1. No lube thank you

2. Could you dim the lights?

3. I’ve brought some music with me

4. Could we do this in front of a mirror?

5. Is that a Rolex?

6. You remind me of my first wife

7. Tell me a little bit about yourself

8. Fancy a pint later?

9. I’m nearly there

10. All done? High Five!

With these lists it’s always Wrath of Khan or the reboot at number one, and people always bang on about the even number rule, ignoring the fact that The Search for Spock is brill. My list is a little bit different. I had planned on going into a bit more detail, but this will have to do. The Star Trek Into Darkness teaser came out today. That does look rather intriguing. I’d put the teaser alone above most of the Next Generation films. Anyway, here’s my list:

11. Star Trek: Insurrection

There was a bit of buzz about this one. Rumours that it was going to be called Star Trek: Civil War, and that Alan Rickman was going to play a renegade Starfleet captain, made it sound rather exciting. Instead we got the crew of the Enterprise disobeying their superiors to defend a planet of flower people from a race of cosmetic surgery addicts. It’s mostly very dull and the effects are variable too.

10. Star Trek: Generations

This is possibly even more boring than Insurrection, despite the rather grand plot. A scientist proves so addicted to the blissful existence found within a wave of energy that he’s prepared to wipe out solar systems, Captain Kirk and Kirk’s hairpiece to get to it. There’s a saccharine air to a lot of the film and a few gaping plot-holes to boot. I give it good marks only for its excellent effects, which I think are some of the most visually striking of the series. The stellar cartography room is nice too, but when one of the best things about a film is a big map, then you can assume the film isn’t very good.

9. Star Trek: Nemesis

You can actually understand what Tom Hardy says is this film, although unfortunately it’s mainly drivel. I gather there was some tension between steady hand action director Stuart Baird and his cast during production. It doesn’t really show but the staples of mediocre Star Trek films are all here – lame humour, mawkish sentimentality and unambitious scope. It does throw in more spaceship battle action than most though, which for me nudges it up the chart.

8. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Without doubt the most inept film of the series. Wasn’t there a funding crisis at ILM while this was made, meaning that some of the effects look like they’ve been rendered by the old 1970’s BBC Doctor Who team? (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released around the same time, also suffered from weak effects-itis). So yes, it’s daft and cheesy and regularly resembles an impromptu sci-fi soap opera performed by a pissed-up am dram group. It remains however more entertaining than 75% of the Next Generation films, the chemistry between the old hands is good, and I find Sybok a more interesting villain than most.

7. Star Trek

Yes, the re-boot. The technically spiffing one with good acting and the script that actually made my non-Star Trek fan wife laugh. I like it but it’s not a film I would revisit often. The villains aren’t that interesting for a start and the action isn’t as gripping as I would have liked. A good film though. We’re definitely on the up.

6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Certainly the film with the best trailer of the series. This packages a cold war allegory and a whodunit together rather well. The score is impressively doom-laden, the script is well-written and the veteran cast are at their best here. The Shakespeare spouting villain is great fun too (always enjoy Plummer playing a wrong’un). On the negative side the Rura Penthe scenes are occasionally excessively silly, with the then effects craze of morphing in full unnecessary evidence. Overall though, a good send-off for the old guard.

5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Or The Funny One as it’s otherwise known. There must have been a taste for fish out of water films in 1986, as this displaced Crocodile Dundee at the top of the US box office on release. Despite the antagonist threatening (unwittingly it seems) global catastrophe, The Voyage Home has a jaunty air unique amongst the series. The humour works for the wider audience too, and not just Trekkies (if only the Next Generation films had taken note). It’s tremendous fun, but the score doesn’t work for me, and the end titles wouldn’t be out of place in a tv movie. Otherwise I might have placed it slightly higher.

4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I like it a great deal but I just don’t think it’s the best. It has lots going for it – terrific thumping score, exciting space battles, Spock dying, Kirk screaming Khan’s name and the most tremendous lip trembling during a eulogy speech ever captured on film. Some it looks very cheap however, and that’s because compared to its overdraft hammering predecessor it was. It probably deserves to be ranked higher than my number 3, but there’s just something about

3. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

that I love. If anything this is even more elegiac than Wrath of Khan. The mind-meld between Kirk and Sarek is surprisingly touching. The death of the Enterprise is wrenching and very well staged. There are other delights, such as the stealing of the Enterprise, the first appearance of the Bird of Prey, and Shatner’s acting on hearing the death of Kirk’s son. The effects work is really nice, with strong colours, lighting and framing (although occasionally they are well shit and cheap). Also, in a series where soundtracks are generally very strong indeed, this one has probably the best. I love it.

2. Star Trek: First Contact

Jonathan Frakes had already directed quite a few tv episodes before receiving his big screen debut here, but still the confidence and skill with which First Contact is put together is impressive. Despite a few moments of tedium on Earth, this is the most gripping of the series and visually it is frequently memorable. The opening sequence was ahead of its time but additionally the first shot of the Enterprise, the battle with the Borg, the deflector dish fight, the evacuation pods, and many more moments exhibit great visual flair. The film also trumps II’s Ceti eel in ear ghastliness with Borg drill in eye grisliness. The script is strong and there’s proper acting from the likes of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner. Also, Alice Krige proves to be the sexiest, most flirtatious two thirds cybernetic zombie-skinned genocidal alien queen ever to grace the silver screen. I also like that Picard is listening to Les Troyens, by Berlioz. A nice subtle in-reference that I didn’t get until about my 15th viewing and some Google searching.

1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

For a 6 year old used to the thrills of Star Wars, this was probably the most boring and least comprehensible film I ever saw at the cinema. For a 38 year old jaded fart with sore joints and a suspicious view of anything modern, this film is pure luxury. No cinema adaptation of a television programme I can think of has ever treated its source with such respect. In these days of staccato editing, the once criticised lengthy and loving shots of the Enterprise and the slow scenes of progress through the V’ger construct are a real tonic. There’s no CGI, just the efforts of dozens of craftsmen and hours of painstaking effects work and while some of the results now look dated, others still look terrific. There’s tonnes of memorable stuff – Spock’s long hair; the frankly upsetting transporter accident; the amazing reintroduction to the Enterprise; Bones’ beard; the space walk; Klingons getting battered by a big blue cloud; Spock crying; the wormhole effect which was apparently very expensive and difficult to create despite not looking like it was either; the game which human Ilia was very good at but which looks absolutely rubbish, and loads more. For me the film is a bit like test cricket. I can stick it on and pay it full attention, or wander off, do other things and pop back to it later in the full knowledge that it will still be trudging along slowly but splendidly.

So, does anyone agree with anything I say? I’m merely a bronze level certificate Star Trek fan, so please do forgive any empirical errors.

this is worse. Surely a nice hat would have been a better solution to the embarrassment he obviously feels at losing his hair at a young age. That’s what I did when mine started falling out in clumps at the age of 21. Although maybe the older women prefer him with luscious thick locks, even if they appear to have been individually stapled in.

Wazza

Rooney, photogaphed by friends just days after receiving £30k worth of hair implant treatment.

 

Boris

Horror legend Boris Karloff in the 1930s role that made him famous.

A friend has already pointed out that a mere 5 reasons might not do this topic justice, but as I imagine there are a finite amount of pages on the internet I will limit myself to these initial thoughts. These points relate predominantly to office work, the most miserable of trades.

The Hours of the Day
You spend roughly 8 hours asleep. Of the 16 hours of the day remaining, 1 hour is spent getting up and ready for work, between 1 and 2 hours is spent travelling into work, then there’s the 8 hours of actually being at work. 1 to 2 hours is spent getting back home, leaving you between 4-6 hours to yourself. One of those hours will be spent talking about work with a significant other, flatmate or just your mentally traumatised self. Potentially another hour will be spent weeping into one’s microwaved curry about work. The precious few hours remaining will be spent either watching television programmes such as The Apprentice or The Office, or drinking quantities of alcohol which you were strictly warned about doing by some self-righteous busybody manager. Either way the time will fast approach where it’s time for the allotted 8 hours of sleep, where you’ll most likely have that annoying dream about being late for work. Of course, there is a way round this and that’s to drink heavily the moment you leave the office, but chances are you’ll wake up with little memory of your precious few hours of freedom and only minutes to get ready for yet another long and dreary slog, and in some cases you may even wake up under your desk as if you’d never left, having been too drunk to find your way home the night before.

Time and Relative Dimensions in Work
I think Albert Einstein said it best when he said something very clever and confusing about time, perception and relativity. I believed he used the idea of a person travelling on a train to illustrate his theories (here’s one explanation), when perhaps he should have used the example of a man sat at his desk in work to give the definitive example. Whenever your average human being is given a rare opportunity to indulge in something fun, the time spent doing it flies by. Whenever that same person has to spend a day at work, the cogs of of time grind to a rusty halt and every simple second appears to last at least 4 minutes. Of course, time is passing at exactly the same rate whatever you are doing (near enough anyway; there is scientific evidence that proves there is a slight variation). At work however time drags like in nowhere else. Every key stroke feels like tooth extraction. Every meeting feels like a Wagnerian opera played in slo-mo. The only time worktime gathers pace is when there’s an urgent deadline to meet. Then it suddenly decides to skip along merrily and if the deadline is especially urgent don’t be surprised if time speeds by like a Tron light-cycle.

Having a job costs a fortune
I’m sure if I just stayed at home and held my breath, I’d be no worse off financially than for coming into work. First there are the basic costs. Travel to and from the office, and money for lunch. If your company has a dress code you’ll be forced to purchase smarter clothes than your preferred ketchup stained t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. Then there are unreasonable demands made on your wallet by calls for contributions to birthday presents for colleagues. Chances are these are at best people you’ve never heard of and at worst characters you despise with every proton of your existence. Perhaps even worse, when it’s your own birthday you’re expected to feed your colleagues with crisps, cakes and vegan rice cakes for the pale, emaciated misery-guts in the corner. For sustenance throughout the day your office may provide free vending machines but these will almost certainly vend undrinkable swill, so you find yourself forking out large amounts of change for buckets of caffeine to keep you awake. Then there’s the cost of socialising. On leaving work people are so de-mob happy that they’re prepared to put enmity aside and drink with anyone from their workplace, just as long as they can drink. This costs lots of money. Tens upon tens of thousands of pounds over the years in some people’s experience (ahem!). Very few people can afford to work for a living.

The shit rises to the top
It appears to be a common link between organisations that intelligent, amusing and interesting employees slave away for minimum reward while socially backward, dense and ferociously incompetent staff soar into the promotion stratosphere. I theorise that the latter take work so much more seriously that in many ways they are bound to get ahead. However, I have known senior managers who couldn’t tie their shoelaces until in their 30s; communications and marketing managers with the reading ages of 9 year olds; and managing directors so studiously absorbed in their own self-importance that they’d need a board meeting to tell them their face was on fire. Generally these dullards will be prepared to tread on a kitten’s neck to get ahead in the workplace, while decent people just muddle along trying to do the best they can be bothered with. Their reward – bugger all.

What’s the point?
The thing you worry and grind your teeth about is more likely than not completely without meaning or consequence and in 5 years time, or even much less, your efforts may as well have not occurred. I don’t mean to do workers a disservice. I fully applaud all those people who go out every day and slog through another 7.5 hours of misery just to put food on plates, clothes on limbs and taxes in government coffers. We need these people. We need to work ourselves. However tasks such as completing a spreadsheet, updating a website, delivering a presentation, all the myriad duties performed in an office role generally have an inverse importance to that which is placed on them by the bigwigs referenced in point 4. When sitting down with a manager and going through the year’s objectives one is given the impression that they have an importance second only to a Papal funeral. Are we supposed to descend into Bacchanalian revelry when our manager ticks the “Has provided good customer service” box? Perhaps I’m expected to invite the family round and solemnly announce that it’s been deemed I met the 2 day task turnaround time as required, before weeping emotionally and hugging each of my nearest and dearest with whom I had to share this landmark. Or perhaps we correctly do none of these things, because most people fully understand that ultimately work is meaningless. Unfortunately those who have been sent to make us despair, our managers, can’t get their heads round that fundamental truth and so the misery continues…

I’m going to take the ‘making lists’ route in my blog for the time-being and see how it goes. Films are always a popular subject and lists of underrated films has been covered many times. So, for the 14 millionth time someone has done it, here’s my list of 5 random films (all Hollywood I’m afraid) that I think were or are underrated.

The Shadow (1994)
Give me this film over most of the Batman films (and I include the bloated Nolan examples) any day. The Shadow himself doesn’t necessarily make that appealing a hero. He has a brutal past, is rather creepy and one of his chief powers it seems is being able to make his nose grow. Alec Baldwin (who is very slim in this compared to his chunky frame these days) is a compelling actor though and  the film is pacy and visually inventive. It also looks sumptious, with good costume work and excellent period sets and locations. The film flopped fairly badly, ultimately making less in its full US run than Batman Forever made in its opening weekend the following year. Which is a travesty. Batman Forever is shit.

Hannibal
I’m in two minds about The Silence of the Lambs. I find much to admire in it but I also find it quite dull. I don’t much care for Anthony Hopkins’s unplaceable accent either. Thankfully it doesn’t reappear in the gorier, dafter and more entertaining sequel. There’s good support from tough but vulnerable Julianne Moore and the bloke who plays Mathis in the Daniel Craig James Bond films, and it’s left to an unrecognisable Gary Oldman to chew the scenery as a mutilated billionaire seeking revenge on Lecter. It’s beautifully shot and reasonably suspenseful. I gather the extremely unpleasant final scenes turned critics against it, but if Hannibal Lecter isn’t going to serve human brain from a living donor to his dinner guest then who is?

Star Trek – The Motion Picture
The 5 year old me would not put this in an underrated film list. The 5 year old me thought this the most boring film I’d ever seen at the cinema. The 5 year old me wanted constant space battles, laser guns, heroics and action, not a two hour existential trip undertaken by a crew of middle-aged men in wigs and corsets. As I’ve got older, grumpier and more sedentary the latter has become far more appealing. Robert Wise directed this with a lot of respect for the television series and its fans, as the reverence for the Enterprise in this scene demonstrates.  The film was a box-office hit but long, slow scenes like these alienated non-devotees in the audience and helped engender the view that the film was as boring as washing up cutlery. I don’t hold this view at all. Star Trek – The Motion Picture offers grand sequences and allows the viewer plenty of time to absorb them, which is far preferable to Michael Bay throwing 80 incomprehensible shots a  minute at his audiences.

Ghostbusters II
The summer of 1989 gave birth to the modern blockbuster. Unfortunately for Columbia Pictures, that modern blockbuster was Batman. Ghostbusters II was eagerly anticipated, opened big and was then trampled on by the dark knight the following weekend. The hype around Batman was exciting, and there’s much to commend in its design and visual-style but it isn’t a hugely enjoyable film. Ghostbusters II is comparatively unambitious but it’s witty and upbeat and features some enjoyable performances, notably from bit-part character actor specialist Peter MacNicol, who also features in my next, criminally underrated film…

Addams Family Values
American television has provided a rich bounty of shows for Hollywood to plunder for the big screen, mostly with heinous results (The Beverly Hillbillies) and occasionally with surprisingly good results (The Brady Bunch Movie is a minor gem). The Addams Family was released in late 1991 to fairly solid critical notices and very healthy box office returns and firmly falls into the good “tv to film translation” camp. 2 years later its sequel, Addams Family Values, opened to much reduced fanfare and significantly lower box office. Even a glowing review by Julie Burchill (ahem) didn’t save the film from rapid evaporation and the franchise limped on in dire television movies until dying a natural un-death. Frankly this was an undeserved epitaph for what was one of the finest American comedies of the 90s. It crackles with quick wit, one-liners and visual jokes. The wonderful regular cast are all on song and are joined by an unnvervingly sexy Joan Cusack, an amusingly nasal David Krumholtz and the brilliant duo of Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski as a pair of children’s camp co-ordinators with a pathological determination for their reluctant charges to ‘get involved’. It’s a joy from start to finish, and I wish someone would make an effort to produce a decent dvd of blu-ray release for it and its predecessor.

Not a comprehensive list, or even a very well thought out one. Just some thoughts.

1. 24/7 A short way of saying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which no-one used to say anyway so why they now feel the need to say the short version I have no idea. An American import I suspect. Sometimes used to describe a person’s activities. Presumably a person who never sleeps and who either has boundless energy or is suicidal due to sleep deprivation. T4 presenters use it a lot, so it scores double points for hatefulness.

2. Period I suspect that many English people who end sentences with “….Period” don’t really understand what they are saying, but have heard it on a film or television programme and think it adds extra weight to their exhortations. ‘Period’ is what Americans call a full stop. If you are English and end a sentence with “…Period”  it sounds you have been overcome by Tourette’s Syndrome. You may just as well exchange the word for “Flow week”, “On the blob” or “Got the painters in”. It won’t make you sound any more the buffoon.

3. You do the math. No, you fuck off. You’ve missed an ‘s’ off. Actually, even “You do the maths” or “You do the mathematics” is unacceptable.

4. Rookie. I hear British sport journalists refer to young or recently blooded sportsmen as “rookie” quite a lot these days. I always associated it with the terribly un-English baseball, but it seems that the earliest use of the word has been traced back to Kipling and refers to a ‘raw recruit’ in the British Army. It still sounds wrong out of the mouth of an Englishman though. I think I would prefer it if they used ‘ingenue’.

5. Ass – Kick-ass – bad-ass – any ass. It’s arse. If you want to add a kick, kick it up the arse. If it’s bad, it probably needs ointment eg – “I have a bad arse, doctor. Can I have some super-strength Preparation H from under the counter please? “. The word Ass relates to one of these friendly fellows – http://donate.wspa.org.au/reallywildgifts/images/x_images/med_ecard_donkey.jpg  Please donate to the WSPA or RSPCA if you can.

6. And I was like…… “And I was like this, and he was like this, and then I was like this…..” There are probably 400,000 similar conversations going on in Britain at this very moment, each as witless and tedious as each other. This is the result of more insidious American influence I believe and is going to be very hard to put a stop to, but do please try. Also, don’t think for a second I dislike Americans. I don’t at all.

7. Can I get a… If I was working behind a bar or a shop counter and someone said “Can I get a…” to me, I would turn my back on them until they had put their order to me in a more polite fashion. “Could I have…” or “May I have…” – lovely. “Can I get a…” – no, you cannot get a anything. Go away and carry on living your fantasy US television life somewhere else please. Preferably alone, up a mountain, in space.

8. Anything that Dappy from N’Dubz says – anything that collosal egomaniac moron says should never be said by anyone, let alone an Englishman. You can tell he’s a complete idiot with about as much sense to impart as a Wileda super-mop by the fact Channel 4 seem determined to have him speak to the nation every Christmas. Polly Vernon, an editor of The Observer no less (or no more, depending on your point of view) seems to think he’s vibrant (awful word) and fun, conveniently ignoring that he’s previously been charged with assaulting a woman and, notoriously, sent death threats to a woman who had the audacity to call him rubbish. She even fails to mention that he has a head like a jaundiced peanut.  Surely that band’s 15 minutes of unmerited fame have expired.

It’s odd that I’ve chosen scary scenes from film and TV as my first blogging topic because, despite my near lifelong love of the horror genre, I am also the biggest, windiest pudding who ever watched a film. Anything scares me.  As a child I was terrified of this advert for Denim aftershave.  Once I remember banging on the toilet door to alert my Mum, who was trying to pass motion in peace, that it was on the telly and that I needed rescue. It never occurred to me to just change the channel. To this day I still find myself wide-eyed and awake in the middle of the night, recalling something frightening I’d seen earlier, wishing the hours of dawn would hurry along….wishing  I’d never watched whatever the bloody thing was in the first place. So it’s quite strange that this much talked about scene from ITV’s 1989 adaptation of Susan Hill’s “The Woman in Black” has so little effect on me. When trawling through IMDB talkboards years ago, where the subject was scariest scenes, this one was mentioned time and time again. I recall the anecdote of someone’s father being so afrighted by it that they threw their dinner plate in the air during its shock moment. Watched in isolation it’s hard to see how it could ever have that effect, but maybe I need to watch the programme in its entirety for the scene to fulfill  its maxmimum sphincter quivering potential.  The famous stage adaptation certainly did terrify me. Perhaps the problem is simply that I have a sneaky fancy for the Woman in Black herself. I’ve often watched Pauline Moran’s character Miss Lemon in Agatha Christie’s Poirot and thought “I bet you were a bit of all right when you were younger” and having looked into the matter further (ie – Googled it) it seems my suspicions were correct. Therefore I’m sorry Miss Woman in Black but I suspect you were far too attractive in your youth to be scary to me now.