Captain America: Civil War - How Rogers Betrays His Legacy and Becomes a Trump Libertarian

   Captain America is an illustration of how, sometimes, we get the hero we deserve, not the one we need.

   The erstwhile Steve Rogers, revived from stasis, has become very much a citizen of his time. In his original incarnation, the Avenger once fought for the truths, justice and American ways established by the FDR administration - the good of the community prevailed over the selfish desires of the individual, people still asked what they could do for their country and not vice versa.

   In Captain America: Civil War, Rogers is now situated in contemporaneous society and is seen as man whose spirit has very much caught up with the ideologies of our age. "I have faith in individuals," he pronounces at one point, an utterance which proves more profound, perhaps, than he intended. We now live in a neo-conservative world where the sovereignty of the individual is seen as more important than any other factor.

   A recent trend in superhero films (including in Batman v Superman). has seen our heroes deal with the fallout, collateral damage and consequences which stem from their deeds. Civil War is no different - as the Avengers attempt to subdue would-be terrorists in Lagos,  Wanda accidentally causes the deaths of multiple civilians with her powers. Horrified governments across the world agree that something must be done to prevent such tragedies occurring again - the group need to be held accountable for their actions and, as such, a universal accord should be signed by the heroes. The treaty suggests that, rather than run wild as vigilantes, the Avengers will now work as agents of the international community and under a universally agreed remit.

   Tony Stark, a one-time uber-capitalist, witnesses the destruction caused by his peers and experiences something of a guilt-inspired Damascene moment. The Avengers, he believes, should operate to enhance the world's security rather than jeopardise it; under what authority did the group invade foreign countries "for their own good" anyhow? Surely it is entirely undemocratic, and thus anti-American, to decide for one's self whether the law should be applied to them? His reason and rationale is accepted wholesale by many of the team including, to his surprise, the Black Widow.

   One mind shut off from reason is "Cap" - in polemic to Stark's political lurch to the left, Rogers has very much embraced the values of the new right. FDR and his New Deal seem as far removed as possible from our protagonist's thoughts - apart from fear itself, Rogers believes, we now have the tyranny of central government stampeding on our dreams of "freedom" to contend with.

   When asked to sacrifice personal autonomy for the good of the people, for democracy and international diplomacy, Rogers neglects his role - he knows his rights but straight-out refuses to accept his responsibilities. Why should he sign a contract which states he will be held accountable for what he does? What happens if he believes he knows better than the masses - surely Cap should be allowed to sidestep any rules society wants to impose on him if he chooses so? In this respect Rogers is an anti-authoritarian very much in the libertarian mold of a Donald Trump or a Rand Paul. When Margaret Thatcher declared "there's no such thing as society", she could have well been distilling Captain America's frame-of-mind into a six word slogan.

   As Rogers battles with the decision of doing the right thing or doing the thing he wants to do most, an important element from his past silently slips away into the night. No links or ties to his former, virtuous self bind him and Cap is free to follow his insatiable Id. He's now an entitled, selfish citizen of the post-Baby Boomers world where there's no such thing as "too much". What, now, can incentivise Rogers to act ethically or appropriately? A sudden, lustful embrace with a woman he shouldn't morally be involved with is the last nail in the coffin in which Rogers' integrity is buried. At this point, the only thing driving Captain America is his own self-regard. Damn the world, damn accountability, and damn decency.

   Stark, having seen the literally destructive nature of capitalism, has invested himself in making the world a better place rather than chasing any further dirty riches. His philanthropic actions, funding scientific research through multiple grants to students, mirror Tony Benn's dedication to "the white heat of technology" as too, do his denunciations of hereditary privilege and his march to the political left. If Captain America is Trump in this allegory, then Stark is the Bernie Sanders of this story.

   Rather than an action movie, the narrative found here is closer to a tragedy. The fall from grace, and catastrophic embrace of individualism and greed, the sovereignty of the self above all else, position the story as not only one of vicissitude for a post-FDR Captain America but, more pertinently, of America herself. Steve Rogers, a man who tries to evade international law and who provides himself with his own, ever-shifting moral barometer no-one else can hold him to, is the hero our times deserve.

Being Gay in South Korea - A Look at Lee Dong-Ha's Weekends

G-Voice Weekends

   Jae-woo is a doctor by trade, a musical director for a gay male choir by night.

   As Lee Dong-ha's camera frames Jae-woo in the elegant and eloquent Korean documentary Weekends, our protagonist recalls the moment a fellow chorister sought urgent advice from him on matters of love. Unexpectedly, a turn of phrase by his lonely-hearted peer inspired in Jae-woo the refrain for a new song he was writing: “I wanted to portray ‘realistic’ love stories among gays," the doctor noted. "Not something just pretty and fairytale like.”

   From the conversation between a wounded romantic and his eager listener, grew the pivotal refrain of what must surely be G-Voice's magnum opus 'Miracle on Jongno Street'. The tale within the song details a hopeful cry for compassion from a would-be lover and pivots on the line Jae-woo re-appropriated for the choir:

   “Though there are many men I wanna sleep with, you’re the only one I wanna hold hands with.”

   Weekends is very much a documentary which echoes the sentiments found in this song's lyrics - Lee has created a film about hope and solicitude, about bonds and connections and, ultimately, about holding out one's hand for those in need.

Korean bar

   The feature slowly introduces us to members of the group and, in doing so, we find much to relate to even if our lives don't mirror theirs exactly. We meet vocalists who are shy and coy; lovers whose relationship falls apart over a wandering pair of eyes; a couple who met through factually inaccurate online profiles; a young man forthcoming about his one-night stands and open relationships. These are 'realistic' love stories we can empathise with, experiences which are not "just pretty and fairytale like".

   As we get to know more about the cast of singers, our hearts open up and swell. Lee interviews G-Voice and we hear from Min who remembers he first realised he was gay whilst getting changed for gym at school; Ki-hwan recalls ogling his swimming teacher. The film too features the rather grim memories of a guilt-ridden former Christian trying to pray away the gayness inside of him, and of the young man abused by a married preacher. When one of the choristers speaks of his membership of the group, we now understand the appeal entirely: “There’s a sense of not standing alone.”

Korean LGBT parade

   To celebrate a decade of G-Voice - “It’s been ten years now but we still suck” - the group prepare themselves for a special performance, their biggest concert yet but, alas, find themselves confronted by intolerance and bigotry in the guise of feces-throwing, religious patriots. To have walked a mile in the group's shoes and see them challenged with such evil fills us with rage. Yet, it is the graceful and level-headed musings of singer Nam-woong which provide perspective: "These people are not monsters. They are people like my father, or like people in the church I grew up in".

   Homophobia, we see, is rooted in South Korean and Christian culture but we also observe the way to defeat wickedness is through kindness. A national catastrophe strikes and, in this moment, G-Voice realise the only things they can offer are the songs in their hearts and a consoling hand reaching out. "It's cold and life is hard, and there’s much to be sad and angry about," the band tell an audience filled with hurt. "Through the lyrics we’d like to say we’re with you and that through solidarity, we can make miracles come true."

   In this moment comes the acknowledgement that, regardless of how low one may feel, if we offer care to one another, there will never have to be a sense of standing alone. Indeed, to quote a rather great musical, if you give a little love then it all comes back to you.

   As with all great films, Weekends is a movie with a very specific topic but, simultaneously, is imbibed with universal themes we can all relate to, learn from and cherish. The movie shows us how, as people, we can each be crass and cruel, pious or hypocritical, mean or close-minded. Yet, equally, each us has it inside of us to be filled with hope and love, song and dance, mirth and awe. Grief can consume us, hatred can swallow us whole but it is community and only love for one another which can elate us.

   We need not miracles or fairytales, just empathy and love - something Lee Dong-ha's hugely important film has the power to pump through each of our veins.

Golden Years - Film Review

   Golden Years, a story of age against the machine, is a light-hearted crime romp in which the elders of our society try and take back what they feel entitled to after a life of hard-work and honest graft.

   Having lived by the letter of the law throughout their younger years our heroes are angered as their pension pots have been rendered worthless in the fall-out of the financial crisis; how, they ask, is this fair? Shouldn't their fiscal integrity be rewarded in the final decades of their existence? As the local community club is faced with closure and the Goodes' struggle with their medicinal bills, our protagonists feel let down by life and decide its better to burn out than to fade away.

   The solution to grievances the pensioners label as "daylight robbery" can be neatly-filed in the "eye-for-an-eye" category of karmic retribution - Arthur Goode (Bernard Hill) capitalises on a serendipitous slapstick accident outside of a bank, relieving the institution of a substantial amount of money. A Robin Hood-inspired crime-wave thus kicks off with a gang of senior citizens (disguised in "old people" masks) commit a series of faux armed robberies to correct the ill done to them. Good for them, we cheer, whilst choosing to ignore how much the current government have ring-fenced cuts to the older citizens of Britain in favour of demonising the poor, the disabled and the foreign.

   Directed by John Miller, Golden Years is a film clearly hoping to emulate the success of the growing niche of movies featuring old Brits looking for happiness in their autumn years - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Venus providing prime examples of these. And, we must ask, why not?

   Unfortunately for Miller's film, curiously co-written by DIY TV presenter Nick Knowles, the vast majority of the humour and story here is based on the assumption that "old people shouldn't do this kind of thing." If you find elderly people brandishing sex toys inherently funny, then this may raise a chortle every now and again. As Arthur and his wife Martha (Virginia McKenna) have a serious discussion in their caravan we hear a commotion of a gathering throng outside their parked mobile home: "If you're doing dogging you're supposed to keep the curtains open!" There's a very British feel to the laughs on offer here.

   Yet, it would be unfair to entirely damn Golden Years by the level of sophistication it fails to show. This is an unpretentious, easy film made with a low budget and a clear audience in mind. Yes, many of the technical aspects of the movie may feel amateurish and the script may occasionally meander across tones but, at its heart, Golden Years is an honest feature with real warmth held towards its rag-tag gang of senior citizens.

   There's some serious issues covered in the narrative - the redistribution of wealth by neo-Con governments, the collapse of community - and if these topics are discussed more widely because of this absurdist comedy then I doff my cap to the movie's makers.

GOLDEN YEARS is in cinemas from 29 April

Fish Hairdressing - Men's Hair Care Review

Fish putty

  Hair care has improved significantly for us male folk since the "Wet-look gel" craze of the 1990s. No longer is it good enough for us to scoop a hand full of coagulated gunk and slick it through our hair in the hope that having oleaginous follicles would somehow make us popular and attractive to the opposite sex. That the fashion of the time also dictated we males had to wear over-sized, neon Ben Sherman shirts makes the whole era somewhat of a nadir for Western aesthetics.

   Fast forward to today and we're almost spoilt for choice - wet-look gel is a thing of the past but now, as we preen and groom ourselves ready to face the world, we have an assortment of waxes, creams, oils, gels, sprays, putties and untold miscellany we can apply to our hair.

   This post features a small array of items from the brand Fish - a near thirty year old institution which has grown out of an old sex shop (and fishmongers) in Soho. Still at the forefront of personal grooming, Fish provide not only a number of items specifically for styling one's follicles but also, pleasingly, products for dealing with the often sticky aftermath of daily grooming. The items below constitute a selection of those currently available in stock at Ocado (and currently on sale with up to a third off of their suggested price):

Matt effect putty

  The first item to be featured in this post is their Fishpaste Putty.

   For those used to more traditional product, gel for example, the rather solid feel to the Fishpaste can be disorienting - the application actually does feel like a putty, or even plasticine, when one scoops a small amount with one's fingers to use. Our natural inclination is to keep substances like this away from our hair and the temptation, for the first couple of uses at least, is to apply an incorrect amount of putty. Whether the temptation is too little or too much, it may take a few attempts to master an appropriate balance.

   At this point I should note that on my first attempt at using the Fishpaste Putty, I ended up accidentally giving myself the There's Something About Mary look. I learned my lesson quickly and was soon able to spread the substance around more accurately and evenly, ultimately benefiting from the "hardcore hold" promised on the product's labeling.

   Due to the strength and "matt effect" which one gains from applying the putty, I would recommend this primarily for males with shorter hair. For those with mid-length or longer hair, the "matt" finish may give a lank appearance (as is the case with all grooming products with a similar style finish).

   As such, for those who prefer a neat trim, the Fishpaste Putty is an ideal, super-strong holding product which, should one wish, allows the wearer to easily re-style his hair with little effort too. I would suggest this is of most use to those who have a particularly stylised look and need a sturdy hold to achieve it.

   The second grooming substance in today's post comes in the form of Superfish Stiffish Moulding Cream - a more orthodox solution for men's follicle woes than the putty.

   To be concise, this is a rather excellent choice and more ideally suited to my own hair-style than the previous example. The Cream doesn't require an extravagant amount to provide a decent hold - and, on top of this, provides a pleasant, "clean" aroma.

   Unlike the putty, this is a product which doesn't "set" the hair per se. As noted on the packaging, the moulding cream is "durable without drying hard" - its best suited to those who like to have a "scruffed up" style for shorter locks or, like myself, men who like to shape our follicles into a certain style without fixing them static it to said position.

   Furthermore, and as noted once again on the labeling, this is a more "subtle" product than many. Copious amounts don't have to be rubbed deep into our cranium for the cream to function with full efficacy and the result is a head of hair which may not look as lank or as oleaginous as when compared to utilising alternative styling substances. That a little can go a long way, and can keep one's hair in place for a full working day (or night out - I'm a thorough journalist so tested both), is testament to the quality of the cream.

Superfish shampoo

   Yet, as we all know, the unfortunate aspect with applying product to one's hair on a daily basis is that one will need to employ a rather strong hair-washing treatment every night. (Those who have ever worn a significant amount of styling product in one's hair and slept with it still in will be able to testify how unpleasant this can feel the next morning. This may have happened to this intrepid reporter who drank too many beers whilst investigating the permanence of these products and headed straight to bed without the proper hair maintenance an adult should undertake. Consider this a precautionary tale.)

   As such, Superfish FierceFish De-Gunk Shampoo comes highly recommended. It does indeed "de-gunk" quite effectively and leaves the hair rather soft to the touch post-wash. This is a highly thorough shampoo aimed, almost exclusively, at purifying the hair and returning it to an appropriate state of tabula rasa from which we can re-apply product and re-style our hair without concerning ourselves with potential "bass notes" provided by lingering products from days gone by. That the product is full of Vitamin E, is an added bonus which leaves us with re-vitalised and strengthened follicles after use too. A win-win!

   So, in conclusion, when looking to choose the right products for you and your hair, it is essential you match up the style you want, the length of your hair too, with an appropriate styling substance. For my needs, the cream was much more suitable whilst for others, no doubt, the putty here could constitute a better choice. Whatever your decision, make certain to invest in some cleansing products for afterwards too. The De-gunk shampoo represents a great investment in my eyes.

Competition: Win Room on DVD

   There has been no greater, more profound or powerfully moving film released in cinemas in 2016 than Lenny Abrahamson's Room.

   Earlier this year, in my review, I wrote: "Room is not a film which is simply watched. This is a movie that is absorbed..."

   The multiple award-winning feature, detailing the escape of a young mother and her daughter from captivity in an enclosed "room", is one of the truly great and most original motion pictures of recent years - one which immerses us into a world of euphoric discovery.

   If you have not seen the movie as of yet, I give the highest recommendation possible that you should order a copy when it becomes available on DVD & Blu-Ray on 9th May via Studio Canal.

   I'm not alone in offering my utmost praise either - very rarely do movies receive the critical praise which Room has. Aside from the plethora of five-star reviews it received, Brie Larson triumphed at the Academy Award for her highly emotional performance here.

   If, however, you've already seen the feature, I'm quite confident you'll take no persuading to purchase a copy so as to relive the incredible sensations found across the running time. That the release comes with a director's commentary and a "making of" feature add to the appeal.

   I'm delighted to say that, for those of you looking to get your hands on the movie, I am able to offer two of my loyalest readers a copy for themselves to own.

   How to enter? Keep reading!

   To enter the competition to win one of two copies of Room on DVD, simply log-in to the Rafflecopter form below with your name and email address - we promise not to share, or pass on, this data to any third parties but will use this information to contact you if your entry is successful.

   Once logged in, you can enter the competition in up to two ways:

   The first way to do this is to follow my (relatively new) Twitter account at @KCBFD. You can do this through straight through the Rafflecopter form.

   Alternatively, or as an addition, please leave the name of your book-to-film adaptation. Whether it is The Princess Bride, Fight ClubAdaptation, or any other you can think of, I'd love to hear your answer..

   Once you've done this, you can confirm you've left a comment using the Rafflecopter form (by clicking the "Leave a Blog Post" option and then selecting the "I commented" box).

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

   The winners are selected at random through Rafflecopter and will be chosen on May 9th 2016 and contacted shortly thereafter.

   The prizes will be sent out upon confirmation of your win. There are no cash alternatives and entries can be disqualified at the judge's discretion. Entrants must be 15 or over and have a UK shipping address to enter. Maximum of two entries per person - one comment, one Twitter follow each.

    Good luck to one and all!

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