Posts Tagged ‘ hollywood ’



We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks


Surrounded in hype, recriminations , accusations and clouded truths, when the scandal surrounding Wikileaks- a website intent on revealing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of the twenty first century- and its founder, Julian Asssange, broke it was hard to decipher any semblance of the truth. With one faction claiming the documents which were leaked were in the interest of the public, the other denied this and counteracted the very same information placed the public, and whole countries, in severe danger.

The truth is hardly any clearer after watching this documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney, which admittedly falls on the side of Assange and his organisation, but what is clear that accusations of a smear campaign against Wikileaks and its founder are lent a considerable amount of gravitas whilst those who went out their way to destabilise their credibility-including some of the most powerful people in the world- are left looking rather suspect.

 The leading cast in this tale include the formerly named Assange- a blonde haired Australian hell bent on discovering the truth about the war in Iraq- a teenage hacker and Bradley Manning, a gender confused American soldier serving in Iraq with access to highly sensitive documents and footage. Without thinking of the consequences Manning shared this classified information with Wikileaks and to this day still languishes as a detainee in jail even though he has never actually had a trial convicting him of any specific crime.

 Assange on the other hand was briefly awarded rock star status when he leaked the contents of the documents on his site but this small victory was soon snatched from him when two accusations of rape in Sweden arose. These is where things get rather cloudy and off balance as the accusations of rape seem to come from two women who had consensual sex with Assange but one freaked out when the condom broke during the act whilst the other claimed he never used one. This led to claims he may have impregnated them or shared a S.T.D. and  a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he refused to take an HIV test the charges were immediately changed to rape and thus the conspiracy theories about a smear campaign began.

 At this juncture a media campaign to discredit Assange and Wikileaks-interestingly the Guardian and New York Times who shared the information he provided were absolved of any blame- began and in one of the films many incidences of black humour the phrase ‘he has blood on his hands ‘is trotted out ad infinitum via various major news stories around the globe as if to detract from the real issue at hand; war crimes being committed in Iraq.

These war crimes provide some of the most shocking images in the film and early on we are shown a helicopter attack on innocent civilians and Reuter journalists after one carrying a camera with a long lens is mistaken for a Militia with an Ak47. What is almost as shocking as the horror of this footage is the clearly audible laughter, sheer flippancy and derogatory remarks emanating from the attackers about the dead bodies they have left on the ground. Further footage showing innocent families and children being slaughtered-either through carelessness or incorrect intelligence- is equally unsettling and Assange’s claims that this is what the public need to know about the realities of war start to make a lot more sense than the counter argument that knowing and seeing such things places us all in greater danger.

 A fascinating and revealing insight into a recent scandal- Assange is still under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy-this documentary provides very few answers but it does raise a hell of a lot of questions.


The Great Hip Hop Hoax


At first the tale of two students from Dundee who adopt American accents and pretend they are Californian in the ruthless pursuit of fame as rap stars  simply because their Scottish accents had them laughed out an A&R meeting and referred to as the ‘rapping Proclaimers’ seems unbelievable.,However this ploy which enabled them to a attain a lucrative recording deal, convincing and fooling everyone they met may seem even more highly implausible but it is in fact a true story. Jeanie Finlay delivers this documentary in a style which recalls the tale of Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain-whose stateside doppelgangers went under the pseudonyms Silibil ’n’ Brains- at the apotheosis of their deceit -around nine or ten years ago- intercut with more serious recent hindsight interviews from the duo. It is a fascinating watch and one which details the sheer determination and chutzpah necessary in achieving fame.

 Naturally charismatic, Billy Boyd attracted the attention of Gavin Bain the first time they met and an inseparable friendship was forged. Discovering several things in common what became apparent was they both had musical ambitions so joining up with a third party they formed a rap group singing in Scottish accents and became a local cause celebre due to the individual nature of their act.

Dreaming of bigger things they travelled to London and wangled an audition but were laughed at because of their Scottish accents. Disheartened, but not out, Bain-a natural born mimic- started talking and performing in an American accent. Partly  act of revenge and partly wanting to have their talent recognised through whatever means it took, the pair then both adopted Californian personas and started living, talking and breathing these imaginary characters twenty-four seven.

 Of course such a tactic is not without its drawbacks and the more attention and success which came their way, the more the chance of being discovered also hovered in the background.  Therefore some necessary self sabotage was necessary every time things looked like becoming too big whilst drug and alcohol abuse did not help to assuage the paranoia which was lingering in the air, but merely aggrieved it.

 Eventually the constant  living  a lie became too much for Boyd when abandoning the pursuit of fame in favour of marrying his childhood sweetheart and raising a family became a more attractive option thus spelling the end of the duo as a working entity.

 It is hard to imagine how two canny lads from Scotland were able to pull the wool over so many eyes but it does make an amusing tale. Particular highlights are Boyd’s blagging his way backstage into the Brits-photos with everyone fom Siouxie Sioux, Kelly Osbourne and Kasabian confirm this- where drinking with Daniel Bedingfield the first realisation that he is involved in such a grandiose  lie emerges during a heavy drinking session wherein the singer casually comments ‘I thought you were Scottish’. It is then he realises the whole ruse has a limited time frame and desperate to capitalise on this pressurises the perfectionist and reluctant Bain to rush a record out but all to no avail.

 A great exposé on the gullibility of the music industry The Great Hip Hop Hoax is an enjoyable ride which reveals that gall and chutzpah are sometimes all it takes to succeed. Despite this Boyd and Bain never actually achieved all they could as the pressures of the lie they were living eventually overtook any ambitions or creativity. This is a shame as it would have made a better ending if they had actually attained international success and then revealed the truth. This is a minor quibble though and it is still a worthwhile docufilm

The Great Hip Hop Hoax is on BBC2 Scotland at 9pm Friday October 11th.



Oh Boy


Basically a tumultuous twenty four hours in the life of Niko Fischer(Tom Schilling) who after living the heavily parental funded lifestyle of a student finds his world collapsing  in a series of mishaps and disasters which befall him. More importantly he is constantly thwarted in his quest in trying to obtain an elusive cup of coffee.

 Waking up on what he assumes will be just another day Niko first of all finds himself dumped by his girlfriend. His day does not proceed to get any better as he fails to have his driving license re-issued after a blood test reveals he has been over the alcohol limit on several occasions. Adding insult to injury his counsellor proceeds to berate him in every way imaginable.

Later after having his bank card retrieved by an ATM machine he discovers that his father has discovered he dropped out of university two years previously and had been paying money into his account believing he was pursuing his studies but now after discovering the truth decides to withdraw his financial support. Matters don’t improve when he encounters a beautiful young girl who it turns out he used to taunt relentlessly when she was an overweight teenager.

 Things keep going from bad to worse and through it all Niko seems totally bewildered and unaffected by what is happening to his life but realises that things have to change but he is simply unaware, or perhaps unwilling, to make the necessary changes.

 A first time effort by director Jan Ole Gerster this black comedy is thoroughly charming and Schilling turns in a sterling, photogenic and likeable performance as the hapless Niko allowing us to share in his frustrations and setbacks whilst able to laugh and sympathise at the same time. Shot in black and white this somehow gives the film a classic feel and affords it more gravitas. Does Niko ever get his cup of coffee which he so desperately desires though? That is something you will have to wait until the end of this delightful comedy to find out.

Oh Boy is showing at the the Fimhouse on Sunday 23 June at 8.45pm and at Cineworld  on Saturday 29th at 7.25pm


Just An Observation Friday May 24th


 The main talking points this week have been opposite sides of the same coin with love and hate dominating as one young man is slain in broad daylight whilst parliament still debates the rights and supposed wrongs of gay marriage. There is also the matter of a hurricane in Oklahoma  which claiming several lives makes the east coast winds we suffer almost daily in Edinburgh seem like over enthusiastic breathing exercises in comparison.

The gay marriage debate which seems to focus on matters such as tradition, bigotry and institution –love obviously doesn’t really seem to come into the debate much and in a world where actions are more likely to be fuelled by hatred surely this is an aspect we should be concentrating on- and really makes sense if we are to have a wholly democratic society. If different religious beliefs and cultures are accepted then surely continuing to exclude one section of the population can no longer be justified whatever the reasoning. Attitudes and acceptance of homosexuality have evolved greatly over the last fifty years and if marriage is to retain any relevance in our society then surely it must do the same otherwise it will become an anachronism and out dated institution with little worth or value.

 I have been asked several times by friends and family on my views on gay marriage and my answer remains the same as it always has, in that I can’t imagine I would ever want to commit myself in that way but at the same time I would prefer to have the right to choose not to rather than having the choice unavailable and therefore the decision made for me. That is what really lies at the crux of this matter; the individual’s right to choose and in a democracy why is this still a matter of debate? Personally I do not care if David Cameron is backing this bill as a means of securing votes –surely as a politician securing votes is part of the job isn’t it?- and whilst I have supported very few-if any- of his proposals this is one which I do wholeheartedly agree with and the fact that it has been passed in the last few days shows that even Tories may have hearts albeit connected to winning votes.. Perhaps it is time to stop wasting time on this pointless debate and allow gays the equal right they are entitled to after all they can’t really balls it up anymore than their heterosexual counterparts who seem to have devalued the whole process and institution themselves over the last few decades. Perhaps a gay makeover is exactly what the whole thing needs and at least weddings might not all so much resemble bad taste parties-Fascinators puhlease! Surely a misnomer- in the fashion stakes. Or perhaps then again maybe they will but with even more sequins!

 Whilst parliament continues to debate whether gay love is worthy or not it would seem that an act of hatred committed in the name of love and fanaticism on the streets of Woolwich this week has incited hatred of a different kind. Apparently committed as an act of terrorism in the name of Allah-although this is disputed- it would be well remembered that whilst terrorists may use Allah as an umbrella to shield their sins most Muslims do not use terrorism to convey their message no matter what these fundamentalists claim. Thus the bile alongside torrents of racial and religious hatred which have flooded social media sites- my own news feeds have remained virtually unblemished by these outpourings though this is maybe down to my understanding of what a ‘friend’ actually is and have limited myself to intelligent and informed people with integrity rather than the instant ‘just add water’ variety social media encourages- show not only ignorance but also gullibility in that they are reacting, overreacting even, exactly as the perpetrators of these heinous crimes want them to.

 What is really important is that a 25 year old soldier is now dead after a frenzied machete attack in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. I don’t care what excuses and reasons are offered up, such an act is deplorable and unacceptable in a so called civilised society and such news is more likely to bring a tear to my eye than any carefully choreographed Hollywood tear jerker. However turning on a whole religion or race as a means of revenge-always a wasted emotion and action with little sense of resolve I believe- will not serve to assuage the situation but only inflame it.

These two different events have brought to mind a famous John Lennon quote wherein he maintained that it was okay to carry out wars in public but showing and making love had to be done out of sight and in private. The fact that this came from a documented misogynistic wife beater who abandoned his first child can be asuaged by the fact he had a radical personality change when he encountered his own personal Diety to whom he became wholly answerable to; Yoko Ono.

 Elsewhere the tornado in Oklahoma claimed 24 lives, including ten children, in what has seemed like a particularly bad news week. There is nothing positive to be taken from this and if anything can be referred to as an ‘Act of God’ then surely it is an unexplainable tragedy like this and not someone hacking and maiming an unarmed young man to pieces and an early death in the street.

 If after all this doom and gloom a little light relief is needed then the cinema holds the delights of the new Star Trek movie-admittedly I have not seen it yet- and Baz Luhrmann’s over the top camp extravaganza ‘The Great Gatsby’ which may horrify purists and literary scholars who admire F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel but at least the costumes by Prada are worth seeing even if the soundtrack is little more than an irritant. A full review can be found here


Just An Observation Friday May 17th


 With two and a half –count ‘em- months until the Festival madness kicks into gear and the Royal Mile becomes taken over by tourists and so-called entertainment types the famous street, housing a castle at one end and a palace at the other, has been in receipt of a fair amount of action and attention this week in two very separate incidents taking place only a few yards from each other.

 First, Tuesday evening saw a pharmacy being held up whilst  customers and staff were held hostage for several hours. The drama unfolded early evening after a couple supposedly in search of their latest fix and planning a drug haul- let’s face it there can be little other reason for holding up a pharmacy unless a lifetime supply of haemorrhoid cream is your goal- and the street was cordoned off until the police tasered the aggressors and released the hostages.

 Drama number two occurred only two days later involving Nigel Farage of the obnoxious UKIP party on an ill advised visit to a bar only several yards away. Intolerant of his views the feisty Scots gathered outside a pub he was enjoying a pint in and demanded for his expulsion by gathering and chanting ‘Scum, scum’ until he was forced to retreat. Never one to miss an opportunity Farage referred to the incident as the ugly side of nationalism and typically used the event as a means of comparing the Scots less favourably with our counterparts down south who are far more ‘enlightened’ and voting for him in worryingly ever growing  numbers.

 Whilst I agree totally with the sentiments of the protesters what impressed me was the fact the majority of them seemed to be from what I have recently termed the complacent younger generation. The fact they seemed to have removed their attention from their laptops, phones etc. was perhaps what impressed me the most and shows that maybe there is a bit more hope for them and they do actually have a sense of propriety and principle if the situation occasions it. Maybe they will get around to making some decent music and produce a worthwhile act next!

 What with all this action in a short space and the God-awful weather to go with it – sleet, snow, blazing sunshine, gusting wind, hail and torrential rain all made separate appearances in a two hour time slot on Monday alone- it really felt as if the Festival had come early this year.

 After all this excitement the big disappointment of the week for me though has to have been  the arrival of the new Daft Punk album. The fact it is not released until Monday is neither here nor there as leaks on the internet necessitated an official streaming. The hype which had preceded this had prepared us all for a classic album and a comeback to rival that of Bowie’s who has really shown everyone how it should be done. Again. Instead the resulting album with a host of impressive collaborators- Niles Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder and Julian Casablancas- came over all self consciously funky and, even worse, a ‘try hard’ effort. Overly long , over indulgent and over indulged it is an album housing a series of missed opportunities which could –with severe editing and better programming- have been great. A full, review and chance to listen to the album in its entirety can be found here.

 Tonight sees an interesting gig at the Leith Links Cricket Club- I know it hardly sounds rock and roll and it is reminiscent of Phoenix Nights but give it a chance with local-and QT- favourites the recently dubbed ‘coolest band in Scotland’ HRH headlining. Other acts include The Priscillas , Paul Vickers and Et Tu Brute??? are also on the bill and at only £4 entry and cheap drink all night what is not to like? Starting at 7pm and going on until 1am it is definitely worth checking out.

 Today however I am off to see the Baz Luhrmann interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic –and personal favourite- ‘The Great Gatsby’. I approach the film with an open mind but also mixed feelings as it is to me –and a host of others- one of those books which perhaps should  really not be touched. It is particularly poignant at the moment as I attended a party several weeks ago where we danced under the stars with a collection of beautiful and glamorous people whilst live musicians belted out songs for our entertainment as the drink flowed freely against the backdrop of 300 acres of forest and I remember commenting to a young girl who waltzed by in fabulous furs- fake I presume- ‘It’s like being in ‘The Great Gatsby’. The film has a lot to live up to then and hopefully Luhrmann is the man to do it.

 Not been impressed by much on television recently but catch up introduced me to a new drama set in Northern Ireland; ‘The Fall’. All the prerequisites of good modern television are there including Gillian Anderson as visiting police officer out to assist in a baffling case and former Calvin Klein underwear model Jamie Dornan as  the fit, good looking slow burning psychopath. The first episode whetted my appetite for more and occupying the same time slot on a Monday at 9pm –although on BBC2 without the irritation of constant adverts interrupting the dramatic flow- as recent success ‘Broadchurch’,it could become a cult classic.

Mind you if you prefer your drama more realistic you could simply hang around the Royal Mile and wait for lightning- now there is something missing from our weather line up this week so far- to strike thrice!


Just An Observation Friday April 26th


 So much for spring then! The arctic chill of winter may have been replaced by warmer temperatures but the inclusion of gusting winds-making a state of dishevelment the only viable fashion option- and regular interludes of heavy showers further complicating things. At least it has been possible to lose at least one layer of clothing and the obligatory scarf, gloves and hat essential to the winter wardrobe can be laid to rest, even if only temporarily if last summer’s weather was anything to go by.

A little bit of sunshine did however arrive this week in the form of Daft Punk’s new single Get Lucky featuring Niles Rodgers and Pharrell Williams which draws from the heady days of Chic and will be packing out floors in clubs, at parties and weddings etc. for months to come. Ignoring all the superfluous remixes which immediately followed in its wake the original is a sublime piece of irresistible electric funkiness which bodes well for their long awaited upcoming album, to be released in mid-May, Random Access Memories.

Musically 2013 would seem to be the year of the great comeback with many artists who have absented themselves for too long stepping back into the limelight with more than worthwhile offerings. Aside from the French duo-who haven’t released new material since 2005- the return of David Bowie has overshadowed all other comers and the album The Next Day can hold its head high with his seventies meisterwerks showing that a sixty six year old nicknamed the Dame by the music press still knows how to make an entrance and steal the limelight from all the young pretenders.

Whilst Nick Cave has not been away in any real sense his latest album Push the Sky Away has also emerged as one of his best in a long, illustrious and ,in the main, consistent career. Every song on this collection drips with the haunting glacial beauty and inherent darkness one would normally associate with a Cave opus but to add to this he has embraced production techniques to add a new layer of depth and intrigue taking the album to another dimension and garnering it a sense of longevity and individuality.

 The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have also embraced the studio craft at their disposal and their album Mosquito is a natural progression from 2009’s It’s Blitz and is perhaps their most complete album yet. It is however contender for worst album cover of the year and it is lucky the music contained within manages to dispel this image quite so convincingly.

 Daft Punk are not the only band releasing long awaited material in May as Primal Scream debut More Light , their new album, a week earlier following the success of their blistering and topical 2013 single and with the supremely talented Laura Marling poised to release her fourth outing at the end of the month the soundtrack for a perfect summer should be more than in place. If however the weather lets us down- and it is the UK so the likelihood is high- at least we will have some great music to accompany our inevitable moaning about it.

 The news and social media over the last ten days have been full of the Boston Marathon bombing and I must admit that although there is something suspect about the whole situation-one supposed perpetrator dead and the other facing the death penalty-the conspiracy theories and theorists are becoming slightly tiresome. Americans are particularly adept at rewriting history-usually via movies see Lincoln and Argo- and they usually leave few witnesses as Kennedy’s assassination and Marilyn Monroe’s still suspicious death both revealed but us Brits are no slouches in this department either. Princess Diana’s death had more than its fair share of doubters and Thatcher’s death last week saw a virtual rewriting of a time I grew up in and remember very differently. I only watched about five minutes of her funeral and actually questioned whether they were burying the right woman so removed from my recollection and image of her was it.

 It would seem there have always been conspiracy theorists and theories and there always will be. History is written by winners of wars and those who control the media-it is worth remembering that up until just over one hundred years ago only an insignificant portion of the population were literate therefore history lay in the hands, perceptions and agendas of those few- and that perhaps the only way to approach it is with a certain uncertainty.

 Here to take us into yet another weekend is that uplifting new song by Daft Punk so put on your dancing shoes and prepare to hit a dancefloor. Stuff history it’s the future we have to live in!


Just An Observation Friday April 5th


The arrival of Spring-I’m being the eternal optimist here-this week also saw the most draconian overhaul of the benefits system in recent years from a government who consistently inform us ‘we are all in this together’ but probably more so if you are on the lower end of the social spectrum. Whilst a sense of perspective is required- a ridiculous list of  taxes which didn’t exist 100 years ago did the social media circuit as a form of protest without taking into consideration that neither did a National Health System or Benefits of any sort- the so-called Bedroom Tax defies any logic whatsoever.

Especially as we still support a family who are allowed to have various palaces left standing empty at our cost and it would appear that Muslims are exempt if they keep a spare room for prayers. Whilst I have no problem with other peoples beliefs it does seem more than a little like political correctness gone mad and hardly reinforces the doctrine of us all being in it together.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the Michael Philpott case this week and a lame attempt to tie it in with benefit scroungers. Whilst there are some people out there who choose and manipulate the benefits system as a way of life treating it as a career – and do very nicely out of it- the vast majority have no choice and live on the measly amounts handed out to them whilst still putting themselves forward for every job available in a frustrating attempt to improve their circumstances. People like Philpott only represent the small minority who use any means at their disposal- children and illnesses (real or exaggerated) seem to top this list- to defraud the system and tarnish the reputation of the genuine claimants.

People such as him do not see them as benefits but an entitlement and know how to work the system. The fact that six of his children died in his latest scheme to frame someone else has nothing to do with him being in receipt of benefits and everything to do with him being a reprehensible and vile human being. It did however give George Osborne and the Daily Mail fuel for the fire to ignite further animosity towards any other benefit claimants and in the week when the system had an overhaul this went beyond opportunistic and came across as cheap, petty, vindictive and spiteful. How very unlike this government!

Elsewhere sad news was received concerning the revered Scottish author Iain Banks who announced via his website he was suffering from terminal cancer. Apparently the author of ‘crow Road’, ‘Complicity’ and ‘The Wasp Factory’ has been given only a matter of months left to live. It is however warming to learn that he is out there making the most of his time left by living the high life on his honeymoon in Italy- after a proposal which went along the lines of ‘Will you do me the honour of becoming my widow?’ in typical Banks macabre humour-and intends to fight his illness for as long as is possible. Our thoughts are all with this man who has been one of the most revered and successful authors in recent Scottish literature.

Out at the cinema the best film on the circuit at the moment has to be Compliance. Based on a true story-aren’t they all these days- concerning a case at a McDonald’s in Bullitt County the film focussed on how compliant- and utterly stupid it must be said- people become when faced with an authoritarian figure. In this case the authoritarian figure is little more than a voice on the end of a phone that claims to be a police officer and offers no evidence whatsoever to authenticate this claim. Having always had a flagrant disregard for authority I watched this film with a mixture of disbelief and discomfort. It is a very unsettling but also compelling film and surely already a contender amongst the best films of the year so far. A full review is here. I do have high hopes for the latest Ryan Gosling offering ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ due out on April 12th as pre-publicity and trailer have done their work of sparking my interest.

The big news this weekend however has to be the opening of The Breakfast Club-occupying the site formerly known as Negociants- in Edinburgh. Promising a much needed breath of fresh air its proprietor, Warren Deighan, already has impeccable credentials and having enlisted the services of a young crew with their eyes and pulses on the zeitgeist his experience and their nous look like creating a winning combination. A full look at this exciting venture can be found here.

I am now off for a weekend that will start at the Breakfast Club this evening and very likely find me up back there on Monday morning. What will have happened in between is anyone’s guess