Friday, May 30, 2008

Groan - This Month's Movies

  1. A Cock and Bull Story - Not the 'greatest film ever' as one review on the front of the box would have me believe but still pretty funny. I've tried to read Tristram Shandy a couple of times and failed pretty early on, I was in a way hoping this film would give me an 'in' so the next time I tried I would get on with it a lot better. Not sure that that's going to happen.
  2. The Snow Devils - Last of the Gamma 1 Italian SF drek and probably the worst / best of the bunch.
  3. Attack of the Giant Leeches - again!
  4. It's Alive! - A deliriously bad fever dream of a movie which, if I've got this right, was a made-for-TV remake of a movie that never actually got made. Notable for containing the most pathetically unconvincing rubber monster suit ever shot by a professional crew. (This film should not be confused with any of the other five movies called It's Alive!. This one has the honour of being the first - and worst.)
  5. Fright Night - above average and, dare I admit it? mildly erotic mid 80s vampire flick.
  6. Cigarettes and Alcohol - not sure to make of this one at all.I have no idea why I find Jarmusch's films so funny but I do and this one was no exception. As an added bonus (if you can call it that) I got to see Steve Coogan playing a character, loosely based on himself, called 'Steve Coogan' for the second time this month.
  7. Secretary - Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Spader. The best rom-com I've seen for a long while but not as brilliantly wonderful as people had lead me to believe - I was slightly pissed off by the title sequence which seemed to imply that a typewriter fitted with a seriffed font was producing sans seriffed lettering and a whacking great boom shadow in an early scene meant it took some time for me to settle into it.
  8. Take the Money and Run - my loathing of Woody Allen's later films hasn't soured my view of his earlier, funnier films. I found this genuinely, laugh out loud funny.
  9. Titan AE - Full of sound and fury, kids' American Manga SF which signified nothing but (occasionally) looked great.
  10. The Swarm - There are good films, there are bad films, then there is Irwin Allen. The Swarm was supposed to be the disaster move to end all disaster movies (in one sequence a nuclear plant blows up killing Jose Ferrer, Richard Chamberlain, and 32 thousand off-screen extras - this comes immediately after one of my favourite lines from the movie: "In all your fail safe techniques, is there any provision for an attack by killer bees?" ). Except it wasn't a Disaster movie; it was just a career destroyingly bad disaster. Warner Brothers thew millions into advertising, and making a vast number of prints, of what turned out to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies ever made. The Swarm is masterpiece of wrongness. Made on a huge budget, with more star names than the average, and a polished crew - all standing on a script full of the most unspeakable, howling bad dialogue ever written...

    Crane Played by Michael Caine finds something at the ravaged picnic site where two picnickers have been stung to death by a brazillion Bees.]

    Brad Crane:
    Plastic. It's a piece of a plastic cup. There are pieces all around here.

    He starts pointing out the other fragments.

    Brad Crane:
    Look. Look, there. There. There.

    Cut to: General Slater, played by Richard Wydmark who is not even bothering to disguise his usual: "What the fuck am I doing in this piece of shit?" facial expression.

    General Slater:
    What's so significant about that?

    Brad Crane:
    I'm afraid to speculate. But,
    I think, the bees, did this.

    Major Baker:
    Are you saying these bees eat plastic?

    Brad Crane:
    No, no. But I'm wondering. Your
    American honeybee has a weak mouth,
    that couldn't even break the skin,
    of a grape. But it looks like this species,
    is tearing up, plastic cups, possibly to
    line their hives. Now, if this is true,
    they didn't, just get here. I mean,
    the invasion, didn't, just now begin.
    They have been here some time.
    Breeding. Increasing.

    General Slater:

    Brad Crane:
    Well, suppose these bees, are
    using plastic, to insulate their hives.

    General Slater:
    No bee is that smart.

    Brad Crane:
    Suppose these African bees are.

    Allen's other movies aren't good, but this one is brilliant. It's not often you get to watch a movie in which everything went wrong.
  11. La Dolce Vita - I love Fellini's movies. I haven't a scooby what they're about but I just love wallowing in the dreamlike decadence of them.
  12. Throne of Blood - Kurosawa and Fellini in one week? Have I finally run out of crap movies to watch? Probably not, but there were none I fancied watching within easy reach and I needed to reset my quality control standards. I was, sorry to say, a bit underwhelmed by Throne of Blood. For years I have avoided watching any of Mr K's movies because, many years ago, I was rendered catatonic in a cinema by my first encounter with his work - the three hour cut of Dersu Uzala - and until last year sometime I managed to avoid watching anything else he had done. When I finally got over my reluctance and watched Ran, his samurai reworking of King Lear, I was blown away - sheer, unmitigated, fucking genius. Maybe I was unfortunate in watching Ran first, but ToB came over as dry run for the good stuff that came later.
  13. Confidential Report - Just to complete some sort of black and white Arty Auteur Filmy hat trick, an Orson Welles. Back to the trash.
  14. This is Spinal Tap - I laughed.
  15. Robinson Crusoe on Mars - sliding myself back into the bad movie habit. Despite it's dreadful title this is pretty damn good for an SF movie of the period. The director, Byron Haskins actually understood Science Fiction and didn't treat everything as a dressed up cowboy movie. It doesn't, for a refreshing change, insult the intelligence of the audience by explaining the most basic of facts in mind-numbing, simplistic detail: "Yes Johnny, Mars - sometimes known as 'The Red Planet' - is a very long way away...". And it wasn't just plain wrong about everything. How space ships in movies make that whooshing noise on the soundtrack as they fly through airless space is a mystery, but at least this show built in a delay between light from a distant explosion in space and the mysteriously transmitted noise of the bang reaching the planet-bound observer. Whatever medium sound travels through (even mysterious movie space medium) it's always going to travel slower than light.
  16. Moon Zero Two - an unashamed dressed up cowboy movie. A Space Western complete with low gravity bar-room brawls, claim jumpers and loads of other Cowboy cliches in space suits. No cattle stampede though. It needed a cattle stampede. Three thousand cows in space suits running amok in slow motion? That I would have paid money to see. Not great but bits of it were interesting and all of it was a hell of a lot better than most other Space Westerns - especially Outland ('High Noon in space' my arse!).
  17. Equinox - Dreadful. An object lesson in how not to make movies in so many departments, lessons the makers obviously learned because, having spent six and a half thousand (1960's) dollars, and two years making this near unwatchable zero budget mess, they have gone on to become multi-Oscar winners. Everyone has got to start somewhere. (Thanks for the steer, Bill).
  18. Devil Girl From Mars - A set-bound adapted play, pitting the assembled residents of a lonely Scottish Inn against the evil Machinations of one - count them - one! Matriarchal Martian who needs Men! to replace the dwindling feeblenesses of the 'inferior sex' of her own planet. Apart from the dubious delights of the leather fetishist's wet-dream of the alien's costume, it had nothing going for it at all - she spoke terribly properly too. Very BBC, it was like watching Invasion of the Light Program Continuity Announcers.

    And now, The Archers. Phil tells Jill: "All your bases are belonging to one..."

  19. Cat Women of the Moon - from man starved Martians to man starved Selenites. And a double dose of Deja-Vu: the 'plot', and some of the props of this piece of crap were recycled in the atrocious Missile to the Moon (qv), of which I am quite fond, and the spaceship sets were reused from the junky Project Moon Base (also qv) watched a few weeks ago. The opening sequence is a hoot as our heroes grimace their way through the heavy acceleration of take-off looking like the 'before' characters in crude indigestion commercials. Incidentally the crushing forces of take-off have absolutely no effect on our heroine's twin, conically pointed chest. Lying flat on her back on her couch, pressed own by G forces equivalent to the weight of an elephant, her tits point skyward like twin spaceship nose-cones - by gum, they built bras well in the 50s!
  20. Target Earth - Better than average 1954 low budget B movie SF which started with a would be suicide waking up to find the city deserted (which also happens to be the way one of my favourite SF movies The Quite Earth starts) and intelligently built up a nice edgy paranoia feel which lasted up to the very second the clunky ("For Mash Get Smash!"like) robots that have invaded the city appear on the screen - and suddenly it's all evaporated. All that hard work gone - Pouf! - with a single shot of a crappy bow-legged, cardboard monster. Then we're in the land of The Military sitting in small rooms pointing at maps and telling each other how dreadful the situation is before launching the usual air strike by stock footage while Scientists feverishly peer at an oscilloscope, trying to find the alien invaders' Achilles' Heel before the final reel. The bits with the lost and confused survivors are great, the rest of it is period, by the numbers, low budget B movie.
  21. Batman - The Adam West Burt Ward 1966 version, which just gets funnier every time I watch it..
  22. The Werewolf of Washington - this is why I watch movies with crap titles. Every now and then, under the piles of Robot Monsters and Teenagers From Outer-Space, I stumble on a long forgotten gem. The Werewolf of Washington is such a gem; a bizarre, surreal satire of the downfall of Nixon - done as a werewolf movie. It's great. A badly cropped version of it is legally available here. Dean Stockwell camps it up outrageously as the Lycanthropic White House press secretary. Very 1973. Very funny.

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