a fair few months off but, Oscar anyone?

(Oh, and Hollywood, offer Tom more parts like this please.)


Inside Out: a sad, sorrowful joy


American psychologist Paul Ekman pioneered the study of human emotions creating an atlas of thousands of emotions. These can be boiled down into seven: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.

For Disney Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, we start with the basics.

A child, Riley, is born. In her head she experiences her first emotion and Joy (Amy Poehler) steps into the void. A bubbly, bouncy, excitable character who controls a console in Riley’s head dictating how she reacts to any given situation. She’s quickly joined by Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Thus making up five of Ekman’s seven key emotions (surprise and contempt not making the cut being similar to anger and disgust I imagine, and for the film’s sake, seven are too many characters).


With this film, Pixar, in all their inventiveness, have laid out how the human mind works in a way that’s fully accessible to children and adults alike. For example, to begin with they introduce us to how memories are formed and how they’re attached to the emotions; glowing orbs that roll into Riley’s mind, each colour representing the overriding emotion linked to that memory. From a few scenes we quickly understand the concept of long and short-term memory and ‘core memories’ that form the building blocks of one’s personality, in this case Riley’s. These power the fundamental aspects of her personality: friendship, family, her love of hockey etc. We also understand how the five characters/emotions fight for supremacy when faced with certain situations and how they defer leadership to each other.

For example, for most of Riley’s life Joy has ruled the roost (and her emotions). Then the family move to San Francisco and Riley loses her friends and everything she has known and her personality changes irrevocably. Joy finds herself increasingly unable to control Riley’s mind and the other emotions. This was the building block – and brain child – of director Pete Docter, and the idea upon which he based the story.


As things go from bad to worse for Riley (at least in her head, moving to San Francisco can’t be that bad surely?), Joy and Sadness find themselves out of brain HQ and marooned in her long-term memory. So theirs becomes a journey movie, as they must get back in control of Riley’s mind and back to HQ. At least, that’s Joy’s plan. Sadness sort of tags along for the ride dragging her down.

The way Docter and Pixar personified these emotions in order to explain growing up, being a child and the loss of innocence, is remarkable and, at times, quite heartbreaking (the loss of Goofball Island brought a tear to my eye). Rarely has a film so succintly laid out the inner machinations of a person’s mind before. We get Imagination Land, the Train of Thought, Dream Production, even the corridor of Abstract Thought. It’s like Google decided to set up an office in someone’s mind and let loose (scarily, this may happen in the future).


And just to prove it’s not just Riley (and young girls) the filmmakers understand, at certain points they dive inside other character’s heads to hilarious effect. More jokes for the adults than the kids, but the balance between pleasing audiences old and young is never an easy thing, and here Docter and his team makes it look easy.

Like a mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is is a movie which tackles big themes and complex issues in an almost effortless way. It will make you laugh and cry (definitely if you’re a parent) and, as long as you understand the importance of – and why we need – both, then the filmmakers will, no doubt, feel their work is done. Hurrah Pixar, add this to your classics.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., l-r: Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, 2015. ph: Daniel Smith/©Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. review: new franchise?


Guy Ritchie is like… so hot right now. At least, it seems so, after his career had hit a little blip right before the Sherlock Holmes films put him back on the map.

Then for his next trick he thought he’d turn his hand to the spy genre, specifically resurrecting a nostalgically adored ’60s TV show, The Man from UNCLE. Remembered fondly by those of a certain age, utterly unknown to those younger than that.

But no matter. Whether you’re young or old(er) most of us can get on board with a sexy cast dressed in gorgeous clothing, their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks as they swan around the globe foiling evil plots. Can’t we?

And if we’re talking tone (which we are now), this film sits somewhere between Austin Powers and Bond, the Roger Moore years, which is no bad thing. Or if you’re seeking a more modern reference, it would make a nice triple-bill with Spy with Melissa McCarthy and Kingsman, with Colin Firth; as you’ve never seen him before.


Concerning story: we have handsome American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) trying to rescue pretty girl Gabriella Teller (Alicia Vikander) from East Germany, as he needs her help to get close to her nuclear scientist father who’s been kidnapped by an evil, Paris Hilton-esque woman wearing far too much jewellery. They’re aided by a handsome yet prickly Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), told by his superiors he’ll have to team up with the annoyingly smug American to complete his mission.

Ultimately this film isn’t really about plot. It’s about the laddiest of all laddy things, banter! And Cavill and Hammer do this pretty well, bouncing off each other and working effectively – if chaotically – as a team, despite their grudging reluctance. However, most of this film does feel like an intro to a franchise – as the studio would no doubt love it to be.

Do we have the spy version of Lethal Weapon on our hands? Too early to call. I wouldn’t be averse to a second film. It nipped along at a decent pace, looked great and had a killer soundtrack (as you’d expect from Ritchie), so giving these characters another mission wouldn’t be a bad idea.


But on the downside, as far as quibbles go, I have two.

First, it’s 2015, and in this day and age Ritchie must surely have been able to give a lady of Alicia Vikander’s talents more to work with. She starts off ok then descends (slight spoiler) in the final third into classic, uninspired territory of the female needing to be rescued by the male leads. It’s tiresome and it would have been nice to mix this up. She had a frisson of chemistry with Armie Hammer’s character, so why couldn’t he have been the one needing to be rescued by her?

Secondly, despite me saying the story is incidental, the characters (and actors) still need something credible to sink their teeth into and give the audience a reason to care. For me, the story started well but lacked a bit of punch as it progressed. I found my attention wavering somewhat in the middle. (This never happend with Lock, Stock and Snatch – Mr Ritchie, take note.)


In general though, it’s a fun ride. An easy, popcorn fest of a movie. Standout for me was probably Armie Hammer’s performance, although Hugh Grant does turn up at the end and almost steal it.

So go see it.

Turn your brain off and your smile on and soak it in.


The lothario


Pacing the street I stop; crouch on my feet and watch my prey.
Feeling my heartbeat drop as I dodge the alley’s urban decay.
Then I grin.
My heart full of sin as my first victim comes into view.
Tottering on tiny shoes like a porcelain doll.
She’s a tasty morsel, of course I fix eyes on her as my ultimate goal.

Good Lord… she’s so helpless.
Stalking her’s no game of chess but a turkey shoot.
There’s no sport here. The point is moot, I must move on.
I slink down the alley my lust not sated, I’m just not done.

Then I spy another.
This one here, she’s a wildebeest.
Chatting to her friends half asleep, she’s a basic target.
This is too easy.
I hang back and weigh up my chances.
Whilst I’m king of the urban jungle and these streets are mine, at times I must know when to face defeat and when to draw the line.
But it’s fine.
Not every hunt should mean it’s killing time.
Half the time, all I’m looking for is a sign.
Something to break the cycle and shake things up.
Some real sport to test me, where I get to prove I’m the best breed.

But what’s the point of being top of the food chain if you’re constantly tormented like you’re having a bad day?
However, I refuse to be thwarted.
I’m lean, fighting fit and ready to hunt.
Bring on all foes you mothers I’ll face many at once!

And the night is young so let’s see where things lead.
The truth is… It’s hardly a good night’s work if on some level I don’t bleed.
But that’s the life of a proud old lion.
None of this ‘let bygones be bygones’, I’m taking you down.
We’ll fight round and round until one of us hits the ground.

Have to say though, I kinda like my battle scars.
I’ll rattle your cage with my aggressive ways and leave you broken and marred.
Right this minute though the time to talk is over, I’ve now fed.
Time this old lion bowed his head and went to bed.
Because I’m contented.
And right now I lack incentive.

Tomorrow though, that’s another story.
Back on the beat stalking the street in search of my next quarry.
So stay on a swivel if you don’t want it to be you.
If you don’t… a grisly fate will await you, you’ll end up as my food.


Liar liar, pants on fire!


Here I stand as a liar I gotta say I can’t help it.
I tell you now this whole thing is just bullshit.
This web of lies, it never damn ends.
It’s why I’m at my wit’s end with my friends.

But I’m not here to reform or offer confession.
Today this session a survival lesson.
One I’m proud to say really flies the flag, for those that lie and those that brag.

Lying you see, it’s simply more fun.
You can’t lie once and then just be done.
You need to spin it out, you need to embellish, take pride in your lies as you revel and relish.

For argument’s sake, let’s take the truth.
You make a choice early on in your misspent youth.
Do you have morals? Do you take the high road?
Do you have principles and live by a strict code?
If you do then you’re doomed I say.
The truth is black and white but lies are so grey.

The truth is a weapon, but so are lies.
Both sway your beliefs and churn your insides.
But from the evidence presented it’s up to you, you need to surmise what you’re gonna do.
Get it wrong this time and you’ll surely lose.

Ha! There I go, lying again.
It’s small wonder I don’t defend my friends.
But maybe I do and that’s another lie?
I plant my flag in the sand as I like to defy.
And when I’m in pain I go against the grain.
I don’t sit on the fence, my lies constantly change.
Like the tide, they ebb… and they flow,
I’ll have lied to you before you’ve said hello.
For if we cannot lie how do we expect to grow?

Start with white lies, sprinkled like snow.
Or like a little flame upon which you have to blow.
Feed the fire of disinformation, shift the blame, it’s now your vocation.
The elusive truth is now your narration.
If the truth was a football ground, you’re the fans.
This pitch invasion makes you face your clan.

And to your elation, lies spread fast.
It’s a revelation, you take the truth to task.
You focus on the detail and leave little to chance.
But the truth eludes you and slips from your grasp.
You blink fast as it hits you like an powerful wave, but you gotta stay strong, you gotta be brave.

Stopping for a moment you breathe deep and come clean.
Then you face your accusers, your face a little green.
This confession you offer you realise means nothing, your enemies confront you and it’s clear they want one thing.
Your head on a platter, or maybe a spike.
These lies have left you with a broken psyche.
A warped and twisted view of the world.
One that’ll get you banged up in jail.
For when the truth comes out it’ll be clear that you’ve failed.


True Detective: season 2 review


Whilst it’s incredibly easy to jump on the critical bandwagon and denounce the second season of True Detective as a confusing and unengaging flop, I feel that’s slightly unfair. It’s also unfair to constantly compare it to the first season. A season which, let’s face it, had little expectation, other than the fact it had a couple of A-listers in the lead roles. Yet delivered and then some.

For the sake of fairness, the first season had a couple of obvious but vital things going for it too. It was a simpler story, albeit leaping around time periods. It also had a secret weapon: Matthew McConaughey, a man at the top of his game. But, first and foremost, we identified with the two lead characters and the interaction they had together.

Fast forward to season two and the cast has changed and grown, the story has become more complex and layered, and the location has shifted from the simmering deep south to the urban sprawl of LA.


So, it’s literally almost an entirely different show.

That said, some things remain. Such as the slow burn tone (expertly continued with a woozy, languorous and devilishly seductive soundtrack) and the tortured characters (instead of two leads we now have four – more bang for your buck). Although what this does mean is that we as an audience need to reinvest ourselves in an entirely new set of troubled souls.

So in step Colin Farrell (a washed up old copper desperate to connect with his kid), Rachel McAdams (a prickly detective unable to meaningfully connect with anyone at work or at home) and Taylor Kitsch (a young traffic cop grappling with – and hiding from – his sexuality), who are thrown together to initially solve a murder which spirals out into a much bigger web of corruption and deceit, partially involving Vince Vaughn’s aspirational gangster.


With the series finale (after eight episodes) I was left feeling rather relieved it was all over as it had sort of collapsed under the own weight of its expectation. And, despite the cast all giving a decent account of themselves (particularly Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell), there was nothing they could do to elevate the confused and convoluted script.

Will there be a season 3?

Smart money would say no, although HBO are open to it. The first season was critically acclaimed and the second the polar opposite; maybe the result of just trying to be too ambitious for its own good and different for the sake of it? If that’s the case then the show’s creator Nic Pizzolatto should be applauded for his bravery. After finding a winning formula in season one he then oddly, largely, abandoned it. Or perhaps tried to evolve it, it’s hard to say.


On the plus side there were definitely things to love about the second season. For example we had proper, cinematic, edge-of-your-seat scenes throughout, in particular a street gun battle in broad daylight that felt akin to the one in Michael Mann’s Heat.

Then there were quieter, more introspective moments that were incredibly tender and showed a deftness of touch. In particular a series of intensely vulnerable moments between Farrell and McAdams’ characters as they opened up to one another, which were understated and deeply moving.

In some ways I’d be interested to see what they do with a third season, should they choose to make one. Different location again? Different characters? Would any return or cross paths?

These days, TV audiences are a little spoilt for choice with the quality out there, despite the fact that the ‘golden age of TV’ is reportedly over. And anything that plays by its own rules is bound to divide people. But there is definitely a place for this sort of show, so maybe let’s not give it a kicking just yet eh?

[Related articles]
Guardian article: In praise of… True Detective


Trash culture


Hey hey, I’m feeling low today.
When did our culture become so throwaway?
There I was, on display in the shop.
Best of the bunch on the shelf at the top.
And this kid comes in, Damien was his name.
A little devil clearly destined for fame.
Then there he goes, he snatched me quick fast.
In his podgy hands I’m never gonna last.

But off we went, back to his lair.
Me with a looming sense of despair.
I’ve been a good toy this just isn’t fair.
But hey, what can you do?
Very soon I’ll be part of this mad kid’s zoo.
Yes it’s true I was once top of the line.
Until what happened was less than devine.
Years of abuse at the hands of Damien.
Until he threw me out, like he thought I was maybe done.

Sitting proud on a heap ‘o trash.
It’s hardly a leap to say I’ve crashed.
Then, like a bolt, a thought struck me hard.
I’m the dealer and now hold all the cards.
This trash heap, this is my Kingdom.
Now I rule I can have some real fun.

As other toys arrive I lay down the law.
‘Wherever you’re from it won’t be like before’.
The message is clear, they want me to rule.
They know as a leader I’ll be super cool.
But one, like a fool, rises against me.
‘If you lead we’ll never be free!’ he cries.
I stand to face him and see fear in his eyes.

My God, is this what I’ve become?
In my efforts to evolve I’ve turned into Damien.
This makes me freeze and go weak at the knees.
‘Please!’ I implore. ‘It won’t be like that.
Together we’re strong and that’s a fact.’
Slowly, as one, they all come around.

And that became the start of Toy Trash Town.

Over time we’ve built a community.
Part of the world where we can be free.
We had to scrap for it though, battling each day.
Fighting those that became so throwaway.


I am the one who boasts


Anything you can do I can do better.
It’s time you learnt I’m a bona-fide trendsetter.
While we’re sharing I’m gonna boast in party situations I’m the world’s best host.
Hell… I’m a social butterfly.
People flock to me as I dance and flutter by.
No word of a lie it’s true, the fact that I’m best is far beyond you.

But out there, people cause trouble.
Looking for a weakness to burst your bubble.
You want a single shot, they want doubles.
You apply the brakes as they up the stakes.
They’re out there, showing they’re best.
But they’ve always got issues to get off their chest.
You gotta sack ’em off… that’s what I say.
Put ’em in the dirt and leave them where they lay.
You don’t need them bringing you down.

Mentally agile I’m a brutal intellectual.
Your IQ is nothing if not ineffectual.
Pound for pound I’m the champ with anecdotes.
You the smart Alec but as usual you choke.
For if you can’t beat the problem then let it be broke.

In the world of business I’m a CEO.
You should see me in meetings when I’m in full flow.
People hang on my word, my God it’s absurd.
But they’re my soldiers, my little herd.
Now budgets and spreadsheets, that’s my thing.
I make those cells dance and the numbers sing.
To negotiate you’d better step to the plate.
There’s no time to hate if you think it’s same-same.
You’d better up your skills and bring your A-game.
If not you’ll fall fast and flat on your ass.
Which I find is when I call time when faced with a mind like mine.

When it comes to family I’m the world’s best dad.
Honestly though, it drives my wife mad, with desire of course.
For our fires burn bright and we’ll never get divorced.
But back on the market I’m a swinging bachelor.
I ratchet up the pressure on the single fellas.
‘How do we bag a bride?’ they cry, ‘Please tell us!’
Instead I smile, look away and stay silent.
I’ll take that to the grave, don’t make me get violent.

And so.. To sign off, a confession.
Consider this a humility lesson.
None of what I’ve said has a grain of truth.
From middle age back to my bad boy youth.
But then again, you knew that didn’t you?
I used to think that you never had a clue.
I used to think that you liked to play it smooth.
I used to think that you’d push it for the sake of it.
Piling on the pressure just to make it fit.
I’d be out there giving it large.
Yet all along, you were in charge.
But like a vapid spectre, an empty ghost.
I still remain, the one who boasts.