Friday, 13 December 2019

No.268 : Win it All

Eddie Garret is a gambler, and not a very good one, in this Netflix film.

We see him losing his cash in a low rent poker game in the back of a Chinese restaurant leaving him so broke he has to cadge his breakfast from the local shopkeeper. It’s clear that this is not an unusual event.

It makes it back to his modest apartment and is met by a criminal acquaintance who has let himself in. He has a proposal for Eddie : watch a holdall for him for the six months that he’ll be in prison for and, when he gets out, Eddie will trouser $10k. This seems a mental thing for the friend to ask given Eddie’s gambling addiction is well known, but we need a plot so let’s go with it.

Eddie doesn’t immediately rifle the bag to see what’s in it but after a bit of deliberation he dives in and it’s no surprise to anyone apart from Eddie that it’s full of cash. The amount isn’t spoken but it’s about $100k. It also contains some pretty nasty kidnap tools but that aspect is brushed aside as are any moral questions, never mind the legal ones, about being caught with a bag of contraband.

You can probably guess the rest. Eddie thinks he can dip into the cash and make a profit before returning the stake money ahead of the felon getting out of jail. Initially things go well with Eddie winning $2k which he immediately invests in a night down the pub with his pals. He meets meet Mexican lovely Eva who gives him a sight of what a better life could look like. Before he invests in that there’s more reckless gambling to do and Eddie finds himself $27k in the hole.

With a rare bit of clarity Eddie decides to get his life in order and takes a job with his brother’s landscaping company. The deal is that if Eddie can work for 6 months with no gambling, his debts will be paid. It goes well for a while but when the gangster calls and advises he has been freed early, Eddie has to make some decisions - stick, twist or run away?

This was a decent Netflix offering, starring, written and produced by Jake Johnston. I didn’t know him but he has a decent CV of mainly small roles on TV. Obviously if you make a cheap Netflix film it’s a good chance to show your leading man chops. He does well with a slightly tiresome character who keeps making the same mistakes. It’s hard to root for him when he keeps pissing his cash away but his quest for redemption is well realised and although a bit easy, it’s a fun ride. He’s a bit like a less buff Ant Middleton and is likeable in a ‘glad he’s not my friend’ kind of way.

It must have been a deliberate choice not to show any of the poker hands with only the bets being announced. This is probably so that non-gambling types don’t feel excluded but how many of them are watching a gambling film? It would have been good if the reality of poker was shown, with two deuces beating an Ace high rather that the full house beating the flush that poker films usually show, but it probably helps the editing if we don’t see the cards on the table.

The love interest was well played by Aislinn Derbez and she must have had good chat as our man had to wait weeks before sealing the deal!

I liked the captions showing the money ups and downs but they didn’t appear after every win or set back which grated a little. The supports were good  with the brother and the gamblers’ anonymous sponsor both being in the ‘I know his face’ category. The sponsor was the worst ever, suggesting a game our man could play in when the money started to run dry.

The film has a ‘cinema verite’ style which is probably meant to look gritty and realistic but it just looked like they were filming some scenes in a boat as the characters bobbled about on the screen. It was obviously low budget but how much is a tripod?

The running time was less than 90 minutes - even if you include the mid credits sequence- so it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Some of the gambling behaviours were well observed and it was a million miles for the glitz of Vegas or even The House.

Best Bit : We’ve got an hour… W Rating 16/23

Saturday, 7 December 2019

No.267 : War of the Wildcats

There are so many wonderful films out there across Netflix and Amazon Prime, not to mention the limitless offerings of the hundreds of channels of terrestrial TV as well as the internet. But let’s forget all that nonsense and watch a faded black and white western that I found in the depths of Film 4. Well it saves you having to!

Made in 1943, but looking a lot older, ‘War of the Wildcats’ is a forgettable western starring John Wayne who was at the height of his draft dodging powers at the time. He got a deferment for being a father of four so that’s all right then - at least he didn’t make loads of films pretending to be people who did the actual fighting. Oh he did? Very poor.

This film isn’t quite ‘very poor’ but I will have to up my typing speed if I’m going to finish this review before I forget it entirely.

We open on a train car full of people heading to the oil fields to make it rich. ‘I’m gonna get one of those new cars’ says one. ‘Did you hear about the Wright brothers’ says another, hoping to let us know it’s 1906 and to save the money for a caption. At the back of the train is the private car of Jim ‘Hunk’ Gardner. He’s an oil baron and a real sleaze ball, with comely wenches coming and going from his car. One almost showed an ankle.

At a small town he hauls on board Kathy, a teacher who is being run out of town for writing a scandalous book. He says hello and then plants a big kiss on her. Bit rapey there mate. She doesn’t like it, but doesn’t leave either and soon the two are getting on famously. Any chance of him getting his end away quickly evaporates when John Wayne shows up. His horse has died and he’s after a lift.

They all end up in a small oil town with the two men vying for Kathy’s favours. She initially goes with Jim and professes undying love. When he reasonably says ‘well maybe not forever’ - he has known her 20 minutes - she flounces off to Wayne.

Wayne manages to get a job as Jim’s bodyguard after besting the incumbent Cherokee but this proves to be a terrible decision when Wayne tells the Indians that they are getting ripped off by Jim’s 12% royalty deal for the oil on their land. Wayne offers 50% and after agreeing terms with Teddy Roosevelt himself, Wayne starts the task of getting 10,000 barrels out of the ground before a 4 month deadline expires.

Will he get the oil? Will he get the girl? Will there be  dirty tricks afoot and a mad dash to the finish line in Tulsa? Yes on all counts!

This was a long and mostly dull film, but it was enough of a curiosity to keep me interested and, to be fair, there were a couple of decent action sequences.

The whole film hangs on Wayne which is a shame as he’s a terrible actor. Lots of soft focus close ups and dire dialogue about what his granny used to say. He is versatile though - a singing scene in the bath showed that he can’t sing either.

Albert Dekker was better and a sure lift for the Hedley Lamarr character in ‘Blazing Saddles’. His schemes were so despicable as was his moustache twirling. He never had a chance with the dame but made up for it with some scene chewing acting and a few punch ups.

The love interest was Martha Scott who, whilst only 31 at the time of filming, looked a lot older. This was probably down to her wardrobe that contained a few cast offs from Morticia Addams. She had bigger shoulder pads than an NFL quarterback and showed so little flesh that a suit of armour would have been sexier.

It was also good to see Gabby Hayes who delivered some genuine frontier gibberish.

The film built up to a big dash at the end when Wayne tried to deliver his oil by wagon after the baddie bought up all the pipes. He sets off with about 20 wagons and we see about 15 blow up and one goes off a hill. It’s a miracle therefore that he still manages to get 20 over the line!

I was surprised about the fairness to the Native Americans (well it is the movies!) and the frankly socialist values that Wayne was trotting out. No wonder he didn’t fight in the war - Joe Stalin never called!

There is some fun to be had in ‘War of the Wildcats’ but not as much as in a ‘Shake n Vac’ commercial.

Best Bit : ‘I’ll call you Kitten and give you a big kiss‘. ‘OK then‘.
‘W’ Rating 11/23

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

No.266 : Wake Wood

Lord ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish stars in this creepy horror from 2009 - the first release from the Hammer Studios brand in over 30 years.

The film opens with flashbacks of a young Irish couple’s life with their young daughter. One day she feeds her ham sandwich to an Alsatian and gets bitten to death for her troubles - shouldn’t have forgotten the mustard I guess.

The distraught couple move to the town of Wakewood (Not clear why it’s one word and the title is two - annoying!) with him working as a vet and her at a chemist shop.

One night their car breaks down and they head towards the home of local worthy Arthur who knows a mechanic - Arthur or ‘Barry off ‘Auf Wiedersein Pet’ as he’s better known, is having a few friends over. Only for a satanic mass! Young Mum Louise gets a good look at the strange goings on which look like a man being born out of a large husk. Probably not got broadband out in the sticks and they have to make their own entertainment.

Barry soon shows up at the couple’s house and, apropos of nothing, offers to resurrect their daughter. He has more clauses than a timeshare contract though, the most onerous being that the girl can only return for 3 days and the couple must stay in Wakewood for ever. Rather than call him a nutter they readily agree. Seeing as they have gone this far they also agree to dig up their dead daughter for some of her hair and desecrate the corpse of a man who recently got trampled by a bull. All in a day’s work in rural Ireland.

After a grim and pretty full on ritual the girl is returned to them and all is good for about 20 minutes. Soon they realise that something isn’t right about the little girl - maybe something to do with all those murders she’s committing? The couple soon realise that this unholy deal wasn’t perhaps the best idea, but what price must be paid to put things right?

I really liked this film. It had a creepy, unsettling vibe throughout with even the scene setting moments, such as Baelish doing his veterinary work, being overly graphic and visceral. There were a few clichés to dance around such as the whole town being part of a coven and some very specific rules about what can and cannot be done - 'don’t go beyond the wind turbines’ can't be in the ancient scrolls surely?!

The last half hour goes a bit bat shit crazy and it isn’t explained where the power behind all the events come from or who laid down the rules. I guess it’s the usual lesson in ‘don’t mess with the supernatural’. The story was similar to the excellent Strontium Dog story ‘The Moses Quest’ albeit with a bit more blood letting.

The study in grief of the young bereft parents was well handled and you could almost give them a bye for getting involved once you’ve seen the pain they were in. Barry did well to avoid an Irish accent and just went for ‘stuffy English laird of the manor’ instead. The main couple were excellent with the right balance struck between overly emotional and buying our sympathy.

The violence ratcheted up towards the end and as it was being carried out by a ten year old girl it was mostly done in quick edits - they must have told the young actress it was a video about kittens or something.

I think it’s a film that will stay with you and, despite being far fetched and a bit too gruesome to feel real, it was good disturbing fun and is well worth a look.

Best Bit - Man suffers from a lot of bull ‘W’ Rating 19/23

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

No.265 : Witchcraft 5 : Dance With the Devil

I haven’t seen any of the proceeding four entries in this franchise, so please forgive me if I miss any character references or throwbacks to earlier instalments. Having seen the film I don’t think I have missed much, and any character development employed looks to have been accidental at best.

I watched the film and then did my research - HUGE mistake! It has what appears to me to be a generous 2.7 rating on the IMDB and none of the cast have done any other work since. It was also straight to video and is slated in some places as being soft porn, which would have caused me to pass it by had I known. To be fair I did manage to work most of these things out for myself during my viewing.

After some cheap 90’s credits we open with a hooker taking her customer back to her room. Obviously it’s a movie hooker so young, beautiful and not covered in cold sores. “We agreed fifty bucks” says the mark - or was he the film’s accountant talking about the budget? - before he gets knocked on the head by the hooker’s boyfriend. This small scene captures the film in microcosm - the mark gets the hooker’s bra off for a gratuitous topless scene before it is magically back on when the boyfriend appears. I had to pause that several times to pick up on that continuity gaff!

Unfortunately the mark dies and our hapless couple drag his body up the street in a blanket. It looks like the fat John has lost weight in the interim, given how easily he’s pulled along, but you don’t really notice as you are wondering why they don’t bring the car to the body? Meanwhile an evangelist is in his limo impressing his secretary with his biblical knowledge. His car nearly hits that of the murder/hooker combo and a homeless man gets wiped out in the aftermath. The Minister goes to help, but the homeless man dies, but not before a yellow squiggle leaves the dead man’s body and enters his. This ‘special effect’ looks like someone with a magic marker drew straight onto the film. We guess that this is some sort of transference going on as our Reverend immediately starts taking an interest in his busty secretary.

Our body disposal pair are now in the countryside and their car has broken down. They chance across a nitwit who calls himself ‘The Collector’ and who chucks stuff in the fire to make it flame up just a bit. Our geniuses think he’s a bill collector and resolve to knock him over his head and take his cash. Well that plan has never failed before. Soon the pimp is dead and the hooker is under the control of The Collector who immediately changes his name to ‘Cain’.

Elsewhere a couple are planning a night out at the dance club. William (who was in the previous films, apparently) doesn’t want to go but is dragged along anyway. Cain has hexed the nightclub owner and changed the dance night to one of magic. William is dragged on stage for a trick and Cain realises he is a Warlock and takes him under his power.

Will Cain’s plan to harvest souls to allow Satan to return to earth come to fruition? Who has taken over the preacher? And whose top is coming off next?

I enjoyed this film in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Its cheap rubbish but it knows it, and plays to its strengths of titillation and risible acting.

Star of the show is David Huffman as Cain who is hammier than a bacon sandwich. At one point the nightclub owner says ‘You don’t look like a rock star’ and he stands there, the spitting image of Ronnie James Dio. Every line is wonderfully delivered with accompanying hand gestures clear and present. At least they will have saved on the catering budget as he chewed the scenery in every shot. Amazingly he hasn’t worked since!

The three main ladies clearly weren’t cast for their acting abilities as each stumbled through their admittedly terrible dialogue before getting into their ‘love’ scene. These were all shot like 90’s power ballad pop videos with mood lighting, billowing curtains and a rock soundtrack. The scenes went beyond what would be normal and it looked like the producers decided to cut their losses and go for the soft core porn market. Or at least the market of people too ashamed to buy porn but want to get it through the back door with ‘horror’ films such as this.

The big denouement was shot in the dark so I’m not 100% sure what went down but there was a head chopped off somewhere. Further sequels followed so this effort must have made its money back, or at least the director found enough spare change to get a few more ladies disrobed.

I did like the special effects, especially the soul delivery which was a fried egg drawn onto the screen flying into Cain’s cloak. You don’t get that in the big blockbusters.

Overall one for a quiet night in when you are concerned someone may be looking for porn in your Amazon Prime viewing history. Right, where’s Part 6.

Best Bit : Disembowelled night club boss keeps cigar in mouth throughout + 4 others.
W Rating 14/23

Sunday, 24 November 2019

No.264 : Wild Bill

No, no it’s not a reprise of  'W' Movie 165 'Wild Bill', the Bill Hickok biopic. This is a gritty British drama with more swearing and fewer cows.

This ‘Wild Bill’ dates from 2011 and was directed by Dexter Fletcher of ‘Press Gang’ fame. It is a bit grim and urban but there is a lot to like, not least a smattering of familiar faces on various stages of their career trajectories.

We meet the titular Bill as he’s being released from Prison after an 8 years stretch for drugs, G.B.H. - you name it. We follow his long trip home from his cell on the Isle of Wight to his horrible flat in a London sink estate. His two sons Dean 15, and Jimmy 11, have been coping on their own for the nine months since Mum ran off with a fancy man to Spain. They are not best pleased to let Dad back in the flat and only acquiesce when forced to do so by the local villains. There ruffians expect Bill to come back to his drug dealing patch, and to seal the deal they get him plastered and a date with the fetching Roxie.

Dean is providing for the family and working as a labourer off the books. Jimmy, who has a bit of the stage school about him, is going off the rails; dogging school and smashing windows. Bill soon sees what he’s missed and resolves to be a good Dad. In no time flat he’s cooking dinner and cleaning the bog.

Dean’s fledgling romance with hairdresser Steff  is stalled by the theft of some money and Jimmy tries to help the family by being a lookout for the drugs gang. Sadly when the cops come calling he trashes the gear and is now in debt to the drug barons.

Bill meanwhile gets a £3 an hour job holding up a sign and soon has the cash to buy his son a hooker for his birthday (it’s Roxy again!) and plates up a mean shepherd’s pie. The kids start to recognise his effort but Jimmy‘s drug debt will see them all have some troubled times before they can start playing happy families. Or gin rummy for that matter. Will this be a story of redemption or was Bill damned before he got off the ferry?

Despite myself I enjoyed this latest instalment of Alan Partridge’s ‘Bad Slags'. The characters are uniformly horrible but you can’t hep to warm to them as they try to make the best of their terrible existences. Charlie Creed-Mills is great as the hapless Bill. He’s painted as a legendary nutter from the start and it’s fun seeing him follow a worthwhile path, as we know it's going to end with him kicking off. I recognised him from ‘Harry Brown’ and I’m pretty sure the same pub was in that too - maybe they come as a package?

Of the sons the older one Dean played by Will Poulter was better and you’ll know him from the recent interactive ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Bandersnatch. He was in the Narnia films too, but I’ve only seen the first one and don’t remember him. He spends a lot of the film scowling but does look made up when the hairdresser takes her top off.

For your money you also get two scenes of Andy Serkiss as a pointless drug lord and Liz White off ‘Life on Mars’ as the ‘hooker with a heart’, Roxy. In addition Ramsay Bolton comes on and does his mad eye shtick - keep working on that your time will come! Needless to say Sean Petwee also shows up as is the legal requirement of any film make in the UK. This time he helps out by only showing up in one scene and he reuses his copper’s costume from ‘Alpha Papa’. Oh, and as a bonus you also get Miss Cross off ‘Rushmore’ as Bill’s ineffectual parole officer.

The direction and pace of the film were well handled and I like the long montage of how drugs were packaged and distributed in the estate. It was a bit like ‘Breaking Bad’. Wait a minute, it was exactly like ‘Breaking Bad’!

The film builds towards an inevitable climax and, to be honest, it was the only part that I felt short-changed by. Our man was summoned to the pub for a showdown with a mental drugs gang, What followed was a bit limp and I don’t think the build up got the pay off it deserved. That said, it was well enough made and I had enough invested in the characters for me to enjoy the overall package.

All the main characters enjoyed something of an arc and, although nothing was resolved, we still have hope for the future. Can’t ask for much more than that!

W Rating 18/23 Best Bit : You don’t get that at my hairdresser’s!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

No.263 : Wild Honey

Another unheralded release courtesy of Amazon Prime now - so much more variety on there than Film 4 who offer little but ancient westerns. Still more of them coming soon! This film is a bit like the movie version of Alan Partridge’s ‘Problem People’ with everyone on show with issues to spare.

Our heroine here is Gabby, a phone sex operator from Chicago whose 49 years and ample frame are at odds with her dial up persona. She has issues at home with a cheating boyfriend and financial problems that see her car repossessed in the first five minutes. She moves back in with Mom and shares here woes with Reggina, a phone sex colleague with whom she unsuccessfully cruises bars seeking male company.

Things take a turn when she gets interrupted mid filth by a caller named Martin who’d rather have a nice chat than hear any more about your clit, thanks very much. At $2 a minute he’d be better off trying wrong numbers! They soon become close and his hefty bills mean a fat pay check for Gabby - more Funyuns for her! Martin asks for a photo and after some uncharacteristic shyness Gabby sends one over. She’s quickly told that’s she’s beautiful and gets all excited about her prospects with the pervert caller. Maybe his guide dog will like her too!

With indecent haste Gabby decides to fly to L.A. to doorstep her new friend, under the guise of catching up with her sister with whom she hasn’t spoken in two years. The sister is everything gabby is not - thin, neat and successful. She also has a pregnant assistant Greta who is charged with taking Gabby about town. Gabby gets dropped off at the park where Martin, a successful screen writer, has told her he sometimes works. Inevitably the two meet up and enjoy a blissful day of smoking dope, visiting the theatre and eating in a pretentious restaurant.

Gabby stays the night but is awoken the next morning when Martin’s brother shows up - it seems that Martin doesn’t own the house after all and the screen writer is his brother, not him. Shocked by his sudden loss of wealth Gabby flounces off. Meanwhile after her chats with Gabby, Greta grows a set and ditches her P.A. job with Gabby’s sister, who in turn is also breaking down, unable to keep up the façade of having a successful life.

With everything collapsing Gabby’s cheater boyfriend shows up and after some drug and sex action, (hope she had clean pants) he proposes marriage. Is it her he wants or her unlikely talents as a manager of his apartment block? Can each of the damaged souls find some happiness and is there hope for  a reconciliation with Martin, even at two bucks a minute?

I enjoyed this film. Rusty Schwimmer does well in the lead, a part that probably had Melissa McCarthy’s fingerprints all over it. Her dirty chat was pretty full on and she wasn’t shy about her ample frame or modest looks - real people that’s what we need!

There weren’t many out and out laughs, but I did like the ridiculous fancy restaurant with the 11 year old chef and the arty play involving Martin’s naked daughter tipping a tin of beans over herself .
The twist that Martin wasn’t what he seemed was signalled from Mars but it turned out a lot more mundane than my idea that he was a serial killer with plans for Gabby. In truth is was a nice film with no one coming out of it terribly. There was a lot of swearing and a few bits of nudity but I’m all for that if it helps the story along.

The ‘wild honey’ of the title was a reference to the bee hive that Martin kept. I’m sure there was an attempt at a big metaphor here, especially as he pointed out the queen and that ‘everyone has a job, even the workers’ but as my regular reader knows subtext isn’t my thing!

Over all it was a fun 90 minutes with gentle humour, slight character development and a topless woman covering herself in beans. Got to be pass marks for that alone!

‘W’ Rating 15/23
Best Bit : Beanz Meanz a good shower is required.

Monday, 18 November 2019

No.262 : Willow Creek

Willow Creek at the IMDb

A cheap film doesn’t have to be a bad film, but a lack of budget certainly doesn’t help. If you had forty bucks and an old DVD of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ you could make a serviceable remake of ‘Willow Creek’ and still have enough for pizza on the way home.

The film was made in 2013 by when ‘found footage’ films were already old hat. I was drawn to this one however as it had the shouty comedian BobCat Goldthwait as the writer/director and it was based on a hunt for the legendary Bigfoot. So far so good.

Alas it doesn’t pan out well and it’s a dull, annoying and frankly forgettable waste of your time.

Our two heroes Jim and Kelly are on a mission to make a documentary about their quest to track the Bigfoot. The first half hour is taken up with scene setting - or padding the 80 minute run time - you decide. The two poor actors, whom I haven’t seen in anything else, look awkward as they try to improvise around real Bigfoot attractions in Trinity Forest area. We chuckle as they make a story around a Bigfoot mural, titter as they eat a big foot burger and lose interest as they make rude gestures at a Bigfoot statute.

Some unfortunate locals are dragged in to be ‘interviewed’ on camera and it seems an age before things even get near the action. We get a couple of hints about what lies ahead as Jim casually notes bullet holes in the park sign and a hillbilly local warns them off visiting their goal - the site of the famous Bigfoot cine film from 1967. A ‘Lost person’ poster is also noted but that’s bound to be irrelevant…

Obviously, they pay no heed to the dire warnings and drive deep into the forest only to be greeted by another redneck who invites them to have a coffee at ‘The Fuck Off Café’. As delightful as it sounds they decline and wander into the woods with their packs, but with no obvious means of navigation. After a needless scene of male nudity they bed down for the night - but it’s going to be a long night - for all of us!

A 20 minute scene follows with the two of them in a tent reacting to sounds outside. Bigfoot is known for banging bits of wood together (apparently) so there is lots of that and of rocks hitting their tent. This could be seen as a master class in tension building and bravura minimalist film making. Not by me however, it was totally tiresome!

Next day they wander about for a day, still lost, but finding hairs and large footprints along the way. Will they escape (er, found footage film, genius!) and will we at least get the monster money shot?!

It beggars belief that this film got a release. IMDb says it was shot in 5 days so they must have had at least four and a half off by my count.

It follows the found footage template to the letter with the only surprise being we get no pay off apart from a fat lass in the nip and a camera dragged through some grass. ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ this was not  - you’d get more monster in my underpants!

The improvisation and amateur interviews were terrible and the leads had no chemistry at all. At one point the bloke proposed marriage - I half expected the woman to say ‘sorry, who are you again?’.

There was almost no tension and that which there was, was falsely earned as it went nowhere. It didn’t make a lick of sense and had no laughs or horror to speak of. In one scene Jim finds a big pile of steaming shit and gets all exited about it - unfortunately I was unable to replicate this emotion with the film, despite their similarities.

Best Bit : Have a coffee in the Fuck Off Café.
‘W’ Rating 7/23

Thursday, 4 April 2019

No. 261 : Wonderball (TV)

My regular reader (Hello!) will be shocked at after 260 entries we have moved away from the movies and into regional TV for this post. Fear not, soon we will return to obscure straight to video films and 1930’s Westerns shown at 3 am on Film 4.

The reason for our change of focus is a request. I know! I can’t say 'reader’s request' but we’ll take what we can get. Yes Julie from the office, who has followed my own stellar game show career, advised that she was soon to star on the glitzy new show ‘WonderBall’ and could I take a look? She didn’t actually ask that I write a sarky review and post unflattering photographs of the event, but that’s what she’s getting!

Firstly, the format. ‘WonderBall’ is shown on the new BBC Scotland channel at 7pm on weekdays, and is hosted by news reading lovelie, Catriona Shearer. I’ve been a fan of the Amazon like Catriona since her days of giving local traffic updates, so it wasn’t a hard sell to convince me to tune in. She has a chirpy sing-song accent and sometimes looks like she dressed out of a pantomime’s costume box. Did she wear this one?

Oh yes she did! The King of Hearts called - he wants his outfit back!

The game is played with three teams, each of two people. Each team have five balls numbered between 1-15. These are slung in a bag and the teams each pick one out in each of the four rounds. If they get an opponent’s ball they answer an easy question to take it out of the game. If they get it wrong it goes back in the bag. If they pick their one of their own balls they have to answer a harder question to get it back in the bag and if they’re wrong it stays out. The idea is to have your ball the last one in the bag which makes it the ‘WonderBall’ and wins you £2000.

There is also a danger ball which is the boo hiss baddie ball - if that’s the WonderBall at the end everyone gets hee-haw (apart from sold balls cash but we'll get to that soon). A new danger ball is added each round and if picked out the three teams can confer to give a correct answer which will take it out of play. Still with me? That’ll change!

At the end of each of the first three rounds players are offered a cash bribe to sell one of their balls - £100, £200 and then £300. If you sell your ball it stays in the bag but if it’s the WonderBall you get nothing apart from looks of disdain for your weak willed, money grabbing tendencies.

Each team gets to appear on two shows, but if you win the jackpot on the first you forfeit your second appearance. A flawless pair of games means you could trouser a decent £3200 overall if you sell a ball every round and still retain the WonderBall. That’s just less than what I won on ‘The Weakest Link’!

That complicated explanation can be simplified by reading the BBC page for the show or by watching it. I would recommend neither - unless Julie is on!

Julie appeared on the show with Stephen who left one circus to join another. They had some decent banter and clearly weren’t intimidated by the slightly low rent set which includes some large balls and the colander on wheels which contains the game balls.

My first gripe is that the regular questions are too easy - “Where is Ayers Rock?” and the hard ones are too hard “Which vice president was in a duel?”. Lots of ‘oh I know it’s…’ before ‘Aaron Burr’ was announced to a roomful of shoulder shrugging.

Julie and Stephen’s games followed similar paths with early optimism soon giving way to money grabbing economic decisions. The main problem is the luck part of the format. If your balls are constantly picked you have no chance whereas if you’re lucky you can bluff your way to the jackpot without knowing a thing. Julie and Stephen suffered badly with their luck in their first game and had to salvage £300 by selling their last ball. This was a slightly dodgy decision economically as their ball had a real value of £400 (1 in 5 chance of £2000) but £300 in the hand was too tempting and ultimately proved to be the correct decision when it failed to gain ‘WonderBall’ status.

On show two any nervousness had gone, evidenced by some better play and, more importantly, some decent banter. “I’m putting in a complaint to Scotrail’ quipped Stephen as a Railway employee eliminated one of his balls. Julie did well too by getting an answer about Isaac Newton correct - tempered slightly with her comment that she heard about him on ‘The Big Bang Theory’. The hostess did well too despite a late alarm call meaning she had to do the show in her dressing gown…

This time our dynamic duo had two balls in the mix meaning they had a 40% chance of winning the £2000. They opted however to sell one for £300 meaning they had a 1 in 4 shot of the top money. Sadly it didn’t come to pass and they were correct to sell as neither of their blue balls reached the winner‘s podium.

My main problem with the format is that it makes sense to take the cash, but by doing so the players take any thrill out of the game. You’d do it too - potentially £600 in the hand for an outside chance of £2000. If it was five grand people would risk it, but there simply isn’t enough gain to offset the allure of the easy money.

The show is only 30 minutes long but even then it gets a bit samey as the rounds are repeated each time with the last round twist being there are no questions, so it gets even less demanding! There is canned applause added in which makes the whole thing seem a bit contrived and the method of passing down the balls and then displaying them on an Ikea lamp from the 70’s just looks a bit cheap and cheezy.

I enjoyed the shows I watched but manly because I knew someone on them. Julie’s howlers such as thinking Benjamin Franklin was a president of America and her wonderfully delivered ‘Horse please’ line will never be forgotten, as long as slaggings are allowed in the workplace. Stephen was good value too although I thought he was going to smash the set up when he missed the ‘Glasvegas’ answer. Maybe he should have done  - he could have caused hundreds of pounds of improvements!

It was also strange that there was a long conversation about juggling on a show about balls an no one thought of having a quick demonstration. They must have been worried that entertainment may have broken out!

All in all a fine effort and a good day’s work - £300 each for grabbing some balls. You can insert you own joke here………………

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

No. 260 : War Dogs

War Dogs at the IMDb

We all remember how dire ‘War Pigs’ was, but what about the canine variety of war film?

This one isn’t about the war itself or fighting in general but is more about the arms dealers who occupy the morally dubious role of gun runner and weapons provider to the highest bidder.

The film opens with the familiar premise of the lead character having a bad day. His voice over does the predictable thing of saying ‘I’m getting ahead of myself’ before we dissolve into the past where things start off.

Our hero is David (Miles Teller) who is making a few bucks as a Miami masseuse. He gets come ones from his elderly male clients and has a failing sideline of selling Egyptian cotton sheets to old folks’ homes. If he’d invested in rubber ones he’d have had more success. At a funeral he meets up with Efraim (Jonah Hill) who seems to be doing better - at the buffet table at least.

Efraim has a lucrative business finding the ‘crumbs’ on a government procurement website and supplying the goods to the army. They do OK for a while but David keeps his activities secret from his annoying wife as she is against the war in Iraq - we are in the 90’s after all. He wife is so annoying she takes the huff when she finds big bricks of cash in the bathroom - I’d have given him a big kiss!

Things take an upturn when a deal for Italian pistols comes their way and, despite having to deliver them in person, the success of the deal opens new doors for them. Soon they are in Vegas and a seemingly chance meeting with Bradley Cooper’s blacklisted arms dealer sets them up for a deal of a lifetime. The crumbs are forgotten as a $300 million banquet hoves into view. As you’d expect locating and delivering 100 million AK47 bullets is no small task, and soon the lads are falling out and dodging lots of shady characters in 90’s tracksuits.

Will they survive to tell the tale? The voiceover suggests yes!

This was a pretty decent film with a good cast and production values. Romania ghosted as Albania and it looked suitably bleak. The scenes in Iraq were well done and there was a bit of peril as they tried to escape those guys in a van out of ‘Back to the Future’.

There was an ongoing reference to the film ‘Scarface’ down to even the poster which seems a bit insensitive as actor Miles Teller has several facial scars from a real life car crash - still, do what you know I guess.

The three acts of the film were rote large with the success moment lasting about two minutes before the usual twin beasts of greed and paranoia taking over. It seemed such a waste but you do have to remind yourself that these are terrible people.

Jonah Hill was a lot like his persona from ’This Is the End’ and you knew he wasn’t to be trusted from the start. Teller’s every-man David was supposed to elicit our sympathy but between his naivety and annoying wife he failed to get a smidgen from me.

The file was directed by Todd Phillips from the Hangover films and this one was short of laughs, although reasonably engaging. He and Cooper co-produced so that gained the film a couple of scenes of Cooper going through the motions in a pair of glasses that magnified his eyes to a distracting level.

The film boasts a great soundtrack with several rock classics keeping things moving along - and then Leonard Cohen at the end!

It was a decent ride and seemed shorter than it’s near two-hour running time. I don’t think I learned much and the write ups I’ve read suggest the ‘based on a true’ story caption should be taken loosely at best. Still an enjoyable watch and free on Amazon Prime as I write.

Best Bit : No we're not waiting for your free glass token at the garage.
‘W’ Rating 17/23