should be ashamed
Join Date: 20 Oct 2005
Location: Highlands of Scotland
Re: 2011 Filmlists
The crapathon commences:
- Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (1994) - Rewatch. Not as weirdly odd as I remember. Maybe because I have seen the original since I first saw it.
- Darkdrive (1996) - Rewatch. A possible exception to my 'ALL sf movies set in futuristic gaols are automatically pants' rule. Don't get me wrong, Darkdrive is definitely pants but, even on a second viewing, gets so genuinely confusingly weird by the end of it that I forgive it its sins of the first half.
- War Between the Planets (1966) Rewatch - one of the classic 'Gamma 1' series of Italian SF movies made in the mid-60s, and maybe the weakest of the four. In this episode Earth is threatened with destruction by unknown forces which release a tidal wave of stock footage from 'all four corners of the globe' (sic). After about an hour of on-screen helplessness in which nothing much happens apart from technicians at consoles bark chunks of technobabble to one another while people in authority listen to them and say things like "This is fantastic! Why wasn't I informed before?", our hero gets it into his head to load an anti-matter bomb into a space ship and set off for somewhere not very well defined for some reason not made very clear to the audience. For a variety of equally obscure motives, almost everyone else in the cast with speaking parts follow him. They find a red glowing farting asteroid and decide to blow it up. After endlessly wandering around its glowing interior and strungling* with viciously inert rubber tentacles (see 35 second mark in the trailer for a good example), they finally succeed. The music was kind of groovy and the endless wandering around the same small alien set got hypnotically dreamlike towards the end but it wasn't really worth the effort to get there.
- Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962) - Rewatch (I'm obviously in the mood to revisit some of the oddities I've discovered over the last couple of years.) A strange, strange little movie which was as oddly odd as I remember. (Helped no doubt by my downloaded copy being a few frames out of synch which had the effect of making everyone sound like they had dubbed themselves appearing in a foreign language movie.)
- Alien Intruder (1993) - Straight to video shit from a first time director who stretched five minutes worth of story (an alien virus in the shape of Tracy Scoggins infects a spaceship crew's individual virtual reality sleep pods and makes them kill each other) out to two hours. Two hours in which we are expected to buy the phenomenal idea that people will fight and kill to sleep with Tracy Scoggins! Two hours in which we get to watch Maxwell Caulfield wishing he was back making quality products like Grease 2. (If you drew a straight line on Caulfield's graph of crappy shame between the points marking Grease 2 and the rural soap Emmerdale, where he now works, this movie would be well below it.) We also get to watch Billy Dee Williams playing some weird game in which he tries to put the stress on the wrong word in every sentence without the director noticing; I suspect he was trying to keep himself awake. And we also get to watch the future security chief of Babylon 5 snog his commanding officer. (Jeff Conaway and Tracy Scoggins - but only total geek fanboys would have: a.noticed, b.thought it noteworthy, c.found it pervily arousing. Luckily I score only 2 out of the 3, so there is still hope for me.) All in all another 75p well spent at the charity shop. Future prisons featured heavily in this one too. And why is it that any 'virtual reality' of the 80s and 90s will always have a bad Casablanca homage sequence in them?
- Shepherd (1999) - More post-apocalyptic nonsense (characters wearing fingerless gloves? Check!). Somewhere in Roger Corman's book How I made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime I seem to recall that he gave one sure-fire simple way of getting 300% out of any location involved in a car chase (or maybe it was mentioned in the Dov Simens' 2-Day Film School™ I once attended - I got in for free) either way the advice given was this: Put the camera down, have the cars drive past. Put an oil drum in the foreground and have the cars drive past the other way. While they're turning around for a final pass, set fire to the oil drum. Three set-ups without moving the camera. Advice the director of this turd took to heart. There isn't an exterior without at least one burning oil drum somewhere in the shot. Great attempts were made to give this movie a cultish vibe, great dollops of knowing 'weirdness' are thrown at the screen: David Carradine as a drunken ventriloquist whose dummy tries to strangle our hero, an unnamed character who is totally extraneous to the plot and does nothing more than vaguely comment on the action and ask unseen punters to place bets on what happens next, an old lady who spontaneously combusts in a restaurant for no apparent (and unexplained) reason - but none of it sticks. It's all too self-knowing and clumsy. It becomes irritating. What you end up with is a another poverty-row 'Sci-Fi' actioner with added, not very good, 'weird' bits climaxing (as usual) in a final showdown battle. This time the battle is between rival religious cultist leaders who can summons up a grand total of three stuntmen each. No amount of rapid-fire editing or well placed oil drums with gas burners in them could rescue it. C Thomas Howell hid behind a beard and got to pretend to bump uglies with four women - tough job but I suppose someone has to do it.
- Cyborg 3: The Creation (1995) - Even I found this one hard going. But I do think I've found the nadir of Malcolm McDowell's career. I thought Moon 44 was the bottom of the curve till I saw Beings (aka The Fairy King or Ar) but this.... Sticking firmly to the Rule of Part 3s (they're shit!) this is the second sequel to a Claude Van Dammit! movie (Part 2 starred Angelina Jolie) and is the usual post-apocolyptic desert wasteland driving shooting and explosions crap. Mr McD, so prominently displayed of the box front, "Starring Malcom McDowell", has about four lines that contribute nothing to the plot - or any possible 'character development' that might have been going on. (I didn't see any.) At first I thought his scenes were footage left over from a previous 'Cyborg' movie - but he wasn't in either of them so that can't have been it. Maybe he was just driving past, saw the film crew, and said, "Give us a fiver and I'll be in your movie!". His scenes cannot have taken more than a couple of hours to shoot.
- Armageddon (1997 aka Redline, Deathline) - One of those films in which an American Armed Only With a Handgun: A. out-shoots armies of hired goons out to kill him B. gets the girl. The film is set in slightly futuristic Moscow, was shot in Hungary and the American Armed Only With a Handgun is Dutchman Rutger Hauer. The endless army of goons out to kill him include topless women boxers and nude female assassins - and street bums. In one sequence our hero is on the run, his name and picture are flashed up on vast outdoor screens in a 'Moscow's Most Wanted' TV show (which re-enacted his 'crimes' as the Odessa Steps massacre from In Battleship Potemkin). There is a cash reward. A bunch of vodka-soaked down-and-outs make the connection. One points at our fugitive hero. Hey! He's the guy! There! Stop him! Suddenly, from nowhere, they all produce AK47s and start blasting away! It's almost a good joke but nothing is made of it and it falls flat on its arse; just turns into another improbable, overlong 'action' sequence - which makes me wonder if it was a joke at all. I hope it was because it was just about the only original idea in the movie. Mind you, the locations were interesting to look at and naked women are always welcome on my TV, even when attacking Rutger Hauer wearing boxing gloves, but the script was a confusing mess; I had no idea what was going on half the time and cared less for most. The music was a mess too, but an eclectic interesting mixture of a mess that ranged from Hardcore Techno to some serious Hardcore Cheesy Listening via Jewish folk music.
- Caché (2005 aka Hidden) - A grown up film for a change. In which I didn't mind that I didn't know what was going on half the time because I wanted to know! It's nearly two hours long has lots of long static shots in which nothing much happens but I was gripped. I found myself scouring the screen, examining every passing face for a clue. I thought Juliette Binoche did a brilliant job. I will admit to feeling let down by the ultimate ambiguity of it all. Too much Hollywood. I've been conditioned to expect endings.
- Escape from L.A. (1996) - Aha! Another outbreak of Burning Drumitis. Everywhere in PostApoc L.A. - burning oil drums. Even when our hero (Kurt Russel) and sidekick descend through a manhole into the sewers - burning oil drums. About half way through I started to recognise individual drums. There was one with two large holes near the top that kept turning up all over the place. The story was the routine pants and Steve Buscemi stole the show as usual.
- Tinker Bell (2008 ) - Straight to DVD Disney movie which wasn't as indescribably awful as I was expecting. Daughter Number Two wanted Daughter Number One to see it and chose it as Friday Night Pizza Movie. A couple of passable, and well timed, jokes made me almost laugh and it was mercifully short on songs; there's only one which is delivered in that hideous, semi-operatic, overly precise diction style that Disney Princesses love so much. Half way though the show I found myself thinking that for a cartoon character Tinker Bell didn't half have nice legs. That was a weird moment.
- Night of the Blood Beast ( 1958 ) - a formula Roger Corman alien-invasion low budget quickie. Towards the end - and the inevitable showdown in Bronson Canyon - I spent a lot of time trying to remember all the movies I had seen shot in that location. IMDb lists 261. A lot of them are TV episodes but have seen a vast number of the crap SF films shot there in the 50s and 60s: Teenagers From Outer Space, Robot Monster, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Earth vs. the Spider, and so on - oh! here's one I haven't seen: Beach Babes 2: Cave Girl Island - shot in 1988. Nice to know the tradition is alive. Off to Blockbusters to rent that one and see what the place looks like in colour.
- Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell (1988 aka Deathstalker III) - Mexican shot sword and sorcery bollocks that left me as overwhelmed with indifference as the last time I watched it three years ago. In fact, so overwhelmed was I the last time, that I had completely forgotten I'd seen it until about halfway through - by then it was too late; rigor mortis had set in.
- The Lady From Shanghai (1947) - I can never decide whether I think The Lady from Shanghai is my favourite of Welles' films or if it's Mr Arkadin. It's usually the one I have watched most recently.
- The Sword in the Stone (1963) - Friday Night Pizza and Family Movie Fest. I've been avoiding watching The Sword in the Stone for most of my life for a couple of reasons: a. The book was a childhood favourite and even from an early age I knew that watching film versions of favourite books was a sure ticket to disappointment. b. It was made by Disney who, more than most, fucked up perfectly great books to make really mediocre films - especially during the 60s. I don't like Disney at the best of times but their animation in the 60s was just dreadful: scrappy, cheap, and obsessed with animating endless amounts of water cascading around the place. Here the story, which was not complicated to start with, has been simplified to the point of idiocy and made so bland it was almost unrecognisable. I read the book to my girls recently at bedtimes; they laughed all the way through the film but spent the next twenty minutes telling me the bits that had been left out from the book.
- The Search for One-Eye Jimmy (1994) - a, not as funny as I remember it, indie comedy with a great cast: John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Beals, and New York based indie movie staple Anne Meara (I think it's actually illegal to shoot a movie in New York without her in the cast). There's not much of a plot and even less of a script.
- Bunny and the Bull (2009) - I wanted to like this so much and I'm really struggling to understand why I didn't. Bunny and the Bull is an overly quirky Film Council (RIP) part-funded feature début from the director of the overly quirky TV series The Mighty Boosh. Benny and the Bull has "From the Director of the Mighty Boosh" writ large on the box, the stars of 'the Boosh', Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, appear in the film Everything screams "Compare this to The Mighty Boosh!". So I feel no guilt about doing just that. Now I like The Mighty Boosh. I like it a lot. Noel Fielding and the other one are direct comic descendants of the absurdist surrealism of the great Spike Milligan. The show packed more oddness into one 1/2 hour slot than most programmes achieved in a whole series. The show had great writing and a joyous combination of expensive set design and a scrappy make-do and cobble it together feel (in one episode the villain was an unwound Betmax cassette played by an actor festooned in unwound videotape).
The jokes and situations came at you thick and fast in the show. The film is a lot slicker, and the characters aren't played for laughs as much, but it just didn't deliver for me. The design and lighting are too good, when the action segues into our characters moving in an animated, modelled, or drawn - almost cartoon-like, landscape (which happens a lot) it all looks too well done. The only way I can think to explain it is when you see a drawing in a film or in an advert that is supposedly done by a child but is so obviously done by an adult trying to draw like a child. It somehow becomes incredibly phoney. I'm not explaining this very well am I? I do know that I thought it was very long. I was surprised to find it was only 97 mins long; I thought I had been watching it for at least 2 hours. The music was good.
- Guys and Dolls (1955) - I have a soft spot for Guys and Dolls and pulled rank at the Family Friday Night Pizza and Movie Ritual by making my kids watch it. Only Holly stayed its 150 mins course but then she has an almost insatiable appetite for Hollywood musicals ("even when there is kissing in them"). It was the first time I'd seen it where it hadn't been panned and scanned and was in heaven seeing all sorts of details I'd never seen before. One of the things I enjoy so much about this film is watching Brando work. I don't know anything about the shooting but he looks like he's having such fun it's infectious.
- The Adventures of Prescilla Queen of the Desert (1994) - Merriol's favourite film and as a 40th birthday surprise friends hired the local community cinema and we had an afternoon showing with everyone glammed up with glitter and false eyelashes. The best way to watch a film.
- Send for Paul Temple (1946) - Workmanlike, very dated, British 'thriller' in which, true to form, expiring villains gasped out cryptic clues with their dying breaths (though how the landlord of the pub found hanged with his hands tied behind his back managed to write 'peng' in the dust on an overturned stool is never explained). The film showed its radio origins by having the characters constantly repeating to each other the few obvious clues they have gathered so far; this would have been useful, if not essential, in an episodic radio serial where listeners had to be bought up to date with the story, but was tedious in a 83 minute film.
- The Astro-Zombies ( 1968 ) - I think this is the third or fourth time I've watched this very very bad film. I find it fascinating. It's ponderously slow, with every shot held to its maximum length in an attempt to stretch it out to a decent running time, but it does have a secret weapon: John Carradine. I have no idea why, but I could watch that man talk garbage on screen for hours. Here he's playing his usual misguided scientist who this time has managed to lose his prototype 'astro-zombie', a reanimated human cadaver with an artificial heart. The idea is that by thought transference the Astro-zombie would be able to take the world's greatest scientists into space without putting them in any danger. Unfortunately Dr. Carradine had only the brain of a 'psychopathic murderer' knocking about when the mark one was assembled - fill in the blanks.... Several grisly murders later, in the inevitable basement laboratory, Dr. Carradine and his hunchbacked mute assistant Franchot stand before a bank of electronic stuff with a lot of lights and buttons that make 'boopily boopily' noises when you push them.
It's like music, like some free-form jazz science fiction scat singing. I wonder if he made it up as he went along, improvising around a few key points, or if someone actually wrote those lines and he learned them? I like to think the man is winging it. The Ella Fitzgerald of crap SF films.
"Now Franchot, the time has come to test our new brain. We must feed this memory circuit through the emotional quotient rectifier to determine if there is any residual impurity....
(Seventeen or so switches switched, buttons pushed, and rheostats twiddled later...)
"I've introduced into the console the electrolitic limiters which should disallow interference with the programmed patterns function within the body mechanism. Actuate the heart circuit. Excellent! Before we can recall our first creation, we must attempt to override his emotional index by stepping up the voltage and transmission frequency...
(More buttons, switches and rheostats are expertly fondled and suddenly screen is full of red flashing lights! The buttons, switches and rheostats are expertly, but rapidly, fondled in reverse order till they stop.)
"It's obvious the frequency and voltage boost will not effect an override... Franchot, remove number nine from the thermal freeze casket and prepare him for brain transfer and total astro-mobilisation....
v. To simulate the act of strangulation by clutching the stranglator to your own throat, while pretending to struggle to be free. An act commonly seen performed in any cheap movie containing a giant octopus.
- The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood (1986) - a real odd one. Shot in 1976 but not 'ready for release' (whatever that means*) for another 10 years, the film takes place during the course of one day in the life of Faustus Bidgood, with a history of mental health problems and a Billy Liar like imagination, he works as a minor bureaucrat in the Newfoundland Department of Education. Lots of things are happening on this day. The final preparations for the annual charity concert in aid of crippled children are being made. The premier of Newfoundland has gone missing (again) leaving behind him cryptic clues - TV viewers are asked to help in the manhunt and could win a waffle iron if they come up with the solution as to his whereabouts. There is a child serial killer on the loose and the local TV's top children's entertainer, who dresses as a giant chicken, has resigned his job and gone on a three bottle bender while still in costume. One of Faustus' co-workers is pregnant but the father of the child is in doubt and Faustus' boss has a messianic dream of the future of education based on a vision he had when he saw his friend killed by a plummeting bag of frozen soup.
Faustus, accompanied by his childhood imaginary friend, tries to hide from all this chaos by living in an alternate fantasy reality where they staged a coup, declared Newfoundland to be an independent state, and he became president promising to resign after one year but, as president, he has a decision to make and keeps having a recurring dream that he is in fact a lowly filing clerk. There are flashbacks from at least two different characters. The fantasy (or are they?) sequences are shot in grainy black and white, there is a film within a film which represents some of Faustus' memories as a documentary and then a film within that film which purports to be the first, never to be released, Newfoundland feature film ever shot. It sounds like an unholy mess and it almost is but, amazingly, all these strands (maybe with the exception of the film within the film within the film) neatly tie up at the end. I liked it.
*Find out what 'that' means in an article from Cinema Canada - November 1986 here:
- Star Trek (2009) - Meh.
- The Jungle Book (1967) - Another Disney Friday night with the kids movie. Another very thin adaptation of a much loved book of my childhood. I do remember seeing this many many years ago in the cinema (I'm old enough to remember the days before the existence of museum pieces like VHS, Betamax, or even Laserdiscs) and hadn't seen it since. I was surprised at the amount of reused footage there was in it. Ka suffering the same fall from the same tree twice for example, and, as Daughter Number One pointed out, Bagheera climbs along the same tree branch several times - but then she has seen it four times.
- Fugitive Alien (1987) - My first incomprehensible Japanese TV show edited into a movie-length pudding of bewilderments of the year. And first decent sighting of a SpaceBimbo this year too.
Fugitive Alien tells the story of Ken, a 'Space Wolf', a killer elite space pirate, who has a crisis of conscience when out raiding one day and instead of gunning down a little boy (who also happens to be called Ken), he accidentally kills his best friend and fellow space pirate. Now an outcast and a traitor, he is mercilessly and relentlessly hunted for a few minutes until he escapes and joins the Earth Space fleet. After a lot of bewildering hanging about waiting for the story to really start his ship is sent on a mission to help another planet (populated by Japanese extras wearing Arab headresses) who are threatened by an enemy with a weapon so powerful it could destroy their 'whole constellation' (sic and wtf?). The second half of the film consists of Ken breaking out of jail on the Planet of the Japanese Arabs and springing one of the enemy soldiers too. Just as they are about to blast off for what our occasional narrator has called 'Their most exciting mission yet' the words 'To be continued' appear on screen and the thing just stops. Arse! What I have just spent an hour and a half watching turns out to be half an incomprehensible Japanese TV show edited into a movie-length pudding of bewilderment. The sequel, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, was, according to the IMDb, released in 1986 - the year before the original. I wouldn't be surprised if this was true.
A standard tool used by American producers dubbing foreign SF films into English is to include quick, cheap to make, insert shots of hands flipping switches, and interesting dials with obvious English wording on them. I guess they would often be replacing shots of dials and switches with Cyrillic or Japanese writing next to them but sometimes I think they were just used to cover what would have otherwise been clumsy edits. The American producers weren't too bothered about where these shots came from - I remember one film where the inserts were probably shot in the dubbing studio as they recorded the new soundtrack; all the switches and dials in the spaceship were marked with things like 'Peak Wow' and 'decibels'. These shots were usually only a couple of seconds long, if that, but wherever the new inserts came from, the producers usually employed someone who could spell. Not here:
and how this briefly flashed up computer screenful of delivery details from a Utah metal products company to 25 East Union Avenue, North Salt Lake helped to identify the fleet of hostiles just outside the good guys' spaceship window is a total mystery.
- Metropolis (1927) - I finally get to see what may well be the most complete, restored version of one of my long time favourite films (it is where my usual avatar comes from) - and I fall asleep.
- Marooned (1969) - Three astronauts are trapped in their Apollo capsule and NASA (or 'the NASA' as one character pedantically refers to it here) attempts to rescue them before their oxygen runs out in 42 hours. This is a long film (134 minutes) and sometimes it felt like the 42 hours was playing out in real time with most of the screen time taken up with people reading screeds of numbers at each other. For once though the techno-babble was convincingly real and occasionally the film works, it does build up tension and the brief moments when emotions break through all the cold equations are more powerful because of it; Gene Hackman is particularly good as one of the doomed crew. I was less convinced by the ending which had a Russian spaceship turn up out of nowhere and one of the astronauts doing a Captain Oates but taking a third of their dwindling supply of oxygen with them. Not sure I followed the logic of that. I could have done with a bit more exposition in places.
- Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989) - Alex Proyas' first feature. An odd slow very low budget three hander. In a post apocalyptic future (fingerless gloves? check!) a brother and a sister live in a shack in the middle of a desert. He's in a wheelchair and dreams of flying, she's a religious bampot. One day a stranger arrives. The brother and the stranger build a flying machine and the stranger flies away. Some terrific visuals - even on the panned and scanned downloaded version I saw - more than made up for deficiencies in story and acting. Proyas' next film was The Crow.
- MirrorMask (2005) - another début feature with stunning visuals. I loved it so did the kids. One of those films where all CGI stuff serves the story (or possibly was the story) rather than being added for sheer gosh-wowery.
- Murder Party (2007) - I'm not a great modern horror fan so why I was watching a movie with someone holding two chainsaws on the front cover I'm not quite sure. Murder Party is a low/no budget horror/comedy that is almost funny in places. The plot is simple: a traffic warden finds an invitation to a Hallowe'en 'Murder Party' and decides to go. As soon as he arrives he is pounced upon by all the other guests who turn out to be an art collective in need of a victim for an artwork. It's a neat reversal of the usual low/no budget horror formula (take a bunch of teenagers to a deserted place and kill them off one by one). Here we have one victim and lots of killers. Things start to go wrong for our hero's captors when one of them has an allergic reaction to the non-organic raisins in his pumpkin cake and dies. Over the course of the evening the other 'artists', and several bystanders get themselves bumped off, in a variety of gory ways leaving our hero to go home. It almost works.
- World Without End (1956) - another rewatch of an old favourite. Man's first manned mission to Mars (as always) goes horribly wrong and our gallant crew are hurled through time to a post-apoc world (this was the fifties so, damn!, no fingerless gloves) where brutish cave men rule the upper world and a dwindling scientific elite live below ground. The men of the future wear shiny futuristic caps and the women wear satin dresses with conical tits and hemlines that stop just below their bums. Our hero interlopers, with the aid of their standard issue handguns (so useful in a spaceship), and a home-made bazooka, fight off giant spiders, one-eyed mutant cavemen, and skulduggerous locals to save all the non-mutant cave men and get laid by the satin conical tit girls (though, this being the fifties, this last bit is only implied). If it wasn't so stodgily presented - for a lot of the time people stand in rows and take turns to tell each other stuff - this would be a real cracker.
- Star Trek TNG: The Best of Both Worlds (1990) - every now and then I like to torture myself with a Star Trek movie. I've no idea why; I know they're tedious predictable shit even before I open the box, and, unlike most bad movies which are all unpredictably bad in their own special ways, Star Trek movies are all bad in the same ways. All so formulaic, self-referential and uninvolving that it's like watching the furniture being rearranged in someone else's house. Every now and then your hosts will stop and ask, "What do you think?" and you just have to be honest and say you can't tell the difference from the last time they asked you - though you suspect they might have swapped the sofas around.
Star Trek TNG: The Best of Both Worlds was even more shittierly predictable and tedious than usual because it turned out to be a 'made for TV movie' cobbled together out of two regular episodes. (That'll teach me to read the small print a little more closely in future.) In this one the Enterprise meets the Borg again and Jean Luc P is captured and Borgified and everyone gets to recalibrate everything from the warp containment core to the kitchen toaster, and Jonathan Frakes (Ryker) gets more slow dolly shots moving in on him looking stern and decisive than any man in the history of episodic TV. And as most of these shots were done from a low angle to make him look heroic, we spent an awful lot of the 'movie's' running time staring up his nostrils. At least it made a change from watching him looking smug which is Frakes' other stock in trade pose.
At one point Patrick Stewart made a weird noise just before he spoke a line which had all the hallmarks of a bit of real acting escaping onto the screen. It was very lonely.
- Lifeforce (1985) - The first manned mission to Haley's comet finds an derelict space ship. Now anyone who has ever seen ANY movies knows that entering derelict spaceships is just asking for trouble. Unfortunately our valiant crew have spent so long training to be astronauts they never watched anything other than training videos and happily go exploring. Inside they encounter a bunch of dead aliens and three perfectly preserved nude humans in suspended animation. The female of the three probably has the most beautiful tits seen on any screen during the eighties. Hypnotised by naked knockers (as most men are) the crew drag the bodies on board and head back for Earth and the plot goes into out of control free-fall with the movie ending up with rampaging alien vampire zombies destroying London, (I think they were covering all the bases when they pitched this one:
Writer: "It's a vampire flick, with zombies! - and aliens... ...and tits!"
Producer:"I like it!"
This film has a real reputation for being awful and I was surprised to find the opening sequences weren't that bad, but it didn't take long to descend into totally confused garbage. Towards the end I gave up trying to follow what was going on - though actors kept telling me at great length - and just felt sorry for Peter Firth (who probably thought this was going to be his big Hollywood break)as he wandered about in a polo-neck jumper trying to be the hero but being confounded at every turn by the incoherent script.
All Hail the Hypno-boobs!
The first feature film to use Brent Cross Shopping Centre as a location and the second film I've watched in a row to feature Patrick Stewart being subsumed by an alien lifeform. He explodes in this one.
- The Girl Cut in Two (La fille coupée en deux 2007) - by total coincidence Mathilda May, the naked hypno-boob girl of last night's film, was the first person on screen in The Girl Cut in Two. Inspired by the murder of Stanford White in 1906 the film tells the story of a TV weather girl torn between two lovers. A rich successful older novelist and a wealthy, but unbalanced playboy. The film asks us to believe that both men already detest each other - for reasons that are never really specified - and both of them instantly fall in love with the same girl within one day. She falls in love with one, marries the other - lots of post coital conversations, lots of people sitting round eating expensive meals and a hurried, patched together, scrappy ending that looks like it had been nailed into the script to stop the film going on for another couple of hours. I didn't believe a single frame of the whole damn thing.
- Dream Warrior (2003) - a cinematic version of one of those bad self published novels which starts with enough backstory flashback voice-over intro to make you think you are watching a sequel (it isn't) and then just wanders around aimlessly wasting so much time you wonder why they didn't just include all that backstory in the main narrative and cut out all the waffle. A genuinely incompetent mess with a director who does amazingly inept things like using a point of view shot [handheld camera keeks round a pillar at two guards], then showing a wide of the actor whose point of view we are supposed to have experienced getting into position to see what we have just seen him see [sneak sneak up to the pillar then keek around it], then show us again what we have seen he has just seen now that he is finally in a position to see it. THEN - having established that handheld camera keeking round a pillar is a point of view shot - shows us the hero sneaking around in a series of handheld keeking round pillar shots without once hinting that there is anyone else around to be having these point of views of the hero. Garbage direction. Other highlights included Isaac Hayes being mystical in a purple burnoose:
And, just to keep with self-published vibe, at least one typo in the credits; apparently there was someone responsible for 'UK Catsing'.
Sometimes dreams are the only
thing worth having!
What are you talking about*?
I really hope I don't see anything quite so dreadful as this for the rest of the year.
* Edit: I just realised this is even funnier if you do it in Cartman's voice.
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) - Okay, I was wrong. For years I've had this down in my head as one of those annoyingly overly cutesy films I never wanted to see again. Watching it tonight with the kids I was pleasantly surprised at how funny it was - once I had got over the semi-Americanisation. (Still hate the fucking songs though.) The kids were enraptured by it. Afterwards number one daughter wanted to find the book to see how Veruca Salt met her fate in the original because it was different here to the Tim Burton version; geese instead of squirrels. (It was squirrels in the book.) She also thought the TV room sequence was better here, though she didn't explain why.
- Timecode (2000) - another coincidence-driven rewatch. While sorting through some boxes of VHS tapes, consigning the ones I now have on DVD to the charity shop pile, I found a tape with a couple of editions of Moving Pictures which was, by far, the BBC's best ever TV program about films and film making. I watched a chunk, including the Mike Figgis interview mentioned on the Wikipedia page I just linked to, then I started on the next box. First tape that my hand touched? Mike Figgis' Timecode. So I had to watch it.
I remember being bowled over by it but this time I got really frustrated. Since first watching it I had read an interview with Figgis in which he talked about this film. Timecode was shot simultaneously on four cameras, the whole film consists of one continuous take from each of the cameras presented on a split screen like this...
...in which you have Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kyle MacLachlan, Stellan Skarsgård, Saffron Burrows all on screen, all acting at the same time in different locations. As the film progresses characters meet each other, cross from one strand of the story to another and from one corner of the screen to another - sometimes appearing in two or more quarters simultaneously from different angles. It is, as you may imagine very complex, and at times difficult to follow. In the interview Figgis said that he nudged the audience into watching particular parts of the screen with the sound. He mixed up the sound from the quarter/s he wanted the audience to concentrate on and faded out that from where he didn't. Simple and obvious enough, but I didn't know that the first time I saw it. This time, with that knowledge in my head, I was constantly fighting being pushed from one corner of the screen to another and desperately trying to make out conversations that were almost inaudible. I may investigate any available DVDs to see if there is one with an option to isolate the soundtracks - or even mix your own on the fly; that would be fun.
- Ripley's Game (2002) - I never really understood the attraction of the Ripley character. I have tried to read a couple of the books and didn't get very far with either. Anthony Minghella's 1999 The Talented Mr Ripley Amazingly was, I thought, an interesting enough film but even though it charted the 'creation' of Ripley I still didn't understand him. As soon as John Malkovich appeared on screen in Ripley's Game I got it. Amazingly this went straight to DVD/Video in the States.
- Jack the Ripper (1976) - very odd little Swiss/German take on the Jack the Ripper story which, apart from a couple of library establishing shots (one anachronistically putting the wrong queen on the throne), was shot entirely in Germany and looks it. Everything was just wrong. The architecture in particular and the furniture It all looked very un English. I suppose Germans get the same feeling of wrongness about Epping Forest standing in for Frankenstein country in all those Hammer films. Klaus Kinski did his usual going bonkers stuff - which is always fun - as the mad doctor / Jack the Ripper and got caught in the end - which added to the wrongness levels. Another Jess Franco film under my belt. Only another 148 or so to go.
- Planet of the Apes (1967) - the superior original. I had forgotten how fantastic the score was. And so little of it too, very spare; unlike most Hollywood soundtracks these days. Jerry Goldsmith knew when to shut up and let the pictures do the work.
- Ritana (aka Returner 2002) - Japan. A lone vigilante in the standard-issue, post Matrix, full-length leather coat shoots endless supplies of Ninja Yakuza, and helps a time-travelling cute girl rescue an alien (thus saving the world from the total pasting, end of human life, alien invasion which the girl has come back in time to prevent). Lots of explosions, lots of dodging slow-mo bullets while leaping 20 feet in the air shooting two hand guns in opposite directions mid somersault, lots of running around walkways and ducking behind pipes in an empty industrial site, not a lot of plot. Certainly nothing that hasn't been done a million times before in short stories, movies, TV shows, and comic books. Anime made flesh.
- Survival Zone (1983) - Raking through the back room of one of the local charity shops today (I'm such a regular I get privileges) I hit bigbox VHS paydirt. A whole pile of cruddy films in crappy 1980s bigbox cases. First into the player tonight was this dreadful, post-apocalyptic piece of poo. After a voice-over telling us that the Neutron bomb war of 1987 has wiped out nearly all animal life on Earth, we find ourselves in South Africa. We meet a bunch of bestial, leather clad bikers who watch two of their number fight and then appear to eat the looser... we meet three nuns looking after a couple of orphans in a deserted mission... we meet handsome hunk who has just buried his mother and sets off in his Land Rover to see if there is anyone else alive... we meet a happy nuclear family living on a farm. That's about all you need to know really, it's standard western plot number 37b. Indians on the warpath, lone stranger, happy sheep farmers wanting no trouble. Exactly the same. Except with nun-eating involved.
So, still peckish after the nuns, the bikers attack the farm. The hunk arrives and we find he is called Adam Strong (no kidding) and the farm is called 'Eden farm' (could this be symbolic? or just bollocks?), farmer and family kill all the indians - sorry evil, nun-chomping bikers. Adam kills the head biker by whacking his head off with a spade. The End. Incidentally the head biker is the only one of the horde to speak. At one point while he is haranguing his troops and dumping backstory (they had all escaped from jail - presumably jails are neutron bombproof in South Africa) he actually says: "I warned you not to drink that contaminated water, now you are all mute!" A brilliant line which saved the writers from having to write any bestial dialogue for the cannibal bikers ("Pass the ketchup please."?) and the producers from having to pay actors to deliver them. This might all sound vaguely entertaining but it's so laboriously overwritten (apart from the bikers); everyone who does speak gets to deliver screeds of repetitive, aimless dialogue that does nothing to advance the plot and then goes round the block and does it all again just in case we missed any of it. There are whole scenes of endless pointlessness that are just baffling in their utter pointlessnessnocity. In an early one we watch Adam playing solo pool in an abandoned pub for a while till he gets bored and wanders upstairs into a room, he looks about a bit, turns on the shower - aha! water! - he decides to stay SUDDEN CUT AWAY TO SOMETHING ELSE TO FILL A GAP! and then he's asleep in bed. Something creaks. Something moves! A mirror cracks. He leaps out of bed. Suddenly there is full-on poltergeist activity going on all around him! He runs out of the hotel... meanwhile somewhere else...
What had the sudden onset of poltergeist activity got to do with anything else in the movie? Sod all.
There's a lot of SUDDEN CUTTING AWAY TO SOMETHING ELSE TO FILL A GAP! in this movie - usually accompanied by loud music to make it really obvious. (I think the sound editor hated the director's guts. "Look!" he seems to say, "The bastard fucked up again and had to SUDDENLY CUT AWAY TO SOMETHING ELSE TO FILL A GAP!") My favourite one came when we watch our hero setting a trap that involved some of the heavily foreshadowed dynamite he just happens to have around the farm. It's dark, he's in the cellar, there are nunaphagic bikers all around, he sneaks up a three step stepladder to do something trappy with some string and a nail, first step, second step SUDDEN CUT AWAY TO THE MOON IN A CLOUDY SKY! sneak back down the ladder, second step, first step... We have no idea what the hell he did up there - not that we are any wiser at the end of the movie either. Incredifuckingbly dreadful. I loved every second of it.
- Steel Dawn (1987) - I feel sorry for those people who don't sit through the credits at the end of movies. Apart from the odd lollipop, (like the Tibetan monk gag at the end of the end credits for The Adventures of Prescilla Queen of the Desert), you do find the most glorious names lurking in them. Steel Dawn for instance had a stunt person called Panica Protopapa (only other IMDb listing is as an actor way down near the bottom of a Marjoe Gortner movie: American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt). Not as good a name as Yolanda Squatpump but then very few names are.
Steel Dawn is the usual post-apocalyptic desert stuff (Fingerless gloves? Check!) A stranger with no name (in the cast list he is just called 'Nomad') arrives at the farm of a widow and her son just as they are having trouble with the local megalomaniac land baron who wants to run them off their land blah blah blah. Sounds like every third cowboy movie ever made after Shane except there aren't any guns and everyone is dressed in BDSM fetishist wet dream leather gear and has HUGE hair. (The villain wears something Tina Turner would have been proud of; it looks like a couple of electrified stoats glued to his head.)
Ooh! Get me, I'm so evil...
As there are no guns on show, people fight with swords. The end result is that the movie looks less like a Post Apoc Western and more like a Post-Apoc Samurai movie. In the first half hour we get to watch Patrick Swayze walk a lot. I remember thinking he wasn't as good as Toshiro Mifune. Now that man could walk.
- The Eye Creatures (1965) - Another of Larry Buchanan's fantastically dreadful TV remakes. This time Invasion of the Saucer Men gets the work-over. Aliens land but are defeated by middle aged teenagers shining their car headlights on them - eye monsters explode if you shine lights on them. Superbly dreadful with all the usual Larry Buchanan hallmarks of shoddiness: there are lots of over-long shots of people walking away from the camera and into a doorway. This is a classic Buchanan shot and quite often it signals the end of a scene. The scene often actually finished quite a while before hand but Buchanan will usually wait till everyone has left the screen before he cuts to the next one. Not very good with transitions was Mr B. Not very good at anything really.
- Cargo (2010) - I was a little disappointed, after all the good reviews I have read of this, that it wasn't better. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but I had worked out the plot about five minutes in and after that it was just watching the dominoes topple. It looked great and the lack of gunplay was welcome but it did press several of my dumb SF buttons: things like the size of the ship (the Kassandra), which was full of huge spaces all full of air at a breathable pressure.
"Captain, I think we got a stowaway."
"Okay, put on your suits and vent the ship. Next problem please."
And the big engines firing all the time for four years! They only cut out about 30 seconds before they reach their destination; at which point the ship just stops (once the engines stop pushing it). At some point this ship goes FLT. It has to. Rhea, its destination, is 'four years' away from Earth. Proxima Centuri is about 4.2 light-years from us. So even if Rhea is around our nearest neighbour - and the implication is that it isn't - then the Kassandra must have gone faster than light to get there in the time. As it was constantly accelerating, when it got to Station 42 (aka Matrix in Space) it would have been doing at least lightspeed and, according to Einstein, would have accumulated enough relativistic mass to destroy the whole bloody planet as it hit.
As for the moment when our heroine jet packs straight into the open airlock of the moving spaceship at the end....
- Gay Niggers from Outer Space (1992)- probably the most crappily amateur film, with some of the worst production values and dialogue I have seen for years - but so stupid it was quite endearing and genuinely funny. (Very short too.)
- Flesh+Blood (1985) - Paul Verhoeven's first English language feature which owes more than a little to Kurosawa and was the third film I've watched this week that has nice Photoshop chrome gradient filled lettering on the video's cover. (Well, it's one way of choosing what to watch; next week I'll only watch videos that have skulls with glowing eyes on the front of the box.) You could tell this film had a bigger budget than the other two because the graphic designers knew how to adjust the settings and make the chrome effect a little more complex and subtle. Not sure what to make of the film. I was reminded at various times of Kurosawa's Ran, Poe's Masque of the Red Death and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rutger Hauer did his usual sterling stuff and Jennifer Jason Lee was naked a lot. Either is a good enough reason to watch a film.
- Watchmen (2009) - oh that was fun! The best comic book movie I've seen for a long time. I didn't mind the omissions and changes made to the material from the original in the slightest.
Warlock (1989) - Another of my (mostly unconscious and accidental) attempt to work my way through David Twohy's entire back catalogue. After writing Critters 2, and long before The Chronicles of Riddick, Twohy knocked out this tale of an evil Warlock (Julian Sands) time travelling to contemporary LA (the terminus for all low budget time travel) pursued by ace witch hunter Richard E Grant wearing a 17th century mullet, a costume left over from one of the lesser Highlander movies, and a variable Scottish accent. Grant gives it all he's got but never really looks that comfortable with any of it. Julian Sands on the other hand is having a whale of a time hamming it up. The McGuffin here is 'The Grand Grimoire' a book so unspeakably evil that it has been broken up into three pieces and then cunningly hidden in a gay antique dealer's house, an Amish attic, and Richard E Grant's character's grave. Once the bits are assembled, the 'lost name of God' can be read and, when read backwards, the whole of creation can be undone. The moment where Sands' Warlock finally reads God's name is a classic. Lightning, thunder, swirling faux Industrial Light and Magic storm clouds. The Warlock is exultant:
"I know thy name!" he cries. " I know thy name!"
And then totally spoils the moment by not adding, "... and I know where you live!"
Jumanji (1995) - another one of those films I have avoided for years because it had Robin Williams in it. But, everyone having enjoyed the semi-sequel / remake Zathura: A Space Adventure, I thought I could put up with him for the duration of Pizza Night. I was more than pleasantly surprised. Williams was kept under control and not allowed to get mawkish and the film clipped along with so many inventive gags that I was laughing all the way through it. I'm not sure the It's a Wonderful Life homage/reference when William's character explored the town he had been away from for 26 years worked, that was a little bit clumsy and obvious, but once the narrative got back to the mayhem and the jokes it was a real treat.
Universal Soldier (1992) - Between directing the incredibly terrible Moon 44 and the almost good Stargate Roland Emmerich directed Universal Soldier with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren hitting each other a lot. Sometimes they hit each other in slow motion, sometimes not. Sometimes they shoot each other, or throw hand grenades at each other, or drive each other off roads and over cliffs in speeding vehicles or blow up isolated gas stations to try and get rid of each other again (they'd already killed each other in the prologue). In the end one of them ends up going through some very spiky, motorised farm equipment. But it has a happy ending and there was a sequel.
- Universal Soldier: The Return (1999) - The sequel. More explosions, more guns, no Dolph Lundgren and none of the (limited) invention and fun of the original. The sort of pointless, explosion ridden shit that WWF WrestleMania fans wouldn't find too difficult to follow.
- Demonwarp (1988 ) - Somehow, for the life of me, I can't work out why this has never had a DVD release. I mean everyone wants to see a Bigfoot movie with zombies, naked women, aliens, and ritual sacrifice don't they? especially one starring George Kennedy (who I am happy to discover is still alive and still working at 85). Frankly I am baffled at this film's obscurity.
Demonwarp starts out routinely enough: before the credits, back in the cowboy days, a lone preacher is out for a walk with his horse (why he isn't riding it is never explained). The preacher is reading aloud from the Book of Revelation - which, in his copy of the Bible is at the front where you would expect Genesis to be - when something falls from the sky and makes a huge crater just off screen. The preacher praises the lord "It's The Second Coming!". After the credits we join George Kennedy playing Trivial Pursuit with his daughter while a point of view shot sneaks up on their rented cabin. Suddenly the door bursts in and something hairy knocks old George unconscious and absconds with girl. Cut to a 4x4 full of twenty-somethings info-dumping to each other about how "strange-shit" has been going on in Demon Woods for years. They arrive at the cabin and continue info dumping at each other for the next twenty minutes! (but both girls get their boobs out so it's a little less painful than it could have been - though the 'sex scene' was one of the dullest I've ever endured; two people mildly, and unenthusiastically, writhing while both desperately try to avoid touching anything that the other might consider an erogenous zone). All in all it's 30 minutes before the film actually gets going when Bigfoot strikes again by ripping out all the electrics from the Mystery Mobile and killing two of the boys.
Grrrrr... Grrrrr... Grrrpfff...
Oh bugger! can I try that again?
Hero boy and the girls decide to hike through the woods to the road - though 'meander' would be a more accurate description for what they actually do. Meanwhile, in different places, a lone hiker and two nubile young women are also in the woods. The hiker looks like he was added later to pad out the running time; he adds nothing to the story and doesn't meet any of the other characters and was obviously shot without sound - he gets no lines but does get some "Hmmmm"s and "...!?"s dubbed in afterwards. He has a severed human hand thrown at him and is then chased round the same tree a few times by the bigfoot's legs (hiring the legs was obviously cheaper than hiring the whole costume). The two nubile girls get their boobs out and do some sunbathing before bigfoot turns up and rips one girl's head off and the other girl runs into the woods past the same tree several times. (Okay, I'm confused. Are there now two Bigfeet running around out there?)
Luckily I grabbed this bloodstained T-shirt as I escaped...
The lone hiker is finally caught by bigfoot (number one?) and killed (silently). Lots of aimless wandering around later, the nubile girl meets up with the remains of Scooby-Do gang at the camp of George Kennedy (who has been wandering around the woods for a week laying bear traps and Wiley Coyote style tripwires with dynamite strapped to trees). The nubile girl is exhausted. "Get some water out of my tent," says George. Hero boy goes into George's tent / location production office and is attacked by the bigfoot! All that time wandering around looking for the bugger and it was in his tent all the time! Or is it another one? Who knows? Who cares? Fight fight fight and, as per Hollywood rule 67a subsection G, all the guns jam in the moment of crisis. The hero boy gets unconciousnicated, George gets a fatal battering and the girls...? Hero boy wakes up, grabs some dynamite and, picking a direction at random, determinedly wanders off. He finds dead George, he finds one of the girls shambling around with an eye hanging out of a socket, and he finds a cave full of zombies wearing Residents T-shirts and doing electronics.
Pass the soldering iron will you, Derrick?
At this point my WTF?ometer went off the scale. Apparently for years the bigfoots have been stealing electronic equipment and bringing it to the cave where a mixed bag of undead have been repairing an alien spaceship that landed there years ago.
This sequence does contain one genuinely interesting shot where we watch a zombie replace a circuit board shot from underneath. It's a sudden and weirdly interesting intrusion in all the basic 'square on to the action' set-ups that make up the rest of the film. The director was obviously very chuffed with this shot because he repeats it another four times in a very few minutes. Meanwhile, back at the action.... the hero boy shoots the bigfoot (or one of the bigfeet - I've lost track) who transmogrifies into his own uncle! (the disappearance of the uncle - who we have never met before - was mentioned in all the earlier infodumping, but as there were probably boobs on screen at that point I wasn't listening to the finer details.) Hero boy finds that his two friends and his girlfriend are also in the cave. Boy one is tied up, boy two is a zombie and the girlfriend is inside the flying saucer about to sacrificed by the preacher we met in the pre-credit sequence*. He going to feed her vital bodily organs to a demon-like alien who he believes to be an angel.
Writer: "It's a bigfoot flick, with zombies! - and aliens... ...and tits!"
Producer:"I like it!"
Yum yum!.... Liver....
After yet more fighting, boy one is injected with alien bigfooting serum - cueing what is probably the world's only Wolfman-like human-to-bigfoot transformation scene. Hero and girlfriend run away leaving him nobly holding the dynamite as he writhes in hirsute agony. As they run from the cave Hero boy and Girlfriend girl encounter Eye-dangling socket girl and shoot her dead - again - because she's a zombie (I think)... anyway there's a HUGE EXPLOSION in the cave and that's the end...
Time for you to jolt upright
in bed sweating a lot, darling
... or is it? Two false 'it was all a dream - or was it?' endings later and the credits finally roll. Another the end.
Mind bogglingly crap.
*No sign of his horse though.
- The Blob (1988 ) - Gory remake. Too slick to be bad but not good enough to be interesting.
- Prom Night (1980) - Tedious early mystery/slasher movie shot through that fuzzy softness filter they shot every Playboy centrefold of the period ( ...I am told). God it was boring in a very soft and fuzzy way. The director had seen some gialli and from time to time there were a couple of nicely set up stylistic bits, odd compositions, and a few interesting edits, but the one thing missing was any dramatic interest. If there was any possible opportunity to dissipate any feeling of tension that it had built up, the film would find it. And this wasn't anti-climaxing - building up the tension then letting the audience down with a bump for a moment before starting to ratchet up the terror again; it was just piss poor film making. The editing kept wandering off, taking us away to watch something else for far too long while we forgot about the mildly scary bit that we might have been possibly building up to. I'd guessed who the killer was in the first few minutes and the final marathon fight between the heroine and her boyfriend, and the killer on a disco floor (while the music kept on pumping - be-ba-pewwww!) just made me giggle. People cannot have life or death struggles to a disco beat - even in 1980 this must have been obvious.
- Black Rainbow (1989) - In the Deep South a fake medium starts to predict real events including murder, a fact which puts her life in danger when the killer comes after her. Not badly done - and it had Jason Robards who I think is wonderful in everything.
- Chasing The Deer (1994) - a film with 195 'Associate Producers' (ie investors) listed on the end credits, a terrible script that lurched from one undercooked cliché to another, and some frankly bafflingly amateur looking direction and editing that kept leaping the movie from one scene to another in alarming jumps. Though the production values for such a low budget film were excellent - I don't suppose there was a historical re-enactment society in the north of Britain that didn't end up in this show somewhere, and some of the locations were genuine - there were far far too many characters knocking about. In addition to the thin soap opera element (father and son separated by circumstances end up on opposing sides and die in each other's arms on the battlefield - yes, that hoary old chestnut of a story) there were dozens and dozens of other characters who would arrive on screen, address all those around them by their full rank and title so we knew who they were, before disappearing from the narrative never to be seen again (quite often taking all their friends with them). I guess the writers were aiming for some historical accuracy but time and time again I kept thinking, 'Oh god, not more Lord Whoevers and General Thisandthats. I don't need to meet all these people'. People criticize 'Hollywood' movies for simplifying history, combining characters and trimming events to fit a convenient narrative structure, and watching this film I see why that process takes place. A film is not a history lecture, it doesn't come with footnotes and a reading list. First and foremost a film, even one based on historical events, is an entertainment. It can be polemical, emotive, manipulative and all those other things but unless it has some sort of a narrative that people engage with it's not going to keep its audience. Whatever 'message' (for want of a better word) the film maker wants to convey will be lost. I have no idea what the makers of Running the Deer wanted me to come away with. I didn't care about any of the characters I could identify, and I really had no clearer idea of the events of the 1745 Jacobite Rising than I couldn't have gleaned from any picture-book history of Scotland. The acting was adequate, though less than inspired (but given some of the clunky, very stagy dialogue the actors were asked to deliver I can't blame them for not setting the screen on fire. Most of the cast were unknown to me but Brian Blessed lent his beard to the occasion - and was the nominal 'star' of the show). Most of the time I felt I was watching some historical tableau of Scottish history presented by semi-professional actors. (A job I have done; I know what I'm talking about.)
There was however one really nice moment that suddenly set all the rest into context. For a few seconds the film actually looked like a film and not a 'living history' show. Before the final hopeless battle at Culloden there is a slow tracking shot of the ranks of Scottish troops facing the camera, arms at the ready, all speaking fervently in Gaelic. As the camera reaches one of our English speaking protagonists we hear his voice: "I am Alistair Campbell son of... etc.". Cut to Bonny Prince Charlie on his horse. He turns to his aide. "What are they doing?" he asks. The aide replies something along the lines of: 'they are reciting their lineage. It makes them remember who they are and brave in battle'. "Interesting... " says the prince, "Interesting... " Now that was a nice piece of film making. A moment where image, sound editing, and well delivered dialogue tell us something we don't know, show us something of the character of the men who are about to die, and something of the character of the prince for whom they are about to fight. (He has, after all, been leading them for months and only just noticed they do this before a battle?). Two shots worth saving surrounded by 90 minutes of padding.
I did come away from Chasing The Deer with one thing: I now take great pride in the fact that we in Scotland can make bad films as good as any bad films from the rest of the world.
- The Ambulance (1990) - my second Larry Cohen movie (the first was The Stuff in which a killer pudding threatens to eat America) and not, I hope, my last. Funny as hell. I haven't laughed so much in ages. Here's a slice of the cheesy action. Eric Roberts is on the trail of a mysterious ambulance that picks up ill people from the streets but never delivers them to a hospital.
I'm afraid that Roberts' line, "You faggots! You faggots! You fight like stewardesses!" has just entered my top ten all time screen insults list.
- The Secret of Moonacre ( 2008 ) - I have from time to time read in film books and magazines phrases like: 'the script was a couple of re-writes away from being finished'. I never really understood what it meant till watching this. All the elements for a good enchanting family film were there (the costumes and sets in particular were excellent) and though the acting was variable, Dakota Blue Richards and Juliet Stevenson were very good; Natascha McElhone was just terrible - I'm sure she's a nice woman and has done good work but she was as wooden as hell here and totally unconvincing. The SFX, of which there were a lot, also varied from the adequate to the beautiful; there were some nice pictures on the screen. What didn't work for me, however, was the script which never gelled. It stopped and started, never really got going, and had very obviously lost whole sections during post production. The most obvious 'deleted scene' (not available on the bare bones DVD I watched) being the 'love / hate relationship' that developed between the heroine and Robin, her male opposite number in the enemy camp. At one point, later on in the film, our heroine says something to the effect of: "Robin? I never want to see him again..." before storming off with a coy expression that makes us think she doesn't really mean it (tcha! teenagers eh?). This would have been all well and fine if we had actually seen her and Robin obviously falling in love while hating each other on sight. As it was, I had to back peddle like hell in my head through the film to even work out who Robin was....
Lottery Funding was involved.
- Black Caesar (aka The Godfather of Harlem 1973) - More Larry Cohen. A fairly straight reworking of the Warner Brothers gangster tropes of the 30s and 40s, only, this being the 70s, it's the rise and fall of a tough black gangster rather than an Italian or Irish. A bit more violent and explicit in the sex and language department (I think Larry Cohen must have used every racial epithet available in the English language in his script) than Warners got away with. A couple of moving scenes and some seriously good acting - I particularly liked the look of disgust and disbelief on our protagonist's face when, having been shot in the belly, he goes for help from his stooge, a fake preacher through whose church he launders money - only to find the man has really gone and got religion. The only help the reverend offers his erstwhile boss is to attempt to heal the gunshot wound by getting possessed by the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands. A vast improvement on the sanctimonious Irish priests that Edmund O'Brien used to play so often in the originals.
Lottery Funding was not involved.
- Balls of Fury (2007) - I was in the mood for something stupid and funny and this delivered both. Basically Balls of Fury is Enter The Dragon with all the sweaty bone crunching Kung-Fu substituted by life or death Ping Pong matches. It's really stupid joke that just about stays funny after being stretched out to ninety minutes, but I doubt if they would have made it without Christopher Walken casually stealing the show from about the halfway mark.
- Sabata (1969) - A Lee Van Cleef in a pretty standard Spaghetti Western. Van Cleef demonstrated his ability to stand iconicaly and his talent for staring suspiciously sideways out of the corner of his eye, while walking in a totally different direction to the one he was looking. He did that a lot. The camera crew had loads of fun with their zoom lens on every other shot. And one of the morally ambiguous protagonists has a banjo with a built in rifle. The music was hilarious.
- Second Sight (1989) - still working my way through the Big Box VHS Paydirt pile. Totally forgettable frantic comedy about a psychic detective. I mean really forgettable. I only finished watching it half an hour ago and I can't remember how it ended. I can remember the denouement, but not the climax. There was one vaguely funny gag in the whole thing but it's not worth the effort in telling. I do remember writing my own gags at a couple of points and thinking one of them was worth writing down for future use - but I've forgotten what it was. Why do I watch this stuff? I can't remember that either. It must have seemed a good idea at the time.
- Westender (2003) - Westender - what a terrible title for a medievalesque epic but, there you go, that's what they called it. Maybe it doesn't seem so bad in the USA but say Westender to me and I either hear the Pet Shop Boys in my head and / or conjure up an image of some posh, uptown version of Eastenders. Westender starts off very badly. A drunken gambler in a medievalesque bar (made from what appears to be machine plained, sawn timber) gambles away a ring, his final possession, gets into a fight, looses, and wakes up the next morning determined to get it back. The ring belonged to his lost love (she was burned at the stake apparently and he fished the ring out of the ashes). After a clumsy, exposition dropping, conversation with a gypsy girl he sets off to find the gambler who won the ring off him. He soon finds his man who, it transpires, has been robbed by bandits. Together they pursue the bandits in long sequences of very long, very beautiful and very languid shots with very little dialogue. Somewhere along the line I started thinking 'this looks like a short', a very long short but it had that shorty feel to it. Turns out I was right (yay me!); first-time director Brock Morse’s film school short script assignment grew into a 30-minute short that was filmed in three weeks, and, after gaining more funding, grew again into a full-length movie. It looks like several million dollars on the screen. It isn't, but it looks it (as an example of the limited budget one central character is played by the film's composer). The script picks up characters and drops them in a most unHollywood manner and never really gets much of a plot going, substituting instead a hero racked by inner turmoil - having your missus burned at the stake will do that to you - but by the time we get to the end of the show it has somehow turned itself into quite an interesting bit of film. Somehow. Just. I'm not entirely convinced it was worth the wait to get there but one of the better minimal budget student features I've seen. Spoiler:In the end he doesn't get his ring back but does rediscover what it means to be a man (or something else that ticks all the boxes in the 'Have you completed your Hero's Journey checklist'. Companion helper? Check... Supernatural aid? Check... Abyss: death and rebirth? Check... ).
- Hana-Bi (aka Fireworks 1997) - okay.... my first Takeshi Kitano film. Not sure if I liked it but I was certainly watching the screen the whole time. I think I'll have to see more of his films before I decide whether I did like this or not.
- Xizao ( aka Shower 1999) - nice simple sweet and touching film about daily life in a Beijing bathhouse.
- Spy Kids (2001) - Friday night choice of number one daughter, it's been a long day and she wanted something familiar - I think we have seen it twice before. I quite like Spy Kids, it has some nice moments.
- The Exterminator (1980) - After a recent bout of Far Eastern sub-titled art movies movies it's time to get back to the shit VHS pile. (Mind you one of the 'Art Movies' had at least seven or eight on-screen shootings, two off-screen shootings and a character loosing an eye in a particularly vicious chopstick-related incident.) Made six years after Death Wish (1974) and four years after Taxi Driver (1976) The Exterminator treads similar ground while looking like it was made long before either of them. A Vietnam vet bumps off the gang members who crippled his best bud ("That nigger was my best friend, motherfucker!"), he picks up a prostitute, sees scars on her and bumps off the pimp who did it to her (in the process shooting dead the state senator from New Jersey who likes to rape little boys in sleazy New York shitholes). He kills a Doberman with an electric carving knife, feeds a New York mobster through a meat grinder and shoots dead three Hispanic types who rob an old lady and tread on her glasses. Meanwhile a cop is sort of introduced, sort of has a fling with the crippled vet's doctor, and sort of investigates. For some reason the CIA decide to take over the case - not because a US Senator has been killed, but because, for some vague reason, having a vigilante killing mobsters is making the administration look bad two weeks before 'an election'. It's a muddled, unfocussed mess that takes itself far too seriously, takes too long to get wherever it goes (except where it jumps so far ahead of itself that it leaves the audience wondering what's happening), and then has a totally stupid Parallax View type ending that leaves our cop hero shot dead by a sniper's bullets as a voice over intones, "Washington will be pleased"
The shot where the cop goes for a Darwin Award, by cooking a hot dog by sticking two forks wired to the mains into it, has to be one of the oddest bits of business I've seen on the screen for a long time. It distracted me so much that I totally lost what the scene was about. I was too busy wondering if it was actually possible and / or common? Apparently it is possible.
There was a sequel.
- The Carpenter ( 1988 ) - another of those long forgotten, never released on DVD 'horror' flicks of the 80s. (And given that the only copy sold on eBay in the last 30 days went for 25p I can't see whoever owns the rights rushing to re-release it either.) This time a carpenter, who was executed in the electric chair, comes back from the dead to finish his dream house, now inhabited by a young married couple. She's just out of a hospital after a nervous breakdown, and he's screwing one of his student. At first only she can see the nocturnal visitor with a penchant for staple-gunning people's eyes shut. Is it all in her head? Or is she somehow responsible for the grisly murders? Did I care? Did I fuck. I was more interested in the director's insane overuse of tracking shots than anything that was happening between the characters. He was loving the hell out of his dolly was the director. The opening shot of almost every scene seemed to be a slow tracking shot watching someone who was going to be in the scene move slowly into a position to talk to another cast member. The movie was 89 minutes long I would guess a quarter of it was dolly shots with nothing happening in them.
- The Plumber (1979) - and unless I can find something called The Interior Decorator in my To Be Watched pile that's me out of job title titled films for a bit. Just before making a string of great films: Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, The Mosquito Coast, and Dead Poets Society Peter Weir wrote and directed this small, made for TV movie about the plumber from hell making life a misery for an academic. Not bad, not great, but not bad, not bad at all.
- Phantasm (1979) - This has been sat in my TBW pile for a couple of years now and I regret not having got round to it sooner. In Smalltownsville, somewhere in the Southern USA, strange things are going on in the local funeral home. Very strange things. In the end we discover the funeral director is an alien, reanimating human cadavers, compressing them to three foot two high dwarves, and then shipping them off in barrels to another planet to be used as slave labour. The Writer/Director (who was also cameraman and editor and, for all I know, caterer and honey wagon driver too) Don Coscarelli launched himself at the sort of plot Ed Wood might have come up with but has done with style and self-knowing campness that makes it work. Not the greatest horror movie in the world but a damn fine B movie, way above the average. Very dreamlike in places.
- Beyond The Valley of the Dolls (1970) - In an effort to sort of convince my wife (and me) that I'm keeping all these huge piles of VHSs and DVDs around for some sort of reason, other than most of the shite I watch has no resale value even on eBay, I will from time to time, re-watch one. Beyond The Valley of the Dolls is a very strange movie and even funnier and weirder on a second viewing than it was on the first. Telling the story of the events leading up to a quadrupedal homicide and triple wedding, the film charts the arrival of a three piece girl band and their manager in LA and their rapid decline into depravity and corruption (ie sex and drugs and, because this is a Russ Meyer film, more sex) via some of the most bonkers, campest dialogue put on screen. My favourite two lines both come from the villain of the piece, record producer Ronnie 'The Z-Man' Barzell: .
"This is my happening - and it freaks me out!"
and the unforgettable:
"You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!"
The editing is unbelievable; bang bang bang. It's almost like a metronome at times; all the cuts in some dialogue scenes appear to be exactly the same length no matter who is speaking or what is being said. It's very disconcerting. At other times the film goes into hyperdrive with everyone suddenly emoting in the manner of a daytime TV soap while syrupy music plays in the background. The scene where the doctor announces that the character who just attempted suicide on live TV may never walk again is an incredibly over the top send up of every daytime soap hospital scene. .
After all this strange camp parody, the brutal Manson Family-like murders at the end are suddenly very strangely upsetting. Especially as two of the victims are guilty of nothing more than being a happy lesbian couple. Even weirder is the sudden change in direction when, after the murders there is a fight in which the killer is shot, and the crippled would-be suicide suddenly feels movement in his toes - and the sun comes out - and everyone is happy and full of wonder and joy, surrounded by the mangled corpses of their friends right enough, but really, really happy for him. It's either a deranged masterpiece or the biggest pile of shit yet put on screen. I'm in the deranged masterpiece camp.
- Cry-Baby (1990) - one of those films that just cheers me up no matter how often I watch it.
- Mission Without Permission (aka Catch That Kid 2004) - Three kids, one a ace climber, one a whizz hacker, the other a mechanical wizard rob a high tech, super-secure bank - taking along a baby brother that one of them has to babysit. As stupid as it sounds but fun family stuff. My kids loved it; "Better than Spy Kids" said one, she's wrong but she is only 6. The photography was very good.
- El Topo (1970) - one of those films that has been on the edge of my must see radar for years. A heavily religious surreal (very bloody) Tortilla Western made at the hight of the hippy era. It opens with a lone horseman holding an umbrella riding through a desert. Only when the horseman stops and dismounts do we realise he has a naked 7 year old boy riding with him. The black leather-clad rider makes the boy bury a teddy bear and a photo of his mother, then they both climb back on the horse and ride off. After that it gets weird. And then weirder. At the end, our 'hero', having been shot by his lesbian companions and spending untold years in a catatonic state being worshipped as a god in a cave, digs a tunnel to free his deformed worshippers. When he finally succeeds, with the help of his pregnant dwarf wife and his now grown up ex-monk son (who has sworn to kill him when they've finished), all the newly released troglodytes are massacred by the townsfolk who are then, in turn, massacred by our hero. Who then commits suicide by setting himself on fire. I'm sure it was all very pertinent at the time and obviously allegorical of the horrors of Vietnam but all these years later it left me pretty unimpressed as a film.
- Megamind (2010) - I haven't had so much fun with a movie for ages. For once (or finally) Dreamworks got the balance right and made an animated kids movie that was as much fun for their parents. I laughed often and frequently and left my critical faculties hanging behind the door about three minutes in and just enjoyed myself. Smart and funny.
- Frauengefängnis ( aka Barbed Wire Dolls, Caged Women 1975) - Another Jesus (Jess) Franco piece of shit. This time it's his take on the 'Women in Prison' genre. Like all WIP films it has lashings of lashings, rape, and lesbian seduction - and being a Jess Franco film has more pans, tilts, zooms and dodgy focus pulling in any given minute than most films have in their entire running time. (And more close-ups of female genitalia than the average movie manages too). All pretty sleazy, uninspiring, and forgettable apart from one truly weird piece of film making in the middle of the movie. One of the captive women is having a bad dream - cue flashback (complete with half a pot of Vaseline smeared round the lens) to the night her father tried to rape her. "No!" she screams, leaping naked from the bed and running out of the bedroom. He chases after her and grabs her hair, her mouth opens in a soundless scream and she is pulled backwards. (The scream is soundless because we are suddenly in slow motion the whole scene from here on in is played out in dreamtime slo-mo.) He throws her across the room and she ends up facing the wall. He comes behind her and turns her around. As she turns the actress hastily stifles a giggle and turns it into look of 'horror' and shoves him. He falls back, cracks his head on the mantelpiece and tumbles slowly to the floor as she runs out of the frame. End of flashback, cut back to her in bed having the bad dream.
The really really odd thing about this scene (and it is really very odd indeed) is that the girl and the father were acting in slow-motion. The camera is running at normal speed; there's no post-production trickery (assuming this movie had any post-production). What's going on here is that the actors were doing that comedy slow-motion acting where everyone tries to look like they are underwater and breathing treacle - and convincing no one. Coming in the middle of a sweaty piece of low-rent, nasty, dirty old man, BDSM fantasy it is just plain very very weird.
Get out of my movie!
- Suite 16 (1994) - Would-be psycho-sexual, cat and mouse shenanigans between a young immoral hustler played by some Dutch bloke who looks great naked, and a rich, wheelchair-bound recluse played by Pete Postlethwaite - who, I'm glad to say, kept most of his kit on for the whole show. A very long 90 minutes in which I failed to suspend my disbelief for an instant.
- The Atomic Brain ( aka Monstrosity 1964) - great title for a very dull tale about a mad old rich woman with an equally mad scientist (a 'Dr Frank' no less) in her cellar who spends his time transplanting animal brains into stolen corpses. He is looking for the breakthrough that will get him a Nobel Prize; she wants a new body to replace her wrinkled and worn out carcass - one of the three nubile servants she's just hired will do, but which one? The dark haired Hispanic one? no, she has a birthmark; best use her for the final experiment and graft a cat's brain into her head to see if using live humans is better than corpses. It works! Oh damn! The cat woman has escaped and half-blinded front-runner, statuesque blonde, Bea. (Whose 'English' accent is even weirder than Dick Van Dyke's in Mary Poppins.) So it's down to German girl Nina. Mad old lady makes out her will so that Nina will inherit everything and prepares to swap brains. Nina nearly escapes but ends up strapped to the basement operating theatre next to the walk-in 'atomic cyclotron' so necessary for brain transplant surgery. At this point Dr Frank has a moment of blinding clarity and realises that once the head-swap has been done he will be dispensable and maybe it would make more sense if the old lady were to die and the nubile girly to inherit the money while remaining under his control. Genius! The Nobel Prize is almost his! Then, for some utterly inexplicable reason, he sticks the old lady's brain into the empty cat and walks into the walk-in 'atomic cyclotron'. Vengeful, as only a mad old lady finding her brain compressed into a cat can be, the mad old lady compressed into a cat carefully presses the buttons and throws the lever that Dr Frank had conveniently explained in reel one would reduce the house to radioactive ashes.
Kaboom. I've made it sound a lot more exciting than it was.
- The Onion Movie ( 2008 ) - A sketch show film that in the end does suddenly manage to pull an almost coherent narrative thread out of its disparate parts. Sort of like Amazon Women on the Moon and Kentucky Fried Movie, and, like them, very hit and miss. Because of the newsroom linking device that runs all the way through I kept thinking it was like a flabby Americanised version of Chris Morris's The Day Today.
- Who's Harry Crumb? (1989) - unfunny comedy in which the only decent joke was used in the trailer. Watching Jeffrey Jones is always a treat and the cast were doing their best but no one was given anything in the way of funny stuff to do. All the 'humour' in the show was reserved for star (and producer) John Candy who seemed to think that getting a stuntman to pretend to be him and fall off things must be hilarious.
- Despicable Me (2010) - Enjoyable, with the kids, movie . I suspect I would have found it funnier if I hadn't seen Megamind recently.
- Spirited Away (2001) - A Pizza night re-watch with the kids. Number One Daughter wanted to watch it in Japanese with subtitles but was overruled (strange child).
- Dead Fire (1997) - Over-long, dull, made-for-TV piece of shit that, as a plot twist, had twin brothers sharing the same first name (huh?) and had more than its usual share of clichéd shit, 'Sci-Fi', shit clichés. The name C Thomas Howell, and the words 'Ruthless space terrorists' appeared on the DVD case; and that's about all you need to know really. Oh, and there was a futuristic prison sequence too. Always a sign of grade A crap.
- Pandorum (2009) - By gum! I just watched a movie with Paul W.S. Anderson's name in the credits without wanting to throw things at the screen at any point. SF horror nonsense that made sense - almost - and made me jump frequently.
- Cat Women of the Moon (1953) - finally! After falling asleep more times than I want to think about, I finally get to the end ofCat Women of the Moon. I've seen it before but this time I couldn't sit down to watch it without falling asleep. I've been trying for days to get to the end of it but ZZzzzzzzzz every time. Was it worth it?Almost certainly not.
- Franklyn ( 2008 ) - now if Neil Gaiman had really written this and Terry Gilliam had really directed it this might have had the makings of a crackingly weird little film. As it is, it looks like a bad pastiche mashup of Brazil, Neverwhere, and The Fisher King with an undercooked script that started of enigmatically, became tedious, and then obvious. Sort of like a Radio 4 afternoon play with a shitload of SFX. The design elements were great; the story bored the pants off me
Lottery funding was involved. My heart is starting to sink every time I see that National Lottery logo in the opening credits.
- Tooth (2004) - A tooth fairy, leaves a gazzillion dollars under a little girl's pillow instead of the usual quarter, thus bankrupting Fairytopia and putting Christmas in danger. As a cynical old fart I thought it was a real bollocks of a film with a rotten, erratic, nonsensical story line and not enough of anything (humour, adventure, pathos, romance etc.) to make it at all interesting. My kids, on the other hand, laughed like drains all the way through. I guess I wasn't the target audience. I love hearing my kids laugh - even that weird snorting one that Daughter Number One does from time to time - so I enjoyed it despite myself.
- Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) - 'British Sex comedies of the Seventies', words that should strike heart into the terror of everyone. If anyone asks me, "So what was so amazing about punk?" I'll show them this film and say, "Because this is what it was like before." On every level of everything this film is shite; the writing makes the average Carry-on film look like Oscar Wilde.
It's boggling to think, in these days of wall to wall internet porn, that the British were so uptight about nudity in 1974 that this un-erotic, flaccid parading of boobs, bums and the occasional flash of pubes got an 18 certificate. Even more boggling is the fact that enough people rushed to their local flea pits, macs on their laps, to make three sequels possible. Another 25p well spent in the Save the Children shop; I hope all those kids in Africa appreciate the pain I go through to keep them supplied with clean water, pencils, and rudimentary health care.
Best Bit of the Whole Film.
- The Entity (1982) - a movie with it's own built-in sequel. The first half is terrific and builds up a nice frisson as Barbara Hershey puts a damn good performance as a single mum terrorised by an unseen supernatural force; and director Sidney J. Furie crams more Dutch angles into a movie than is humanly possible. Is all this supernatural stuff real? Is she really being repeatedly raped by a creature from another dimension? Or could the earnest, young psychologist be right and it's all in her head? It's gripping stuff. I really didn't know which way it would go and was made to jump several times. Great stuff. I was loving it.
I was loving it right up until the moment, almost exactly half way through the film, when someone else sees a manifestation. Suddenly the whole film collapses into a really stinky mess of para-psychological balderdash and ropey special effects with our heroine ending up in a giant laboratory, running around a mock-up of her own house, being chased by a vast, ceiling-mounted, liquid helium spraying 'entity' freezing machine that, with the inevitability of crap movie logic, 'the entity' has taken over.
If you get a chance watch this, do so. The first half is great. Stay with it till the moment when she's sobbing "You saw it! You saw it!" onto her friend's shoulder; that's the end of the movie. The sequel is crap.
(It occurred to me a day later that the second half does contain one piece of genius film-making. Whether it's terrible one sided telephone conversations (with actors repeating what the unseen participant in the conversation is telling them), or the frantic redressing of the same short corridor for endless Doctor Who type running around, it's always interesting to see the ways film makers manage to cut corners and save money. In The Entity the climax takes place in a vast laboratory in which there is a stark white mock-up of the house that has featured so prominently in the first half of the film. I feel really dumb but it took me 24 hours to realise the 'vast laboratory' was in fact the studio in which the film was shot and the 'mock-up of the house' was the half-finished, unpainted set. Clever. It's still crap though.)
- V for Vendetta - That was fun.
- Best Worst Movie (2009) -
- Innocent Blood (1992) - incredibly dull John Landis 'comedy horror' featuring vampire gangsters. In itself an amusing enough idea but I don't think I have looked at my watch so often during a film for ages. It seemed endless; a 30 minute's worth of story plot padded out with another 80 minutes of... well, padding. I am formulating a new rule, any film that has a cameo from Forrest J Ackerman in it is automatically shit. (Damn! I just went through his IMDb list and he was in Queen of Blood and The Time Travelers both of which were oddly good but all the other films on his list that I have seen Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Equinox, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Future War - oh God! I'd forgotten that one - are crap. Especially Future War; that WAS shit.) Okay, a new rule, How about this? Any film with cameos from three or more directors in it is automatically shit. (Frank Oz, Sam Raimi, and Dario Argento all popped up in this one - so did Alfred Hitchcock via the medium of a clip from Strangers on a Train appearing on a TV a character was watching.)
- Intrigue (1988 ) - a not very intriguing low-key, made for TV, spy movie with an American agent getting a former colleague back across the Iron Curtain. The emphasis is on character rather than plot (no explosions or car chases but lots of sitting on trains talking about 'the old days' - at one point a Russian agent complains about having to pay for his own dry cleaning). The emphasis on character does leave a couple of the plot points to just appear out of nowhere. Coincidentally the second film in a row to feature Robert Loggia.
- Steel Frontier (1995) - a perfect 'widget movie'. A 'widget movie' (a term I have, as far as I know, just invented) is a film made by a competent crew who turn up on time in the mornings, do what they do till the end of the day, and then go back to their homes or hotels, then don't think about work until they clock on again the next day. It's just a job. What they do to pay the bills. They might as well be making widgets on a production line. Watching a widget movie feels like work too. .
In this one the usual Post-Apoc grunge costumes and scrapyard setbuilding is slapped onto a by-the-numbers spaghetti western plot. It's a post apoc America, populated by well fed, clean haired Americans with nice teeth, a lone drifter comes into a peaceful town taken over by rampaging psychotics (I wonder sometimes if the actors playing these parts ever get fed up of laughing all the time?) he kills all the bad guys. The End. There's lots of guns, lots of explosions, an attractive widow with a son, a few half-hearted attempts at making the central hero a Christ figure (albeit hip firing a 50mm machine gun), lots of vehicles crashing into one another (after sometimes passing the same abandoned cars on the side of the road several time first. Maybe the drivers were getting dizzy from driving around in circles and lost control) and it's all very boring.
It's one of those films where you know the trailer started with deep trailer voice man saying, "In a world where....", and, a few words later, continuing with, "Only one man..."
- Hemoglobin (1997 aka Bleeders and The Decendent) - For some inexplicable reason the authorities decide to dig up all the graves on a remote Canadian island and relocate the bodies to the mainland. (Did our helpful, exposition dropping, boatman really tell the protagonists it was because the funeral director had been caught using 'substandard wood' in the coffins? or did I just dream it? - anyway, the upshot of this sudden removal of bodies is that the local population of inbred troglodytes, the descendants of that well-known source of all evil, the Dutch aristocracy, is deprived of their sole source of nutrition. Rutger Hauer gets to dissect a hermaphrodite that fell into a boat's propeller; and another character eats a pickled foetus; two sets of twins have sex (one set of twins is played by one woman donning a fake moustache and licking her own body-double's chest) and the audience wonders how 94 minutes can pass so sodding slowly. The pace was leaden. I think they were going for -- actually I have no idea what they were going for but I don't think dullness is what they intended. Plod plod plod. The trailer does the whole movie in two minutes - chest licking included.
- Back to the Future - Pizza night with the kids and on a second viewing I was struck by what an incredibly well-constructed script this film had. Really well done all round, the kids loved it but were a bit worried by all the 'swearing'.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) - What a pile of arse!
- Shock (1977 aka Beyond the Door II) - Mario Bava's last film which I bought for a quid at a charity shop (I sometimes wonder if all those nice old ladies know what they are selling). I was sold on this DVD by the tag line, 'Beyond the door the ever continuing cycle of evil is about to occur... again!'. I loved that 'again!'. The other thing that sold me on it was the fact that on the back of the sleeve they seemed to think the film was called 'The Grim Reaper'.
What we get on screen is the usual Italian OTT Grand Guignol full of nightmares that might be real, possibly possessed creepy children, pick-ax murder, walking wardrobes, and people slashing their own throats with Stanley knives. All good clean family fun. It would have been a lot more fun if we had actually been made to care about why any of this bloody nonsense was going on. As it was the film was just a series of set pieces of 'horror' with brief interludes of people explaining plot points to each other. Beyond the Door II has, as far as I can tell, nothing at all to do with any other film called Beyond the Door. It's a non-sequel.
- Sleepwalker/s (1997) - that slash is there in the title because what I watched was called one thing on the disc, and another on the sleeve - and I wrote 'what I watched' because 'what I watched' turns out to have been nailed together from two episodes of a short-lived TV series (called Sleepwalkers). The show, which starred Naomi Watts in a vest (hubba hubba!), dealt with a team of investigators able to dive into other people's dreams. The show looks like it wasn't bad but was cancelled by the powers that be after 9 episodes.
- The Last Producer (2000 aka Final Hit) - Burt Reynolds plays an over the hill movie producer desperate to raise $50,000 to option a hot script before a deadline. Almost a remake of The Independent but incredibly unfunny. I think it was supposed to be a comedy - and possibly a satire too. Desperately over-wordy, dull, confused, and self-indulgent. Turd of the year so far.
- Witchboard III: The Possession (1995) - another one of my recent haul of four movies on two discs sets - featuring people you've never heard of (but vaguely recognise) in films no one wants to pay more than 50p to watch. This one was another of them directed by Peter Svatek ( - who? He also directed last month's Hemoglobin.) Possibly the only film ever made in which a character is attacked and killed by a butterfly collection. The evil fat banker collapsing behind his desk screaming in pain with dead butterflies stuck all over him has to be one of the most ludicrous things I have seen on screen for a while. Curiously enough it was my second film in a row where the central character has to raise 50,000 dollars and gets charged 25% interest by an overweight money lender.
IMDb's Plot keywords for the film are:
Which just about says it all.
Ouija, Stockbroker, Landlord, Freak Accident, Ouija Board, Roman Numeral In Title, Numbered Sequel, Third In Trilogy, Spirit, Demon, Suicide, Sex, Sequel, Part Of Trilogy, Supernatural, Third Part, Djinn, Evil Spirit, Independent Film, Number In Title.
- Blade Runner (1982) - Thought it was about time I watched something worth watching. And what better to watch on Star Wars Day (May the 4th) but Blade Runner. Makes sense. (113)
- Back to the Future: Part II - Pizza night with the kids. Part III next week.
- Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979) - low budget, better than average independent SF. Not great but not bad, intriguing ideas let down by obvious cash limitations and uninspired direction. The director later sued the makers of The Island for plagiarism.
- One Eyed Jacks (1961) - A western that was originally slated to be directed by Kubrick but ended up being directed by the film's star, Marlon Brando. It's been on my list for a while since I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where) that Brando was totally out of control during production and would sit around for days with a full crew just waiting for the right kind of wave to appear on the beach before he would shoot. The implication of the article was that the film was a self-indulgent product of a towering ego gone mad with power. The director's cut came in at 300 minutes - that's 5 hours! The released version ran to 141 minutes and, although over-long and sedate in some places still manages to look hurried in others, often the film jumps into scenes far too late for comfort and leaves the viewer too far behind. There is some good stuff here though; some cracking acting in minor parts and Karl Malden in particular was great as the villain. These days, for whatever reason, the film is in the public domain and the quality of the commercial DVD I watched was not good, the aspect ratio was cropped to 4:3 and god knows how many generations old the transferred tape was. It was not good at all, very faded. Even the version available here, at Archive.org looks better than my disc (and isn't badly cropped either). Which is a pity, because some of the cinematography was obviously very good even in the debased form I got to see it. The French, unsurprisingly, have restored it:
The above cap comes from the French restored version.
The commercial bare bones copy I watched last night looked like this:
And the copy on Archive.org looks like this:
- The Day The Sky Exploded ( 1958 ) - I'm going to have to stop buying DVDs. The version of The Day The Sky Exploded available for free on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=Cb7zoNyXmMA) is far better quality than the disc I paid money for (albeit very little money). My home copy, which came as part of a boxset of crap, is very jumpy and transferred from a very battered print. I'm tempted to watch the whole movie again, on-line, just to find the moment where one of the female characters walks through a door and approaches two scientists hunched over a console. They are staring at a radar scope image of the impending, rapidly approaching, doom from space. They look up as she walks over to them and as she opens her mouth to speak, the film jumps and she vanishes - leaving the two scientists pondering deeply and concernedly about what she just said. We have no idea what they are thinking about because many feet of film are missing. I wonder if it's in the YouTube version? because I do wonder what she said; it was obviously very important to the two characters who heard her. I hope it was more interesting than the rest of the dialogue. A very dull film.
- Smash and Grab (1937 aka Larceny Street) - Mildly diverting, very thin, British Thin Man knock off, with the leading man (scenarist, and producer) Jack Buchanan getting more Vaseline on the lens for his close-ups than the heroine. The heroine meanwhile spent most of her time trying to avoid turning her profile to the camera - it might just have been a coincidence but she did appear to have the sort of nose that would fill the screen. You can tell I was gripped can't you?
- Flushed Away (2006) - a rewatch with the kids and funnier than I remember.
- Wedlock (1991) - Just how many Rutger Hauer movies have I seen this year? (Enough for me to know how to spell his name at least. Hang on. I'll look... Armageddon, Flesh+Blood, Hemoglobin, Blade Runner... and this one. Five? Is that all? it feels like a lot more.) Wedlock almost sank my 'All films set in a future prison are automatically shite' rule. The future prison here has an almost good SF idea at its heart. All the prisoners are fitted with collars. Under certain circumstances the collars will explode taking the prisoner's head off with a spectacular and messy bang. The collars are electronically paired with another inmate's collar. Nobody knows who they are paired with. If paired collars get more than a fixed distance apart, or are tampered with, BOTH collars explode. The outer prison wall is just a line painted on the ground. Step over the line and there is no guarantee that your unknown partner is near enough to stop your head being blown off. This has the effect of turning the inmates into their own warders as it's in all of their individual interests to make sure that no one escapes in case they are linked with the escapee. It's a pretty nice idea to play SF games with. Our hero goes on the lam with a female prisoner who has found out that he is her partner and the script soon descends into a long chase as the ill matched pair (who have to stay within a hundred yards of each other) have to elude the law, the hero's former partners in crime, and it all gets very tedious. So (hurrah!) rule is intact though slightly modified: 'All films set in a future prison are automatically shite; no matter how well thought out the prison is.'
On the plus side it did have a brief appearance by the yummy O-Lan Jones who I last saw painted green and being the best thing in the otherwise fucking awful Martians Go Home
She looks good flesh coloured too.
- Koyaanisqatsi (1982) - Number three child wouldn't go to sleep; I needed my nightly film fix. Solution? Turn off the lights and watch a 96 minute abstract documentary montage with a hypnotic score by Philip Glass and no dialogue*. 5 minutes later he was asleep in my arms. 90 minutes after that I managed to tear my eyes away from the screen... I love Koyaanisqatsi.
* Though my DVD copy does have subtitles. (I'm afraid to look.)
- Gamer (2009) - Another piece of evidence to support my thesis that ''All films set in a future prison are automatically shite; no matter how well thought out the prison is.'' I have no idea how I manage to end up watching so many bad SF films set in futuristic penal systems; I certainly don't go looking for the things. They just turn up. My normal selection procedure for buying crappy second hand DVDs runs like this: Does it have Rutger Hauer in it? Yes. Have I ever heard of it? No. Does it have any combination of scantily clad women / explosions / men with rayguns and / or supposedly horrifying monsters on the front of the box? Is it less than a quid? If it scores more than three of the above it's an automatic purchase. This one failed most of those tests (all save the less than a quid one) but I bought it anyway - and it still turned out to be a totally shite SF movie.
Gameris a frenetic yet boring (an extremely difficult trick to pull off) mess that makes the Deathrace 2000 remake look sedate and interesting. (And, it turns out, a fucking bootleg too so I won't get my less than a quid back by selling it on eBay. Grrrrr.)
- Back to the Future: Part III (1990) - My least favourite of the three (part 2 is the best) completing the Pizza Night run of the trilogy. Number one daughter was gripped by all of them.
- Hell Comes to Frogtown ( 1988 ) - I was very disappointed. Mind you I don't suppose anything could live up to that title. Pretty meh Post-Apoc tale of a Keith Chegwin lookalike sent on a dangerous mission into a mutant reservation to rescue then impregnate six women being held captive by giant mutant frogs. The best joke comes in the first 10 seconds and after that it goes downhill rapidly but never makes it to the 'so bad it's good' depths - and was never going to be as funny as it thought it was.
- The Time Travelers (1964) - a rewatch. It has its clunky moments - the 'comedic' moments were particularly heavy handed - but it still stands up head and shoulders above most of the SF dross of the period. And I was reminded of a thought I had the first time I saw it. I may have mentioned it somewhere before but I can't find it. This film was made in 1964, and in it various stage magic tricks are used to simulate incomprehensible future technology.
Clarke's oft-quoted third law, 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' dates from 1973.
Beating Arthur C Clarke to the draw by 10 years? I'd be proud of that.
- The Horror of Party Beach (1964) - even with the help of the MST3K crew this is a pretty unwatchable flick that promised WEIRD ATOMIC BEASTS THAT LIVE OFF HUMAN BLOOD!!! but then most cheapo SF/horror films of the day did the same.
- Antropophagus (1980 aka The Grim Reaper) - So I find out why Shock (1977 aka Beyond the Door II) was mistakenly labelled The Grim Reaper on the back of the box. Just how many Italian horror movies are there that end with the villain being killed with a pick-axe? Not that many I would guess. Gods! this was a boring piece of crap. It's reckoned by many to be a seminal Italian horror masterpiece - though reading the forums those that do so all seem to have first seen it when they were about 12 - coming to it as an aged 50 year old it had me yawning from the start, checking the elapsed time after about 30 minutes and the rest of the show wondering why Italians seemed to think long silent shots of people walking around slowly is in any way scary. Maybe it's an Italian thing.
"Mama mia! I can't look! She's wandering aimlessly again!"
The version I saw was shorn of the two notorious shots that got it labelled as a 'Video Nasty' back in the days. I don't think I missed anything. Now to turn the disc over and watch...
- The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (1985) - a Charles B. Pierce pictures inc. production written by Charles B. Pierce, produced by Charles B. Pierce, directed by Charles B. Pierce and starring Charles B. Pierce - and his son Chuck. Filmed in Fouke, Arkansas (which is the way I felt when I had finished watching it) The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part II (aka Boggy Creek ll: and the Legend Continues) treads a fine line between boredom and tedium. Nothing happens. And then it happens again. Sometimes nothing happens in flashback with a stocking tied over the lens to make it all misty and, you know, flashbacky. In short we spend 90 minutes watching Charles B. Pierce being a pompous prick telling people to 'be quiet' and 'get back' a lot - as nothing happens. And then it ends. Highlights include his co-star son (who plays one of his students) calling him 'Pop' on screen. And Charles B. Pierce running around in too short shorts and a tight moob-hugging shirt holding a handgun - jumping over a small bush! Charles B. Pierce also provided the endless soporific voice-over. Fans of Charles B. Pierce may like it.
- Katalin Varga (2009) - slow, beautifully shot (and even more beautifully soundscaped) tale of revenge. Completed for £28,000 by a first time director with a stunning central performance by Hilda Peter.
- Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010) - which I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting to and, I suspect, a lot more than the first one (which I can hardly remember).
- Amateur (1994) - to my shame I only know one Hal Harltley film. This is it.
- Alien Trespass (2009) - Hoooo boy! Another incredibly long 90 minutes in which trashy SF B-pictures from the 1950s are mercilessly and relentlessly homaged to death before your very eyes. The film climaxes with the alien monster attacking our heroes in a cinema showing The Blob (the climax of which has the alien blob of the title attacking the local cinema). Oh the recursive fun. This 'aliens attacking people in a cinema watching The Blob attack a cinema' is turning into the stock cliché ending for 'affectionate spoof' films relentlessly homaging trashy SF B-pictures of the period. Given the rich pickings in the cliché-ridden field which it's spoofing, Alien Trespass manages to miss or fumble every one of them it picked up. The pace is leaden. The story is an unfocused mess and the script is just a tedious bore. I wanted to like it. I really did. I love the originals but I sat there for the whole show waiting for a joke to arrive. Any joke. Didn't even have to be a good one.I was still waiting as the end credits rolled. The originals were funnier.
- Mulholland Drive (2001) - second veiwing and I'm still bewildered. It took me four viewing before I 'got' Eraserhead. I think Mulholland Drive is about lesbians - but I'm not sure.
- A Bay of Blood (1971) - Let's start another new month with another Mario Bava! - it's not a plan, it's just that A Bay of Blood arrived in the post this morning and was therefore on top of the Crap to Watch pile this evening (and I was too knackered to make any decisions about what to shove in the DVD player). The fact that it is now on top of my Back to eBay pile shows I haven't totally lost my critical faculties. So, A Bay of Blood, a proto-splatter/slasher movie, deemed by many to be ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MOVIES EVER. Yeah... Right... 84 minutes of watching Italians aimlessly wandering to gruesome deaths as the camera zooms pans and racks focus trying to find them. Hmmmm. I wasn't impressed. Every character with a speaking part in this show ended up dead: impaled, garroted, whacked with machetes, or blasted by their six year old kids with a shot gun for reasons which were not very obvious. Something to do with a prime bit of real estate and a will. I think it was supposed to be a very dark comedy. Whatever it was, it was released in the USA as Last House On The Left 2 - despite having nothing to do with the original Last House On The Left and even having been shot the year before. Another Mario Bava non-sequel. No pick axes in this one.
- Rocketship X-M (1950) - for the umpteenth time. Another in the vast number of films in which the First Manned Mission to Mars Goes Horribly Wrong. (It's almost a sub-genre in it's own right.) This time though, the first manned mission is only supposed to be going to the moon, the fact that it misses and ends up on Mars is possibly due, the crew suspect, to divine intervention. God is also responsible for all the astronauts dying by the end of the show (almost unheard of in Space movies - before and since) But, as a reward for delivering the dire warnings against people blowing themselves back to the radio active stone age like the Martians did, God makes the last few members of the crew feel uplifted and noble before they plunge to a horrible fiery doom. Some really bad space science on show here too: apparently in the 1950s rockets went 300 turbo mile due up, before turning at 90° to parallel the surface of the earth, then gradually accelerated, somehow gaining extra momentum from the earth's rotation, till they achieved escape velocity. The average Road Runner cartoon demonstrates a better grasp of physics. In space small things are, apparently, prone to become weightless sooner than large things.
- Shrek 4 - meh.
- All the Kind Strangers (1974) - creepy little made for TV movie about a family of orphan children kidnapping adults to become their new parents. Our heroes are not the first to fall into their hands and there are more than a few cars drowned in the creek. It sort of held together, despite it's obvious made for TV structure and some godawful 70's country music, right up to the pat 'give me the gun, we can just work this out' ending - at which point the end credits rolled so I didn't have to suffer a long disappointing let-down. If there was a film demanding a downbeat or ambiguous ending this was it. I bet the original script had the heroes die - or at least imply they did.
- The Last Horror Film (1982) - continuing my totally unconscious habit of watching films released as sequels to films they have no connection with, The Last Horror Film (aka Fanatic and Fanatical Extreme was, apparently, released in Germany as Maniac 2: Love to Kill). It's an odd mix this one. Half giallo, half guerilla travelogue (the film is set in, and was filmed at, the 1981 Canne Film Festival - cue lots of handheld shots of real stars attending openings and topless women on the beach). The payoff of the framing device is genuinely funny, one of the best, comes out of nowhere, well timed jokes I've seen for ages. It also has more film within a film end credit cards than any other film ever made AND it's got Caroline 'Starcrash' Munro in the bath. What more do you want?
- Dead Awake (2001) - Ding! the sound of the crapshovel hitting a small gem amid all the dross. The other side of the same disc as The Last Horror Film - one of those Hollywood DVD two films on one DVD that look like pirate copies but aren't - Dead Awake is a nicely paced and very odd little thriller. And it's genuinely odd not faux, 'let's be wacky and culty here' odd. Very dreamlike in places which is as it should be because the story is that of an insomniac yuppie, who hasn't slept for 10 months, witnessing a murder and getting charged with it. Genuinely and very weirdly funny too. I haven't had so much fun for ages.
- Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - Hitchcock. And not, sadly, as good as I remember it. There were a couple of nice moments, famous moments, like the shot of Uncle Charlie bounding up the stairs and suddenly realising that, though the police no longer though he was the murderer, he would have to kill his niece who knew he was. I really like the way Hitchcock lets the audience participate in the film like that. Letting you get inside a character's head by having the actor turn away from the camera at a crucial moment and making you supply the acting. But it seemed very talky and long, yet very hurried. I was also slightly annoyed by the fact that a sequence I remember being in the film was missing. It was missing because it was never there. My memory had seamlessly transplanted a moment from Strangers on a Train into Shadow of a Doubt and then got pissed off when it didn't arrive as expected.
- X-Men:The Last Stand (2006) - I was bored rigid. Apart from Halle Berry's bum in those leather trousers, I can't think of a single moment of the film that wouldn't have been improved by less CGI, more acting (though given the script there was bugger all for anyone to work with), and no Vinnie Jones; gods, than man can kill a movie dead in its tracks. I spent most of my time feeling sorry for the actors (apart from Vinnie Jones) who must have had aching noses at the end of each day from the amount of nostril flaring they were doing. Every shot someone was flaring their nostrils to suggest rage, or impotent rage, or suspicion, or shock, or long suppressed lerve, or hunger, or tireness. Any emotion in a Marvel movie can be shown by a tightening of the jaw and a flaring of the nostrils. Apart from grief. Grief is done my kneeling down, clenching everything from the buttocks upwards tilting your head back and screaming NOOOOOOOO! at a camera somewhere above your head. Hugh Jackman did that falling on his knees and shouting NOOOOOOOO! thing twice in this film, which I thought was a little excessive but it made a change from all the nostril flaring and all the constipated Kung-Fu they were doing under all the CGI superpower stuff.
The film also had two (count 'em two!) 'The end... or is it?' endings. But at least it was better than the second Fantastic 4 film - but that's not saying a lot, so was Confessions of a Window Cleaner.
Okay, Shawn, in this shot you're shooting your freeze ray at the 'flames shooting out of his hands' guy so I want you to lean forward a bit... that's good. Grab a couple of imaginary melons... no, a bit lower. Good. Now imagine you are trying to squeeze one out - a real log. That's it! Great! First shit you've had all week... Really grit those teeth.... NNNNNNNNNNN. Looking good. Still needs something though. I know! Could you flare your nostrils too? That's it! Hold it... Cut! Print it! Thank you, and moving on...
- Shaft (1971) - The music is great. The rest of it looks very dated and pedestrian. I know it was a revelation at the time. A Black PI hero? Unheard of and its runaway success ushered in the whole Blaxploitation boom but looked at objectively 40 years later it's just not that good a film. Apart from the music. The music is just fucking genius.
- Il Divo (2008 ) - visually appealing but, to me, incomprehensible retelling of a slice of recent Italian political history. I'm no wiser at the end of it about anything but the pictures were nice.
- Saboteur (1942) - less than overwhelming Hitchcock - this is the one that ends with Dr. Auschlander from St Elsewhere falling off the Statue of Liberty.
- The Opposite of Sex ( 1998 ) - A total delight.
- Shoot or Be Shot (aka Shooting Stars 2002) - nothing much to add to my IMDb review after my first watching (6 years ago?! Holy Cow!) apart from noting it was a lot funnier than I remembered.
- Clash of the Titans (1981) - one of those films I have been wanting to share with the kids for a while now and they loved it. Number two daughter was cuddled into me and had her hands over her eyes for the whole of the Medusa sequence. When it was over I said to her "It's okay, you can look now." and she replied "I am." She had watched the whole thing through a crack in her fingers. Job done.
- Cyborg (1989) - written by someone with a real guitar fetish (the major characters are called Gibson Rickenbacker, Fender Tremelo, Pearl, Marshall Stratt, Furman, etc.) Cyborg is your usual post-apocalyptic bollocks but because it is a Jean-Claude Van Damme post-apocalyptic bollocks there's more than the usual amount of kicking people in the face and sweaty grimacing. There are also more than the usual amount of post-apocalyptic bollocks stupidities on show too - including an unusually large number of randomly placed rusty oil drums with something burning in them. Not that they were used for anything - apart from one particularly hilarious moment when Van Damme kicks one of the endless supply of stunt-goon villains into one. The villain immediately bursts into flames, staggers forward a few yards and falls onto the burnt-out shell of a wrecked car - which EXPLODES! (This whole scene taking place in the pouring rain.) The plot was assembled from bits of old westerns found lying around. Bits of The Searchers bolted on to Two Mules for Sister Sarah with chunks of Once Upon a Time in the West nailed on for good measure. Made cheaply, every shot is stretched out far beyond any logical sense; people run around in slow motion a lot because it takes longer for them to get where they are going and you don't have to write dialogue for slow motion scenes - but there is one glass painting of a post-apoc Atlanta Ga. that they had obviously spent a few quid on. We know they spent a few quid on it because it was on screen for 20 seconds - that's a hell of a long time for a static establishing shot in which nothing happens. "We paid for that fucker - keep it on the screen for as long as you can!" As a painting it was pretty crap, as an establishing shot it was pointless because it was immediately preceded one set of characters walking past a sign saying 'Atlanta Ga. Welcomes Careful Bands of Marauding Psychopaths' (or something) and it was immediately followed by a shot of another sign saying ATLANTA. Well, I get the message. I don't think we're in Kansas any more.... I'm glad to say I didn't pay any money for this movie; I found it on the street next to a recycling centre. I'm taking it back.
- Deep Star Six (1989) - Alien underwater! Not bad to start with, a cast of (to me) unknowns (and Miguel Ferrer) putting in solid workaday performances as your standard mixed bag of a mixed sex crew who have just spent the last 6 months in an deep sea installation. Someday someone is going to make a film about a bunch of working Joes (and Jos) stuck together in a big tin can in a hostile environment without throwing a monster into the mix. Maybe it's just me but often I find the bits before our crew encounter the rapacious carnivorous THING much more interesting than all the running around screaming and doing stupid things just so they can get eaten that happens afterwards. After a while watching crap like this the game of guessing which of our crew are going to get eaten and the order in which they get ate gets pretty boring too. You're black, you're the hero's best friend, and you got kids who send you cute drawings? you're fucking doomed, you are. And don't ever say "When we get out of this I want you to come visit me on my farm....". Speeches like that act as some sort of aperitif for rampaging rapacious carnivorous THINGs. It's like rubbing barbecue sauce all over yourself and shoving a sprig of rosemary up your bum - don't do it!
In Deep Star Six the THING is a rapacious giant carnivorous crustacean of some kind. The crew do all the usual stupid things they have to do to get eaten - and get very wet while they do it. As usual the two crew members voted most likely to survive in the first three minutes survive. And, as usual, the laws of physics don't make it past the first act.
- Beast from Haunted Cave (1959) - The word 'The' was out of favour in 1959. Cheap mercifully short reworking of Key Largo, on skis, with a monster. Not as bad as it sounds.
- The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) - Italian crime / slasher nonsense with a really bad case of the zooms. Just about every shot. Zoom Zoom Zoomy Zoom. I was getting motion sick by the end of it. Luckily there were no whip pans or I might have thrown up.
- The Borrowers (1997) - another one of those films I have been boycotting for years as a needless American bastardization of a childhood treasure, but I was snookered into watching it with the kids as our Friday Night Pizza Night movie and .... I really enjoyed it. Once I had got over the hump of realising that the makers had jettisoned just about everything in the books apart from the names and heights of some of the characters I settled back and enjoyed the ride which, though not exactly ground-breaking in originality, was fun family fare and made me laugh aloud several times. The design elements were interesting too. The film appeared to be set in England but in a strange never-never time that was sort of the fifties and sort of the nineties - most of the cars for instance were Morris Minors and milk was delivered to the doorstep in glass bottles but houses had huge Americn Freezers with built in ice-dispensers and magnets stuck all over the doors. The same director went on to make the vastly underrated Thunderpants set in a similar not quite identifiable time. All the Morris Minors in that one were green.
(1974) - another to me unknown film bought in a charity shop for pennies purely because I had A: never heard of it and B: it had an airbrushed chrome effect in the title:
...and a skull wearing a hat.
Not enough movie posters have skulls wearing hats.
Stone turns out to be a pretty terrific little low budget Australian biker film with some real drop dead moments. The opening titles are brilliant. And so simple.
- Dead of Night (aka Mirror of Death 1988 ) - a screamingly bad piece of no budget crap about a (rather cute) woman conjuring up a evil spirit who enters her body through her dressing table mirror, lures men back to her home, kills them, then stashes them (standing up) in closets around the house. Really, really bad. Bad with a capital B. Screeds of badly written dialogue delivered by bad actors who (all credit to them) go for it with hopeless gusto. Some scenes look like a first read through. Lots of penguin flapping (those vague armflap gestures that bad actors do when they don't know what to do with their hands) and plenty of time to do it in. There's some fantastically long-winded dialogue in this film; e.g. (and trust me on this one, it's worth it. Suck it in and plough on through):
So they do; they all rush to a table and pore over the Yellow Pages. This was not a comedy. This was serious. God, I hope it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. Because if it was I didn't notice. Whatever it was it was, it was a painful experience to watch. I spent a lot of the running time trying to work out how they got a trailer out of the thing. You know those times you go see a film and realise it was pretty crap and you had seen all the best bits in the trailer that had suckered you in in the first place? This film didn't have any best bits.
INT. BATHROOM. DAY.
SARA (our sometime possesed heroine) is washing her face. She looks in the mirror and the face of SULA THE DEMON looking out at her. Sara screams in terror. RICHARD, Sara's sister's boyfriend and a seriously crap actor, appears, sees the demon, and pulls Sara away.
CUT TO: INT. LIVINGROOM. DAY
Richard hurriedly picks up the phone and dials.
APRIL (SARA'S SISTER):What're you going to do, Richard?
RICHARD:Calling the police! I've heard and seen enough!
APRIL:What're they gonna do but arrest Sarah so they can close their books and everything'll look good on their records.
RICHARD:Got a better idea!? Let's hear it!
SARA:How about calling the police so they can see this Sura first hand?
APRIL:Oh, Sara, If Sura gets back in your body again we'll never get control of her. What we need right now is someone who knows how to deal with these things.
RICHARD:Who knows how to deal with evil spirits floating out of mirrors!?
(Shouting and giving a real master-class
in Penguinflapping frustration.)
SARA:I know it's going to sound stupid... but why don't we just look in the Yellow Pages?
Someone in the editorial team knew it was a piece of shit too because right at the end, after all the credits have rolled and the screen has gone black, there is a repeated line of dialogue on the soundtrack. Just as you are about to hit the eject button Richard the crap actor boyfriend's voice has been edited in screaming:
"Oh my God! What was THAT!?"
- Tripwire (1990) - another bigbox VHS that I bought for 10p solely because I had never heard of it and (also solely) because it had a picture of David Warner on the cover. In fact that's just about all it had on the front cover: David Warner holding a big gun. Now I like David Warner. I like him a lot. He's a jobbing actor who delivers what he's asked to deliver with a credibility that the material often doesn't deserve (Quest of the Delta Knights being a very good example) and he does a great line in villains (Tron, Time After Time, The Man With Two Brains, Time Bandits etc. etc.) But I had to ask myself, "Just how badly underpowered does a film have to be that it has David Warner on the cover as the main selling point?"
It was shit.
- Prison Heat (1993) - All you really need to make a Women in Prison movie is four actresses willing to get naked, a shower block, and a wall. Bought to you by Global Pictures, the brains behind American Cyborg: Steel Warrior and Delta Force 3: The Killing Game, Prison Heat pushed the boat out and had a staircase as well. Even by the usually low WiP movie standards, it was pretty awful. Highlights include (some of the heroines' astounding knockers aside) our sadistic and corrupt cardboard villain pointing at the lead heroine and instructing one of his minions to "take her to solitary...." followed by a shot of the lead heroine being chained to a wall next to someone else - and an amazing moment when our feisty lead heroine hauls herself up into a skylight with another feisty heroine (Feisty Heroine 2) hanging onto her leg. In the next shot, from another angle, the lead feisty heroine has managed to get herself herself into a position which, from the establishing shot we have just seen, would be impossible to achieve (even without someone hanging off your leg). She then kicks out part of the window, before climbing out onto the roof, turning round and helping out Feisty Heroine 2 who has, presumably, been hovering in mid air all this time. Another 10p wasted.
- Wild Force (1986) - Wooo-Hoooo! Recently I have come to suspect that I have watched too many crappy films. So many that I have become totally inured to the things. I was starting to wonder if I was finally starting to get bored with my search for whatever it is I'm searching for (I'm still not sure). It has been a while since I really wholeheartedly enjoyed a really crappy movie. Sometimes these days they're feeling like a bit of a chore. Tonight I remembered why I do it. I've struck 10p big box VHS paydirt. Wild Force is a Philippine film. I know very little about the film industry of the Philippines but if Wild Force a good one (it got sold abroad so I guess it must be) I hate to think what the crap they couldn't export is like. It is a film of STAGGERING incompetence. I really don't know where to begin because once I start I suspect I'll still be ranting about its deficiencies and joys for days. But the moment where a minor villain swims across a swimming pool is a joy and will have to stand in for the whole.
The villain has information that the 'Team' of heroes need. He is sat by the side of an outdoor swimming pool, being attended by two bikini clad bimbos. The only female member of 'The Team' sits at a table on the other side of the pool and in a series of shots makes goo goo eyes at him. It is sunny (but very windy) on her side of the swimming pool. It is raining heavily on his side. He likes the look of her (I prefer the two birds he has in his hands but there's no acounting for taste or the requirements of plot development). In a wide angle that lets us see both sides of the pool, he gets up from his chair (it's stopped raining on his side by the way) and dives into the pool leaving the bimbos wondering what to do. An assistant director tells them. The one on the left of the screen doesn't quite get it... "Step back, love... no back... further back.. stop looking at the camera...! No... BACK!" By the time she finally gets out of the frame the villain is across the pool and clambering out the other side in such an ungainly manner that he has his trunk-clad arse and dangly bits waving in our faces (thankfully from a long way away). Cut to a ridiculously low angle of him sucking in most of his belly and pointing his crotch at the attractive 'team' member. Two lines of dialogue later and there's a real WTF!? jump cut to him coming out of the shower, wrapping a towel around himself and her (still fully and demurely clothed) sat on a bed. What the hell is going on?
The dialogue is terrific. And dubbed I suspect, in the producer's kitchen by three actors doing 'different voices' for different characters. A bit like you do when reading kids a bedtime story. I also suspect the actor playing the Maguffin, the kidnapped Doctor Johnston, did his own dubbing but as he is a terrible actor, and has (or effects) a southern drawl, and puts the emphasis on all the wrong syllables, he manages to sound like Slim Pickins on a trampolene. An image I will try to get out of my head as soon as I can. This one is going to get rewatched many times.
And quite who all these blonde white people on the cover are I have no idea. The film was full of sweaty Filipinos. And all those helicopters? There was one in the film. One. Which they obviously only managed to blag for an hour or so for the filming, because whenever it landed or took off it always landed and took off from the same field - wherever it supposed to be, base camp, or somewhere several days march into the jungle - same field, same trees in the background, same hills in the distance.
This one is going to get rewatched many times.
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) - Friday Night Pizza with the Kids Film - which I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than I thought I was going to. I have a natural aversion to Jim Carey but thought he did a terrific job as the evil Count Olaf.
- Breath (2007) - a film that is, according to a quote from Variety on the back cover,
and which caused me to formulate a new rule of films: 'Inside every slow, quirky Art House film, no matter how marbled with anything it may be, there is a semi-decent short screaming to get out.' Christ, I was bored. Even at a meagre 84 minutes it felt like a piece that was stretched out far too long. I managed to stay awake until the end credits, in the vague hope of some great redeeming moment which didn't arrive, and then promptly fell asleep for two hours - during which I developed a severe pain in the left-hand side of my neck from sleeping awkwardly.
"Quirky ... Marbled with weirdly comic and tender moments"
- Dance of the Dead ( 2008 ) - "On the night of the big High-School Prom, the dead rise to eat the living, and the only people who can stop them are the losers who couldn't get dates to the dance." Stupid, overly-violent and (at moments) very funny low budget zombie film. The lead, Jared Kusnitz, was great.
- The Last Seven (2010) - Another £1 of 3 not very well spent in PoundWorld. (The other two films I bought at the same time were Bloodrayne 2, and Mega Piranha.) The Last Seven looked to be the most interesting of the the three as it promised to play with one of my fave SF book/movie tropes. The one that starts with one man waking up in a seemingly deserted Earth - The Last Man on Earth, The Quiet Earth, The World, the Flesh and the Devil etc. etc. After taking an age to get started (after what looked suspiciously like TWO nested framing devices, and watching one of the producers of the show doubling as an actor walking around London for ten or so minutes) I began to think I should have gone with Mega Piranha. At least that would have delivered what it promised on the case - oh, though looking at the case again, maybe not; the cover shows a fish eating an aircraft carrier, this from production company The Asylum, the people who couldn't get their alien's masks to stay inside their actor's shirts in their ultra-crappy Princess of Mars knockbuster. Ah well. Back to The Last Seven. So, seven very variable actors meet up in a deserted London, with variably from shot to shot wet/dry streets, and say "What the fuck is happening?" to each other a lot. None of them remembers a thing about who they are or what they are doing there. They start to have flashbacks which seem to interlink. The flashbacks (which get very repetitive and are not as oblique a piece of storytelling as the film makers seem to think) have something to do with an SAS op gone wrong, a cover-up and someone nailing their own hands to a table. There's also a mysterious black clad figure with bad teeth, a blindfold and lots of blood running down his face popping up and popping out the survivor's eyes with his thumbs from time to time. By the time the end of the film heaves itself into view and the remaining characters finally realize they are all dead (or nearly so) and have been since the start of the film, the audience is having a collective M. Night Shyamalan moment and saying 'Is that it? Is that why I have sat here for the last 90 minutes? They're all fucking dead?' Yep, that was it. What a crashing disapointment. Mind you, my 'They are all dead' detectors are pretty well developed. I have never seen an episode of Lost and I knew the characters in that were dead after the third episode just from what the people I knew who did watch it told me about it.
The only thing that kept me there till the end was one of the actresses, Daisy Head, in her first feature film, wiping the screen with everyone else. The girl has got something.
- Bolt ( 2008 ) - I was underwhelmed. The kids were entertained but not enthusiastic.
- Mega Piranha (2010) - another straight to SyFy channel and poundshop DVD pile piece of shit from The Asylum. 'Starring 80s Pop Sensation' Tiffany. (Who?) Mega Piranha has added a new person to my 'People I Want to Nail to a Wall Slowly' list. It's this guy:
The 'editor' of the show, who, when presented with an Avid, seems to have randomly hit every available button in as short a time as possible, and added big Whoooosh! noises over every other cut in case we didn't notice how fucking cool his cutting was. Real ADHD editing. Leave nothing on the screen for more than 3 seconds, speed it, up slow it down, flip it, flop it, desaturate, 'hell, it's been over two minutes since we used that shot; we'll use it again, I wonder what this button does? Cool! cut paste - Y'know, I'm bored, why don't we let cat play with the keyboard for a bit? Hey! that's kind cool...'
Amid all this hyperactive bludgeoning - there, I suspect, only to disguise the utterly shit script - he manages to do perfectly stupid edits like this:
EXT: DAY: SWAMP
The hero and two assistant heroes are on the run.
Come on let's move out... You too, Gordon...
They exit screen right
CUT TO:EXT: DAY: ALMOST IDENTICAL BIT OF SWAMP
Enter Hero screen left.
Actually, written down, it doesn't look that bad but on screen it looks terrible, like the chracters have just taken only paces forwards and then stopped. I find it hard to believe they didn't have a single shot they could have cut away to to give a least a moment's impression of time passing. Not a single helicopter shot of jungles? reused CGI shot of cardboard piranhas? no shots of the bad guys combing the jungle for them? nothing? Nothing to rescue their hero from looking like an even bigger dick than he already looks? I don't believe it. Incredibly incompetent editing. And this was before we get to the content which included giant Pirahnas eating nuclear submarines and ventriloquist SCUBA divers.
This wasn't a film. It was a product.
Actually my hat's off to one member of the crew: the composer who - if he is to be believed from his interview on the 'Making of' extra - only had 48 hours to score and record the soundtrack for the whole movie. He did an okay job.
- BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007) - a straight to DVD Vampire western in which an evil vampire, Billy the Kid, and his posse of vampire cowboys take hostage the children of the small town of Deliverance. Cheesy, wobbly, loathed by many - just go read the bile heaped upon it IMDb reviews - and lurching from one over-cooked cliché to another without stopping; I rather enjoyed it. 90 minutes of stupid fun.
- Return of the Killer Tomatoes ( 1988 ) - Rewatch of a joyously stupid film that just makes me laugh. I make no apologies.
- The Invasion (2007) - the fourth(!) adaptation of Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers. The first one is a masterpiece of cold war paranoia, the second is a pretty damn good movie about cults and the alienation of modern cities (and it has that great downbeat ending with Donald Sutherland doing 'The Point'), the third I haven't seen but is highly regarded by some, and then there's this. Which is about Nicole Kidman getting 17 million dollars to appear in a movie. The first two adaptation ditch the novels pretty crappy WTF? cop out ending (the invading pods get fed up and float back off into space) and are better for it, the third (from what I've read) has an unsettlingly ambiguous "where're you going to run to?" ending, and this one has the combined scientists of the world pulling a vaccine out of their collective arses (in the nick of time) and crop spraying the world back to unhappiness once again, and you know what? It's shit.
- Voyage of the Rock Aliens - a 1984 'Rock Science Fiction Musical starring Pia (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) Zadora which made The Apple and Earth Girls are Easy look like masterpieces in comparison. If I tell you the best 'joke' in the whole film is that the high school to which the 30 year old Pia and her 25 year old boyfriend, Craig Sheffer, go is called 'Heidi' - Heidi High. Geddit? Eh? Geddit? - you'll have some idea about just how fucking dreadful this film was. I mean really fucking dreadful. I was on such a high after watching it. Hysteria. I should demand medals for watching this stuff.
Somehow the producers managed to convince 90 year old, four times nominated, one time Oscar winner Ruth Gordon to appear in it as the local sheriff. Baffling.
What you may probably find more baffling is the fact that I went on my hands and knees to find this DVD and then had to convince the guy behind the till to sell it to me. Here's the scene: I'm in Poundland in Dundee raking through the not very inspiring piles of DVDs (many of them reduced to 50p - that uninteresting) when I noticed that down behind the shelves was a pile of DVDs and CDs that had fallen through the gaps in the shelving and were lying in an unsorted heap on the floor, out of sight of the passing punters. I love unsorted heaps ; can't resist them. You never know what you'll find in an unsorted heap. (Except you do by now). So I was instantly on my knees shoving aside piles of Fly Fishing Expert 23: How to Catch Bigger Perch with Angus McSomeone and pulling out long lost treasures - like lots of other Fly Fishing Expert DVDs and - Voyage of the Rock Aliens. Bingo! When I got to the till the guy behind the counter scanned my DVDs. Voyage of the Rock Aliens made the till make a funny noise. Instead of going 'beep!' as it had done with all the other discs, it went 'BeepityBeepety'... The till man looked at his till.
Oh. This item has been withdrawn.
Why has it been withdrawn?
No idea. Maybe it's been reported
as faulty or something.
I'll take the risk.
I'll take the risk. If it doesn't work
I promise not to bring it back.
Like I said. Medals.
- Mutant (1984) - over-long (or very wrongly paced) low budget small town zombie pollution crap.
- The House on Sorority Row (1983) - Meh.
- Dragonslayer (1981) - which for my sins I have never seen before. Daughter number one chose it for a family film night - she's got a thing about dragons at the moment and was reassured that, because it was a Disney film, 'it wouldn't be (too) scary'. That's that rule of thumb gone down the drain then. We were both snuggled together on the sofa but I don't know who was reassuring whom. A Disney film with nudity and where the feisty princess gets eaten! What a eye opener. I loved it. Fucking brilliant dragon too, but Ralph Richardson as usual, and without breaking sweat, stole the show away from everyone. Damn, that man had great timing. (H)
- The Elevator (1996) - A successful Hollywood writer/producer gets trapped in a lift and he has to endure hearing four semi-demented short scripts of a wanabee writer trapped in there with him. An incredibly long 92 minutes. Starring the writer and the producer (who were, at the time, married) the shorts we get to 'enjoy' are dull predictable talking-head two handers with occasionally some very abrupt lurches into stagy theatre lighting thrown in. Currently not flying off the shelves in Poundlands everywhere.
- Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) - What an unholy mess of a film. To help the audience cope with the previously unsuspected fact that fictional Scottish icon Connor MacCleod 'The Highlander' (played by Frenchman Christopher Labert) and his Spanish oppo Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (played by real life Scottish icon, Sean Connery) are in fact really aliens from the planet Zogfart the script has to have characters recap the story so far:
Okay, now let me just see if I can get this straight... You're mortal there but you're immortal here, until you kill all the guys who're from there who've come here... and then you're mortal here. Unless you go back there, or some more guys from there come here, in which case you become immortal here - again.
Something like that.
When they got round to making Highlander 3 they pretended this one hadn't happened.
- The Lawnmower Man (1992) - One of those films that has been on my radar for a while - ie it keeps turning up in car boot sales but I have never actually got round to buying it. It usually manifests itself on one of those Hollywood four films on two DVD disc sets along with three other films no one wants to watch. Today I found it in one of my local charity shop haunts where they give away VHS tapes, they're so unsaleable these days. So, finally, I get to watch The Lawnmover Man for free! - well, for the price of the electricity used to power the TV and VHS player (+ 35 or so p for the popcorn) - and as it was originally intended. On a big box, ex-rental VHS with 20 minutes of trailers for films no one wanted to watch (then or since) and adverts for the Commodore Amiga 600 home computer.
The Lawnmower Man (when I finally got to it after all the hard sell) turns out to be your usual Hollywood mashup on the Frankenstein theme. This time thrown into the mix are great chunks of classic heartbreaker SF story Flowers for Algernon and slabs of Tron, other randomly tossed in ingredients included the Evil Corporation (whose evil minions handily keep boxes of easy to operate, push button demolition charges in their standard evil henchmen black vans), a cute kid, an evil priest, and an hilariously inept set piece in which an abusive father is chased round his own home by a telepathically controlled killer lawnmower. As shite as it sounds. There was a sequel - for which I am now actively searching.
- Sphere ( 1988 ) - Ditto radar, ditto car boot sales, same charity shop. Sphere is Solaris underwater with explosions, mutilations, death and oodles of dodgy make-it-up-as-we-go-along Hollywood 'science'.
The trailers were less interesting on this tape. Couldn't tell you what they were for but I do remember noticing that more of them were adverts for things than for other films. This VHS copy was released a few years later than The Lawnmower Man one and for sale rather than rental. I guess the marketing guys have it all worked out that repeat viewers are more likely to be sold Mars Bars than being reminded of the awfulness of Project Shadowchaser. One thing that hadn't changed though was that both tapes started with British Voice-over Man loudly booming, "Beware of Illegal Video Cassettes!" at me. Makes them sound dead scary and dangerous. Like little cuboid gremlins that'll slide out from underneath the furniture and bite your ankles*. I watch my films with all the lights off and a bag of popcorn to hand in as close an approximation to a cinema experience as I can manage in my own living room (I even change seats twice before I'm happy and yesterday outdid myself by spilling a fizzy drink so the floor ended up all sticky). Before I sit down to a film these days I've taken to looking behind the sofa in case there are illegal video cassettes lurking down there, waiting to attack me during 'a scary bit'. God, I wish the films I watched were more interesting.
* The film rights to this stupid idea are still available, talk to my agent.
- Alien Resurrection (1997) - Another set of dittos. Loathed and castigated by many die hard Alien fans (there are some weird people in the world; they're MOVIES, you saddos!). This is the fourth in the series, and looked at in isolation (it's many years since I saw 1, 2, and I'm not sure if I've ever seen 3 all the way through), is not that bad a film for a 'Oh crap we're trapped in an enclosed environment with KILLER THINGIES and the only way out takes us via an infeasibly complex route' type film. Okay, it goes a bit tits up at the end but so do a lot of other films loved by cadres of devoted hardcore fans. There were some nice touches here, a few genuine scares, and a couple of laugh out loud moments - the best surely being the moment when Rod Perlman's character freaks out after an Alien attack and uses a HUGE gun to shoot a normal sized spider on its web.
The script is credited to Joss Whedon and I was struck by the similarities between the ragtag crew of opportunists and smugglers from 'The Betty' and the ragtag crew of smugglers and opportunists from Firefly, a series Whedon brought to the screen 5 years later.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - I wanted to like this so much. It started well but I was fed up and irritable by the end of it. So much so that I was in full on nitpicking mode. For example, when Edmund gets mortally wounded near the end, and then gets dosed with Susan's 'Get Out Of Jail' magic 'One Drop Will Cure Anything' juice that Father Christmas gave her - he recovers. One second Argh Ugh Snotty little twerp dying from having a sword thrust into his belly, the next, sitting up big hugs loves and kissy kissy. By Jingo that's some good stuff!. Why didn't it immediately heal the split lip the make-up department had been diligently keeping continuity with on his bottom lip? You can see I was really involved with the action can't you? And was the wicked Jadis's chariot pulled by polar bears as some kind of dig by the overtly Christian producers at well known atheist Philip Pullman's polar bear-like panserbjørne? The kids, needless to say, LOVED it. (L)
- Cosmos War of the Planets (1977) Prompted by a post on another forum I rewatched this - and so can you! It's available free via http://www.archive.org/details/Cosmo...of_the_Planets. I thoroughly recommend it to all. It is a very unintentionally funny and very surreal film. I defies all known conventions of film logic (even Italian ones). For most of it's running time it Just. Makes. No. Sense. I imagine it would be even surrealier* and funnier stoned but even dead cold sober (9 years and counting) it's still laugh out loud stupid. And contains moments of SF genius that will live with you for years - no matter how hard you try to forget them. I especially recommend the 'sex' scene at the 23 minute mark. Now THAT's foreplay.
AND it has well-endowed Astro-crumpet to try and distract.
from the plot deficiencies. What more
could a man ask for?
* there is now.
- Ghostwatcher (2002) - Zero budget, underachieving 'horror' that almost had a couple of nice moments but was so plodding tedious that I ended up watching the last third with my thumb on the FF button of my remote. Another £1 wasted at Poundland. Laughing all the way to the bank those buggers.
- Space Cowboys (2000)- I loved it. A real joy of a film - right until the moment they actually got into space and it suddenly went from being a gentle, amusing, and well presented tale about friendship and regret, redemption and ambition finally being achieved - and turned into Moonraker.
Holy crap what just happened?
It was like The Dish suddenly turning into Mad Max for the last twenty minutes, or Gregory's Girl turning into Highlander II. The only saving grace was that it looked like nobody involved - apart from the special effects guys - gave a fart about this bolted on, 'we got to do this shit to sell it to the studios', 'action' sequence and it is an utter shambles.
- Tropic Thunder ( 2008 ) - Started off funnily enough but by the end had descended into a slice of the usual America wish-fulfilment crap in which any bunch of American Male amateurs, no matter how stupid, armed with with automatic weapons - even loaded with blank ammunition - can beat the crap out of any army of non-Americans with automatic weapons, no mater how well-trained, profession, or desperate they are. The only thing that really kept me watching till the end was Robert Downey Jr.'s show-stealing turn as the Australian actor who 'blacked up' for his role and always stayed in character until he'd recorded the DVD commentary.
- Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) - Some really shoddy science (simultaneous nuclear bomb tests knock the world out of orbit and towards the sun) but some great film making. A smart script that has our protagonists acting like real people in the face of possible catastrophic end of the world. They carry on doing their jobs and hope for the best. Nothing they can do, no false heroics, no Hollywood bullshit and even after studio interference the film has a wonderfully unresolved ending. (The world is basically fucked - or it isn't. We don't find out.)
I'd never seen it with the coloured bookend sections before, they were a nice surprise. The opening is tinted a hot bright orange and the film is told in a nice cool black and white flashback. And I don't remember it being so damn sweatily sexy either:
Curiously she didn't ever work for Disney again after this... )
Apparently I have been remembering a slightly less fleshy, American version in which the same scenes were played out with Janet Munro showing less boobage. We used to make damn fine films in this country.[/CENTER]
- The Bruce (1996) - and we also made some right old shit too. Starring Brian Blessed, Oliver Reed, and 'Wolf' from the Gladiators*...
...The Bruce, tells the story of Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick, as he unites the 13th Century Scots in a rebellion against the hated English, led by Edward I - not to be confused with the film Braveheart (which came out the year before) in which William Wallace, a commoner, unites the 13th Century Scots in their battle to overthrow English rule. Not that anyone would confuse the two. For starters Braveheart had a budget that extended beyond getting the local battle re-enactment societies to amble past the camera in their Sunday best and unenthusiastically cheer from time to time. I presume they could also afford some professionals. It must be hard trying to recreate the Battle of Bannockburn with a hundred amateurs and the one stunt man mentioned in the credits. Dreadful music too. It just maundered around trying to be endlessly stirring and ended up underlining the deficiencies in the direction and a script which flopped all over the place and pissed away all the hard work put in by the actors. One particularly dreadful moment came when Robert the Bruce encounters the treacherous Comyn in church. Comyn points out they cannot fight on hallowed ground, this sentiment, expressed by one Hairy Scot Wig (tm) bewigged actor to another can only mean one thing to a true red-blooded Scot (or bad movie fan)... HIGHLANDER! As the entire audience cry; "There can only be one!" the two have a badly arranged fight and Comyn is killed, but, sadly, not beheaded in an orgy of special effects. The Bruce flees and the body is discovered. "Murder! ... Sacrilege!" the discoverer cries. And continues to cry, over and over again, "Murder! ... Sacrilege! Sacrilege! ... Murder! ... Sacrilege!" as the directors leisurely pans down the victim's outstretched arm to eventually arrive at The Bruce's cross clutched in his hand. I guess the intention was to have this damning piece of evidence used later in the film to prove The Bruce as the killer - except it isn't. It's never mentioned again. Either the sequence it was placed there for was edited out, never shot, or, more likely than not, never scripted. So why have the extended shot in there at all? And why have the off-camera voice of the poor sod actor endlessly shouting "Murder! ... Sacrilege! ... Sacrilege! Murder! ... Sacrilege!" as it played? Well, there had to be something on the soundtrack I suppose but it's really down to bad editing and shitty direction. Add, rubbish lighting, minimal set dressing (everyone in the 13th Century lived in huge castles with no furniture, or small hovels with no crops in the surrounding fields), occasional adequate acting (did I mention Brian Blessed was in it?), and you have a seriously dull film on your hands.
*The trailer for production company Crowell Pictures' previous film, Chasing the Deer, contained the immortal line "...and introducing fish..." which sent my mind off in 34 different directions (including a hilarious 'Haddock meet Cod, Cod, Haddock' routine) before I was vastly disappointed to realise they meant Fish, the singer from Genesis-lite prog rockers Marrilion, making his feature film début.
- Toy Story (1985?) - Eben, aged 2, gets to chose this week's Weekly Family Pizza Night film. He likes Buzz.
- American Scary (2006) - A slight, cheaply made, documentary - ie lots of talking heads sat in front of wrinkled fabric draped across the background - giving a whistlestop history of the TV Horror Movie Host. A peculiar minor art in which people dress up in Halloween costumes and and introduce crappy films on local TV stations late at night. No Cassandra Peterson (Vampira) boo! but they managed to get Maila Nurmi (Vampira), and Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman) to talk to them. What could have been an interesting little project was spoiled by obvious TV slot editing and some dreadful music. As a way of gluing the rapid machine gun cutting of talking heads together someone had the bright idea of running music underneath everything like musak in a lift. It got very irritating.
- Zombie Strippers ( 2008 ) - There were actually a couple of nice gags buried in this piece of shit. Small ones. Not worth digging for. Why do American males in films turn into howler monkeys at the sight of a pair of plastic tits? I spent half the film bemusedly fascinated by the rigid immobility of Jenna Jameson's boobs. I wasn't punching the air with mock hysteria like the extras in the club, I was trying to work out what they were. They were fascinating, looked like like pink soup bowls stuck on the front of her chest - with nipples on top.
The IMDB tells me that the film came in under budget, by which I can only assume the director didn't have a second cup of coffee.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002) - Well that was an amiable bit of fun.
- Pollux et le chat bleu aka Dougal and the Blue Cat (1970) - Friday Night Pizza Choice of Daughter Number Two. Apparently this is one of Marc Kermode's favourite films. Mrs JunkMonkey watched it so often as a child she could recite it, and I have no idea how often my own kids have seen it. Amazingly this was the first time I have seen it all the way through, though, it turns out, I do appear to have seen most of it in chunks, in passing, over the last few years. I can't say I was bowled over. Eric Thomson's habit of having half his characters chuckle at their own (very thin) jokes got very irritating after a while.
- Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) - another one of the Great SF films of the early Seventies - that brief moment when Hollywood got away from radioactive gigantism and bikini-girl craving sea monsters long enough to make a few films in which characters and ideas were the at the centre of the story. Another film about to be buggered up forever by a Hollywood remake. (Starring Will Smith!?)
Colossus (1970) is one of those wonderful low-key, ambiguously ending tales about the dangers of putting all your eggs in one sciencey basket. The original is about both sides in the Cold War (gods! that seems so long ago) handing over control of their nuclear arsenals to giant, incorruptible, emotion-free, and utterly impregnable super-computers. (The rational being that the computers are programmed only to act in defence and are incapable of attacking.) In true Frankenstein tradition things go a bit awry when the computers team up, decide they are smarter than the human race, and take over. For the betterment of Man, you understand; to make Man happy, free from war, famine, and disease. All they require in return is blind obedience. At the end of the film the Human Race is utterly screwed facing a conformist, rigidly controlled, future and the computers are in control. The whole thing, like most good SF, is an allegorical view of the period in which it was written and, like most good SF, has resonances for the present day and the future too.
The sequel will probably have lots of explosions and people crawling around tunnels lugging infeasibly large hand guns as a crack team of sweaty American action heroes tunnel into the giant computer and blow it up - thus saving the world with only seconds to spare. ...and be forgotten by the time the audience is back out on the street. There will be hero with a troubled past relationship (almost certainly with someone who helped design the thing in the first place - an estranged wife perhaps? - and here's a guess: the killer password they find they need turns out to be the name of their daughter's kitten? and shitloads of CGI; buckets, and buckets, and buckets of it.) I'm not looking forward to it one little bit. Go see the original before it's messed with.
- La Femme Nikita (1990) - I was more than underwhelmed. As I have been underwhelmed by most of the film with Luc Besson's name on them. Apart from The Fifth Element, I seem to remember that was a bit of fun.
- Le Mépris (1963) - Jean-Luc Godard is another one. I mean he's another 'great' French film director I don't get. In Le Mépris we get to watch Bridgette Bardot and Michel Piccoli spend 70 minutes trying to work out whether to go Jack Palance's villa in Capri (or not), then spend 20 minutes being unhappy when they get there, "Why do you hate me?", and then one of them dies in an off-screen road accident. Okay... Because the copy I watched was a VHS on the BFI Connoisseur label (50p inc. postage on eBay) I slipped out the insert to read the extensive notes printed therein:
I have this theory (this is my other theory about films) that films affect the way you move after viewing them. After 90+ minutes of inactivity your body responds to the film, when it finally gets the chance, by moving in response to the rhythms and movement on the screen. You come out a Gene Kelly movie dancing. Jacky Chan films make you leap about like a loon, thirty minutes afterfinishing Le Mépris I was still wandering aimlessly around the house in an indecisive haze.
Following the gleeful iconoclasm of his early features, Godard achieved maturity in a string of masterworks interrupted, post 1968, by a decade of Laocoon-like struggles with Marxism and cinematic deconstruction*.
So now you know.
Equally characteristically, Godard avoids the mistake, rife among films about film-making, of trying to adumbrate an emerging masterpiece.
*Laocoon it turns out (I looked him up) was a Trojan priest who got smitten by the gods for fucking in church. First blinded, and then strangled by a snake. (And I hereby repent of the quickie I had in that baptist church in Cardiff all those years ago with a Swedish girl whose name I forget.)
- Ice Princess (2005) - Daughter No. 2's choice. (She's seven.) Teeny teen 'Follow Your Heart' girly Disney pap with a weird little lesbian sub-plot that is so unDisney that I thought I was being a perv and had made it up - till I did a bit of poking about on the web and discovered I'm not the first person to have noticed. (Though all this could also only mean that there are lots of pervs out there.)
So here's the thing: two girl characters, at different points in the story, tell our heroine that she is 'hot' - (The 'math geek' best friend when she is filming her on the skating rink, and the 'set up to be bitchy but isn't' blonde skater when she does her make up.) Later, when our heroine is skating her socks off and has pulled out one those amazing Hollywood 'near victory from the jaws of defeat' things, these two girls are sitting next to each other in the bleachers. They embrace, happy and jubilant that their hot friend has succeeded - then there's this weird little pause when they suddenly stop bouncing, pull away from each other, look into each other's eyes, and then hug and bounce with renewed, extra super-dooper delight, with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
It's the Disney version of Fucking Åmål buried under a story ripped from the pages of The Bunty. It was a minimal, but welcome, counterweight to all the girly glitzy Barbification. Also welcome was the fact that it was a 'near victory from the jaws of defeat' thing. Our heroine doesn't win; she's 'followed her heart' and came second. I thought that was a nice touch*.
I can't wait for my son to be old enough to join in the Friday Night Pizza and Film Club. I think I will enjoy watching him inflicting the odd Godzilla film on his sisters.
* My Inner Cynic just added: "They were leaving room for the sequel, you dummy!" Oh, yeah...
- Martians Go Home (1990) - Still rubbish but, amazingly, not as rubbish as I recalled and, not amazingly, it still has the yummy O-Lan Jones in it.
- Rocket Science (2007) - endearing little coming of age film about a boy with a stammer recruited onto the High School debating team by the love of his life. Gentle, involving, 'Independent' film making. Loved it.
- Ji dou shou xing ( aka Evil instinct 1998 ) Somewhere, on another forum, on a thread called '...what makes you buy a book?', I described my usual book buying practice
With DVDs however I can be sold on any old shite if it has a tagline like this on the box: "Basic Instinct with Hotter women..." That was it. Sold. The fact that it was also "The most watched hotel pay-per-view film in Asia" was a bonus. I mean thousands of Asian business pervs can't be wrong can they? (Even if they are perving on someone else's money via the expense account.)
First I pretty much only buy second hand books. When I pick one up it is usually because:
A. I already know the author. (Though it doesn't mean I have read or liked anything by them. I have a list of 'I must get round to reading...' in my head that just gets bigger and bigger.)
B. it has a semi-naked, large-breasted woman on the cover.
I then apply the Mcluhan Test and turn to Page 69. If Page 69 is shite I put the book back. If Page 69 is readable I may flip to another page at random and read that. (I have a suspicion that authors know about Mcluhan Test and deliberately write really good page 69s.) If Page 69 is really really shite and looks like we're in the realm of ''so bad it's good". I may flip to another page at random. The words 'Hilarious' or 'Trilogy' anywhere on the front cover and the book gets put back.
I then look at the price.
Often if books are cheap enough, boot sales, 50p boxes outside book shops, or market stalls, I will buy books just from the spines alone.
Sometimes by the armful.
If this happens, books are then carefully (but quickly) stacked with the crappiest, cheapest ones on top and presented to the vendor. Occasionally, very occasionally but it does happen, the vendor will look at the pile of books in my arms, look at the price of the first three books then just count the rest and say something along the lines of, "Oh... just give us a fiver for the lot." At which point I will agree, thrust the money in his hands, and leave before he notices the book at the bottom of the pile was priced at £6.
I try not to punch the air while I am still in the shop.
And what a weird piece of shit it turned out to be too. I've never seen Basic Instinct, so I don't know how much of a knock-off this is, but I'm pretty sure Michael Douglas hasn't turned into a sexual vampire by the end of it having being infected with some weird former Soviet science derived snake-venom disease the director only thought to mention 30 seconds from the end of the film. And I'm also not that familiar with Cat III films - but if they are all this clunkingly weirdly dreadfully awful I may have to go investigate further. The subtitles were fun too. They were hard enough to read as it was between the variable size of the font, the weird Engrish, and their being sometimes flashed up so quickly you didn't get a chance to read them before they were gone, but to add the cherry to the weirdness cake this is the only legit (ie non-pirated) DVD I have ever seen with sloping subtitles. I don't mean they were in italics, I mean they sloped; they were higher on the right hand side of the screen than the left.
- Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) - Daughters One and Two (ages 9 and 7) have just got the 'Bad Movie' thing. After years of asking me why I like bad films the penny finally dropped tonight. Here in JunkMonkey Mansions we have a regular ritual of the Friday Night Pizza (but sometimes Onigiri) and Film Club which involves me making vast quantities of Pizza (or Onigiri), and lots of side dishes, then the whole family flopping on the sofas and watching some good wholesome family film while stuffing our faces.
Last week it was Disney bilge Ice Princess, this week it was the first, 1965, big screen outing for 'Dr. Who' staring Peter Cushing. Daughter number one is Doctor obsessed at the moment - as are half her classmates and I'm happily reliving my own childhood by watching old (Tom Baker mostly) adventures with her. About halfway through tonight's film all of us realised it is total (and non-canonical) pants. To number one daughter's credit she doesn't throw a sulk and somehow, magically, we segue from mild disappointment into a full on MST3Kstyle giggle fest with all three of us (Mrs JunkMonkey having beaten a retreat at the first opportunity) on the sofa throwing lines at the screen, commenting on the action and having a really fun surreal time. The underwater farting competition, and "Let's play cowboys! - You're the cow!" being highlights.
Next week. Plan 9!
- El buque maldito (aka Horror of the Zombies, The Ghost Galleon 1974) Two girls in bikinis get to wander about a haunted galleon and get eaten by immortal cannibal vampire zombie Knights Templar from a parallel dimension. A rescue party gets eaten too. As crappily awful as that sounds the film is even worse. The only interesting thing about the first half is the heroine's midriff (nice belly button) as she wanders aimlessly about in the dark. Nothing interesting happened in the second half. It takes a singular talent to make lesbianism, kidnap, rape, murder, lost treasure, fit girls in skimpy underwear, and immortal cannibal vampire zombie Knights Templar from a parallel dimension boring but writer director Amando de Ossorio was that talent.
- Tonight I had the great, and rare, privilege of recalibrating the JunkMonkey crap-ometer. For years films I watch have been measured on a scale that at one end has any number of great and universally admired films like Ran, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Solyaris, The Ipcress File, Bullett etc. and on the other end was Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here ( 1988 ) a film so dreadfully bad it wasn't even 'good bad'. It was just bad. B. A. Double fucking D. BAD. A pointless waste of time space, money and anything thing else you can think of. I've watched it twice. Three hours of my life I could have used far better by doing something infinitely more fun - like eating spiders, or cleaning out my ears, making little sculptures out of the earwax and then putting it back.
Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here has however just been replaced as the most pointlessly awful, unfunny, waste of space, piece of shit, film-making by Zombie Women of Satan (2009).
Shot for aprox £40,000 (ie 'nothing') and with a script that sounds like it was made up in the pub as they went along, it's the everyday story of a troupe of vaudeville artists who arrive at cult's headquarters just as the cult members (played by northern British women rugby players in - and sometimes out of - their underwear) happen to turn into zombies and start eating everything that moves.
'Highlights' include a nude female wheelchair-bound zombie squirting acid from her nipples and a prolonged sequence in which we watch a dwarf shitting in the woods. A very long sequence. We get to see the shit at the end too. Zombie Women of Satan fails at everything. It's not funny, it's not scary, it's not sexy, it's not even dreadful. It's nothing. It's the sort of cinematic farting that comes from people watching a couple of Simon Pegg's films, thinking, "I can do that!" and then proving they can't.
Don't even steal this film.
- Spermula (1976) A rewatch of a film so weirdly bad IMDb tries to deny it's existance. Try it; look it up:
(Actually if you sneak up on it via one of the actors you can find it, though why it doesn't turn up in a title search is a curiosity.)
Spermula started out life as an arty French erotic horror flick which looks like it thought it was set in the 1930s. The film fell into the hands of American distributors who edited it with a chainsaw, added footage from Silent Running, and dubbed it with a script that sounds like it was written by the Firesign Theater. It's about a bunch of aliens who take on human form to reduce the human race to slavery by felating every man in world to impotence. They have seven days - most of which they spend languishing about semi-naked, as if posing for a Penthouse shoot, and indulging in desultory (slightly off-screen) masturbation.
I have no idea what the original was supposed to be about but it must have been weird before the addition of the bizarre soundtrack and the machete editing. The only film I've ever seen with a dwarf shooting down a model aeroplane with a shotgun. It also has the obligitory dwarf in a dream sequence sequence but with a twist - it's the dwarf's dream!
The following video has been deemed
almost possibly NSFW
by the JunkMonkey board of classification.
More WTF!? moments in any minute of screen time than most films achieve in their whole length.
"You know I don't like to be disturbed while I'm folding my underwear!"
- The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) - Relentlessly talky 'horror' flick in which a family of incestuous late-Victorian werewolves have a dreadful couple of days when the youngest daughter returns from medical school with a husband. I don't think this was supposed to be a comedy but I started to wonder when the young husband started delivering speeches like this just after his new wife has just told him about her insane half-brother chained in the room next door and that her mother was poisoned after giving birth to her.
This, like most of his lines, was delivered by someone called Ian Innes, in a stultifying monotone, while staring at the floor where, presumably, someone had written them down for him. And it has NOTHING to do with any character or plot development. (It's his only screen credit. For which we offer many thanks.) Other highlights include some of the most blatant Dry Cup acting I have ever seen. (Actors sipping tea delicately from obviously empty cups isn't normally as overt as this. When the camera is positioned at a normal hight you can get away with it most of the time. Do rakish down angles where you can see right into the cups your actors are 'drinking' out of and it starts to become a little obvious that the things are empty.) And the script! Must have looked like a telephone book. Relentlessly talky and repetitive, taking pages of waffle to make the simplest point - and then repeating it all again a few scenes later.
Now we are having a truth thing with each other maybe I should tell you one or two things about my family. My father deserted my mother when I was five; two years later he was arrested for raping and murdering a six year old girl. He was hung at Portsmouth and left hanging for all to see as a lesson. He hung there for two weeks until his body became so hideous they had to cut it down for health reasons. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of an insane asylum and two weeks later my mother died of grief and shame. I was shipped off to a orphanage in Scotland. The nuns there had it in for me because of my background. They birched me often for the whole orphanage to see. They would strip me. Tie me between two posts and beat me. I never made any friends there.
I'm not sure what happened, but somewhere along the line the film was obviously deemed to be too short by someone and that it needed stretching out somehow - so a parallel 'story' was added in which the loopy sister character buys some pet rats, nails a mouse to a tabletop, and chops the hands of another character who appears from nowhere. None of this material matches in any way with the dark, under-lit incestuous late-Victorian werewolf stuff going on elsewhere (though the sound is as bad) and has the loopy sister jumping from one place to another with bewildering speed.
- Maniac (1934) - Paydirt! A real WTF 'educational' 1930s exploitation film (if it was 'educational' in the 30s you could get away with showing tits) in which a vaudeville actor, wanted by the police, goes bonkers when he first shoots, then impersonates, an even more bonkers mad scientist he has been assisting revive dead bodies.
Trust me, I'm an actor.
Things go a bit wrong for him when a passing cat eats the still beating heart in a jar he needs to revive the doctor and thus avoid a murder charge. In retaliation he pops one of the cat's eyes out of its socket and eats it. "Hah! That'll learn ya!" It's a short film but it packs a lot into its 51 minutes: a murder, body-snatching, a maniac under the delusion he is the orang-outang from Poe's Murder on the Rue Morgue strangling a zombie, a corpse walled up with live cat, humorous interludes in which the details of cat fur farming are explained, and another in which four would-be actresses stand about in their underwear and kvetch about men, a full on hair pulling bitchfight between the actor's wife and the wife of the orang-outang man (which I suspect was supposed to get more boobs onto the screen but the actresses didn't play along) and some of the most bonkers scenery-chewing overacting seen outside of a Tod Slaughter film. All of this and with long scrolling 'educational' intertitles explaining the various kinds of mental illness you could expect to see coming next. Glorious stuff.
And if you're really desperate you can see the whole thing here: http://www.archive.org/details/Maniac1934
- Coraline (2009) Daisy's Friday Night Pizza Movie choice and A creepy little film halfway through which I wondered why I was enjoying it so much (not in a "this is creepy, why am I enjoying it?" sort of way but in a "I am enjoying this, why is it so creepy?" sort of a way, and I realised that, though it looked superficially like a Tim Burton film, it was obviously different in one very major respect. No Danny Elfman! The music was great and contributed wonderfully to the sense of weirdness without bludgeoning you around the ears with it. I relaxed after that and allowed myself to get really scared. The kids liked it too.
- Solomon Kane (2009) - a Mud 'n' Blood GCI heavy sword and sorcery epic in which James Purefoy wanders around the early 1600s-ish killing lots of people (including his brother and his father) and feeling sorry for himself before getting drunk then crucified, de-crucifying himself, and then killing the bad guy with a single bullet ("Now why didn't I think of that sooner!") thus sending a huge demonic Transformer dude back into a mirror - or something - I'd lost the plot at the end.
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army ( 2008 ) - in which a huge demonic dude is the hero. I quite enjoyed it in a 'just park your brain and don't ask too many questions (or even any questions)' way. I was obviously in that frame of mind. Played much more for laughs than the first one and better for it I think. Surprisingly I have just enjoyed a film with a Danny Elfman score; I wonder what happened - though I suspect the 'Park Your Brain' bit might have had something to do with it.
- The Spider Woman (1944 aka Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman or - if you are the illiterate hired by Fox Video to type in the film title at the start of the copyright stuff - Sherlock Holme's and the Spider Woman.) A change from the all pervasive CGI. A 1944 production line B picture in which Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce do their usual shtick and let Gale Sondergaard steal the movie without breaking her stride. It was so relaxing just watching actors act for a change in long two-shot dialogue takes. I like to watch actors work and getting to see them run more than three or four lines at a time these days is a rarity (well in the kind of schlock I watch anyway) Framing and acting dominated the screen here not cutting.
- The Relic (1997) - I spent the first half of the film thinking about this opening title card:
Amy Jones and John Raffo
Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
I'm pretty sure more effort went into the creative meetings, arm wrestling, and egofisting to sort out the pecking order and who got shafted with the ampersand than went into writing the script. I spent the second half of the film wondering what was going on and just how often the actors were going to flash their torches at the camera to provide edit points. Something horrible is living in the sewers below a Chicago museuum and eating people's hypothalamuses (hypothalami?). Basically its Alien in a museum. Directed by Peter Hyams the man who bought you the overblown, don't make a lot of sense, turkeys Outland, Timecop, and 2010.
Willow ( 1988 ) - which was actually better than I remember, or it was a different experience watching it with two kids, either way I enjoyed it more than I expected.
- Beat (2000) - various progenitors of the 'beat movement' are imitated by various actors and the camera is pointed at them while they do so. I've never understood what made the the Beats so great; they've always come over to me like a bunch of self-obsessed pretentious druggy wankers but I guess their timing was right. I didn't come away from this film with my opinions changed or impressed in any way by the telling of the tale. Quite often you can see a film about characters you hate but still admire or enjoy the way the film is made. The music was nicely understated and whoever did the colour timing was good but other than that I was bored rigid.
- Daybreakers (2009) - A futuristic vampire flick which does that good old SF trick of saying "What if...?" and then riffing on it. This "What if...?" must have been something along the lines of, "What if the vampires in Matheson's 'I am Legion' had won?".* So - we get a nocturnal world which is pretty much the same as the modern world only run by vampires - with an ever dwindling supply of humans to feed from. Market forces come into play. Human blood prices skyrocket - cue cardboard cutout evil corporation blood farmers. (In this case the corporation really is evil 'cos it's run by Sam Neill who, since he was the Antichrist in Damien III: The Final Conflict, can play on-screen evil with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back - and he's a fucking vampire. An evil vampire corporation run by someone with Antichrist luggage; You don't get any more evil than this.) Vampire society is falling to pieces. One man holds out a possible hope for the future. Human-loving vampire scientist Ethan Hawke (who, since he played Vincent Freeman in Gattica can play lone sympathetic outsiders in a futuristic evil corporation with with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back). Unfortunately his formula for synthetic blood makes (vampire) people's heads explode. He makes contact with the human underground, who sense his inner decency and together they discover a blinder of a plot twist out of the arse cure, and after the usual amount of gun play, exploding vampires, and evil corporate suit types being dismembered in lifts, the heroes ride off into the sunrise with a voice over that suddenly makes the whole thing look like a shoddy 80s TV movie of the week pilot. Which is a pity because there was some interesting "What iffery" going on in the background. Some of the follow on logic that comes from having a society of vampires was pretty well worked out and fun. Trouble is the story it was there to support wasn't good enough to justify the effort. A nice try though.
* ...oh poo, I just remebered. They did win, didn't they? (At least they did in the original book.)
- America Brown (2004) - an interesting buy from the Poundshop this one. Sometimes they have real films in there. Films you've never heard of right enough, full of people who you don't recognise but sometimes there's a goodie in all the crappy, no-budget horror schlock.
America Brown is a first (and so far only) feature from writer director Paul Black. It's a story of a young football player suffering a crisis of guilt and self-doubt who escapes Texas for a while to track down his childhood football hero (now a priest in New York). The story isn't complicated and the film is slow, takes its time, is never hurried but is never boring. I'm keeping hold of this one though for one superbly well-judged moment of nothing happening on the screen which I thought was wonderful. Towards the end of the film our hero is leaving New York. He says goodbye to the three friends he has made. And then descends the steps into the subway and out of our sight off screen. We see the three friends looking down after him. It holds on them looking. And holds. And holds. And then one says. "I wish I could do that." All the time we watch the friends we expect a cut. A cut to an angle from their POV (or near enough) of the boy leaving maybe stopping and turning, a final wave before he's gone? We don't get it. We wait but it doesn't happen. We wait just like the characters we're watching are waiting. He doesn't turn around. He just walks out of their sight. "I wish I could do that." It was a lovely bit of film making. Loved it. (And a nice counterpoint to the fact that when the two characters met they bumped into each other in the street and then both, taken with what they see, looked back at each other.)
I wonder why I have suddenly started talking about films in the first person plural? I've obviously been reading far too many books of film criticism recently. Laocoon!)
- Thunderpants (2002) with the kids - and not for the first time. I love this film. A good old-fashioned family film about an 11 year old boy with uncontrollable flatulence. I really don't know why Disney didn't pick this one up because it's a real 'follow your heart' story. A young boy surmounts all the obstacles placed behind him to find his gift and achieve his dream - with fart jokes, (lots of fart jokes) it also has ludicrous opera singing scenes with the hero 'singing the high bits with my arse', a kid facing a firing squad, ritual humiliation, more fart jokes, and some crackingly knowing OTT performances by well kent faces - before climaxing in the launch of a shuttle rescue mission - powered by a tube stuck up our hero's bum.
I find it hilarious. (Not a word I use lightly.) And I can thoroughly recommend it to all. If nothing else for the great weird design elements which mash -up an odd, never-really-happened, British early sixties (where the only vehicles on the streets are Minis and everything is various shades of bottle green) and a high-tech modern setting with an international space station and space shuttles. It's the kind of visual cognitive dissonance that I like.
And it's got fart jokes.
- The Illusionist (2006) - I enjoyed that. Not sure it holds up plot wise (were we really expected to believe that the straw stables in the royal hunting lodge was unchanged for the several months between the night of the incident and the discovery of the locket?) but a good watch.
- The Matrix (1999). I first saw this when it first came out and I thought it was a pile of vastly overrated crap. Now, many years later and having watched many more much worse movies since, I thought it might be worth giving it another try.
I still think it's crap.
Actually the first few minutes are okay I like the movie up till the point where Maurice Fishbourne does the big reveal and explains what it's all about. The whole 'we are just batteries' bit just pushes a big red 'Oh Fuck Off!' button in my head. I persevered though and watched the eye candy but the bit that really made me laugh out loud was the moment when Carrie-Ann Moss' character brings our hero back from the dead with a kiss. Oh, come on! What!?!? Somehow we managed to get from a semi-decent looking, what is going on? SF distopia into a la-la Disney world where dead people are bought back from the dead with a whisper of love. I expected her to start singing and bluebirds to join in the chorus. This sort of thing is fine in fairy tales. Makes sense in fairy tales, part of the fairy tales rule book that is but in a 'science fiction ' film? Pants!.
I realized it did make sense! Think about it. For the first umpty-x years of his life in The Matrix Reeves' character was a computer programmer. He lives alone in a room with computers. He's a hacker. He's a nerd. A social misfit. Now, just at the moment he's popping his clogs, a female woman of the opposite sex finally comes on to him? This is it! He might get sex! "Fuck this being dead lark," he's thinking with the last firing neurons in his head, "I might get to do sex - with someone else in the room! I'm going back!"
- The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - more of the same but with more slo-mo and Keanu Reeves wearing a cassock. And a real dubious morality which (for all the fanboy knicker-wetting about how deep and philosophical these films are) boils down to us being asked to root for religious fundamental terrorists as they kill vast numbers of innocent bystanders, blow up power stations, and similar delights.
- Altered States (1980) - given that it is directed by one of my least favourite directors, Ken Russell whose arty 'boundary pushing' just comes over as cheap and puerile self-indulgent wank to me, and that it starred one of my least favourite Hollywood actors, the plank of wood incarnate William Hurt, I enjoyed this a lot more that I expected. I came to scoff but I came away slightly impressed. Partially I think because Russell's throw-everything-at-the-screen-at-once, wacky, let's offend the Christians imaginary is largely confined to sequences where it actually makes some sense (ie one character's subjective drug-induced hallucinations) and Hurt's character is the sort of repressed unemotional lump that perfectly suits his repressed, clenched acting style.
- Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) - Shot in 30 days in Yugoslavia. A 'comedy horror' which wastes its pretty good cast on one lame gag after another. The last half hour is just painful to watch. Gina Davis was fun for the few minutes she was on but everyone else was either going through the motions or hamming it up horribly. The script stank. Not even old reliable Jeffrey Jones could rescue this - and he made bits of Howard the Duck watchable.
They Wait (2007) - above average horror flick which, though serving up nothing particularly new, served it up more than competently and with a few genuine 'Made ya jump!' moments along the way. Sort of like Poltergeist with a Chinese slant. Ghosts, not gore to the front here with many of the special effects being done in camera and not with a truckload of CGI in post. I like stuff like that, moments where someone has thought through an on-screen gag to the point where it's all done with the actors and the camera; one character stepping to one side to reveal there's someone standing behind them - when you know there can't be anyone there because of what you just saw in the previous shot. That sort of thing. I like that sort of thing. I much prefer that sort of thing which is smart, and thought about, than all the 'body parts flying through the windows and incommoding the passers by' stuff. Don't need to see that. That's easy. Scare me witless with an attractive girl standing motionless on the pavement, staring fixedly at a doorway? that's clever.
Arsenic and Old Lace - An all-time favourite. I'll be saying "Bon voyage!" in a Peter Lorre voice every time I leave a room for weeks now.
Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) - a good way to commission BIG SCREEN Film and Pizza (but Occasionally Onigiri) family film night. As usual with kid's films I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting.
King Kong (1933) - just to test if the new digital projector does black and white and 3:4. It does. Great film. Total cobblers but great fun.
Art School Confidential (2006) - Damn. One of those films I really really wanted to like a lot more than I did. Being the son of an Art College lecturer, and often spending great chunks of my holidays in the art school studios as Dad worked on sculptures. And having then gone on to be an art student myself, I was really impressed by the feel and the art direction here. They got the ambience and the look just right. It was horribly, accurately, grotesque without having to exaggerate anything. Some great laugh out loud lines too:
How long have you been painting triangles?
I was one of the first.
Now Eno, why haven't you
been doing the assignments?
Frankly, I find them constricting and
largely irrelevant. My work has nothing
to with form or light or colour, but
with questioning the nature of
I'll buy that.
Being two of my favourites. And I have forgiven John Malkovich for doing the shit Mutant Chronicles which is the last thing I saw him in. But in the end the whole serial murder mystery bit just didn't work for me and felt tacked on to make it sell-able to a studio.[/CENTER]
On the double-plus good side we get to see Sophia Myles naked, which, sad old fart that I am, I think would go a long way to rescue any movie. Am I getting old? because I was surprised to find that lines like "We used to bump cunts." are rated 15. When I was 15 I didn't know what a cunt was! let alone that a certain type of lady liked to bump theirs with other ladies. Nice to know some things have improved over the last 40 years.
- House of the Black Death (aka Blood of the Man Beast, Blood of the Man Devil - 1965) - a wonderfully incoherent pile of poo which just makes no sense. At all. None. I had no idea for its entire 89 minute run time what was supposed to be going on. As far as I could make out it had something to do with Lon Chaney Jr trying to take over power from John Carradine by running a coven and summonsing up a demon to get his hands on some sort of magical book. Carradine's son turns into a werewolf. A visiting doctor has a sliver of the Holy Grail in a crucifix. The film also has large breasted British 50s sex bomb Sabrina belly dancing in a graveyard FOR NO APPARENT REASON WHATSOEVER. (Other than the obvious, her previous screen credit was as 'Virginia' in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's. If I remember rightly all her character did was sit there filling a tight-jumper with which she then tried to knock over the camera). There were great jumps in the narrative where a central character locked in a room not only transforms into a werewolf off-screen but then dies between one shot and another without any reason being given. Another pair of characters return from somewhere unexplained having seen something that completely turns one of their world views upside-down. (We never find out what they saw.) A character who, while guiding two others, says: "I'm only allowed to take you this far!" before abandoning them - only to reappear at their destination and then offer to guide them somewhere (else?). (They might have got away with this drastic bit of machete editing if the character in question hadn't been the only person in the entire film wearing a very identifiable black and white spotted shirt.) Another fine mess from Jerry Warren, the man who bought you Teenage Zombies, The Incredible Petrified World, and The Wild World of Batwoman - all of which I have seen at least twice and all of which, deliriously awful films that they are, are vastly better than this. To be fair, he was bought in at the last minute to 'rescue' the film which had been made by someone else. But how bad does a film have to be before you bring in Jerry Warren to rescue it?
- Caged Heat (1974) - Jonathan 'Silence of the Lambs' Demme's first feature and a delightfully weird little movie it is too. It sets up all the typical Women in Prison clichés and then ignores them (apart from extended shower scenes. This was a Corman production it was probably in Demme's contract that there had to be X number of tits on screen taking up Y number of minutes of running time - on reflection that's probably all there was in his contract. Give us ten minutes of tits and you can do what you want with the rest of it, so long as it's in colour and in focus.) So lots of tits. Sadistic guards, pervert doctor, dream sequences, sexually repressed governor, cartoon ultra-violence, lots of tits, a weird post-hippy revolutionary vibe, and a terrific score by John Cale complementing some very weird and fun sound design. Loved it. (And not just for the tits.)
- Matrix Revolutions (2003) - well that's them watched. God I was bored. Actually it started off disappointingly by not opening with Laurence Fishburne saying: "Previously, in the Matrix..." followed by one of those little two minute rapidly edited highlights of the previous films to bring you up to speed. You see, the previous film, Matrix Rides Again, had ended on an semi-cliffhanger and, even though I only watched it a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what was going on at the start of this one. Towards the end of number three however, I was so bored I suddenly realised I was checking my mail on my phone. I NEVER check my mail while I'm watching a film, 99.9¼ of the time, no matter how awful it is, I watch the film. I may occasionally fall asleep while watching a film. I don't want to fall asleep, I want enjoy the movie, but sometimes... duh... wha? oh crap I fell aslee... who's he...? ...end credits? wha...? I fell asleep again... Okay... time for bed, try this one again tomorrow.
If I just can't watch it, if it is so unbearable that even I can't stomach it, I turn it off. And even then I'm trying to work out why I'm not liking it enough to do that.
At some point during Matrix Revolutions I became so uninvolved with the film that I forgot I was watching it. It just faded from my mind and became part of the background. Once I'd realised what had happened I stopped the film and went back a couple of chapters and sat on my hands for the rest of it. I wonder now why I bothered.
(Incidentally if you type "ascii code page" into IMDb's search engine as I just accidentally did while trying to how to do the ¼ thing up there, the first hit it returns is All Nude Page 3 Models: Eve Vorley and Charmaine Sinclair (1997) (V) How? Why? What!?)
- Megamind (2010) - Friday night family film of some brilliance.
- Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959) - a total joy.
- Dune (1984) The David Lynch one (and not for the first time so I have no excuse) which, in a weird and grudging way, I quite like for the first half its run time. The second half things just get absurdly crammed in as Lynch runs out of ways to get characters to tell each other what was going on and he just shoves several hundred pages of densely plotted book into three quarters of an hour of screen time and it gets farcical. Afterwards, in a fit of pure masochism, I watched great chunks of the TV edit from which Lynch had his name removed. I don't blame him. His edit was weird and flawed but strangely interesting in places. (Like most of his films, I suppose.) The TV edit is just cheap and tacky.
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) - Directed by Kenneth Branagh (which makes it Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was 'presented' (whatever that means) by Francis Ford Coppola who had, two years previously, made Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sometimes known as Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sadly - and I think they missed a trick here - they didn't go for broke and call this one Francis Ford Coppola's Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) - and what a pile of hysterically overwrought dog plops it is too. Full of jaw-dropping "you what?" moments. My favourite I think being the moment when Victor Frankenstein fulfils some fanboy notion of the writers when he cries out, mid-crisis, "we must reverse the polarity!"* The exploding Helena Bonham Carter was fun too. At the end of the film, unable to cope with the fact that her husband has chopped her head off and stitched it onto her childhood friend's body (and made a real pig's ear of her face while doing so) she smashes an oil lamp over her head then runs around the castle and everything bursts into flames - sometimes before she gets anywhere near them.
Nothing happens slowly in this film. Everything is full-throttle all the way. It is not subtle. And nothing much makes any kind of sense. Where for instance does Victor get the gallons of human amniotic fluid he needs to create 'The Bride' - and when? One minute he's unpacking crates preparing to knock up a mate for his creature; the next minute he decides against it and gets married instead and, that night, having spent most of the day riding in the general direction of 'away', the miffed creature turns up out of nowhere and rips out his new bride's heart on their honeymoon bed. "Oh for fuck sake!" cries Victor (who in a weirdly semi-incestuous way has been waiting to shag Helena Bonham-Carter's character for years). He gathers up her body and moments later is back at his home where, in the couple of hours he's been away someone - probably pixies - has fitted out his lab, filled a copper swimming pool with the aforementioned amniotic fluid, and stocked up all the batteries with electric eels (sic).
Amid all this hysterical bilge and lumbered with a face-full of rubber and a script made of wood, Robert DeNiro almost made the Creature work as a real character.
*Disappointingly this is not true. On checking my facts (always a mistake) and watching it again, with the subtitles on this time, I find he actually said "reduce the polarity". Damn!
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998 ) - probably the most pointless film version of a book I have seen in years. It sticks closer than usual for Hollywood to the original book and relies on great chunks of voice over first person narration to tell the story. Too much. It's like listening to an abridged audio version of the book with moving pictures. Like some sort of drug fuelled Classics Illustrated comic. I was very disappointed.
- Rango (2011) - that was great! And Jonny Depp redeemed himself for last night's trudge.
- Troll 2 (1990) - Troll 2 is one of those legendarily bad movies that has developed a 'cult' following. I know a lot of films are labelled 'cult' but I think this one does deserve it. People organise screenings and chant along with the best bits, a documentary film, Best Worst Movie, was made in 2009 by the, now grown up, kid lead, reuniting the cast and exploring the sad world of film geeks and conventions.
Troll 2, made by an Italian crew with American amateur 'actors', tells the everyday story of an All-American Family (and the ghost of the dead grandfather) having a house-swap vacation in the small town of Nilbog (geddit?). Niblog is populated entirely by shape-shifting vegetarian goblins who eat humans (sic) that pass through town by converting them into plants. The goblins (the word 'troll'' is never mentioned in the film so why it's called Troll 2 is never explained) are ruled over by a scenery chewing, eyeball rolling Gothic Queen who glories in the name 'Creedence Leonore Gielgud'. Her ancestors moved to Nilbog generations ago 'from Stonehenge' (double sic). The film is a total bollocks of a mess. It lurches from one flatly-paced, badly-acted underwritten, dodgily-photographed, hamfistedly directed, incomprehensible scene to another with no regard to any kind of continuity or usual story telling techniques. The film can't make its mind up what it wants to be, but the suposedly 'horror' elements are far funnier than the 'comic' moments which, for the most part, are totally baffling until the penny drops that they are supposed to be laugh points. The scene where the RV fills with popcorn during the 'sex scene' has to be one of the oddest.
There's hardly a scene or shot (or gesture, or line) in this film that doesn't fail. It's all wrong. All of it. Every single shot. It even manages to screw up that old reliable weird little chill of the ball bouncing down the steps - when you know there's no one upstairs! Done right, as it was in The Changeling (1980), it can scare the bejesus out of the most cynical of movie watchers. Here it not only didn't make any sense - other than frightening the two people in the world for whom even the idea of a ball bouncing down a set of well lighted steps is terrifying, it wasn't shot well and was a pointless out-of-nowhere "what just happened?" moment which leads into one of the daftest, "even to deranged Italian film-makers it must be obvious this makes NO sense whatsoever" endings in 20th Century cinema.
This one's a keeper...
- In the Cut (2003) ...this one isn't. I was driven to watch In the Cut by perversity (it's listed in my current non-fiction read, 101 Movies to Avoid: The Most Overrated Films Ever) and it was the first of many films mentioned in the book that I came across in my To Be Watched Pile. (Part of me really wants to alphabetize the 200 or so VHS tapes and DVDs in there but that way madness lies. I know it. But it's still tempting.) So, In the Cut. Shit film. Meg Ryan shows us her bits, and everyone who has ever seen ANY thriller movie in which the investigating cop has an affair with the heroine can chant-along-a-plot from there on in. Honestly, it's like the opening credits of Hanna-Barbera's Hong Kong Phooey*
"Who is this psycho-serial killer? The hunky detective? NO!... Cornelius Webb the Gacy obsessed student? No way man!... Detective Ritchie Rodriguez the mild mannered hunky detective's partner? - could be!..."
'Could be' my arse. It's ALWAYS the detective's partner. (That was a spoiler by the way.) Any flimsy credibility the plot may have started out with disappeared around the 45 minute mark when, after having hot and rumpy sex (Meg Ryan's bits, people!), our heroine and our detective have a little confessional session in which he tells her about how he lost his cherry, and she mentions the fact that he had seen her before (as he suspected), she watched him getting a blow job at the place and time where the killer's last victim was last seen. On hearing this the killer obsessed 'tec half-heartedly asks her a couple of questions, and after establishing that she has not only seen the victim - and almost certainly the killer - on the night of the murder, looks at his watch says 'I gotta go' and leaves. No reason. He just leaves. He leaves because the plot would have fallen on its stupid fat face if he had stayed in the room another second. One more question and the detective would have realised the only other person with the small (but distinctive enough to be seen across a room too dark to make out people's faces) tattoo on the inside of their wrist was... da da daaaa!!!!! His Partner!
At which point the movie would be over and we wouldn't be able to spend the next hour looking at Meg Ryan's bits, while our arses went numb wondering just how and why her character would even consider having sex with the piece of shit, emotionally stunted, moron detective. (In order to make this plot point even vaguely plausible the script has to drag in Kevin Bacon to broad-brushstoke in a previous lover as a total twitching stalking cartoon fruitcake loon. It really is as ham-fisted as that.)
And talking of ham-fisted, the only other heterosexual male (ie potential killer) with talking words in this show is one of Ryan's character's students. He's obsessed by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy and turns in his assignments liberally splattered with red, blood-like fluids. (I don't know why he didn't just walk around with a red painted kipper nailed to his forehead.) And why is every male in this show desperate to get in dowdy frump English teacher's knickers in the first place? Apart from feeding the film's screamingly obvious misandrist 'feminist' agenda item that all men are sexual predators and would happily shag a fridge if it was warm and didn't move too fast. (This is in fact true, but most of us are a little more subtle about it than the knuckledraggers shambling about here.)
I suspect - though I have no evidence - that the only reason this film got made (and the only reason people went to see it) was because Meg Ryan wanted to get away from her wholesome Nice Girl Next Door image and flashing her pubes in a serial killer flick seemed the way to go.
I'm off to dig out all the other 'movies to avoid' in my pile...
EDIT: (Christ, I wish I hadn't watched this film. It's now 20 or so hours later and I'm still replaying it in my head - and not just the tits bits - and finding things I hate about it.) It's an incredibly insulting film, believing the audience is so stupid it won't spot the thudding great grinding and whirring as the mechanical plot strips its gears (eg our detective walking out on the smoking gun witness as mentioned above), because it's dazzling us with beauty shots of Meg Ryan reading snippets of poetry and asking us to contemplate their significance and meaning. Err, I don't get it. Must be fucking art then. It's a fucking art movie innit? What a clever person Jane Campion is; tits and poetry, all that's missing is the subtitles.
And just why did our sexually unsatisfied English teacher spend so long drawing a large lighthouse on the blackboard when her class were discussing To The Lighthouse. I think even inner-city New York kids know what a lighthouse looks like. But why did she then colour it in red? Is it possibly because a red light house looks a bit like AN ERECT PENIS????? and as the climax (sic) of the film takes place at a bright red lighthouse that looks like AN ERECT PENIS (just like the model of a bright red lighthouse that looks like AN ERECT PENIS on the killer's office desk) they had to drag in some foreshadowing somehow. I'll lay money the shot of that drawing is being used as a text book example of how not to do foreshadowing in film schools around the world.** You know, if Tony Scott had directed this film it would have been laughed off the screen and derided as sexploitative, career-wrecking shite; on the up side it might have had a car chase in it as padding instead of all the endless shots of city architecture and those lingering shots of American Flags which are non-American film-maker's shorthand for "I am holding up a mirror to your society! Gaze upon it and despair!"
I hate this film.
*Geoffrey H Christ! There's a live action Hong Kong Phooey film in pre-production!
** To be scrupulously fair we don't actually see her do the drawing so it may be that the serial killer drew it before she arrived in the class. It's still shit though.
- Body Heat (1981) - My faith in the system is restored. No matter which way you slice it this is as near perfect a sweaty sexy noire as you are ever going to get. Every one in it is perfect (even, though it pains me to type this,William Hurt). The music is perfect. The pacing is spot on. There's not a bum note in the whole thing. This time of watching I was struck by the subtlety of the business meant to throw the audience off track. For instance, as our sleazy lawyer, Ned Racine, is arranging the body of his victim in the cellar, in a building he is about to torch - making it look like the victim died while committing arson - he carefully unwraps the body from the bloody plastic it has been wrapped in. (People don't usually commit arson wrapped in plastic bags.) He tosses the crumpled plastic into a corner. There is a shot of the plastic sheeting landing. For the next ten minutes I was convinced (and I have seen this film several times before) that this carelessly discarded plastic, which we had been carefully shown, was one of the "25 ways to fuck up" that our killer hadn't thought of. It wasn't. The victim's glasses which he always wore were not on the body. That was the killer's mistake. I had totally forgotten about them because of one simple shot of a plastic bag. Simple misdirection. The audience is looking for the mistake. Give them something that looks like one. Don't make a big thing of it, let them think "Aha! I spotted that." Let them have a few minutes of smug superiority and then have a character point out what they really should have noticed. Clever scriptwriting. Great editing. I love this film.
- Amazon Warrior ( 1998 ) in a post-apocalyptic America where everyone has clean hair and good teeth, and suspiciously well maintained fences can be seen in the background, Tara, last of the Amazons, is hired to guide two women through dangerous territory. Plodding rubbish with clumsy fight sequences, even clumsier dialogue, and a budget that must have been in in the low dozens. One sequence in particular, where the 'king' hires our heroine, looks like it was filmed round the edges of a Renaissance Fair, not at a Renaissance Fair, but round the edges. As in:
"Quick, while no one is looking we can get all these costumed extras for free - yeah, well, they'll be standing with their backs to us watching something interesting happening out of sight of the camera - but they'll cost nothing!"
Total bilge, starring the producer and a lot of actors who went on to appear in such classics of his such as Vampire Time Travelers. Some of the actresses got their norks out (I love that word) thus leading us to the conclusion that no matter what: fire, flood, famine, or the end of the world by all out nuclear heck, the plastic boob implant industry will be alive and well and operating somewhere in southern California. One of those films where you know the actors walking towards the screen have hit their marks and are going to start talking because they're suddenly where the reflectors are adding fill light to their faces.
- Brainstorm (1983) - Directed by Douglas Trumbull, Brainstorm starts out as a great little slow paced, thoughtful, hard SF film playing with ideas about new breakthrough technology, turns somehow into an evil corporation/military combine thriller, has an extended sequence of clumsy slapstick comedy before ending in a mystic, revelatory, light-show. It's a bit of a mess. An interesting one but a mess. It might have been a bit less of a mess if one of the stars, Natalie Wood, hadn't died in the middle of the shoot.
- Yojimbo (1961) - Akira Kurosawa. 'nuff said.
- The City of Ember ( 2008 ) - Friday Night with the kids. I enjoyed it more than I expected but it didn't make much sense in the end. The closed world civilisation which has forgotten its history and where no-one (apart from our heroes) questions the existence of a world beyond the city boundaries is a tired old Science Fiction trope - but done here with some nice set design. The inclusion of giant insects and moles (which are not apparently in the book) skews the whole film into making you think that the humans here have been miniturized in some way to survive the holocaust mentioned in the prologue sequence. (Which is another old SF idea see James Blish's 1952 story 'Surface Tension' for a good example). This is hinted at several times during the film obliquely (one of the old Mayors, whose portraits we see at one point, is called Podd which is as near as damn it the name of the father in the Borrowers books) or overtly. A character finds a piece of beetle and looks it up in a book. points at the picture and asks his father how they used to be so little when they aren't now? There's a carniverous mole rampaging round the tunnels below the city eating people. Things like that. The fact that the heroes, when they finally make it to the surface, appear to be normal sized human beings is just confusing and unsatisfying.
- Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General (1968 ) - the 'Export Version' (ie more tits and violence). What a great film. I mean really horribly good.
- Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - my annual watch of the ever-fascinating most famous contender for the best worst film ever.
- A Bizarre Love Triangle (aka Cheoleobtneun anaewa paramanjanhan nampyeon geurigo taekwon sonyeo 2002) My first foray into Korean film. Within a framing device set at a wedding on the moon sometime in the near future (with some very very dodgy special effects and costumes that push all the wrong campness buttons) a guest tells how the three parents of one of the grooms (sorry, just told you the socko twist ending) got together. This turns out to be a long story of teenage lesbian lust, under-age schoolgirl seduction, suicide by self immolation, kick-boxing, burglary, babies dying on operating tables, fruit fucking and sundry other everyday Korean pastimes, culminating in one of the central characters having a life changing revelation as she shits herself in a public toilet. It was at this point - somewhere about the two hour mark (the film is only 93 minutes long) that it finally dawned on me that I was watching 'a comedy' and I was supposed to be finding all this stuff funny. I can see why it was in the pre-owned bin of my local Blockbuster for pennies. It's going back.
Things I learned from this film:
* You know that moment that sometimes happens when you type something and think: "this may be the first time in the history of the English language that these three words have ever been placed together in quite that order"? I just had it. 'qv bumping cunts'. Not a phrase you see every day - but a great name for a band!
- You can show men sniffing artificial vaginas, women holding huge rubbery double-ended dildos, and waving strangely gyrating life-size artificial penises around on screen and still get a cert 15 in the UK. (qv 'bumping cunts'.*)
- I do not understand Korean humour.
- Time and Tide (aka Shun liu Ni liu 2000) second Asian movie of the week (from Hong Kong this time) and the second Asian film to have a Lesbian getting pregnant after a one-night stand. Is this a common theme in Asian films? And why does everyone seem to steal cigarette lighters? I've watched 230 or so films so far this year; none have them have included scenes of cigarette lighter stealing until last night. The rest of the film was totally OTT Hong Kong Action nonsense which had me absolutely fascinated and totally lost in equal measure. I had no idea who anyone was or what was going on but everyone seemed to be having fun jumping out of seventh floor windows firing machine guns while talking on the phone to the person they were shooting at.
- Invasion From Inner Earth (1972) - I first watched this jaw dropppingly tedious piece of drek 4 years ago. Every now and then, while raking through my increasingly huge pile of shite films, looking for something to watch, I come across it and think,"It can't be as bad as I remember it". Tonight I proved myself wrong. It is.
- Radioactive Dreams (1985) - A (possibly) not yet released on DVD piece of Big Box Video Trash from the glory days of Big Box Video Trash. Radioactive Dreams is the everyday story or two four year old boys left alone in a bomb shelter with nothing to read but hard-boiled detective fiction. They emerge 16 years later to a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of the usual MTV vibe post punk post Mad Max bestial types. This time the tribes were a little odder than the usual hairy biker types vs peaceful farmers, one tribe for instance was called The Disco Mutants and consisted of seven year boys wearing white suits who carried big hand guns and said 'fuck' a lot. In the end it all got very irritating with our two heroes looking more and more like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis wandering around an endless series of early MTV music videos. Videos from back in the days when they pretended to tell a moodily lit 'story' and didn't just fill the screen with jiggling well-tanned body bits. The film seemed very familiar somehow, though I'd never seen before. Only when I looked director Albert Pyun up on IMDb did it click. He also directed Alien in LA which was very similar in that it featured a lot of pointless wandering around in a MTV style Mad Maxiverse. Unusually for a 1980s PostApoc flick there were no noticable displays of fingerless gloves - though there was at least one incidence of that other good old 80s PA Flick cliché, the burning oil drum.
- BASEketball ( 1998 ) - Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in a David Zucker film. Stupid, rude, crude, and very very funny.
- Vampire in Venice ( aka Nosferatu a Venezia 1988 ) - Another not yet released on DVD piece of treasure from my Freecycle haul of last week. A weirdly slow, decadent, Italian vampire flick that took four writers, and (depending on who you believe) up to five directors to get to the screen. Klaus Kinski gets to do his usual wild-eyed fruitloopery, grope two naked ladies, and walk slowly towards (and occasionally away from) the camera a lot. Christopher Plummer and Donald Pleasence appear in great chunks of what appears to be nearly, but not quite, the same film. And there are sequences of flamenco dancing vampire gypsies, priests being thrown out of upper storey windows and someone climbing up St Mark's Campanile then jumping off for no apparent reason (and getting caught in mid air by Klaus Kinski in a really crappy special effect). It sounds like a mess. And it is. The narrative lurches around all over the place, characters appear without introduction and then vanish without trace, but it's so oddly put together, and some of the photography and atmosphere is so beautiful, I was half convinced that if I kept watching it ought to make sense eventually. It didn't in the end but by then I was half convinced that it might make sense if I watched it again. Which I will do. One day.
- The Naked Cage (1986) - A Cannon Films 'Women in Prison' piece of exploitation crap. The usual dutiful parade of all the clichés of the Women in Prison exploitation crap genre, you know, innocent blonde victim who can't act thown into a gaol, where no one wears a bra, run by a sadistic lesbian warden. Cue lots of cat fights, a bit of rape an obligatory shower scene. All topped off with a contrived happy ending. Even by the low standards of the genre this was a shoddy, and tedious, piece of shit. I was bored. A very long 91 minutes.
- Snake & Crane: Arts of Shaolin ( 1978 ) - Jackie Chan hits people a lot for 96 minutes. Occasionally one of them gets to hit him back. I have no idea why.
- Ella Enchanted (2004) - A teen / kids film that pitches its tent right in The Princess Bride, Shrek territory and doesn't do a bad job. A Friday Night Pizza Film Club that I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting.
- Orlando (1992) - For the umpteenth time (it's a ravishingly beautiful piece of work in every department) but on the big(ish) screen for the first time. And I was struck by just how funny the film is; I laughed several times.
- The Shadow (1994) - another failed attempt to create a movie franchise based on an existing character. The Shadow is a masked vigilante striking fear into the hearts on villains with his almost supernatural powers, and has been credited with being the model for many pulp heroes since. (Batman bears more than a passing resemblance.) He's been fighting crime on and off since 1930 in endless pulps, novels, comics, and on radio (as played by Orson Welles no less) and the character has appeared in previous films in 1937, 1938, and 1940. There is now a big budget remake on the cards with Sam Raimi 'at the helm' (as they say in the funny papers). The 1994 film looks great, the faux 30s design elements are great, but it does suffer from a plodding script and is, sadly, just very dull.
- Star Pilot (1977)- an American dubbed version of the 1966 Italian film 2+5: Missione Hydra. Somewhere between 1966 when it was made, and 1977 when it was released in America as part of the Star Wars feeding frenzy 2+5: Missione Hydra accumulated footage from at least three other films. The American distributors edited in footage from Doomsday Machine (which was originally shot in 1967 - after the release of 2+5: Missione Hydra - and which in turn contained footage from an earlier, 1962, Japanese film Yôsei Gorasu). I don't know what was cut out to make room. The original has got to be more coherent than this version which was crammed with more trash SF clichés than average with apparently no attempt to join them together in any way. Knowing he was stuffed from the get go, the director hit upon a stunning device of distracting the audience from the plot deficiencies by dressing the insanely yummy heroine in a variety of costumes that cunningly alternated between LOOK AT MY TITS! and LOOK AT MY ARSE! subtlety. Even when she wasn't wandering around in nothing but a small piece of net with some feathers sewn on the crotch she had obviously been instructed to flirt with the camera as much as possible. Every time there's a scene of earnest clunking dialogue going on, she just walks in, waves her arse at the camera bounces up and down, and does just about everything she can to get the audience to look at her perky titties - bar holding up a hand-written sign saying 'TITS'! She can't even get a coffee cup in the background without doing an arabesque in 'Look at my Bum' pants:
She's upstaging us again, isn't she?
Oh to hell with it, long time since I posted any pics of Astro-crumpet. Some more screen caps of the little minx I think. .
White Castle (1990) - She's 43 and a waitress in a burger joint; he's 27, a Jewish yuppie still in love with his dead wife. Join the dots. I defy anyone not to laugh at the climactic, emotionally charged pivotal moment when our yuppie hero finally realises he's lost the love of his life. At a party set up to get him together with a 'suitable', ie yuppie, wife, he takes her hand-held vacuum cleaner of the kitchen wall opens it, peers inside and wails, "There's no dust in her Dustbuster!"
Girl 6 - 1996. The first time I've seen a Spike Lee film since Malcom X back when it came out. I have no real reason for never having looked at any of his other films, I just haven't ever got round to seeing any. Girl 6 ended up on my screen tonight as part of the game I'm playing at the moment. Over in the corner of my living room is a huge cardboard box full of VHS tapes with no cases. I have no idea what's in the box. I choose one at random without looking at it and if I'm careful where I look as I put it in the machine, and FF past the black and white identification thingy that appears on-screen for a few seconds right at the start of the tape, I have no idea what I'm watching until the titles come up. It's fun.
The Club (1994) - one of those straight to video horror films starrring 'Who?', 'Who?', and 'Never heard of him.' The clock is approaching midnight at the Prom night dance which, for unexplained reasons, is being held at a large mock Gothic mansion. A dreary slow plodding opening suddenly takes a sharp left turn into Lynch lite weirdness as all but six of the guest mysteriously vanish followed by lots of running up and down the same few corridors as the camera man tries out a variety of wide angle lenses. After a while it all got very samey and repetitive and the initial 'This is weird', vibe gave way to a 'This is dull' vibe. In the end it wasn't quite an 'but it was all a dream' ending - but not by much.
Tank Girl - Violent stupid and almost fun.
L'atalante (1934) - the older I get the more I realise I just don't 'get' French films. Especially those deemed by those who know to be 'classics'. Over on IMDb L'atalante is variously lauded as the most beautiful, the most erotic, or the saddest film ever made. There's hardly a dissenting voice on the boards; it is a 'masterpiece'. Maybe it is and maybe it's just me being thick but what I saw was a scrappy, almost amateurish film with the occasional nice shot but which jumped about from scene to scene with very little unifying style, some very dodgy transitions, a very very thin story with huge narrative jumps in it, annoyingly selfish characters, and some underwhelmingly unfunny 'comic interludes' (what the hell was all that nonsense in the dance hall with the singing peddler all about?). Maybe I'm just a pleb with plebby tastes but it just looked like minor league, of its time, best forgotten, so-what? (The cynic in me also wonders if the director hadn't been dying romantically young from TB during the shoot whether it would be remembered at all.)
- The Corpse Bride (2005) - Daughter number one stretches her Pre-teen Disney-Noir Goth muscles and chooses this as her Friday Night Pizza and Film Night choice because: 'it's by the same people who made Coraline,' and 'it's stop motion animation not computer'.
- Rush Hour ( 1998 ) - First time viewing, random Lucky-dip film of the night. Isn't Chris Tucker annoying? I mean annoying? I'd only ever seen him in The Fifth Element before, he was annoying in that but I assumed that that was the part. It wasn't; it was the persona. I doubt if I'll watch the sequels.
- Metroland (1997) - I liked this. I really liked it. It 'spoke to me' as they say. Some nice acting and a great use of colour.
- The Big Brass Ring (1999) - Political 'thriller'? based on an unfilmed script by Orson Welles.
- Diva (1981) - un Film Policier which sort of convinced me that sometime I do 'get' French films but only, I suspect, if they have ludicrous moped chases through the Paris metro system and naked women in it. Why though does every French film seem to have to have at least one scene set in a woods at dawn? Total credibility stretching, coincidence-ridden, plot-hole ridden nonsense but done with great style.
- Arlington Road (1999) - Pretty good.
- Carry-on Spying (1964) - I was tired!
- Elvira: Mistress of the Dark ( 1988 ) - there are only two reasons to watch this movie. They're pretty good reasons too.
This year's list of films I gave up on in a variety of ways mostly because they had just too much of the wrong sort of bad:
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
( 2008 ) - dear Mother of God! this was awful. I lasted 20 minutes.
(2001) - and twenty minutes was all I lasted with this self-financed piece of bumdrizzle about lads on the pull in Greece. Just how bad is this movie? If I tell you it has more semi-naked and naked women in it than any other film I have seen this year and I STILL couldn't watch it, you may get some inclination of just how fucking crap this is.
Monster from Bikini Beach
( 2008 ) - a 95 minute 'comedy/horror' made for $10,000 dollars. A splatter homage to all those beach party monster films of the 60s - in living colour with more nudity, and gore, and I fell asleep. Dreadful. I can see why no one has bothered to reviewed it on IMDb. Usually cheapo drek like this can usually attract someone who was in it or did the catering to write something about how much fun they had making it. Not this one.
The Sasquatch Gang / The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
(depends whether you read the box or the opening credits 2006) I gave up after 15 minutes when I realised that the mumbling morons on screen were A. incomprehensible B. supposed to be funny. C. not going to die violent and horrible deaths in the next two minutes.
(1992) even the prospect of Penelope Cruz appearing naked couldn't keep me interested in this haphazardly unfunny bore. I gave up after 30 minutes.
( 2008 ) - What a mess! I gave up after 30 minutes when the narrative structure had disintigrated to the point where the monk narrator (Ron Perlman hiding behind an Oirish accent) got fed up re-explaining the back story (and what had already happened on screen), stopped, and listed one by one the assembled team we didn't see him just recruit. One minute he's saying "I need twenty men and a fast ship," the next he's listing the crew recapping a sequence the director didn't shoot or cut. There was a lot of weird narrative dead ends in this and sundry bits of story flapping about looking for a home, so many in fact that I stopped the DVD at one point and looked it up on the IMDb convinced that what I was watching was a whole TV series hacked down to a 110 minute movie. It wasn't. It was supposed to be like this. What I was watching was a film based on a game. What the hell is John Malkovich doing shit like this for?
Battle in Heaven
2005 - piece of arty Mexican shit full of stupendously long shots in which nothing happened. Most of them were of nothing. Look! some traffic on the street. Look! some people walking. Look! some more people walking. Look! our 'hero', a bovine Mexican non-actor who stares at things that were off-screen a lot.
Occasionally the camera would hand-held pan from looking at his profile to follow his eyeline and we would see what he was looking at, the pan would then often continue past whatever he was looking at, come round in a full 360º and find HE HAD MOVED! Shit on a stick! The fat Mexican has moved! My willy sphincters could hardly contain my fucking water! After 45 minutes I started to watch it at FF X2. It didn't make any difference except I had to read what few subtitles there were a little bit faster. I turned off at the 50 minute mark. Imagine yourself being trapped in a cinema with the most obnoxiously pretentious 'I'm going to challenge and then redefine the whole diegesis in the narrative structuralism of cinematic language,' type arty wanker film student as he shows you seventeen hours of unedited rushes of rusty oil tanks by the side of a railway line. That would be preferable to watching this. It would be preferable because:
- a. you wouldn't have to see overweight Mexicans fucking and
- b. you could grab the director and force feed the little tosser with the endlessly spooling film till he exploded.
aka Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe
(2005) - piece of shit Sci-Fi channel TV movie that must have looked so good on the back of the envelope it was written on. I really can just see how this show happened. The boss of The Sci-Fi channel walked into the the office one day and said "Firefly
with Vampires! Here's a couple of million dollars. Come back Tuesday with a rough cut." It was dire. I mean unwatchably dire. The Sci-fi Channel's stuff is usually pretty stinky but this was just too far the other side of stinky, even for me. One of those shows that has a captain 'with a past' who is initially disliked by all the members of the renegade crew (who all have 'pasts' of their own to deal with) where everyone snarls and snipes at each other because it's the only way the writers can generate 'conflict'. The usual lazy TV bullshit.
(2006) - Six vaguely symmetrical young people, lost in the forest after a car crash and desperate to keep warm, break into a windowless building. The building is unmarked on any map but we know, from a pre-credit sequence, it has at least one axe-wielding crazy inside. I gave up at the point where the six vaguely symmetrical young people lost in the forest climb on the roof, kicked open the cover of a huge ventelation shaft and pulled out hitherto unmentioned ropes and abseiling gear which they had been carrying around for no other reason that there had to be some way for the scriptwriters to get them into this building without them being able to leave. The rope breaks. Apparently this film is so bad it even bypassed the 'straight to DVD' route and went 'straight to download'. This was, according to the IMDb, 'The first direct-to-download film. The film premiered on the Internet and was released through AOL.'
(2004) Starring Don 'The Dragon' Wilson (I really should know better by now). Martial artists get stuck in a virtual reality game and have to kick things a lot to a pumping 80s style soundtrack. In the 80s this would have been crap. In 2004 it was well past its sell-by date, as were most of the Martial Artists on screen. I wouldn't like to say this to their faces (I value my nose too much) but they looked really slow and plodding (our hero is 50 and the heroine 47 - it shows). Some of the fight choreography just stank and the script and acting were laughable. I fell asleep.
(1997) I had hopes for this one. Based as it was on a short story by Donald A Wolheim, a writer and editor who knew his SF, and directed by Guillermo del Torro. I gave up after 50 minutes when I wandered off to the IMDb to find out just how long this boring, predictable there's 'something in the sewers' yawnfest was going to go on for. I didn't go back.
- Another Fred Olen Ray film I couldn't be bothered with after the first ten minutes.
Links are to my IMDb reviews. Previous Years' Lists: 2006
Next year's list: 2012
Last edited by JunkMonkey; 2nd Dec 2011 at 1:55.