Friday, 26 August 2011

What Star Wars has taught me

Star Wars is a big part of my life. I was not one of the lucky ones who got to experience the original trilogy at the cinema. My first memory of Star Wars was watching Return of the Jedi with my dad one Christmas. This was in the golden age, when each Christmas Star Wars was as regular as the festive Bond film.

I quickly got the trilogy on VHS, and found myself drawn to Empire. It makes sense that as I was growing up my friends and myself gravitated to this film. It's dark brooding tone and underlying story of coping with your identity resonated with our changing adolescent personalities.

Then after years of rumours the prequel trilogy was made. I was desperate for it to be great. I found myself making excuses for the Phantom Menace. I repeatedly told people it couldn't be judged until the whole trilogy was in place, to give it context. I'm sad to say I was wrong.

Despite all of this, I still got the prequel trilogy. I needed the set. Like most fans I own various versions of the films, on various formats, plus a worth of other merchandise. Star Wars doesn't just take though. It gives, and it taught me several important things-

Shooting first doesn't make you a bad guy- Despite George Lucas' attempts to change celluloid history we all know Han shot first. The galaxy's a harsh place, Greedo knew what he was getting into. Pulling that trigger doesn't make Han a bad guy, just someone pushed to his (very casual) limit. Besides if he hadn't of taken Greedo down, he wouldn't have gone with Obi Wan, and who knows what would happened.

Jesus was probably a Jedi- So this could be viewed as controversial. I'm not going to bang on about how Star Wars is an allegory for religion. What I am going to say is that Anakin was conceived without physical contribution from a chap, as was Jesus. Anakin could do some pretty wacky stuff with the force. Jesus did some pretty wacky stuff. Anakin rose after being killed (as a force ghost). Jesus rose after being killed (could have been a force ghost). You can see why it's easy to make the link.

It's ok to fancy your sister, as long as you don't know she's your sister- A lot is made of Luke and Leia. I think too much. Let's look at the facts objectively. Leia is smoking hot. Luke is a bloke. A 19 year old bloke. From a desert planet. Populated by sand people. He never knew he had a sister, and knew nothing of the force at this point. Of course he's going to fancy Leia. If he'd kissed her after he knew, well then we'd have issues.

Justified Rebellion is good- Rebellions are funny things. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. It's all about perspective. Luckily you know you're a bad guy if you're on a starship full of British people, you're dressed head to toe in black, and your boss is a geriatric in a towelling robe.

Cute creatures are fine when you're young- Good ol' Ewoks. Cute little fuzzballs that they are. Most of us grew up with Ewoks and so saw them as what they were, cute, kiddie fodder. Arguably they were in the film to sell toys and give the youngsters something to like. I was young and I bought in to it. The Gungans on the other hand get no such slack. This is because I'm now older watching the film through adult eyes. I have no use for shallow marketing. That's why all original fans hate Gungans and their embodiment Jar Jar Binks. The kids three rows in front love him.

The Empire's pilots get a raw deal- You're a young pilot. Some of your mates have joined the rebellion, some are still with the Empire. On the one hand you've got your government asking you to pitch in. On the other there's an ill funded rag tag group of rebels. Unless the Empire slighted you in some way the sensible choice is the Empire. So you're scrambled to intercept some rebels. No problem, your in a faster craft with more firepower. So what if it doesn't have warp. Who needs that with Star Destroyers? And so what if it doesn't have shields....wait, it doesn't have shields? And they do? But we're the Empire,, we don't you say? Huh, not what I was expecting. As I said, a raw deal.

No one is beyond redemption- I'm looking at you here Anakin. Darth is a prime example of how, no matter what you do, no matter how bad, as long as you're really sorry at the end, you're all good. To a lesser extent Han also gets away with this.

Having a girls name for a nickname can lead to dark places- If I was called 'Anny' (i know it's 'Ani', but I'm making a point) I'd start taking names and kicking some arse. No wonder he turned to the dark side.

Being a Jedi is more hazardous than being a Sith-

Number of Jedi killed during the six films- 9,900 (estimated)
Number of Sith killed during the six films- 3 (4 if you include Vader)

Darth Shaneo

The Empire is impressive, yet impractical- AT-ATs and AT-STs are super impressive bits of kit. Who the hell designed them though? I mean really? Surely someone must have stopped and said, 'legs? Are we absolutely sure this is the best solution?'.

Never throw away your toys- I will keep every toy I buy my son. How many of us have cursed our mothers after seeing yet another action figure sold for a small fortune? An action figure we owned. At least up to the point when our do-gooder mothers sold them for change at the school jumble sale. NEVER AGAIN.

Film parodies can be funny- Long before the woeful run of Wayan brothers parody movies Mel Brooks was peddling a much funnier version of our favourite sci-fi space opera. I, of course, refer to Spaceballs. It reminds us all that nothing should be taken too seriously.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Terrible bad guys

Over the course of the past two decades or so I've seen a fair few films. Some have been good (The Empire Strikes Back), some have been bad (Moulin Rouge). I'm not here to talk about that.

What I am going to talk about is those films, not necessarily bad in themselves, that have terrible bad guys.

These bad guys will either just be a bit shit, or just look entirely out of place in the film, or both.

This is also by no means a definitive list. There is, after all, a lot of shit out there.

Bennett from Commando

Bennett is an ex-Captain, dishonourably discharged from John Matrix's command. He was a highly skilled military soldier. Looking at him in this film it's clear he's let himself go.

The issues I have with Bennett are:

-he's super chunky, not a bad thing but doesn't wash given his supposed past
-he's super Australian, not in a manly way but the camp way that just doesn't sit well
-he looks a bit like Freddie Mercury
-he thinks a chain mail wifebeater is adequate day wear

Bennett does give it his all in being a bad guy but just comes off as a pantomime villain.

John Travolta in Battlefield Earth & Swordfish

Both very different films, but very similar bad guys in being a bit crap. In the first Johnny plays a large humanoid alien with suspect hair. In the second Johnny plays a large dick with suspect hair.

The issues I have are:

-John Travolta acts badly
-Both have ridiculous hair cuts
-Both are in positions of power, yet have no redeemable qualities to justify said positions

Apart from some genuine mental instability (is this Travolta or acting?) neither seem particularly threatening.

Mr Freeze from Batman & Robin

In the comics Mr Freeze was a great bad guy, ranking in at #67 in IGN's top 100 comic book villains.

The issues:

-Complete disregard for the laws of all three major sciences

In Batman & Robin he was a campy, pun spinning wanker. The best, or worst of them being "Ice to see you". As a bad guy he could only scare a superhero in a nipple suit.

Poison Ivy from Batman & Robin

Arguably I'm picking on Batman & Robin, but it was dog turd. So this is second villain in my list from this film.

The issues with Ivy:

-Uma has too many clothes on (seriously, check the comic books)
-Thwarted by fake rubber lips
-Everything about Batman & Robin is turd

Ivy introduces us to Bane, who himself is guff, but is spared my tongue this time, and tries to rule Gotham with fancy poisons, powders, and kisses. She's thwarted by a fake pair of rubber lips. I need say no more.

Vigo from Ghostbusters 2

Vigo the Carpathian was a bag full of hot air.

My issues with Vigo:

-He lives in a painting
-He is not a god
-He is a twat

Spending the majority of the film stuck in a self portrait he gathers power from 'mood slime', which resembles bubble bath. Ghostbusters 2 would have been a great film, if it had a different villain.

Tommy Gunn from Rocky V

Poor old Tommy. He just couldn't see what was happening around him. The tragedy is that this also played out in parallel during his real boxing career.

The issues with Tommy:

-He's a 'knuckle head'
-He shows Rocky no respect, no respect at all I tells ya
-He's another husky chap, who's supposed to be an athlete at the top of his game

'The Machine Gunn' was never really the villain of the piece, it was actually Duke, but the fact that he fell for the patter, and then went head to head with the man that got him the title, means he deserves his place in the rogues gallery.

Juggernaut from X Men: The Last Stand

Even before the film Juggernauts a poor bad guy. He's essentially a big bloke with a helmet.


-Helmet is his strength (fnarr, fnarr, guffaw)
-Played by Vinnie Jones in a muscle suit
-Played by Vinnie Jones

His 'power' is being stacked. In the film his ability is the inability to be stopped once he starts running. That's pretty guff.

M Night Shamalamadingdong's natural phenomenons from whatever new 100 minute pile of shit he's put together

I suggest you read the plot to this film on Wikipedia. You'll be as amazed as me that it was actually funded and made.


-Plants decide enough is enough
-They use a defence mechanism they've always had, but use it as this point, instead of the millions of other occasions we've fucked them over
-All plant life contains undiscovered toxins
-The effects of the toxin are suicide

I'd also suggest donating to this site, at current exchange rates it's only £0.63.

In the interest of your boredom, and my waning desire to continue, these eight will have to do you for now. Feel free to suggest any more.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Beard workshop

After a quick social media discussion on the topics of beards, I realised that this is a topic that needs addressing.

The majority of men at some point will dabble with facial hair. Some will be content with wisps here and there, whilst others will commit to the decadence of full on face fuzz. It probably stems from seeing our fathers do the same dabbling as their fathers before them.

I hope that one day my son will look at me quizzically whilst I stare in the mirror and stroke my chin enigmatically. Thus planting the seed and encouraging facial topiary in his later years.

Digression aside, here's my guide on things beardy-

The stages of beard:

You've decided the time is right to grow a beard. You've given it a go a few times before, but it hasn't been a concerted effort.Once you've made your mind up you'll go through certain stages-

Confidence- your stubble feels rougher than usual. Are you imagining it? Yes you are, but keep this good feeling alive, you'll need it as time goes on.

At this early stage you'll be convinced that in five days you'll be akin to Brian Blessed.

Concern- it's a couple of days on. Your stubble hasn't proliferated as you would have expected. Doubts are creeping in. Can you see it through? Is it your time to beard? Have you tried too soon?

Keep going, persistence will serve you well.

Itching- are there fleas here? Have I caught some facial disease I can't see? No, you're in the itching phase. No matter what happens your face will feel like it's on fire. There will be moments of calm, but they won't last.

Some people will only experience this for a matter of days, others it will seem like weeks. For all it is a challenge.

Failure- The patches you had forgotten are glaring at you every time you look in the mirror. You look more trampy than distinguished. You still get flashbacks of the itching, and wonder where the ginger came from, you've had enough.

Some of you will only get this far before giving in (there's no shame in doing so) and embracing the blessed relief of shaving.

Success- You won't know you've done it. You'll still be seeing those cursed patches. It won't be until someone mentions your beard. You'll stop and realise that if others are seeing it as beard, then you've done it.

Congratulations you've got a beard. We'll cover what you can do with a little later.

Key tools in your struggle to grow a beard:

Being lazy- I've said it for years, being lazy gets results. Almost all beards start by the act of being too lazy to shave for a consistent period of time. Eventually this laziness morphs into beard growth. Therefore also giving you an excuse for your previous laziness.

Friends- Normally most mates, most of the time, are only good for mocking you. However coordinate your laziness and you've got a pub located beard support group.

Quiet wife- this is a hypothetical tool, as it doesn't exist yet. If it did it would handy as once you get too stubbly the other half's nagging can break down even the strongest resolve. Unfortunately if you are in a long term, committed, relationship you'll only be able to fly under the radar for so long before the ball and chain gets on your case.

Frequent problems:

Beardovers- To the casual observer all they see is beard. You know the truth though, what they are seeing is faux-beard. Beardovers are handy patch fillers, but only occur when the beard reaches a certain length. Even the lushest of beards will contain some level of 'beardover'.

Growth speed- I take ages to grow facial hair. Likewise, there are people that take a matter of hours. If you are cursed like me, growing a beard is the supreme endurance test. Keep going though, the longer it takes, the more it'll mean to you.

Hair colour- in some cases it's not growth speed that dictates beard presence, but colour. If you're dark haired you'll find things infinitely easier, your hair will contrast with your skin much quicker, giving the appearance of growth.

I'm a blond so my beard is largely transparent until the end of the first week when it will start resembling 5 o'clock shadow.

Rust- You've lead a good life. You decide to grow a beard. About a week in you realise something's amiss. Your beard is ginger. How the fuck did that happen?

That's right somewhere in the dark past of your family someone was a ginger. The chances are it's been long forgotten by most of the family. You will have to live with the knowledge that you carry the gene to proliferate the rouge hair pigmentation.

Mitchell syndrome- this revealed itself via the afore mentioned social discussion. A good friend of mine has no problem growing facial hair, however in a cruel twist of evolution, he can only grow it in the 'goatee' formation.
How many men suffer this is unrecorded, but it could be that we are seeing the next stage of human evolution. To save us time cutting in complicated designs it might just grow in only these areas.

What success looks like:


A light smattering, gives that casual look. Only successful if coverages appears to be 100%


You've grown it to a wild point, now like a prize lawn you need to keep it neat.


Similar to neat, but a bit unkempt. Usually sported by students and the unemployed.

Too far-

It's got a bit big, maybe you didn't realise it. Maintenance will be required.


While I admire the dedication required to get to this level, you're still a hipster dick.

The prize:

What do you do once you've got a beard? You've probably had it a couple of weeks and have day dreamed about the fantastic shapes you can create.

Take your time, document your steps, cut in. Remember you can take away, but can't add. Be conservative and stop when you're happy. Enjoy your success.


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