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2 October 2011

Parks and Recreation

The heat wave is still here in London and I've been trying to hang out outside but I did take a 95-minute cooling break in an air-conditioned cinema yesterday. I went to see Red State at the ToCoRo Odeon, which, unlike most other London Odeons, has relatively well-designed screens with no oddly angled rows or excessively bright emergency lighting.

I thought the film was OK but not great. Red State doesn't really have any heroes; just plenty of villains. Three high school boys in an unnamed red state really want to get laid and answer a post from a woman advertising her, er, services on a site that is "like Craig's List but for people who want to get f*ucked" ("I thought Craig's List was like Craig's List for people who want to get f*cked," one of the kids says in one of the few funny lines). They head out to her trailer and Melissa Leo appears, invites them in for beers, which turn out to be spiked with rohypnol. Next thing they know, the boys wake up in cages in the middle of a fundamentalist church run by Abin Cooper (seen earlier on the news with the rest of his family/cult picketing the funeral of a gay guy). And so begins the torture porn section of the film, which soon turns into a siege when John Goodman and assorted ATF agents show up, under orders to just kill everyone in Cooper's church/house to cover up the fact that the bureau had screwed up.

A statue of the eponymous Holland in Holland Park

Red State is an interesting film but I found it hard to like it very much. Not least because the limited sympathy you may feel for some of the characters soon evaporates as the movie suddenly deems them irrelevant and/or disposable. Part of the problem was that from the trailer, I got the impression it was a dark comedy, satirising everything from right-wing fundamentalists to incompetent government agency staff to teenage sex comedies. Actually, though, it isn't a dark comedy; it's just very dark. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I had hoped for a few more laughs than the handful of half-hearted chuckles I got. The only other Kevin Smith films I've seen are Dogma, which I thought was OK, and Clerks, which I loved, partly because I first watched it while I was working at the Sandwich Shop of Dreams and it was all too realistic, and yet hilarious. I watched it so many times, at one stage, I knew large chunks of the script off by heart.

As for today, I ventured west and wandered through Notting Hill before settling down on a sunny bench in Holland Park. Although I often run through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, I'd never actually been to Holland Park before and I really liked it: it's big with plenty of woods, fountains, ponds, sitting areas and nicely manicured lawns, as well as giant chess boards and parks for small irritating people (but because this is Holland Park, the children are all well behaved). Basically, it's a very pleasant place to hang out with a book on a sunny Sunday.

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