Bachelor Games Film Review

   I'm quite certain that each of the male readers of this post will have been there - caught in a moment on a Stag Do when you realise everything has gone just a little bit awry. What may have begun as an evening full of well natured hi-jinx and jocular japes ends up a million miles from anything which could be described as "fun". Laddish banter gets replaced by an air of foreboding menace and everybody hates one another with alcohol-powered intensity. The stag, dressed as a human hot dog, has just tried to headbutt a gargantuan bouncer, one who is as wide as he is tall. Tears and beer-stains have ruined our specially-printed #StagSquad T-shirts and no one can remember the way back to the Newcastle Premier Inn we're all staying at.

   Bachelor Games, the latest film by Edward McGown, takes the worst stag story you can think of and multiplies the terror exponentially. What's the worst thing that could happen? Well, since you asked, quite a lot actually....

   The movie, one which is coincidentally structured very similarly to this year's found footage biblical horror JeruZalem, focuses on the tale of some very laddish lads as they take a bachelor weekend in the mountains of Argentina. If, like me, South American mountain ranges immediately remind you of the cannibal-survival film Alive, then the setting alone is enough to get one's blood pumping full of dread. Yet, as we see, the horror here permeates from a lot more than just the location.

   Our five would-be heroes begin their weekend as one may suspect the majority of these get-aways do. Copious beer, strippers and testosterone-fuelled aggression power the quintet through their first night of debauchery. It is the next day, however, when everything truly begins to unwind. McGown reveals to us the true nature of the relationships within the group, the underlying lies, jealousy and secrets which hold them together and equally threatens to tear them apart. The group are put at further risk with the introduction of an unexpected evil which puts their very lives at risk. If you think dealing with a stag-inflicted hangover is terrible, try adding a supernatural element known as "The Hunter" to the mix too.

   The film winningly takes a recognisable handful of characters, ones who speak to each other with Inbetweeners-esque language, and puts them in a rather alien situation. Whilst the fivesome have previously used their wiles and wits to primarily find creative ways in insulting one another, the crew are soon drawing on survival instincts they didn't know they had. The desperation of the situation challenges each of them to grow up and confront the literal and figurative demons which exist among them. Its a quite clever metaphor which is, pleasingly, not hammered home.

   Whilst there are a few far-fetched plot devices, such as the reason for the crew making their way to the isolated wilderness for the "celebrations", Bachelor Games is a generally well-constructed and shot slow burning, if not overly substantial, thriller. Although this writer preferred the early, character-driven scenes in the movie - in which we get to meet our protagonists - horror aficionados will equally find enjoyment here in the manner in which numerous genres and genre references cross-pollinate in front of an aesthetically pleasing backdrop.

Bachelor Games is available on iTunes from 8th July

The Bluebeards Revenge - Making Bad Guys Look Good

   They say it is possible to judge someone by the company they keep. So, being introduced to The Bluebeards Revenge as an official marketing partner of the much anticipated Suicide Squad is potentially great testament for the FHM Award Winning brand.

   The Bluebeards Revenge, who proclaim they've been "Making bad guys look good since 2010", indeed seem to be the perfect collaborator to team with for the forthcoming Warner Bros release. The movie, which features an array of DC's most iconic and aesthetically bold figures, matches TBR in terms of tone and rebellious branding also. This is great synergy.

   To celebrate the partnership, too, the grooming gurus are going all out and running a competition in which they are offering the opportunity to attend a private screening to one lucky squad - a rather wonderful prize I'm sure you'll agree. For full details and to enter: click here. If you win, be sure to remember who told you about this fantastic competition in the first place!

   So, after my discovery of the brand through their partnership with the forthcoming summer blockbuster, I was intrigued to learn whether the products themselves were as impressive as the swaggering and masculine designs which feature throughout their ranges: Were they set to be all style and no substance (like Batman v Superman)? Or are TBRs products as cool, suave and winning as my instincts assumed (like Iron Man 3)?

bottle of Bluebeards Revenge Pre-Shave Oil

   I'm pleased as punch and happy as Larry to report that The Bluebeards Revenge delivers in spades. For this writer there are three different types of shaving experience - the disastrous (usually experienced between 15-18, lots of cuts, bum fluff left on face); the perfunctory (most shaves); and the fantastic. My shaving experience with TBR fell easily at the higher end of the latter category - my skin was left smooth as can, revitalised and re-energised also.

   The brand's deluxe kit - currently available at just £34.99 - come with two highly enthusiastic thumbs up. Featuring pre-shave oil, shaving cream, a post-shave balm and a "Doubloon" bristle brush (plus a nice bonus of an antiperspirant deodorant), there's all you could possibly need for a decent shave and is a cost (and time) effective way to spruce one's appearance up.

bluebeards revenge shaving cream packaging

   Whilst there are no inventions here aimed at revolutionising the wheel (these are straight forward shaving products), what must be noted here is the high quality of each item. The paraben-free cream is easy to apply and takes only a small amount to lather on sufficiently - its only when pulling a razor across one's skin, though, is it possible to tell just how densely concentrated the cream is. It would take some effort to damage yourself with this applied yet, once finished, I was also incredibly impressed by how smooth to the touch my face felt.

   The absolute best product here - found in a box in which each item rates much higher than simply proficient - is the post-shave balm. As mentioned above, whilst I found the quality of the shave to be almost immaculate (removing all my facial hair without even a hint of a burn), applying the cooling agent upon completion was a sensation I'll simply cherish for some time. Featuring both Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera, the balm has a restorative quality which nourishes the skin and its appearance and, more than that, provides the instant gratification of an alluring aroma. The soothing sensation, as the balm seeps into one's skin is certainly not without its charm too.

Bluebeards Revenge Post-shave balm

   It should be noted that The Bluebeards Revenge also stock a multitude of gift sets which include cut-throat razors and other up-scale barbershop items. Whilst I've previously enjoyed a number of cut-throat experiences on my travels (I particularly recommend The Art of Shaving if you ever find yourself in Las Vegas - its the best I've had yet), I'd previously been too scared to try such a feat at home. TBR, however, may just have given me the confidence to expand my horizons in the future - they're a brand I trust. I can definitely see why they're the bad guy's choice.

bluebeards revenge deodaorant

Lay's Seaweed Flavour Crisps Review

Insane Chinese crisp flavour
   Some journalists make their name by travelling to war-zones or unraveling governmental conspiracies. They risk their lives and their reputations to bring their stories to the masses. Whilst this is indeed noble, I hope that I am remembered for my services to crisp reviews.

   Whilst we each of us have our favourite flavours - the tried, the tested and the true - I assume I speak on behalf of all lovers of potato snacks when I declare my glee for uncovering new, wacky and weird varieties. For today's post I have retrieved a flavour I would wager not many of you would ever have considered to have existed, let alone tried.

   Sourced from deep in the heart of mainland communist China, my global crisp journey takes my taste-buds to a  metaphorical port it wished it had never discovered. Sometimes intrepid exploration does not equal success. It was, after all, curiosity which killed the cat. In this instance, it was Lay's Seaweed Flavour crisps which may just have killed my curiosity for new snacks.

   Whilst I've written before of discovering new crisps so hot that they've been almost impossible to consume, I have never, ever, ever in my life taken a bite out of my a crisp and felt sick almost instantly. These were putrid. Indeed, I realise I've made a mistake; it would have been easier and safer to embroil myself in a war zone of a governmental conspiracy than finish a full pack of these. Woodward and Bernstein have nothing on me.

   What was most truly remarkable about Lay's Seaweed crisp, however, is not the initial taste one gets in one's mouth (as rank as that may be). The truly ghastly part of the experience is the aftertaste which is about as welcome in the mouth as a rat in a child's cot - though, that said, the diseased rodent would probably taste better.

   The only was I can truly explain the rank aftertaste is to relate my experiences back to those of the nation last Friday morning. As we all arose from our slumber to hear the news that Vote Leave had won the referendum, the value of the pound had sunk, and the markets had imploded, a sudden realisation came to us which made every decent person in the nation feel sick to the stomach. Nigel Farage, a cartoon amalgamation of all our most oleaginous nightmares, had been vindicated and we would never, ever hear the end of his gloating. The aftertaste of the referendum, and the knowledge of the spreading racist violence across our once great country, had apparently a taste-based equivalent. I wish, more than anything, I'd never discovered either.

Vlogging Is The New Punk...

   Its common procedure now for certain pop culture historians to histrionically appraise the original British punk movement with the same, oft-repeated mantra: "It changed everything!"

   The wisdom goes as such: Popular music in the mid to late 1970s had become dull, banal and rote at best or, in the case of prog rock, pretentious to a joyless degree. That Donna Summer was laying down the basis for modern dance music, David Bowie was pushing the boundaries of synthesised music and Joy Division were revolutionising rock music at the same time are just three of many examples often ignored to make the argument work.

   So, as boorish bores like Paul Morley will gladly theorise, the emergence of punk music was a welcome antidote to the sanitised, professional and well-produced albums found in our charts four decades ago. The raw, gritty and "real" sounds found in the music of (mainly) young men with no musical training, or understanding, between them allegedly altered our understanding of what music could, and should, be. This, we were told, was a movement which democratised rock - to play in a band it wasn't necessary to put in any hard work, or to learn theory or competency, just being real was enough.

   Yet, and there's always a yet in arguments like this, if we look back upon the original British punk music it would take an abject contrarian or a self-deluded optimist to insist that much of it was actually any good. It really shouldn't be surprising to note just how bad music created by individuals without musical talent was but, for some reason, the debate persists to this day that the movement created acts of any substantial value. These are easily debunked.

   If we were take a moment to look at, say, The Sex Pistols, what we discover is a band with an articulate PR strategy but not much in the way of timeless music. This is to be expected by amateurs masquerading as anything but. With their swearing and ludicrous attire, Rotten et al were brilliant at creating headlines for lazy tabloids but not so good at writing or recording anything of worth. That these were one of the better bands of the movement speaks volumes. If you don't believe me, listen to an album or two by Sham 69 or The Vibrators. Even the most critically acclaimed act of the movement, The Clash, sound juvenile, superficial and melodically challenged throughout much of their back catalogue.

   This brings us to today and how the internet created the space for a similar movement amongst millennials. Instead of looking towards music for salvation like those in the punk movement, however, many young people across the globe find themselves committed to a new medium which we're told is entirely democratic and requires no obvious trainable talent, other than being real, to succeed in. This, of course, is vlogging.

   Creating videos for YouTube has become an attractive proposition for many - getting cheap equipment to film one's self on has never been cheaper and the popularity of the movement, too, has attracted many of those who want to succeed without having to worry about the technical or theoretical aspects of movie making.

   Whilst, in years gone by, individuals would dedicate themselves to understanding the differences between various editing techniques, soviet montage theory and the slow-style ideals of Bazin, "creators" today will simply intuit without ideology. Camera angles, the key in telling stories in a visual medium, are rarely considered either. YouTubers, for the most part, are amateur film-making making amateur films with amateur results. Maybe Gove was right when he suggested our societal wide disdain for proficiency and expertise?

   The most interesting parallel between the punk and vlogging movements, however, is what they ultimately represent other than a shared, almost post-modern, belief that quality is no barrier to value. To the two generations who came of age in these eras, punk and vlogging have, respectively, come to form the counter-cultures of their ages. Both are anti-elitist, youth-driven movements and both are key to community building and signalling the places in society each of us hold when consuming the work.

   Yet, at this stage I must add, perhaps Paul Morley was right in some respects on one of his many meandering rants about the importance of punk. It did, on one level, often form an area of discussion in which the members of the movement would congregate and become involved in politics - for better (or oftentimes worse), 1970s British punk would introduce its fans to anti-fascist (or, indeed, the opposite) discourses for debate. Even the aforementioned Sex Pistols asked their audience to consider the appropriateness of a hereditary ruler in a post-meritocratic society with their single God Save The Queen.

   The counter-culture for millennials, however, isn't so high (or low) minded. A Sprinkle of Glitter is the new counter-culture. PewDiePie is The Clash for those born in the last twenty years. Alfie Deyes is what we watch when we want to stick it to the man and his insistence that perhaps we should study editing, storytelling, camera placement and lighting before making vlogs or films. In and of themselves, each of these vloggers are entirely harmless but, ultimately, they're like canaries in the coal mine. The counter-culture of today isn't about left-wing (or even right-wing) politics, its all about getting free lip-sticks or Steam codes from EA to then advertise on Youtube - and this is why the youth of today are largely apolitical. There's simply no reason for them to care.

   Last week it was estimated that only 36% of eligible voters aged between 18-24 turned up to cast a ballot in a referendum which would effect the rest of their lives. It is little wonder that this is the case. The counter-culture of today doesn't just distract one from politics by engaging each and all in endless consumerism and consumption, it also tells us we can make a success of ourselves without even committing to the hard work entailed in learning or studying. Vlogging has largely become an alternative platform which has encouraged us to remain detached and to allow the status quo to flourish. Today's counter-culture is largely poorly made corporate culture: we're encouraged to do "the man's" job for him.

   To end on a positive note, I'd like to point out that it is not the case that there simply aren't any good Youtubers - this is true of the punk movement, too, who had acts such as Buzzcocks (a band who melded a DIY-feel with genuine jocundity, joy, melody and delightful harmony) residing alongside the dross.

   Take, for example, Anna Akana - here is a woman who has clearly studied the fundamentals of what it takes to create a decent vlog or video. Her shorts are full of inspired visual gags and, simultaneously, she sacrifices none of her realness in her frank and earnest laments whilst tackling an array of big (and not so big) topics. That they're professionally edited and filmed goes to show that you one doesn't need to embrace the paradoxical belief amongst many that professional quality has to be discarded to make a good video content.

   Perhaps the original British punk movement was shallow, vain and conceited - just like our current generation of counter-culture Youtubers. Yet, watching Anna Akana among others, shows its possible to be a Buzzcocks in a world of Sham 69s.

Elvis & Nixon Film Review

   Elvis and Nixon is a very peculiar film; a premise without a plot or, indeed, a point. Like Snakes on a Plane, this is a movie in which the title spells out everything you need to know - here is a short, sparse feature based on the real-life meeting between the King and the President.

   Michael Shannon takes on the role of Memphis' most famous son - whilst the physical differences between the thespian and the musician are vast, the Boardwalk Empire actor imbibes his performance with a fittingly enigmatic charisma.

   Elvis, we learn, might be something of an old-fashioned conservative underneath all his bling and lounge lizard bravura. At the dawn of the seventies, the USA is a very different place to the country in which Presley originally made his name - the degenerate Beatles have changed the cultural landscape and the Black Panthers now roam the streets. Can the King make a difference and make America great again? His aim to become an undercover federal agent, to deliver his country from the abject direction it is heading, takes him straight to the top - can or will President Nixon grant his wish?

   In essence Elvis and Nixon is a comedic character study but one which, sadly, strips away many of the most riveting aspects of the two American icons. Despite Shannon's performances, a lightweight script means we're never fully aware of Elvis' real intentions whilst, equally, Kevin Spacey's portrayal of one of the most complex and complicated public figures of all time is one of simple buffoonery. The darkness and self-loathing of the disgraced president are almost entirely dispensed with in favour of slapstick and gurning; the result often feels like a Jon Culshaw sketch stretched out for far, far too long.

   Whilst Elvis and Nixon does possess moments of genuine smirk-inducing humour, Liza Johnson's movie never really discovers its own raison d'etre - the meeting between the two, arranged by aides of the titular characters, is never seriously in doubt which relieves most of the drama from the set-up and, equally, very little of note is achieved in their meeting. Indeed, very little of note is achieved in this slight feature.

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