SURVIVOR REVIEW

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I don’t think anyone is going to survive from this tepid terrorist thriller.

An explosive and fiery opener certainly grabbed my attention. Shame, the rest of the film couldn’t keep that momentum. Thinking back. The opening didn’t really bear much significance to the story. Shame.

Corny, cliched, slow, boring and from the director of V For Vendetta? Words . . . Sigh . . . Escape me.

So what’s it about? A Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) in London tries to prevent a terrorist attack set to hit New York, but is forced to go on the run when she is framed for crimes she did not commit.

It really is as predictable and dull as you can imagine. No surprise, no twists and no thrills. The film meandered along and never really got going.

Jovovich has never been renowned for her extraordinary acting ability but I really thought this could have been the platform to show that she can do more than Resident Evil movies. Shame. Her acting was more wooden than an IKEA table. It didn’t help that her character was so bland and one dimensional.

The story was a pale imitation of a weak 24 story line that never made the cut. What infuriated me more was the British talent involved in the film that were playing Americans and . . . doing it badly!

Antonia Thomas (Alisha from Misfits) may have fared better with the American accent but her character was so minor and unmemorable. It was shocking.

And Frances De La Tour (Rising Damp), what on Earth was she playing at? Her accent was horrific. She seemed to give up 30 minutes in. Then realise “Oh, my character is in the American Embassy” and try and do her best John Wayne impression. Chloe from 24, she ain’t!

It was all so slow. The visa process may have been interesting for 30 seconds but after 15 minutes, I could feel my eyes wandering towards my watch.

Roger Rees did his best as the shady decoy that sets Jovovich’s character in play. Anyone who watched Warehouse 13 (Anybody? No?) will know he can play a shifty sod well.

Inevitably, not everything is as it seems (Go figure) and Jovovich snoops in all the wrong places. Cue a botched assassination attempt and Pierce Brosnan in a bad tash and a variety of terrible wigs. The Watchmaker? More like Inspector Clousseau.

The backstabbing and “twists” were so weak. You could call them from the opening five minutes. Jovovich’s introduction was so cliched. Hyped up as Washington’s top expert and some lazy and unnecessary reference to 9/11 to validate her integrity just hammed things up a treat.

Brosnan is looking old. I mean, come on, he is in his fifties but it has definitely caught up with him. The whole Bond gone bad spiel has been ongoing for some time. He does his best but his character is so laughable. The lines and his delivery really didn’t do him any favours.

However, every time he wasn’t in the film, I did miss him. Only because things seemed to happen when he was about. Silly, if racy, chases reprieved the film’s lumbering pace for a few minutes. Plus your attention on the poor plotting was distracted by a big explosion from the BIG BAD BOND. Even if it wasn’t necessary or relevant.

Dylan McDermott (Stalker) did the best he could but he was just running around aimlessly. Attempting his best Jack Bauer impression and delivering really cliched exchanges with Jovovich. Did their characters have a past? Don’t know. Don’t care.

James D’Arcy (Broadchurch) and Angela Bassett also tried to do what they could with their bland characters but it just didn’t work. The bureaucracy scenes have all been done before time and time again in numerous thrillers. Writer Philip Shelby didn’t even try to make them a teeny tiny bit interesting.

One thing I could commend was the flip reversal with the English refusing to help and hiding their intentions. Shame their intentions were really petty and stupid. Nice one, Shelby. Bassett’s ambassador was so weak. How much authority does an embassy ambassador have? For all the comments about red tape, they were obeying her like she was the bloody President! Hmmm . . .

Jovovich may be easy on the eye (What?) but her delivery was so lifeless. A zombie could have done a better job. Just watch when Brosnan first points a gun at her. I was in tears . . . Of laughter.

Considering her character was presented as America’s best, she wasn’t very clever. Didn’t even think that the Watchmaker may have put a tracker on her as he was always hot on her trail. One particular highlight for me was when her character was wandering around a park with a gun in her hand while people took pictures. And in one of the UK’s biggest CCTV hotspots?

America’s top security expert? Yeah, I can see why she was shipped over to handle border patrol.

It just chugged along like any old TV thriller. It didn’t try to anything different. By the numbers and formulaic. And the finale was a joke. As if to add insult to injury, the “action” hots up in New York during a New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square (New Years Eve in a June movie? Really?).

As Jovovich battled the Watchmaker for the umpteenth time and delivered one of the stupidest one liners, I gave out an exasperated sigh. Defeated. Normally I’m one to commend a pun but the film had infuriated me that much.

(SPOILERS) As Brosnan’s badly CGI’d Watchmaker fell and Jovovich mouthed the words, “Time’s up” (Ah ha!), I said the same thing. James McTeigue must have needed the money. That’s the only conclusion I can come to. To go from an ultra-violent but clever political action thriller to this 24 hack job? Shame on you!

And the pretentious terrorist attack stats during the end credit sequence were completely unnecessary. Just like the film, really.

1.5/5

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EDGE OF TOMORROW REVIEW

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The End of Tom Cruise? Not today. This little timey wimey special effects action flick is pretty much Groundhog Day meets a 12A equivalent of Starship Troopers. If that sounds terrible, then move on. If not, welcome.

If you love the Cruise, he still does his best and proves yet again that he can still be the leading man. If you don’t, well you get to see him die 200 times so win-win. To call this a blockbuster with brains is a little bit of an overstatement. To me a blockbuster with brains was Inception or The Matrix (Well the first instalment anyway).

It’s certainly delivers a different premise. But as typical timey wimey spiel goes, the plot holes still rear their ugly head. Despite being written by the legendary scriptwriter that is Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects/Jack Reacher/Jack and the Giant Pile of Sh -)

For every little plot point about the rapid Squidee like alien entities terrorising the beaches of Normandy, I couldn’t help but think . . .  oh, no wait a minute. Hmmm . . . That doesn’t make sense.

The D-Dayesque battle may be a little bit mocking. I say satirical, if a little lazy but the special effects are fantastic and the 3D sequences really shine, especially when those Squidee things scuttle about with their mechanical legs (shudder). Cruise and the BEA-utiful Emily Blunt are a good pair together and share some decent chemistry.

It isn’t really that schmaltzy or thrown in your face. Quite subtle as these big luvvy duvvy blockbusters go. It was interesting to see Cruise’s character actually turning out at the beginning (not a spoiler – DON’T PANIC) an egotistical media whore who is forced into using the very weapons he’s been flogging on the battlefield.

It all zips along quite well and once the timey wimey thing kicks in (without divulging the plot) it gets crazy, at times quite funny but eventually after an hour of it, a little tedious. It’s weird because I loved Source Code and Groundhog Day, which this film is very much like.

However, after you’ve seen Cruise reboot a few times and experience deja-vu, it gets a little annoying. Understandably, if you were ever in that position, it would be but as a viewer, come on. BUT, a few twists and turns, and we are back on track for a fast paced, exhilarating finale which may have been a little too abrupt.

Doug Liman (Jumper/The Bourne Identity) manages to bring an entertaining, if flawed, blockbuster that does rise above the number of duds that have disgraced the silver screen this summer . . . so far. And it’s a vast, vast improvement from Jumper. I was also surprised at the talented supporting cast.

Bill Paxton playing the slick toothed Sargeant. Game over, man (See what I did there). The legendary, if limited, Brendan Gleeson (The Guard/In Bruges) playing a corrupt military figure to perfection. But at the same time, did anyone else feel that he looked like he couldn’t be arsed? No? Moving on . . .

There was a number of British actors popping up in this. I mean, obviously it was a UK/US collaboration but still, great to see them making a mark.

Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood), Tony Way (Ali G), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block) all managed to make memorable grunts. Charlotte Riley (Martina Cole’s The Take) unfortunately did for all the wrong reasons with her horrific American accent and strange face pulling. Ripley gone wrong, maybe.

Laura Pulver (Sherlock/Da Vinci’s Demons) in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo? Was her scenes removed in the final cut or something? Or was she in the studio at the time? Strange. Noah Taylor finally reappearing (probably something to do with a recent appearance in a certain Game of Thrones) in a somewhat subdued role.

All in all, not bad, if a little overhyped. At its best; fast, action packed, entertaining, at its worst; all gloss not enough lacquer on the inner workings and character depth and a little rushed by the end. Run out of steam?

Well I got two things out of it; Tom Cruise screaming like a little bitch and Emily Blunt . . . she will be my future wife. What?

But still worth a gander 3.5 (just) out of 5 for me! Currently ranks 36 out of 183!

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST REVIEW

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A Million Ways to Die Laughing! Unfortunately not. MacFarlane takes on the Wild West and comes out more battered and bruised than his heroic counterpart. Applying his Family Guy spiel, this cowboy comedy yields mixed results this time round.

Now for the record I am a big Family Guy fan and thought Ted was a return to form from MacFarlane as Family Guy teetered on lacklustre but watchable.

His second feature to hit the big screen and a western. My hopes were high. The trailers signed me up from the get go. Job done as always. However, it seems a case of ‘best bits in the trailers’ syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad but it’s not all great either.

The main issue, two hours? Too long. It was only after the first 30-45 minutes that the film got into its stride. The story line is hardly original, merely a rehash of a classical western storyline. Probably one of the reasons why westerns are no longer plaguing our screens.

Local coward finds bravery and confronts nastiest gunslinger to win the town and the girl. Yadda, yadda. I really hoped for a demented Blazing Saddles but only got mildly hot flip flops. The lovely Charlize Theron and McFarlane were fantastic together. Good chemistry. You could see where they were improvising which made the banter all the more entertaining.

However, the main jokes and punch lines are few and far between. The bigger, better gags have been heavily advertised to get you to watch this mildly entertaining affair.

Seth MacFarlane’s rants felt, at times, like nothing more than him trying to do improvised stand up. Some parts fall flat on its backside, other bits bring the odd laugh. His speech on the law and order of the town was very good; “There is the mayor. He is dead”.

MacFarlane manages to carry enough charisma to keep his stocky character going. The funniest moments in the film for me were the unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameos, containing the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and . . . my God, two brilliant cameos that were nearly worth the ticket. I won’t say for once.

Cameos you would have expected from MacFarlane but still manage to surprise and get a laugh.

Considering the number of musical montages in Family Guy, there is only one song and dance number. An irritatingly catchy one, at that. A missed opportunity in my opinion. I kept expecting Mr Conway Twitty to appear. Alas to no avail. Of course not literally as the poor man passed away some time ago.

I admit I did have to check Google on that. My bad.

In all fairness, the supporting characters bring the better jokes but they are barely in it. You feel that they are brought in to help the slackening pace or when MacFarlane and Theron have stopped messing around.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) was very funny as the mustached lothario Foy with his ridiculously cringeworthy but hilarious pun based insults.

It was great to see Liam Neeson as the villain. Unfortunately he plays it very dead pan. So serious, in fact that his character is just a stocky and highly unmemorable clichéd cowboy killer. I expected at least a Taken parody or something. Nope. At least he didn’t try and do an American drawl again after Seraphim Falls.

The same could be said for Amanda Seyfried who was nothing more than a bland caricature used as a plot device to spur our protagonist. Shame. A joke about her eyes brought an unexpected titter.

Sarah Silverman and Giovani Ribisi were hilarious together. However, they are only resorted to a drawn out gag about having a prostitute as a girlfriend and not sleeping together before marriage as it is not very Christian. The gag gets a little stale but the characters were funny enough to warrant more screen time than they got.  Inevitably, there would be a meeting with the Indians, I mean, Native Americans and a certain taking of various substances, leading to a trippy and surreal sequence that reeked of desperation, more than creativity.

Inevitably it all ends very . . . predictably which leaves you somewhat disappointed (if it hadn’t already).

It’s watchable at best. But I have later series of Family Guy for that. It kills the time, brings the odd laugh but hardly must see viewing. If you are looking for a laugh out loud rowdy riot of a western in the style of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, then I recommend . . . Blazing Saddles 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #130 out of 179!

PLASTIC REVIEW

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Surprisingly watchable and entertaining. Hardly original or groundbreaking. Pretty much a darker Hustled up Hollyoaks hybrid but with a likeable and talented young British cast, I can think of worst ways to kill 90-odd minutes.

I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. A watchable easygoing crime caper, even if the end result is predictably the same. Ed Speelers has finally found a project to show off his talents after a number of misfires; Eragon and ITV’s Echo Beach. Playing the charismatic lead Sam, desperate to make a quick buck, he leads a rag tag team of chosen criminals who inevitably end up messing with the wrong people. In all fairness, the first 20 minutes zipped along quite nicely with the little fraudsters starting off as little Del Boys, fobbing off stolen merch to stereotypical posh toffs at uni. Stereotypical if hilarious riffs on the Made in Chelsea numpties.

The team of grifters get a passion for plastic. Stealing credit card information and data to buy a lot of expensive jewellery and  harvest a lot of wonga. The ease in which the team obtain their data is scarily realistic; perfectly demonstrated in a petrol station sequence in which cameras are positioned perfectly to catch pins and fake machines. A crime that does need to stop as the world goes DPA crazy. The “subtle” social commentary on the fact that students who are studying their degrees or have achieved them are probably not going to get a job in that field is a harsh reality that I can relate to. But resorting to corporate espionage and card crime, meh, I’ll stick to blogging. The lazy jibes about the economic crisis wasn’t necessary. We’re all stuck in it. Been there. Can’t afford the t-shirt. Felt like a mere excuse to help justify the cockney rebels’ cause.

However, the team soon rip off the wrong man, the ever reliable slithery Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula/Wanted). Not enough of him to be honest but he manages to make a mark. Hardly Brick Top from Snatch but impressionable none the same. He gives them a deadline of two weeks to pay up a £2 million “compensation” fee, leading to one massive, crazy, can’t-believe-it-but-apparently-a-true-story, con. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers/Son of Rambo) was arguably overshadowed. And for some reason, the lad had not grown up enough to carry the conviction his character craved. In one scene, the gruff gangster worked, the other he seemed more like he was doing one of his performances in School of Comedy. He delivers some of the more comical one liners. I mentioned overshadowed as one culprit in particular steals every scene and that goes to old Theon Lovejoy (prefer that comparison to sibling of Lily Allen) Alfie Allen.

Allen has always been able to play the shady, slick faced shithead but he does it so well and delivers yet again as the volatile Yatesey. A necessary, if untrustworthy, evil. A ticking timebomb waiting to explode. The beautiful eye candy, I mean, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) doing her best to be nothing more than a stocky love interest. I couldn’t believe that Graham McTavish (Dwalin from The Hobbit franchise) was in this, playing the ridiculous OTT and gullible mark to perfection, lapping up every minute.  It was great to see Ashley Chin (Starred Up) and Robbie Gee (speaking of Snatch) in somewhat limited roles. But talented enough to stand out. And Malese Jow. I only ever remember her from that Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. Wow. Stunning. But perverted comments aside, she plays the supporting role well. Sebastian De Souza (Skins/The Borgias) was originally quite a funny character and you did feel for him as he is rewarded the more irritating gigs but his character soon gets quite annoying and luckily subsides into the background. Shame.

As Sam says at the start of the film, “it’s not how it started but how it ends. How you got there”. And that’s a little bit of the problem, the start was highly watchable and once the con gets going, the plot holes start appearing and once the crazy Mission Impossible costume work comes into it, well it all gets a little silly. There were missed opportunities; most notably in Sam’s recruiting techniques. Intriguing at first, it soon didn’t surmount to anything by the end, without spoiling too much. And when I say, silly. The strange overuse of slow motion by the end of the film was irritating. I mean, a tense build up to an inevitable shoot out sequence borders on parody by the end, with people being shot left right and centre, then popping back up like they have been re-spawned in a game of Call of Duty.

Arguably this could have been a TV movie but in comparison to the bigger budgeted and supposedly more talented counterparts that have been released this year, this fares reasonably well. More so for me as a movie aficionado after an atrocious April of one star cinematic car crashes. Enough to stay afloat. At this moment, I’m looking for films that are watchable and this one falls into it. If you’re expecting Lock, Stock then you will be disappointed. I’m glad that this didn’t try to be, it’s better for it at that sense. But maybe a little of that ambition would have helped it fare a bit better and all. It’s 3 (just) out of 5 for me!

Currently ranks #86 out of 170!

TRANSCENDENCE REVIEW

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Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy. You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression. The list of contenders for worst film of 2014 keeps growing.

*WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS* A surprising . . . ly slow and spoilerific post-apocalyptic opening made for strange viewing, followed by a flashback piecing together the aftermath. Slow but go on. This is soon hit with mind numbing techno gobbledygook that even the normally prolific powerhouse that is Johnny Depp is so bored of explaining. Basically the gist is that controversial scientist Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in artificial intelligence who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. ZZZZZZ! However, this has made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. A crazy sporadic two minute killing spree soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat. Unexpected (if you don’t remember the trailer) and engaging, I thought here we go. Boy, was I wrong?

Their attempt to destroy Will inadvertently becomes the catalyst he needed to succeed. Fighting for his life, Caster becomes a participant in his own “transcendence” by uploading himself and becoming a power mad information feeding virtual freak. If I had known, the journey that was in store, I would have stayed at home. There is a surprisingly stale chemistry between the beautiful Rebecca Hall and Depp. It was as if writer James Paglan thought; well they are a couple, you must feel for them. We won’t enforce the feelings or develop them. Just insert some corny, generic couple-y moments that take up too much screen time. Once Depp is uploaded, he becomes a monotone and incredibly droll menace that dithers in the background. Hall does her best to carry the film with an impeccable accent. The divided loyalty and questionable motives behind the rebooted Depp made for potentially engaging viewing but it didn’t really go anywhere. An elongated and drawn out 45 minutes building up to Depp’s upload did not do any favours for patience. His drawn out complexion and wirey helmet (easy now) was reminiscent of a demented Hellraiser. Again, nothing surmountable.

I mean the battle and debate about the ever-growing potential of AI is always an intriguing one. “Was Caster really there at all or did the AI get too clever?” was intriguing at certain points. But at a whopping two hours, there just wasn’t enough with the inevitable ending vastly approaching. Fantastic to look at. The visual effects were good. A redeeming sequence in which “Caster” has managed to develop nano bots to create an army of super soldiers delivered the little action that appeared to be on offer with some more familiar supporting faces; Clifton Collins Jr (The Event, 24) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds, The Dark Knight Rises). However, there is one scene which had me in stitches, whether they ran out of budget or poor editing, one of the enhanced nano bots shows off his incredible talents by jumping up two steps on a ladder. If I could find it, I would show it. Hilarious.

That’s not all that’s hilarious. The story makes no sense at all. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman do absolutely nothing to uplift this mess. Because their characters do absolutely nothing. Even though they are aware of the dangerous effects of Caster’s ever-growing power, they just look at charts, mumble some data mumbo jumbo, rush about at the end and . . . watch from the sidelines. Freeman proved one thing. That even with his dulcet tones, he can make any bad line good. “With one of the most advanced security measures in the world, my own team got killed by poisoned cake”. Paul Bettany’s character gets imprisoned by a terrorist cell. Sits about staring blankly into nothingness while being lectured at by Kate Mara’s cyber hippie terrorist. His motives become dreadfully unclear in which it skims forward two years and he’s joined the cell. Freeman even asks him how they got to him. A shrug. That’s all we get. A shrug. Something I fear the writer or director did while making this.

A dreadful directorial debut for Wally Pfister. Now Pfister is a talented cinematographer who has worked extensively with Christopher Nolan for the last decade on some of his biggest hits to date. With Nolan as executive producer, no one would have expected this. Pfister delivers a mess, a beautifully shot mess, but a mess all the same. Perhaps stick with the cinematography? Harsh, maybe. The idea was an intriguing prospect but a lack of pace, a plot holed story line with an inevitable ending is hardly going to make this a memorable film. I mean I’m going to remember this for the two hours I lost. This also marks another step down for the prolific Depp. He is still a talented actor and the argument that he has been poor since Dark Shadows is harsh. His performance redeemed The Lone Ranger in my opinion but it was still a flop. And this film will do him no favours. Perhaps a better look at the script before accepting the wonga. That’s the only reason why I think, or hope, that the cast took this.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count. Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make. I fear the memory of the film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril. 1/5

Currently ranks #168 out of 169!

ENDLESS LOVE REVIEW

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A story we’ve seen done endless times before but surprisingly enough with a light touch and a good cast, quite watchable. Not the worst love story going, but not the best. If you love all that predictable guff, give it a go. The spiel is nothing new. Privileged, if isolated, high school loner  Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls in love with the charismatic rogue mechanic/car valet David Elliott (Alex Pettyfer), against her controlling father’s (Bruce Greenwood) wishes. SHOCK!  What follows is a predictable luvvy duvvy affair that occurs over the summer as the pair fight against their parents and the paths that lay before them.

There is great chemistry between the two leads; the beautiful (if a little skinny) Wilde (who featured in the shambolic Carrie remake and St Trinians franchise) and (I’m sure the ladies will say beautiful) Pettyfer (I Am Number Four/Beastly/Magic Mike). They make two likeable characters, even if you worry they’re going to choke on all the cheese they’re guzzling. I was surprised to see that the two leads were British. Their accents were spot on. It was also interesting to see the number of British actors popping up in this film; Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Emma Rigby?! The girl has gone far from her Hollyoaks days, featuring in all sorts now (The less we say the better Ridley Scott disaster The Counsellor and the US TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Was it just me or did she have her lips pumped? I digress.

It’s all very easygoing and at times hammy with the OTT speeches of (truth, freedom and above all things . . . ) love but the cast make something that should make you cringe watchable and at times engaging. The awkward glances and exchanges blossom into a summery romance with the usual check list; riding on bicycles together, lying in the field blowing daisies, check, check. Ice cold bitchy girl jealous of loved up couple and intent on tearing them apart in the form of the alluring, if lipped up Rigby. Check. Well, kind of. She doesn’t really kick off until late on. More could have been made of her character. Dayo Okeniyi plays David’s best friend/comic relief Mace (not the spray) very well which splits them the luvvy duvvyness. Richardson and Robert “T-1000” Patrick play their parts well, even if they’re a little too soft and supportive for my liking.

The real star for me is the underrated Bruce Greenwood (the Star Trek reboot franchise/I, Robot) as Mr. Hugh Butterfield. The friction and tension between him and David makes up for all the cheesy romance stuff. He works well with Pettyfer and shows why he should be in more films. His presence, his expressions makes his encounters very watchable and makes for a fiery finale as he fears his influence over his family is fading. There was one unexpected moment and it gets a little more interesting when David’s checkered past is revealed but because of the tone of the film, it’s not as bad or as sinister as you think or could have been. It gets OTT, cheesy, but it’s easygoing, watchable and if you like romance and dramas with cheesy predictable guff, then give it a go. Not as bad as I prepared myself for nor as good but it missed out on a treat releasing this during the summer. More a summery film if anything with the well-shot sun lit locations and bright soundtrack. Could have gone a little darker and been stronger for it 2.5/5

Currently ranks #88 out of 145.

PLEASE NOTE: You might have gathered I’m not a romancey movie guy. Apologies for my terminology. I did my best 😉

LUNCH TIME

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A short story I wrote a while back about one man’s downfall during the lunch time madness. Bon appetit!

LUNCH TIME

 It’s the lunch time dash at the Good Eats Restaurant. The place is full to the brim with impatient, hungry customers. Queues have formed all the way back to the entrance. People are trying to squeeze in, just to get out of the cold. The tuts and sighs are enough to mimic a halting train. The command centre, or the kitchen, is busy with employees scuttling everywhere, clumsily bumping into each other, yelling beautiful words of encouragement (Twat!). Teamwork at its finest. The restaurant manager, Bob, an incredible specimen of a man if ever your eyes could fall on. A man you would follow into battle; with his sweaty, overweight physique.

He wipes the sweat off his brow with the back of his chubby little hand and adjusts his comb over. Well, comb over. A sign of denial if ever there was one as Bob attempts to position the three remaining strands of hair, in the reflection of the microwave surface, to look like some sort of ensemble on his head. With this magic patch of hair, he could still pass for 50. His face, a beautiful maroon with eyes as bloodshot red as the tomato-based substitute they pass as sauce. Needless to say, Bob was not amused with the team’s performance. Especially one lad in particular. Wayne.

A tall, lanky geek of a specimen. To be honest, if you were to look at the pair of them, you would have thought it was a before and after sketch in a Weight Watchers campaign. Super-Size vs. Super Skinny. Wayne averts his gaze, choosing the floor rather than his master’s morose maroon face. Bob unleashes all but the bloody Kraken at him. A twenty something student who had the silly idealism (idealism? Well, drunken epitome) that working at a fast food restaurant would be the dream. Well, free food at least. No, not even that. I know, right?

Bob continues to wag his stubby little sausage finger at the scorned student. Spit flying out, leaving little dew dropped speckles on Wayne’s glasses. He doesn’t dare wipe them off at this present moment.

“Are you completely useless?!” screamed Bob.

Wayne desperately wants to answer. Well, I dressed myself. I’m here. So . . . no! But he doesn’t. He continues to look at the disturbingly yellow stained flooring. Is that a cockroach? No, it’s a bean. Wait, we don’t serve beans. Well, ones that move anyway.

“Hello?! I’m talking to you!” shrieked the ogre of a manager.

Then Wayne made that fatal mistake. He looked into his boss’ blood shot eyes and shrugged. The laidback, sarcastic, “fuck it” shoulder shrug. A perfect symbolism of the now generation. If something goes wrong, shrug, fuck it. Not so for the balding beast. It was an invitation. Like a matador waving a cape to a bull. A hairy, fat sweaty bull that seems to be breathing through gritted teeth. Bob clenches his fist.

“That’s all you’ve got, is it?” asks Bob. He shrugs, imitating Wayne.

Some of the employees and customers notice the impending disaster. Laughs could be heard. Phones obviously ready to record, post and share to the world. God bless social media. Wayne doesn’t like the attention. He can feel his face going red. He’s had enough. Shrug, fuck it.

“You told Jeff to clean the toilet. Not me!” retorted the trembling twenty-something. Bob shakes his head. He smiles, a sinister shark toothed grin as if to say, you’ve just walked into my trap. Cue the theatrics so every nosy parker could see. Bob throws his arms up in the air as if he was ready to perform Swan Lake, not give a bollocking.

“He speaks! Ah ha. Yeah, I can see how I can get Jeff and Wayne mixed up. Those names are so similar.  J-e-f-f. W-a-y-n-e.” Bob uses his hands to help in the spelling of the names, like he was ready to show the emergency exits on a plane. Wayne is hating every second of it. Alright, Alan Partridge. I can fucking spell. Bob bellows for the witness in the trial of the designated job debacle.

“JEFF!” bellowed Bob.

Jeff, a smaller, spottier lad around the same age as Wayne, pops up like a meerkat from the chips section.

“Yes, boss?” said Jeff, in his snivelly, whiney voice.

Bob turns around to face him. He places his hands on his hips, a pose resembling a teapot.

“Settle this. Who did I ask to clean the toilets?” barks the boss man.

Jeff shakes, nerves kicking in. The spotlight well and truly on him. Nothing worse for little old Jeff. He tries to get the words out, in a Morse code fashion.

“Www-aa-yyy-nnee-ssss-i-rrr, bbb-oo-sss”, croaked the coward.

Wayne mimics Bob’s teapot pose behind his back. Jeff tries not to smile. However, he made the mistake. He looked over Bob’s shoulder. Bob turns around. Wayne quickly puts his arms down and looks back down to the ground. Too late, the damage is done.

Before Bob can reprimand the reeling reprobate, he notices that he has gathered more of an audience than he anticipated with the restaurant rammed to the brim. And for some reason, huddling around a particular check out till. Go figure. Bob shakes his head and lets out a big sigh. His mouldy mank breath hitting Wayne’s face like a slap to the face.

“Finish your shift then come to my office. You’re promoted to tills. You can take orders, can’t you?” retorted Bob.

Still digging. Still waiting for a rise. Wayne nods rapidly. Not good enough for the big, bald boss.

“Yes, what?” commands Bob.

Wayne looks up confused.

“Eh?”

Bob makes a spinning motion with his hand.

“Wind your neck back in and answer me properly”, demands the dictator.

For the love of God, don’t shrug again. Bob moves closer, squaring up to Wayne, “I’m waiting”.

Jeff is trying to say something over Bob’s shoulder. He mimes the words, SAY SIR! Wayne makes a scoffing noise. That’s it!

“If you’re expecting me to say sir, you’ll be waiting a long time. This ain’t the fucking military!” shouts Wayne.

Oh no. More phones rise out of the ever-growing mass of hungry consumers. They’re getting fed one way or another. Through processed food or violence. Bob clenches his fists. He steps into Wayne’s personal space.

“Like I said, office later. Now get on the tills!” Bob barges past the weedy Wayne. The customers and employees tut and sigh, disappointed that their diligence did not at least earn a bitch slap. Videos were still being posted, of course.

Wayne turns his anger towards Jeff. He stomps over. Jeff picks up on his vibe and quickly starts putting chips into the fryer. Wayne stands behind him, breathing down his neck.

“Uh, what the hell, mate?” Wayne raises his arms like Jesus on the cross, like all was against him. Why me, Lord? “You know he asked you to!”

Jeff continues to fumble about. Chips going everywhere but their intended destination. He sighs.

“I couldn’t prove him wrong in front of everyone”, squeaks the mousy midget.

Wayne tuts. “Bullshit”

Jeff turns around to face him.

“I’m sorry, okay?”

Wayne shakes his head.

“No, not okay. It’s every day. You know, he’s got it in for me so don’t give him more fucking ammo. God, I hate this job”

Wayne grabs his hat and throws it into the fryer. He soon regrets it.

“Oh bloody hell! That was my hat”

Jeff tries to fish it out.

“Why don’t you quit?”

Wayne makes that scoffing noise again. Not even he knows where that came from.

“It’s alright for you, hang on, you got something on your nose”.

Jeff rubs his nose frantically. Wayne moves closer and wipes something. He shows his finger. There’s nothing there. Wayne smiles.

“Oh, look is that some of Bob’s shit”.

Jeff slaps Wayne’s hand away and continues fishing for the cap.

“I’ve had enough. If I’m called an idiot one more time, I’ll . . .” Wayne struggles to find the words.

“You’ll what?” asks Jeff, desperate for the drama queen to exit stage right. Wayne shrugs.

“I dunno. But I’ll do something.” Wayne brushes his hands through his hair.

Jeff tuts. Wayne looks at him, puzzled.

“What’s the tut for?” demands Wayne.

Jeff smiles.

“Did Bob give you your balls back?”

Wayne tries to find an answer. He looks up to the ceiling, hoping to pick a smart quip out of thin air.

“Uh . . . shut up, Jeff!”

Wayne activates one of the counter terminals. He brushes bits of god knows what off his uniform. He takes a deep breath and adjusts his name tag. Right, let’s do this. Bring it. He pulls the falsest smile he has ever done and shouts those beautiful words.

“NEXT, PLEASE!”

Two businessmen in Versace suits, carrying briefcases, approach the counter. Quite dapper, if Wayne was in the mood to compliment. However, the two businessmen are different in size, more Mr Big and Mr Small. Mr Small starts ordering. He is middle aged, with a little goatee. If anything with his physique and appearance you could have mistaken him for Ricky Gervais. He doesn’t bother to look at Wayne, just faces the other businessman. He speaks.

“He looks like an idiot”.

Wayne looks at Mr Small, confused. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah I said, idiot. Couldn’t you hear me?” retorts Mr Small.

Wayne can’t believe his luck. Replace one knobhead with another. Must have been a bad person in a former life. Keep calm, keep calm, Wayne. He flashes that fake smile, again.

“I’m sorry, can I take your order, sir?

Mr Small pulls a face, “What?”

Keep calm and carry on.

“Can I-

Mr Small cuts Wayne short by raising his index finger

“I heard you the first time. I’ll have a cheeseburger. No fries and whatever other shit you’re going to offer”

Mr Big looks to be the same age as Wayne. Better looking than his shitty counterpart. Tall, dark hair, more like someone out of the Hollyoaks ensemble. He smiles but remains silent. Mr Small taps his watch.

“I’d like this done today”.

Oh, no he didn’t!

Wayne is fuming. He turns around and grabs the first burger he can find. He can still hear Mr Small rabbiting on to Mr Big.

“How hard is it to follow instructions?”

Wayne goes to slam the burger on the counter but before he can, he suddenly has a Eureka moment. He puts on his false smile, mimicking the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. He puts the burger in his pocket. The heat burning through the cheap nylon trousers. Mr Small looks up. Wayne raises two fingers, no, the normal way.

“Two seconds. Just got to be made”. Mr Small sighs. Mr Big again, remains silent. Wayne quickly dashes through the hustle and bustle of the kitchen area. He hovers outside the staff toilet door. Well, Bob did say I was supposed to clean the toilets. Wayne knocks on the door to make sure no one is in there. Knock, knock. Nothing. He creeps into the condensed area with its claustrophobic walls. He bangs his elbow against the sink. Flies are buzzing around the only toilet. Well, the only designated staff toilet. Wayne looks inside the toilet. Damn, clean! The one time. Sod’s law! Wayne unwraps the burger and looks around.

He crawls on his knees and smiles. Bingo! He wipes the burger round the toilet fittings and the rim of the porcelain, for good measure. He looks back to make sure no one has, well not walked in, but popped their nosy head in. He quickly wraps the burger back up.

Wayne flashes that Cheshire grin and rushes back to Mr Small who is looking at his watch, impatiently. He slaps the burger on the counter, “Here you go, sir. Sorry for the delay”.

Mr Small snatches it off the side. Wayne looks to Mr Big. Oh shit, I left before he could order.

“I’m sorry. Did you want anything? I dashed off to sort your colleague’s. I completely forgot to ask.”

Nice and cool. Courteous. Completely oblivious. Go on, eat it here. Actually, no don’t. Mr Small looks at Mr Big. He shakes his head.

“Oh no, he isn’t with me”

Wayne looks puzzled. Mr Big flashes that Hollyoaks smile.

“I’m being served, thank you.”

What? Then why was he talking –

“’Scuse me”.  Jeff pushes past Wayne and passes a bag to Mr Big. Mr Big thanks Jeff and leaves. Mr Small’s shout brings Wayne back to the growing chaos.

“I asked you a question!”

Did he open the burger? Shit, I zoned out. Wayne can feel the blood leaving his face, “Sorry, sir?”

Mr Small shakes his head. “Not you, son”

Mr Small places his index finger next to his ear. He turns his head around to reveal a bluetooth device.

“Signals crap in here. I’ll fire the idiot when I’m back.”

Oh no, oh no, oh no.

Mr Small chucks some money at the counter. He smiles.

“Sorry about that, mate. Work. Who’d do it, eh? Bad manners, I know. Keep the change, son. Cheers”

NO, NO, NO, NO!

Mr Small disappears into the ocean of hungry monsters. Wayne can’t see him.

“No, wait!”

Oh sh-

“Found your hat”

Jeff passes Wayne’s deep fried cap. Wayne looks sick.

“Are you okay?”

Wayne places the hat on Jeff’s head. He takes off his name tag.

Jeff is confused.

“What are you doing?”

Wayne can’t find the words. He turns to his companions and shrugs.

Fuck it.

THE END