Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He's Got Radioactive Blood!

Song of the Day: Spiderman by The Ramones
Okay, that's it! There's a week of novelty!
As to 'Spiderman', well, let's face it, you can't really hear this without hearing the word 'pig'! Kind of a shame, as I really like this version.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Just Too Heavy....

Song of the Day: Waitin' for a Superman by The Flaming Lips. Just cos it's nice.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

You, Beautiful and Drunk, and Singing Softly to Yourself

Song of the Day: 'I don't have time to stand here with you fighting about the size of my dick' by Ballboy.
Okay, this novelty song stuff has to end, and the video is crappy, but the song is a nice mickey take on the whole male macho bullshit thing. At least that's my reading.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's a Programme about Art

Song of the Day: Strachan by The Hitchers
Novelty aside, I think there's a lot of perception in this song. Telling a tale about a relationship while describing a soccer match is some feat.
And I didn't even realise they were Irish!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Lights, Camel, Action!

The novelty songs keep on rolling. Song of the Day:
Charlton Heston put his Vest On by Stump.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

God Bless Ken MacKenzie!

Song of the Day: Preposterous Tales by I, Ludicrous. I was on Crackerjack at the age of 10, did you know that? Preposterous!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Screaming Vegetation

Song of the Day: The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes by THE VERY THINGS (1984).
Listening to this on phone for a while now, then I discover someone has put the video online. Is there anything the web can't do?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Shock Treatment

Thank God Obama got that bill through. I've had my fill of insanity at this point.

Second Shot at the Shutter

To accommodate a friend, I ended up watching 'Shutter Island' a second time last Saturday, and enjoyed it much more on that viewing. The dream sequences didn't grate so much, the music, which I loved first time, was a joy, and all in all it went much quicker. It is interesting how they play it when you know where it is heading. Despite my enjoyment, I still don't think they earn the gravitas the last line calls for.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen

A cause for laughter, "Law Abiding Citizen" is junk, junk and trash into the bargain. And isn't it funny how the guy most worthy of being destroyed is the one left standing in the end? Did I just spoil it for you? Don't worry, it was rotten already.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

That novel, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", gets a Swedish cinematic outing, and doesn't it do well. The story is not very original (haven't we seen 'Jar City', 'The Crimson Rivers', etc.?), but it holds the attention while the film's main strength develops. For, like all the best detective stories, it's its characters (particularly the eponymous girl) that really win the audience over. Blomkvist and Salander are a winningly odd couple and though the film takes its time to bring them together, they are all the richer in our minds by the time they do. Their contrasting reactions to a death near the end very neatly incapsulate the extremes of society's attitude to criminals, and made me question myself (I don't come off well). A step above the usual.
By the way, I know Hollywood gets the scent of money and want a remake, but they really should just stay away; they can't do this sort of thing.

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Shutter Island

There are so many asylum stories out there that "Shutter Island" was never going to be original and it's not. You can guess what it's all about very, very early on. And I'm not sure the heavy, heavy approach Scorsese goes in for is entirely effective either. It has great music, looks good, and is never boring, and that final line nearly wins it for me, but I'm not convinced.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cocaine Cowboys

Wow! Telling the tale of the real drug trade of Miami in the 70s and 80s, 'Cocaine Cowboys' certainly paints a vivid picture, making a mockery of all the fictitious portrayals in the process. Hearing assassin Rivi coolly talk about his many kills was chilling enough, but even he pales in comparison with his boss 'Godmother' Griselda Blanco, truly one of the most monstrous creatures that has ever existed. The Borgias have nothing on her. On top of all this, and all the killing, Miami's later renaissance is seen to be almost wholly the result of drug money. How's that for making a link between capitalism and crime! As it happens it wasn't the drugs that got the Government involved anyway, just the violence it ultimately spawned. And I have to admit, from an organisational perspective, there's a lot industry can learn from the methods of Jon Roberts and Mickey Munday. Cynical, sick, but very effective.
A live-action version featuring De Caprio and Wahlberg is in the pipeline, but exactly why I don't know; this says it all.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

Coffin JoeCoffin Joe - Isn't there a song about him?
A Brazilian horror movie by José Mojica Marins, aka Coffin Joe, 'At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul' sees the multi-talented director stalk around in top hat and cape, bullying people, killing others, eating meat on Good Friday, and otherwise seeking his perfect bride. Because he is free from superstitions, the devoutly atheistic gravedigger believes he is stronger than everyone else. I suppose there must be some reason, because it looks pretty ridiculous to see the gangly freak beating up burly locals while other similarly burly locals look on terrified. Look at him, his eyes go bloodshot when he's angry! Holy shit, he has a whip! Hell, he wears a top hat!!!!!!!!
The thing is that for all that he is a sadistic bully, Coffin Joe's Nietzschean bluster is refreshingly endearing. Compared with all those lily-livered Church-goers you almost like the guy, well, if you get past all that torture stuff. However, just when we begin to think this minor B-movie has been brave enough to portray a character most Hollywood flicks would run a mile from, Coffin Joe starts railing against the God he claims not to believe in. 'Show me you exist!' he says to cry. A case of the lady protesting too much, methinks, especially when after all his bluster, God, or at least the spirit world, does indeed show him, giving him a much needed come-uppence. You have to wonder though where that supernatural world was when he did his devilment in the first place, but then isn't that always the question?
Sociopathic Ubermensch as spoiled kid - you have to love him!

With its graveyards, cackling gypsy women, faux rebellion (that dress sense!) and gleeful violence, this comes across as nothing so much as a teenage, geeky outsider's vengeful wet dream. Even the transitions from scene to scene, all rolling eyes and wipes, remind me of De Palma picking the wings off flies. Fun though. Like when he poked out the doctor's eyes....yeeeuuuk!

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Pieces of April

'Pieces of April' has been turning up on the MGM channel for ages now and though I have meant to give it a look, I've never really mustered up enough enthusiasm to do so. Until yesterday.
Black sheep tearaway April (Katie Holmes) invites her family for Thanksgiving. We move between the family on their journey to New York to April's struggles with the turkey, while all along the threat of her mother's cancer hangs over proceedings.
From its cast of competent character actors (Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt), to its video look, to its Magnetic Fields soundtrack, to its cosy liberal inclusive values, this screams 'Indie'. And it's frequently annoying. More than once I moved my finger to the off button on the remote. But it's short and it almost gets away with things by having a departure towards the end that actually makes you empathise with the otherwise artificial April. Still it's all so nauseatingly maudlin as to make you wish they all got food poisoning.


An Education

Very nicely adapted by boy's writer, Nick Hornby, 'An Education' tells how journalist and writer Lynn Barber got to know so much about the world very early on. At the age of 16, to be exact. While still a schoolgirl whe was wined and dined and carted off to Paris by a much older man, apparently with the approval of her very gullible parents. Her dream having been to go to Oxford, this freewheeling lifestyle gave her some cause to pause for thought.
Carey Mulligan deservedly got an Oscar nomination for her brilliantly judged performance (and hopefully will win one in the future). I mean this is some way to go from Doctor Who! Something should also be said of Rosamund Pike who plays the 'ditzy blonde' character with just a little more depth than such a role would usually warrant. Although we never really see below the surface (and the dialogue Hornby gives her never strays from the stereotypical), you always feel there's something unhealthy lurking behind her pretty face.
The story itself is very conventional. You know the relationship between Jenny and smarmy David is wrong and you know how it will all turn out. But the characters are all nicely turned out and the journey is intelligently travelled. It looks well, sounds well, and little Jenny is so smart and sassy as to make 'Juno' look like trailer trash. An education indeed.



The opening titles claim that 'Creation' is the story of how Charles Darwin came to write 'The Origin of the Species'. Well, if that is what this film is about then it fails. There is a lot that could be written about what went into Darwin's masterpiece - his travels on the Beagal, his fight with the establishment, the amazing work of Alfred Wallace whose own independent theory of evolution was the catalyst for Darwin's publication - and they all turn up in 'Creation'. But they are mere decoration to another tale, how the Darwins dealt with the death of their child, Annie. This story is dealt with delicately, and Paul Bettany's strong performance as the great man, deftly conveys his heartbreak. But while this was certainly of huge impact on Darwin, this is not a story peculiar to Darwin, and certainly not the main origin of the 'Origin'. Effective or not (and the story is affecting), it wastes an opportunity to deal with one of Science's truly remarkable minds.


Mini Reviews

Saw a good few movies yesterday, so for completeness sake....

White Dog

Lassie, don't come home, please! - White Dog

You know that phrase about an old dog...? Here's a movie all about it.
Sam Fuller's controversial 'White Dog' (1982), with its tale of a dog trained to attack black people, and subsequent attempts to rehabilitate it, got the label of being racist on its release. I must be missing something. Unless you are analysing this movie with a level of subtlety I'm not capable of, I cannot see how anyone could take that interpretation from it. Certainly, it's not a subtle movie, but for that very reason it's message is clear cut, if maybe a little pessimistic. On top of all that, it's very, very good.
The cast are excellent (especially Paul Winfield as the trainer who tries to cure the mutt). However, if ever there was an Oscar for best performance by an animal, the white dogs that play the central part would win it paws down. Chilling. The direction too is very effective, if manipulative (witness the little kid blowing the balloon as the dog noses around some bins). For me though one of the crowning glories of the film is the score by Ennio Morricone. Appropriately enough it is very similar to his score of twelve years later for 'Wolf', but is unsettling where that movie's music is more dreamy. Right from the opening of 'White Dog' it sets you on edge. Afterall all we see is a poor dog knocked down and brought to the vet, yet that simple music makes you believe this is Damian in canine form and should be staked immediately. All the elements come together to make something that made me feel extremely queasy, which is just as it should be.
I've never really been a fully paid up member of the Samuel Fuller Fan Club (though 'Shock Corridor' and 'The Big Red One' will always stay in my memory). Those in search of a neglected auteur built his pedestal a little too high in my book. In this case though, Fuller, who was close to 70 when he made 'White Dog', shows that sometimes the old dog really can learn new tricks.
Anyway here's a much better blog review of 'White Dog' that I came across while looking for a picture.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When Angels (and Omnipotent Beings) go bad - LegionWhen Angels (and Omnipotent Beings) go bad: Legion

There is a long honourable history of angels gone bad in literature and film. Obviously in literature we have Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (and even Dick's 'Upon the Dull Earth'), but on a less sublime level we have had "The Prophecy" trilogy (with a great cast too), 'Constantine' and 'Dogma' in cinema. There is even a history of 'God gone bad' in literature, Lester Del Rey's 'For I am a Jealous People' springing quickly to mind (God doesn't come off too well in the film 'Time Bandits' either). 'Legion' (God sends his angels to wipe out humanity) has the distinction of blending the two threads, but that's its only distinction. It makes the question of why God put evil in the world seem positively rational. (It also brings the question of why God put Hollywood in the world into very sharp focus.)
It would be unfair not to note that 'Legion' has some moments of happy surrealism (a demonic granny, a monstrous ice cream man), and a lot of unintentional humour that had the audience I saw it with cackling. However, there's not nearly enough of either to warrant wasting nearly two hours of your mortal life. You know you're in trouble when the Apocalypse is reduced to an assault on several people in a diner by a host of zombies (think 'Prince of Darkness', 'Assault on Precinct 13', in fact a good proportion of John Carpenter's oeuvre). It's that kind of a movie and not even a good attempt at that kind of a movie.
Dennis Quaid hams it up in a Popeye-type way and Paul Bettany takes it all too seriously, but it's not the cast that's the trouble. Ultimately there's just no getting over the preposterous story. I do kind of wonder why Gabriel always seems to get a bad rap, as if he's the next Lucifer just waiting to fall (though if he's going to be bad, at least 'The Prophecy' had Christopher Walken play him, rather than this film's somewhat bland Kevin Durand), but there's not much else to wonder about, I'm afraid. Except how this got made. Or why there's evil in the world.
A dreadful piece of silliness that doesn't bear even a moment's analysis, it stinks to high Heaven.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Something Rather Than Nothing

I have a lot of respect for physics and the people who make it their speciality. However, I never ceased to be amazed by the level of arrogance and what I believe to be a poverty of imagination often shown by "experts" trotted out on telly. Watching a Horizon programme tonight entitled "Is Everything We Know About The Universe Wrong?", there were several such experts trotted out. It played like a satire on all things cosmological. "The universe exploded from nothing, this is Cosmology's greatest discovery." The term "LOL" was invented for such statements. The programme's constant visualisation of an explosion was annoying, given that whatever the Big Bang was it was no "explosion" as we understand the term. Which made the "radical" notion of Inflation -invented to account for the relative uniformity of temperature throughout the universe (an explosion would be lumpy, you see!) - just a little ridiculous. Why should the Big Bang pause to make a small space uniform before exploding vastly? Why couldn't the Bang be a uniform expansion from its initial point? Why should it bear any resemblance whatever to what we regard as an explosion?
I am familiar with Dark Matter, and even Dark Energy, but Dark Flow! If there was anything wrong with the equations, another "Dark" thing seemed to be trotted out, invisible and undetectable, and so conveniently incontrovertible. Doesn't that remind you of another concept like say "God"? Yeah, yeah, science is the new religion, etc.. Given that we have cosmic spaghetti (string theory) can we have a helping of Dark Pasta? Even the Italian sceptic trotted out was there just to say bah, humbug, but offer little by way of an alternative. Dark Theory, perhaps?
Ironically the one thing I did wholeheartedly agree with was the outwardly ridiculous proposition that Nothing is actually Something (Nature's not the only one to abhor a vacuum), but then can I introduce you to an old Greek friend of mine called Parmenides....

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Just Wondering

With health service on my mind right now, the pathetic behaviour of the HSE in delaying publication of reports into child deaths seems even more inept than usual. Certainly the interview I saw with Phil Garland on the news tonight was less than impressive. I know things can be more complex than they might seem in the civil service, so it can be unfairly easy to criticise, but is the HSE really such a complete disaster? I have never heard of any action by that organisation that shows tact, intelligence or efficiency. Can they get anything (and I mean anything) right? I am prepared to be contradicted.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

An Accident and Lack of Emergency

On Monday night, the tissue around my eyes suddenly started to swell and go red. I had used a spray-on bandage on my cuts, so I finally read the small print. "Do not use on face." That must have been it, I thought, and laughed at my continued folly. However, when next morning I still had these black (or I should say red) eyes, and as my head was still fuzzy to painful, I went to a clinic at lunchtime. It wasn't the spray-on bandage. The swelling around my eyes can sometimes indicate a fracture so they sent me off to A&E, well, after ascertaining I had no insurance that would get me to a place "where I would be treated quicker". But what did that mean afterall? An hour? Two?
I was told on admission that I would have to wait three hours. Sitting with a headache and the possibility of a skull fracture hanging over me does not make for a peaceful wait. Children's telly doesn't help either. No, it doesn't. As time went on a group in front of me started complaining among themselves about their six hour wait. I thought they must be joking. Well, I did until my six hours came around. I asked (hopefully) if I had missed my name being called out. This seemed a real possibility as the doctors just seemed to come out, mumble and then go back in. It didn't seem like there was a real attempt made to follow up and check the patient was there. Whether there was or not, when you are unsure you are going to get irritable. As I say I asked if I had missed my call and was told I was a yellow, there was a yellow ahead of me, but that three oranges (heart problems etc.) would take precedence. Fair enough, once I knew where I stood I felt calmer.
But I wasn't alone. There was a young guy and his girlfriend and a middle-aged woman both waiting as long as me. It might sound silly, but wouldn't an intercom announcement be better, or a number call? Someone timidly 'shouting' to a packed room with the television blaring just doesn't cut it.
Seven hours. The admitting staff changed shifts, so I asked again. There was one person ahead of me. At around eleven the middle-aged woman knocked on the door and managed to get herself seen to, but I had lost hope of getting out before morning. At 11:40 or so though I got the call, only nine hours after admission.
I have tremendous respect for what medical staff do, and I completely understand more serious cases should take priority, but there has to be a better way, even of just ordering the waiting process. Could there be a smaller team dedicated to the less serious cases? Just to get them out of a waiting room creating tension. And would ticketing be that much of a disaster? I can kind of understand that if it were ticketed and patients saw themselves apparently arbitrarily being pushed back and forward (depending on new more serious cases), people would get annoyed, but people do feel better when they know roughly where they stand. I was nine hours there without any proper food and worrying (at least initially), not knowing if they knew I was there or if I would ever get seen to. More than once I thought of just leaving and taking my chances (even if they meant death). There has to be a better way. Stupid idea number five hundred, but what about some games or magazines or some other distraction (besides the free 'Northside News'). The same copy of The Star was doing the rounds all day. If people are going to be waiting routinely for long hours, some distraction is better than none. A television is not enough distraction either, not when one guy turns the channel to Setanta and then sits down to read his paper. I do not like 'Top Gear', no, I do not.
When I eventually did get seen to, the intern had me wait another ten minutes, then more while he went looking for the hammer etc. required for reflex testing. As it happened he couldn't find them, so he improvised with his stethoscope. Ultimately he did no more (and probably quite a bit less) than the clinic. The clinic had sent me to A&E presuming they would want to scan me. In the event they didn't. They felt my fuzziness was concussion, the tightness around my head just the muscles contracting after the damage to my forehead. I was just glad to be leaving that hell. Again the greatest of respect to all concerned (and I am very sincere in that), but I never, ever want to visit A&E ever again. Never!

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

That head bashing was not only painful but long lasting. Besides looking like an extra from a Romero movie, I still feel like trash.