Podcast: The Smoking Lamb #092 – I, Tonya

Podcast: The Smoking Lamb #092 – I, Tonya

The Smoking Lamb Podcast

It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.

On this episode: Sorry guys, after a hick up with the recording episode 092 was lost. However, Sooz came to our rescue with a review of I, Tonya! Enjoy and we hope that this mess won’t happen again.

Check it out and BLEAT THE WORLD and don’t forget to follow up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog: All Things Film – Exodus Gods And Kings Reviewed (Well Kinda)

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So Ridley Scott’s latest… well to save you time (both in reading this review and watching this film) it joins a VERY small list of films I couldn’t actually finish.  Yup with a planner full of Justin’s, House Of Cards and, frankly, watching point dry as alternatives I gave up at just over an hour and a quarter.

However in lieu of a review of the full film, this is what I have learnt from what I managed to endure:

1) All Egyptians are camper than Julian Clary at a camping exhibition on national be camp day.

2) Every-time a Hebrew speaks I keep expecting dialogue from Life Of Brian to come out. Yes it’s that badly mounted at times.

3) It looks amazing. Computers can sure make an impressive looking film. Sadly however as you know nothing is real in the film and everything is CGI (maybe even Bale’s beard?) I keep trying to grab my PS4 remote to start playing the game then remember it’s actually a film and I haven’t just been watching cut scenes. This is disappointing. 

4) ALL Ridley Scott films MUST start with Basil Exposition captions. It’s the law. 

5) There are no mirrors in Ancient Egypt. If there were, Moses would clearly be able to see he looks nothing like a fucking Egyptian and therefore when he is told he is in fact Hebrew he, like everyone else watching, should be able to go ” Duh! No shit! Do I look like one of them?”. This could make the film about an hour shorter. 

6) John Turturro is a terrible actor. This is only JUST a step up from his appearances in Transformers. He should now retire safe in the knowledge that anything good he once did has now been forgotten. Much like Rolph Harris. 

7) Egyptians seem to have accents ranging from what I assume is Egyptian, to American, to British American to I have no god damn idea what accent Turturro was doing.  This is Russell Crowe in Robin Hood all over again but with a whole cast instead.

8) Time jumps from meeting someone to getting married in the NEXT SHOT just doesn’t work at all. Then to do it again seconds later and he has kids? Criminal.

9) Alien and to a lesser extend Blade Runner were flukes. Ridley Scott is a hack.

10) Prometheus 2 should now be avoided at all costs. As should this.

Author: Phil Hobden

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download the Filmsploitation podcast, part of the All Things Film network. 

Review: The Motel Life (Cinema)

Review: The Motel Life (Cinema)

Other Cr*p Uncategorized

The Review: I love it when the title of a film aptly sums up precisely how thrilling and entertaining the experience of sitting through it is like. Take The terminator, for examples, or perhaps even Twelve Angry Men (and RoboCop) – those two titles tell you what’s going to happen; gear you up for a giddy ride.
Then there’s shite like The Motel Life starring Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff, which does precisely the same. Only don’t be fooled by the title this time around; The Motel Life is much, much more boring.

The aforementioned superstars play brothers – in childhood they’re approximately the same age, and now in adulthood, it seems Dorff has gained about fifteen years on his sibling. A quick trip to the iMDB informs us that Dorff is a clear decade older than Hirsch. But it gets better – Hirsch is a clear decade older than his love interest played by Dakota Fanning, who for all intents and purposes (and especially in the America) is not quite at the requisite age yet for having been dumped a while ago by this loser and considering taking him back.

But anyway, I digress. The Mote Life is directionless twadlle. Dorff hits and kills a youngster with his dumpster truck – or something – and dumps the body on a frozen river and legs it. He tells his brother, and they decide to flee. But dickhead Dorff throws his toys out of his pram, feels sorry for himself, and shoots himself in the leg. His amputee leg. Oh dear.

In the hospital, and the cops are getting wise. Dorff now needs Hirsch to rescue him. I know, this all sounds like a Fargo-ish crime thriller, right?

WRONG.

This is dreary, slow-paced utter buffoonery which brings about memories of films far richer, certainly better written and infinitely more enjoyable than this pretentious piece of twattery. I rarely use the word “pretentious” around these here parts because it’s often misused. But here, I mean it sincerely. All this ‘action’ is punctuated by fatal halts in the ‘narrative’ flow to include animations of stories being told by Hirsch to…. well, whichever character will listen. This is a slam dunk deadbolt in the gears of a movie that has real trouble gargling its engine to roll past the 80 minute run time.

Dakota Fanning is haphazardly miscast as the love interest – but fair dos, she’s so underused anyway, it barely seems to matter. Hirsch on numerous occasions has eye drops bled into his tear ducts just before the directors shout action to ensure the tears are real. Dorff is… God knows what he is, but he is ‘it’ and then some. Annoying, I think is the word. It’d be quite fair to align The Motel Life to Of Mice and Men in more than a number of ways. My God this film is mind-numbingly tedious.

And this narcoleptic hogwash needed TWO directors? Ha. Yeah – one to read the newspaper, and the other to hold it up for him, no doubt. Yawn.

 

Reviewed By: Andrew MacKay

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Review: Philomena (DVD/BR)

Review: Philomena (DVD/BR)

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The Review: Of all the films I missed last year during time of theatrical release, the one I most regret not getting around to was Philomena. I’ve now had the opportunity to catch it – and now, the regret is slightly stronger. Director Stephen Frears and co-writer/producer/star Steve Coogan have produced, rather unexpectedly, one of the UK’s most touching, engaging and humble movies of last year.

It’s a story known to most, so I’m told. Martin Sixsmith – a journalist previously at the BBC – is ousted by the firm due to a minor controversy and finds himself without a job, and no story. A chance meeting with a drinks server at a function leads Martin to this woman’s mother – Philomena – a septuagenarian Irish woman who’s reliving the memory of her abandoned baby. Today is the child’s birthday. Back in 1955, Philomena accidentally fell pregnant to an unfortunate bout of lust with a chiselled hunk who, literally, took her round the back of the carnival. Enslaved, as it surely looks, her newborn boy is born and fairly shortly thereafter sold to a rich American couple while she served the remainder of her sins in the Catholic prison her and so many of her peers would slog through before released into the wild.
It doesn’t seem to have rocked her world *that* much, personality-wise.

Dame Judi Dench plays Philomena perfectly; accent and all. She’ll probably remind you of your own mother. She certainly attaches herself to Sixsmith in this manner. This is the first time Coogan has been onscreen with nary a nod to his successful alter ego Alan Partridge – in a year, it must be said – where Alpha Papa was released. The two embark on a quest to locate her son. It will take them back to the nunnery and, then, to Washington DC to hunt him down. It ends up not at all where you would expect. For a while now I had thought maybe Sixsmith would turn out to be the son after all. Nope, not really. But not completely untrue, either.

There’s not much point going into plot details from this point on. This is a true story – and a story which ended up as a cautionary tale in book form from Sixsmith. It’s fair to say he nabbed two separate pieces of work from this one engagement – and it’s produced a wonderful charming and heart-warming movie.

In a lot of crucial ways, “Philomena” depends solely on the chemistry between the eponymous character and her new journalist friend. Frears takes every opportunity to counterbalance this fuzzy, warm glow that emerges throughout, and finally cultivated to near-perfection toward the end. Anyone on the outskirts, such as Sixsmith’s deadly hardened female bitch editor, is not seen as a credible threat because, as the relationship grows, so too does any financial or journalistic imperative start to dissipate. It’s not often a movie is successful in pulling this off, but here it flourishes. Even the startled flashbacks to the days of yore, starring an uncanny Sophie Kennedy Clark as a teenaged Judi Dench, work really well.

It’s now hard to say why I am awarding the mark I am giving – so far everything is heading for a bombastically high score. Overall, the film is guilty of tugging a little too hard on the heartstrings in a number of places. But, given the running time, it can be lightly forgiven. Philomena is a snappy, fuzzy little film full of charming and comedic moments.

 

Reviewed By: Andrew Mackay

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Review: Better Living Through Chemistry  (Cinema, USA)

Review: Better Living Through Chemistry (Cinema, USA)

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The Review: I prefer Sam Rockwell to Owen Wilson, and I am pretty sure most people feel the same way. Quite why first time writing and directing team Geoff Moore and David Posamentier have instructed Rockwell to carry off his best Owen Wilson impersonation is beyond me. This is not the same Rockwell we saw in The Way Way Back which, when held against Better Living Through Chemistry, seems Oscar-worthy.

Small-time pharmacist Doug Varney has recently bought out a pharmacy in a small, sleepy suburban town somewhere in the States. He’s married to a God-awful fitness instructor bitch, played by Michelle Monaghan and spends his life under the thumb of both her and his chubby twelve year-old son Evan who’s going through the usual pubescent naughtiness at school. Noah (played by Coffeetown’s Ben Schwartz) is a hirsute nitwit occasionally employed at the pharmacy to run deliveries. He’s not very good at it. So, late one night, Varney has to make the deliveries which sees him at the doorstep of the mansion belonging to Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde) who’s a pill-popping, stay-at-home trophy wife. She lets him in, and the pushover becomes seduced.

For long stretches of the ninety minute run time, the movie goes nowhere. Sure, it looks absolutely fantastic; the idyllic ‘burbs are marvelously captured on screen and are a vibrant, pastel-coloured treat. You’re probably wondering what happens next. Well, nothing much to speak of. And this is the problem.

Better Living Through Chemistry has no real clue as to what it wants to be. It’s hinted at that Liz and Varney may escape and run off together, but we sit in befuddlement as to Varney’s preoccupation with his truant son – can he leave him behind? And so, the film side-steps to tackle that issue by including a strange sub-plot seeing him and his son dress up as ninjas and throwing ninja stars at the pharmacy under cover of night. Then we’re back at the pharmacy where Varney starts to get high on his own supply of pills, on the advice of the legal-junkie Elizabeth. It’s then mooted that perhaps Liz and Varney may feed her always-absent millionaire husband a fatal concoction of pills so she can become a widow and run off with Varney elsewhere. But then Varney is too weak to succumb, or too off his tits to consider it seriously.

And the worst offence, here? A glum, gravelly-voiced female narrator tells us what everyone is thinking, despite us having sat through the bleedin’ obvious. It is later revealed that it is Jane Fonda providing the narration, who pops up in the closing scene as a customer. Who is this character? How did she know about them? It’s just a mess.

None of this gels in quite the way Moore and Posamentier probably thought it would. What we’re left with is a directionless, meandering and weak pretty-looking mess. I’d say those attributes can also be attributed to Olivia Wilde – here with blonde hair – but she’s so delectable and gorgeous, I’m not sure I can accuse her of ruining the story; if anything, she livens up the whole affair.

Better Living Through Chemistry was financed, in part, by and Ealing studios offshoot. Sure, this has the blueprint of an Ealing comedy along the lines of The Ladykillers and A Fish Called Wanda. When the think of the last title, we think of ideas way above its station; has she enlisted Varney to murder her husband, and then she can leg it with the money? Can a beautiful woman like that really develop feelings for a loser like him? Or, maybe we consider the potential for a Fargo-lite suspense thriller where the murder goes wrong? Nope – in trying to be both, it ends up being neither.

 

Reviewed By: Andrew Mackay

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Drinking Buddies: A Quick Capsule Review

Drinking Buddies: A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Drinking Buddies strong point is it’s performances.  Convincing to a fault, tho story of two couples who may or may not be falling in and out of love with each other never fails to convince you.  What it does fail in is putting it all down into a satisfying narrative.  It’s not bad, but at times ponderous and direction less even with such a tight run time.   That’s not to say it’s a boring film, but with a little better central narrative this could have been great rather than good.

Best Bit: Like I said, performances all the way

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Stream

IMDB Rating: 

If you liked this try: Empire Records (8/10); Chasing Amy (8/10); Coffee Town (5/10)

Sunshine On Leith: A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Well that was  a surprise… a musical based on the works of The Proclaimers (whose music I detest as a general rule) not only managed to be charming and funny but also made me actually want to buy their music.  More over Sunshine On Leith, full of great choreography, charing performances and a heart missing from modern day filming,  ended up as probably one of the top ten films of 2013.  Who saw that coming?  Highly recommended.

Best Bit: 500 Miles.

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Buy

If you liked this try: Little Shop Of Horrors (8/10); Blues Brothers (8/10); Rocky Horror Picture Show (8/10)

Review: Blue Jasmine (DVD/BR)

Review: Blue Jasmine (DVD/BR)

Other Cr*p Uncategorized

The Review: Cate Blanchett stars as Jasmine in Woody Allen’s latest dramedy – a sort of retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, brought up to date to analyse just how far a fall from grace can land you in an unexpected place.
Jasmine is a deeply complex character – precisely because she’s maddeningly straightforward; a lady of luxury, married to a wildly successful business, she’s living the high life in their fancy houses and dozens of cars.

She’s from modest means; an adopted child, along with her non-biological (and non-biodegradable, as it turns out) sister, Ginger. However, the bottom falls out of the good time and her husband is arrested for fraud, her son flees home to avoid the disgrace and Jasmine finds herself stripped of absolutely everything… and on the doorstep of her bohemian sibling in San Francisco. She has nowhere to go and must now acclimatise herself to a life of extreme poverty – in her eyes, of course. To us, this modest, happy-go-lucky (with every pun intended) is fairly routine. But what if you had everything and then lost it?

Allen of late has been like a pinball in a mixed-genre machine; from crime caper, to the downright farcical (the less said about Snoop, the better) it’s fair to say he’s not been at his best since the near-perfect Crimes and Misdemeanours of the late eighties. A number of reasonable spikes – including Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and, arguably, Midnight in Paris – have not sold me on a return to the glory, heady days of Annie Hall and Bananas in the long term.

Yet – somehow – Allen achieves gold here with Blue Jasmine. I suppose when you make a film a year on a stream-of-consciousness assembly line, the stars will align eventually to produce a fascinatingly brilliant drama. Blue Jasmine is that film.
Consider a character as rich in conceit as Jasmine herself; she’s somehow very unlikeable to us and everyone she meets, but she plays it up on the understanding that this is a career; a life of luxury is not handed to you on a silver platter, even though your three main meals are. Cate Blanchett dominates the role; alternately passive and mad, yet somehow we still root for this ditzy, spoiled witch. And then there’s her sister played in scene-stealing fashion by our own Sally Hawkins. Her Ginger is a twee, goofy solid gold lump of adorableness; the better of the two halves.

In reality, we all know these two people, somewhere, but rarely have to siblings been more at odds with one another. This paves the way from some quality drama between the pair, as they both hope off their previous love boats (Alec Baldwin in typical greasy smarm-overdrive, and a wonderfully sharp performance by Andrew Dice Clay) and on to their new prospects (Stellan Skarsgaard in typical greasy smarm-overdrive, and a wonderfully blunt performance by stand-up Louis C.K.).

Woody Allen knows, seemingly, that he’s struck gold this time around. His labours of “like” in the previous years have been exactly that; stop-gaps in time till a story he lands on truly becomes a story worth telling.

Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins alone wrestle the movie away from Allen’s clutches – yet his script and deft, dry – near passive – direction wrestle it back from them, until both parties agree to let go and climb on the back and run with it. It really ought not to be as captivating and insolently fascinating as it must surely sound on the page, but the movie is truly something very special.

It’s a story of family, greed and sheer apathy – and a welcome glisten of hope to a return to form for Allen which, I dunno about you, I thought had long since departed.


Reviewed By: Andrew Mackay

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Review: Dallas Buyers Club (Cinema)

Review: Dallas Buyers Club (Cinema)

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The Review:  Bull rider Ron Woodruff waits in the wooden wings for his shot to break the eight second record, and as he waits, he has two young temptresses in the shadows, screwing them alternately. He peers through the wooden slats at the current rider, who’s having his ass kicked by the bull. Ron finishes and clasps his hands together, ready for the challenge.

The real challenge comes a day after the bull ride. An electrician by day, Ron receives a shock that lands him in hospital. The doctors deliver another nasty shock.

It’s difficult to know if this opening sequence is precisely the moment Ron acquired HIV – worse still, might this have been an occasion where he’s passed it on. We may never know.

Set in 1985 Dallas, Texas this extraordinary film charts the story of Woodruff’s realisation, character dismantling disease; a time when rednecks like Woodruff and, indeed, society at large thought the AIDS virus to be exclusively passed around by homosexuals and sharing of needles. When a redneck is hit by this news, it has major repercussions with his friends and his community. His trailer home is daubed “faggot blood” as he’s out trying to steal the wonder drug drug AZT.

Dallas Buyer’s Club could easily play as a companion piece to How to Survive a Plague – a documentary from 2013 that takes the same route regarding AZT; a drug, it transpires, that is deeply toxic, but a perfect antidote to big pharma’s slack response to the ever growing epidemic.

Ron is played by Matthew McConaughey – it must be said, with fierce career-defining gusto – having clearly lost as much weight as Cristian Bale did for The Machinist. He’s a charming, passionate and humorous fellow dealt an exceptionally shitty hand by fate; a doomed slap in the face that could, unbeknownst to anyone who knew him at the time, affect absolutely anyone. In his quest for acquiring AZT illegally, he’s given the heads up by an orderly of a struck-off doctor in Mexico who’s set up shop trying anything to find ailment-prohibiting drugs with limited success. Ron takes a big risk smuggling these back to Dallas to start The Club of the title; $400 per month membership for real results in halting the AIDS process. And all of this is a true story.

Dallas Buyer’s Club is a masterpiece. Directed by relative unknown Jean-Marc Vallée, and written by newcomers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, the movie packs a hell of an emotional wallop. It’s gloriously understated in its direction and blissfully subtle in all the right places. The script is superb and stuffs so much plot into its perfectly reasonable 110 minute run-time. McConaughey – for all his previous romcom nonsense here is a revelation; a bold, daring middle-finger to the stereotypes of old; it’d be curious to see how the fans of his previous work take to a story like this. Especially when he happens across the paths of pre-op transvestite Rayon; a drug-taking wild-at-heart liberal who sets up the club with him.

Rayon is played by Jared Leto and Leto in this movie is a revelation; his performance is Earth-shatteringly astonishing. If ever he found work drying up on the silver screen, then he could easily migrate to drag/stage work anywhere in the world. But beyond the make-up and behind the frilly exterior beats the heart of a truly dismantled, beautiful monster. Leto turns in the performance of a lifetime as Rayon; at once sweet and endearing, and yet wild and rambunctious on his collision course to the inevitable with his drug use. If Leto doesn’t win Best Supporting Actor this year the Oscars, it’d be a crime; possible a crime as big as the FDA committed two decades ago in halting a perfectly legal, comfortable, non-toxic drug to help alleviate the HIV/AIDS sufferer’s ailments.

And so, with that – a mere three days in to 2014 – we have the best film of the year so far <!> in Dallas Buyer’s Club; a film so taut, stuffed to the gills with career-best performances in a movie that will have you laughing beer through your nose and socking you in the stomach and heart alternately.

It is a masterpiece and you absolutely must check it out, if, for no other reason, than to marvel at Jared Leto and Matthew McCounaghey’s performance. Oh, who am I kidding, you’ll be marveling at EVERYONE’S performance – on and off screen. It’s absolutely brilliant

Reviewed By: Andrew MacKay

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Review: About Time (DVD/BR)

Review: About Time (DVD/BR)

All Things Film Blog Other Cr*p Uncategorized

The Review:  An open letter to writer/director Richard Curtis.

“Dear Mr. Curtis.

I recently had the very unfortunate displeasure of enduring your latest work “About Time”. I am a massive fan of your early work; in particular Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and Four Weddings and a Funeral. All these examples are at least twenty years old, caught at a time when I clearly was in a very influential mood in my formative years, and continue to uphold that those previously named titles are among the best of their genre.

I write to you, candidly, to ask – where has it all gone wrong of late? Since Four Weddings, your work has drudged down an endlessly mediocre path. It wasn’t until The Boat That Rocked that I really started to see your limitations. That was a pithy, half-arsed effort by any stretch of the imagination. Now, you’ve seen fit to foist a time travel romantic comedy upon us. You are clearly not equipped to have taken such a challenge.

First of all, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, by London (and by the looks of it, most of Surrey or Kent, or wherever the main character is from) has changed. Gone are the days of moviegoers relating to ginger thirtysomethings posing as twenty-one year olds (Domnhall Gleeson) of such ABC1 stock toddling off to stay with a wealthy playwright in St. John’s Wood. Precisely whom do you think you and Working Title think you’re aiming your film at? Mercifully, this notion is the very least of the movie’s problems.

This time travel business. His Dad, played – as usual by the omnipresent Bill Nighy (is this where you got the idea from, incidentally?) – avails his son that if he goes into a cupboard and squeezes his hands, he can revisit his own past and change the course of events. This seems okay – but I must ask, why can you, a revered scribe, not play by your own rules? Take for example, the first time the lead character literally bumps into the female lead played by Rachel McAdams (in a gut wrenching set up involving a restaurant operated by the blind) in a sequence in the dark so long we need time stamp intervals all over it. If he has to rescue his roommate’s play by holding up cue cards, and thereby missing his first encounter with McAdams, why couldn’t he go back in time to do both? Or catch one earlier than the other?
There are innumerable moments like this in the film; each one testing my patience before the one that sees the creepy lead have sex with the female lead, remark that he was “not very good” and disappear into the cupboard to try again. Now, Mr. Curtis, I’m all for creative licence – really, I am. But this is taking the piss.
I consider this package of thinly veiled insults a direct attack on my character. Do you really think I, or any of my fellow human peers with reasonably developed brains and intellect, will tolerate this? Clearly you do – and, clearly, this says more about you as an artist than the film itself.

I am writing, principally, to instruct you to stop writing movies herewith. You should know better. You should certainly know better than as a writer to hire yourself as a director; but on this occasion, your writing is going to cause a lot of upset to a great many people. I am sorry to report that you are neither big nor clever – and your recent “work” is untying the great historic works in your catalogue. I can withstand and tolerate maybe one or two misfires. However, with you, we are experiencing a decay; a collapses; an utter Enron-style dismantling at the imagination bank of Curtis. You must stop this incessant insistence that your movies bring joy to the masses, and that if your movie had not starred Bill Nighy or blatantly forked out what appears to be well over £100k for the soundtrack and probably a hundred times that for the marketing of the movie, that somehow you have created a success. You have not. You have not succeeded, either, in creating a work worthy of a score out of ten.

It brings me no pleasure in having to write this to you, openly – publicly. I am to assume my last private letter to you regarding The Boat That Rocked did not manage to find its way to your desk, and so you leave me no other option. I do hope you take this correspondence the way it I intend it to be taken; deadly serious and without any trace of irony.

I would like to thank you, however, for at least tacking on a thick subtext concerning the preciousness of time; how time given from someone is the greatest gift of all, and that it should not be squandered. It pains me to have to report that I walked away from this film approximately 50 minutes into its running time; the film made me realise we do not have much time on this planet and that we cannot live in the past. Curiously enough, this letter seems to serve as a contrary response to precisely that sentiment; however. With an hour and twenty minutes left of the movie, and a quick five minute visit to Wikipedia to read up on precisely what I was about to miss, and this resultant letter taking me roughly twenty minutes to write, means I have saved approximately fifty-five minutes of time I would have otherwise squandered being lectured to about the precariousness of the time I was wasting watching the fucking message in the first place.

I do hope that made sense. If it didn’t, then at least I can bask in the knowledge that it made more sense than the mechanics of your narrative in the movie.

Yours with the utmost regret,

Andrew Mackay”

 

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