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Saturday, August 31, 2013

'Eleanor Crook: Necroplasty or, Sculpting with Human Biomatter' at Barts Pathology Museum, 30th August 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 2 Comments

My Heart is a Strange Cabin (2008) - Eleanor Crook 
Eleanor Crook brings the dead to life.  She's a great fit for Barts Pathology Museum: a cathedral of science literally full to the rafters with formaldehyde reliquaries, the organs and bones of the long dead floating in pickled serenity.  A sculptor, she works primarily in wax, the human anatomy, both in rude health and various states of distress and dismemberment. By way of an example, her companion throughout the lecture was an incomplete wax sculpture of a disfigured soldier.  Half his face a mangled mess, the other handsome, soft and androgynous, one intact eye mournfully staring off into the middle distance.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

'Riddick' (2013) directed by David Twohy

Friday, August 30, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Riddick is finally back!  ...  You know.. Riddick!  That guy from Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick?  Yeah, him.  
It's been thirteen years since Pitch Black.  Nine since The Chronicles of Riddick.  Was anyone really clamouring for the return of Vin Diesel's fantasy/sci-fi superhero?  Pitch Black was an above par science fiction actioner - a B-movie with a few touches of real class - though nowhere near classic status.  The ill-advised Chronicles of Riddick was an aesthetic and narrative disaster, an expansion of a daft, confusing universe nobody particularly cared much about in the first place.  Chronicles took a well-deserved critical and financial mauling and the franchise was left for dead.  

Yet this franchise, much like its central character, has proved difficult to kill.  I don't think anybody was expecting Riddick to return, yet here he is, clawing his way back onto screens apparently by sheer determination.  Riddick is Vin Diesel's pet character, developed from games of Dungeons and Dragons he played as a kid.  Diesel's love for the character is palpable, for example to finance Riddick he leveraged his own house as collateral. The appeal of this film, produced on a relatively $40 million budget, with a very quick shooting schedule is obvious: it's the scrappy underdog in a market of high-gloss focus-grouped assured successes.  This is a labour of love.  But is it any good?

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

'POP MODERN: The Portobello Urban Arts Festival Opening Night at the Louise Blouin Foundation, 28th August 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

"Fuck the man!" was the yell reverberating around POP MODERN last night.  Much of this exhibition is devoted to sticking it to authority, to cocking a snook at the establishment and viciously sneer at the bastards with the gumption to tell us what to do.  POP MODERN, now in its 11th year, runs alongside the annual Portobello Film Festival.  These are new artists with fresh ideas, a common theme finding new ways to experience the world, to pump us up with antipolitik bravado, to get us in black balaclavas reclaiming the streets from the 'the man' that would seek to control us.  

Of course the anarchistic spirit was a bit dampened when 'the man' showed up to rescue us from a bin someone had set on fire.  But more on that later.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

'Elysium' (2013) directed by Neill Blomkamp

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Finally a genuinely lefty action flick!  Elysium is an unapologetically blunt political allegory, designed from the ground up to showcase inequality, cruelty and economic enslavement.  But the politics are just the jam stuffed deep inside a delicious cinematic doughnut.  The dough surrounding this tasty socialist jam is a visceral science fiction survival story with astonishing special effects, cool as hell future technology and several great performances.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

'The Way, Way Back' (2013) directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Monday, August 26, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

The plot of the The Way, Way Back is so weirdly specific it must be real.  An awkward, introverted teenager is brought out of his adolescent funk by working in a water park.  It's a strange concept, simultaneously utterly mundane  and off the wall.  The film is set in the modern day yet feels oddly timeless, a cocktail of quasi-retro imagery that feels ripped straight from the 70s or 80s.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

'Jurassic Park: An IMAX 3D Experience' (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg

Friday, August 23, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

The phenomenon known as infrasound has some very strange effects on human beings. These are sounds lower in frequency than 20 Hz, below the normal limit of human hearing. Infrasound has the effect of inducing anxiety, uneasiness, uncontrollable feelings of fear and awe.  In nature they're found in the roar of the tiger and other large predators - the  theory being that that human beings are hard-wired to experience a surge of adrenaline at hearing them - triggering a fight or flight response to escape a hungry predator.  When the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the undisputed star of Jurassic Park, roared full blast through the BFI IMAX sound system I felt that instinctive, primal fear - an awe that cut past all intellectual analysis right to the animal core of my brain.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

'You're Next' (2013) directed by Adam Wingard

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

A pleasant looking middle-class family, the children all grown, is sitting down for their reunion dinner. The scene couldn't be more relaxed.  The lighting is low, the food looks good, the familial bonds seem strong - this is the very image of happy, peaceful normality.  So why am I sitting on the edge of my seat fervently hoping for the Dad's head to explode? Why am I filled with anticipation to see the boringly artistic ditzy couple be sliced up by machete wielding psychopaths?  You're Next does a disturbingly great job of making you like a bloodthirsty sadist - setting up a gaggle of annoyingly moronic characters and slowly feeding them one by one into a meat grinder.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

'Lovelace' (2013) directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

In Lovelace we see a person transformed into commodity.  This is a movie of a thousand little deaths, a heroine manipulated, exploited, sold, beaten, raped and discarded.  This is the story of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), the star of the most famous porn film of all time: Deep Throat.  

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'A Table' at Arbeit, 17th August 2013

- by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

On Saturday afternoon I was invited to a table discussion.  What I didn't expect was that I'd be building the table.  The Arbeit Gallery, where I'd seen Christopher Matthews' performance piece the night before, commands an imperious view of the Hackney Wicked crowds.  From their balcony you can look right down at the fashionable, young visitors to Hackney Wick guzzling roasted cassava and washing it down with a swig of coconut water. It's all very East London.  But up here things are a bit more hands on. 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hackney Wicked Performance Art, 16th August 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Being at Hackney Wicked feels like standing in the eye of a cultural hurricane.  The event, set in and around the old industrial workspaces of Hackney Wick, celebrates the new prime industry of the area: art.  Like a peacock fanning his feathers, Hackney Wicked is showing off what it can do: warehouse doors are thrown open, stalls are set up, canal barges lash themselves to the tow path and plastered all over practically every available wall is a neat and new art.  Covering the whole event would be a fools errand - just looking at the guide to  the festival is bewildering.  It's a multi-fold out, huge double sided piece of paper in a tiny font laid out in rather Byzantine arrangement.  "Is what I'm looking for an exhibition, an open studio or a performance?"

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Monday, August 19, 2013

'Me. Complete. You.' by Geoffrey Harrison at Barts Pathology Museum

Monday, August 19, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Barts Pathology Museum is one of those mysterious London places that I've always wanted to visit.  I love the Hunterian Museum on Lincoln's Inn Fields - I can't imagine myself ever getting sick of peering at strange things floating in preservative.  There's always a tension in these museums between education and entertainment, you can simultaneously learn a great deal about human anatomy and also gawp in open-mouthed freakshow horror at deformed skeletons.  Unfortunately there's no photos of specimens in this blog post (due to the pesky Human Tissue Act 2004), just art, but if you want a taste of what's on display visit the excellent Museum blog.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

‘More Than Honey (2012) directed by Markus Imhoof

Friday, August 16, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

“I’m getting real uncomfortable with death on an epic scale.”
So says depressed beekeeper John Miller in More Than Honey, a documentary about the alarming fact that all around the world colonies of bees are collapsing and nobody really knows why. Throughout the film we see these numerous tiny apocalypses, thousands upon thousands of tiny bee carcasses spilling out of dead hives.  Humanity is in a bit of a bind on this one, our rapacious appetite for honey has led to us to keeping bees on ever bigger and more industrial scales.  We need to; it takes more than 10,000 worker bees to gather a single pound of honey - these bees have to fly the equivalent of twice around the world.  As they gather nectar they pollinate the flowers, thus ensuring the health and reproduction of plants. 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

'About Time' (2013) directed by Richard Curtis

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 1 Comment

About Time is a film devoid of curiosity, wit and intelligence yet stuffed to the gills with unbearable schmaltz, whiny acoustic guitar music and cutesy dull rubbish.  This is about as crap as it gets: two hours of not much happening to not very interesting people. Every moment the plot looks like it might head somewhere interesting the film shrugs its shoulders, does a U-turn and makes a beeline right back to Dullsville.  I lost count of the times I muttered "for fuck's sake..." under my breath and sunk into my seat as the film obstinately refused to end.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

'Pain & Gain' (2013) directed by Michael Bay

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Michael Bay's crimes against cinema, art and basic human decency are manifold.  If there were some kind of Nuremberg Trials for shitty directors he'd be one of the first hauled in front it.  His films are hi-gloss and pornographic, shot through with misogyny, homophobia, hooting US exceptionalism and a bloodcurdling quasi-fascist 'might makes right' philosophy. After a series of mind-bendingly loud blockbusters he expressed a desire to make a smaller, more personal, low-budget film, something a bit more intimate than robots confusingly clanging off each other.  The product: Pain & Gain, a tale of murderous criminal Mami bodybuilders complete with exploding cars, speedboat chases and lots of oodles slow motion. This, rather unsurprisingly, is Michael Bay's idea of 'intimate'.  

What is surprising is that Pain & Gain is absolutely brilliant.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

'We're the Millers' (2013) directed by Rawson Thurber Miller

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 1 Comment

There's two elements at play in We're the Millers.  The first is pretty funny, though rarely challenging, comedy about the pitfalls of trying to smuggle an RV full of marijuana over the Mexican border.  The second is a paean to conformism, the film brazenly explaining the myriad joys of seamlessly fit into a suburban, bourgeois lifestyle   A zany, occasionally gross-out comedy that also tries to impress domestic conservative values is a curious combination that shouldn't really work, so it's rather surprising how nearly it does.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Borrowed Time (2012) directed by Jules Bishop

Saturday, August 10, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

There is another London.  The City is a theme park of glittering spires, columns of Portland stone, imperial detritus and scattered, leafy squares.  But just a few miles away is another world, a seething morass of desperation and neglect.  Stratford. The streets are occupied by amoral teenagers, the apparent offspring of Alex DeLarge’s droogs.  In Borrowed Time, anyone who has the means shrinks from the outside world, frantically scrabbling their way to middle-class respectability or simply barricading themselves away from it all.  Those left to walk the streets live in a dog eat dog world.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

‘When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun’ (2010) directed by Dirk Simon

Friday, August 9, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Sometimes it feels like there’s too much wrong in the world.  Melting ice caps, civil war in Syria, enormous refugee camps in Somalia, the creeping growth of the Taliban in Pakistan, gay rights in Uganda, access to abortion in the US, the global decline of the Honeybee, removal of benefits from disabled people in the UK - the list goes on and on and on (and on and on).   When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun adds another headache to an ever-growing list: the Chinese annexation of Tibet.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’ (2013) directed by Declan Lowney

Thursday, August 8, 2013 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Of all the ways I thought an Alan Partridge movie could begin, I never imagined it’d open with a Koyaanisqatsi gag.  Over footage of a run-down seaside town comes Philip Glass’ title track for the 1983 movie, music that underlines the folly of man’s belief that he is in dominion over the world.  Strangely appropriate in retrospect.  Alpha Papa's subject is stuffy, egotistical and slightly demented but with an admirable sense of who he is and what the world owes him. This is a man beset by chaos and misfortune on all sides, a pompous figure desperate for people to laugh with him rather than at him.  He’s Alan Partridge.

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