Thursday, November 01, 2018

Part the first of my 2018 Movie Diary.


  1. Black Narcissus - which just gets better and better every time I see it though I was annoyed with myself for spotting a continuity error this time which I will now never unsee.
  2. Welcome to Collingwood - not as funny as I remembered it. So much so that it has found itself demoted from the shelves where DVDs sit proudly on display in cases on the shelves -  to the folders where they languish in polipockets making room for more, better movies.
  3. Alfie - the original for the first time.
  4. The Graduate - for the first time in ages, and funnier and better than I remembered.
  5. The Old Dark House (1932) - peculiar little horror film directed by James Whale
  6. Eraserhead -
  7. The Hunger - Arty vampire nonsense with David Bowie dying from latex poisoning and Susan Sarandon and Catherine Denueve (and/or their body doubles) naked between the sheets.
  8. The Handmaiden - Korean drama based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Walters. It's a long time since I read the book but from what I remember of it this seemed pretty true to the intent of the novel if not the detail. (For one thing the novel is set in Victorian England not 1930s Korea. And I don't remember quite so much sex in the book - but then literary sex is notoriously difficult to write, and sometimes impossible to read - whereas people can happily watch young bodies coupling in interested and varied positions for ages without getting bored. (Well I can.)
  9. Eating Out - Low budget queer film in which a straight guy pretends to be gay to seduce a straight girl who lives with the guy he dates - who in turn is secretly in love with the straight guy's gay roommate. (That was a spoiler by the way.) Not as complicated as it sounds with far too much stagy dialogue but it had its moments. Gay male sex for a change.
  10. The ABCs of Death (2012) - 26 short films, each by a different director. Each director was dealt, at random, a letter of the alphabet, a limited budget and final cut for a maximum of 4 minutes of screen time. I suspect a request was made that they open and close on a red or predominantly red screen to make the stitching together of the films more seamless. (Kudos then to Adam Wingard for opening his segment "Q is for Quack" with a shot of a film studio Green Screen). Like most portmanteau films some bits were good, some excellent, some dire. Though, as is usual with this sort of film, opinions differ wildly as to which bits are which. The Japanese entries were the oddest. The one where the kawaii school girl gets sucked up her teacher's bum ("F is for Fart") has to be one of the weirdest screen moments I have seen for ages.
  11. Withnail and I - a repeat watching. Even funnier than I remember but that may well be because I was watching it in appreciative company (with #1D this time, knocking another off the 1001 list).
  12. Against The Wind - An Ealing Studio film about the Belgian resistance during WW2. Some nice moments but too much plot (and too many little side plot lines) for the length. Not overly complex, it wasn't difficult to follow what was going on, but it all looked a bit sketched-in and cursory. Not enough space to engage with the characters. First film I have watched for weeks without an overtly gay storyline involved.
  13. Flesh + Blood (1985) - Paul Verhoven's first English language film (?). Some toe-curlingly bad performances and lots of nudity. A bit like a Corman movie (echoes of the Masque of the Red Death) but with a bigger budget and less style because of it. Plot wise it's a bit of a creepfest too, relying as it does on the idea that women enjoy getting raped and then fall in love with their rapist...
  14. Interstellar - with Number 2 daughter. I liked that! Just as Star Wars back in 1977 (ish) put all that Gosh Wow!, thud and blunder pulp SF of the Gernsback era pulps up on the screen, early 21st Century Hollywood cinema has finally gotten round to the Campbell era of SF. #2D was bowled over. As was I - for the first half. I loved that we the audience, didn't have everything spelled out for us. We were trusted to be smart enough to work out what was going on and assumed have enough SF in our collective DNA to understand . The second part was a bit less impressive. I struggled a bit towards the end with some of the film's science - some of the time dilation stuff was bit off and I'm really dubious about the 'you can come out the other side of a black hole event horizon if you go fast enough' - I'm not sure that's quite how it works and if time was going so slowly (relatively) on the planet wouldn't it be going even MORE slowly the nearer you got to the hole. Millennia would have passed before all the hand-wavy air science (it's like air guitar but with a slide rule) needed to get our hero back to his own solar system. And why did the villain opening that airlock door cause that huge explosion on the ship - other than the script says the film needed an explosion at that point and it the bad guy need to leave the plot without damaging the morality integrity of our scientist heroes.
  15. Hairspray (1988) - D#2 is going to see the musical - so I make her watch the original first. She loved it. Job done.
  16. Beautiful Creatures (2000) - another chunk of pre-millennial Lottery/Arts Council money pissed up against a screen. I imagine if you took all the out takes and deleted scenes from Bound, Thelma and Louise, and Shallow Grave and played with them for a bit you might end up with something a bit like this. About half way through I realised it was supposed to be a comedy.
  17. The Abduction Club (2002) - mildly amusing costume Rom Com with lots of scenery, a few good jokes, Sophia Myles (hubba hubba!), and far too many candles. Why two pairs of runaways hiding in a church would light every candle they could find - while the lighting crew were flooding the windows' ingos with moonlight was a puzzlement. As was the director's habit of having characters appear out of nowhere centre screen. Wide shot of three characters on a beach with no one else in sight, cut to a medium close up of them - with a fourth suddenly appeared from nowhere. It happened at least twice.

Abandoned in January:

(2015) I got to the murder of Duncan and quit. Striving for muddy 'authenticity' it made you wonder why anyone would want to live in the rainsodden, barren desolate representation of Scotland portrayed here, let alone plot and scheme, and murder to rule it. Other throwing things-at-the-screen moments were prompted by the vast amount of candles in every interior (and flambaux and bonfires outside), and the total lack of any visible infrastructure to support the vast number of candle makers and firestokers that were obviously needed in Scotland at the time. Just mud. Mountains, more mud, and rain.

I live in Scotland and yes it is cold, wet, muddy, and rainy - BUT NOT ALL THE TIME!

Macbeth's castle that-
"The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate."

Is represented by a wooden shedlike structure, a couple of tarted-up army surplus marquees (that presumably doubled as location craft services, costume and make-up tents), and loads more mud.

All the dialogue, recognisably Shakespeare's (what was left of it) was delivered in modern 'realistic dialogue' type whispering mumbles. Close to mike, looped studio acoustic everywhere: field, tent, or shedlike structure, all sounded the same. Hard to hear, uninflected, diction-free muttering. All accompanied by mildly discordant, middleeasterny sounding, stringed instruments. The music sounded oddly interesting, ethereal, and unsettling for the first few minutes but got very irritating very quickly.

Some of the photography was nice.

No Tomorrow (1999) - I finally find a Pam Grier movie I couldn't watch. In the opening sequence some sort of illegal arms deal goes wrong and ends up in a gun fight with endless explosions and the same three stuntmen falling off the exploding stuff (sometimes on fire, sometimes not) for ten minutes. I got bored, fast forwarded a bit to find Pam Grier info-dumping to an assembled team of cops, info-dumping all the stuff that any decent script would have shown us instead of all those explosions I'd just FFd through - after about ten minutes of a slideshow of villains, and other villains, and some other villains' friends and known associates I figured it was time to quit. Which is probably why it was only 25p in CEX.

  1. Avengers Assemble! - with D#2. A bit overlong but ok.
  2. The Fly - before we watch the modern remakes in the 1001 List D#1 thought we should watch the originals. Better than I remembered - though the coda was a little twee and superfluous.
  3. The Thing - Great sound! Lots of tight overlapping dialogue. Love that sort of stuff. And a wonderfully strong female character (for a piece of 1950s SF).
  4. Godzilla - the latest one - went on for a bit looked rather groovy in places and I was totally uninvolved. I did spend a lot of my time wondering if citywide blackouts do always progress across the city from left to right (or right to left depending on which way the camera is panning) or whether everything just goes OUT pooph! just like that. A lot of the action in this movie flowed wonderfully, carefully orchestrated mayhem that just happened to follow on to the next bit like a huge exploding domino topple as the camera panned across just in time to catch it. It got rather dull after a while.
  5. The Men Who Stare at Goats
  6. Cat People (1942)
  7. ExistenZ (1999) - I introduce D#1 to the weird and wonderful world of David Cronenberg. She gets it.
  1. King Arthur - Clive Owen - why?
  2. Alice -
  3. Humanoid Woman -
  4. Spun - Messy overlong drug movie .
  5. Robot Overlords - Small budget British SF which reminded more than anything has recently of the sort of stuff that the BBC used to do on a Saturday night when Doctor Who was off on holiday. Very British post-apocalyptic with totalitarian overlords keeping the enslaved humans in their place. Great echoes of John Christopher's Tripods books and Peter Dickinson's Changes novels. And I really rather enjoyed it.
  6. Angry Red Planet - Rewatch of one of Sidney Pinks almost good SF films. This is the one with the weird RED camera effect for the exteriors of Mars's surface and the weirdest 40 foot high Martian spider bat monster ever filmed.
  7. Mechte navstrechu (aka A Dream Come True) strange - and, as it turns out - thankfully quite short piece or Soviet SF later cannibalised by Roger Corman for the weirdly creepy Queen of Blood.
  8. Iron Man - Daughter #2 and I are catching up with the MCU. I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. It was genuinely thrilling in places.
  9. Orion's Loop (1980) This movie is - at least with the English subtitles available to me (it's Russian) - an incomprehensible mess. I have watched a LOT of bad SF movies in my time but this really is a clunker.

    The plot, such as I could make out concerned a Soviet spaceship's journey to the heart of a deadly phenomenon, the titular 'Orion's Loop', which is heading for Earth. The crew are supplemented by an equal number of robots which (for brilliant cast/budget reducing and cunning 'plot twist' setting up reasons) have been made identical in every way to them. It is soon revealed, by ethereal aliens, that the dangerous alien phenomenon heading for Earth is actually a benevolent alien phenomenon manufactured by themselves. The aliens used to live in the solar system - but don't any more because their planet ('the tenth planet') got destroyed (for unfathomable reasons) and they now live somewhere else . Seeing Earth in the path of a 'Space Typhoon' carrying a a deadly 'Glass Virus', they send out their sooper dooper radiation belt to save their former neighbours. For some reason these ethereal aliens have managed to kill several spaceships full of people by talking at them too fast before our gallant Russians manage to get them to stop gabbling and explain things in simple sentences.

    One of the Russians doesn't trust them and does that, 'going mad, putting the whole mission in jeopardy' thing that worked so well in Ikarie XB1 - and didn't here - before getting a hug from the female robot and just vanishing from the movie because... I dunno... the actor had to go make the tea? Your guess is a good as mine.

    From time to time we have some shots of the cast on holiday on the coast. I would guess shot at some local Black Sea resort as this film was made by the Odessa Film studios. What this footage has to do with what is going on in space is not clear.

    There's lots of zooming panning and hand held camera in this film. The only other reviewer of this film on IBDb likens this to avant garde 60's experimental film making. I think he's being very generous. It looked to me like Jess Franco had attempted to shoot Solaris in two days, on the set on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. (Not helped by the fact that our heroic captain does a Mannix over our inept cameraman - the cameraman's leg appears in the frame at one point - as he lies on his back then films the actor running away on the ceiling.)
  10. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965) - I introduce D#1 to the gloriously bonkers world of Hammer Horror.
  11. And Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
  12. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1981) -
    Every now and then for the last couple of decades I have taken the occasional look at a Woody Allen film (with as open a mind as I can muster) in an attempt to work out what it is that people seem to adore about him so much. Having just read an extended magazine interview with the man in which he came over as a genuinely likeable human being I thought I was in a good place to have another go at finding what 'it' is.

    Whatever it is I didn't see it here. You would have thought with a title like A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy there would have been some sex or comedy in it. Apart from one throwaway line line delivered near the end of the thing which was genuinely funny - more for the delivery rather than the content - the film didn't raise a smile!

    I remember hearing an interview with Jack Lemmon, many years ago, in which he said that when Billy Wilder was directing him in a scene in Some Like it Hot Wilder gave him a pair of maracas to hold, and told him to shake them after Tony Curtis said his line and stop before he delivered his own. Lemmon was perplexed. The scene's dialogue was a snappy and rapidfire to and fro interchange. The maraca shaking would slow it down to a crawl. But Wilder was the director and Lemmon did what he was told. When Lemmon saw the film with an audience he understood. Curtis's line were funny. So were Lemmons'. If Lemmon had come in with his line as soon as his actor's instincts told him to, the audience would not have heard it because they were still laughing at Curtis's previous line. His line would have been lost. Curtis's next line would make no sense... and the scene would have collapsed like a house of cards. Wilder knew where the laughs were and built space into his direction to let the audience enjoy them. Allen doesn't leave any space for the audience. We're not given any space to get the 'jokes' (such as they are) because there's always someone talking straight after them. What they are saying is usually inane piffle and by the time you've registered that what they are saying is of little consequence and not a zinging comeback (if was generous I could concede that a lot of the inconsequential dialogue here is Allen's carefully crafted, verbal equivalent of maraca shaking) any humour in the 'joke' that just went past has evaporated.

    The less said about Allen's helpless, "oh look at me, I'm so clumsy" shtick the better.

    I'll give it a couple of years and have another go.
  13. Red Reaper (or Legend of the Red Reaper depending whether you want believe the front or the back of the DVD case). Dear Mother of Gods! WHAT A FUCKING AWFUL FILM! Not a "so bad it's good film" just BAD! Ok, I'll admit I wasn't expecting a lot - the cover had a chainmail bikini warriorwoman on the front which sort of conned me I was buying (for 50p) a Red Sonja knock off - but dear gods! Instead of a Red Sonja knock off I got a BloodRayne knock off acted out by weekend Renaissance Fair cosplayers vs weekend death metal goth cosplayers in a variety of locations that had subtropical and alpine ecosystems within a few minutes walking (or running) distance of each other. Not that was the least of this film's problems. It was a mess. A real turd. Lots of our heroine's voice-over narrator filling in endless over complicated backstory, characters who appeared from nowhere and vanished just as quickly taking whatever barely sketched in reason they had to be there in the first place with them. Endless repetition of same shots over and over again. And then again. And some of the most audacious and sustained 'not actually showing people speaking on screen because the dialogue was rewritten and rerecorded after the shooting was over' editing that I have seen in any film - ever. The conversation between our heroine and her mother (in which more endless plot points are delivered) is a masterpiece. For a minute and half, for over 44 shots, (I went back and counted) all we see on screen is whoever ISN'T talking. Occasionally there are cutaway shots to some of the endless repeated flashbacks we have seen dozens of times before, or to a crystal ball showing us shots we will see later in the film. It's incredible. The fact that the sound quality goes totally tits up here makes it especially wonderful. Other delights to be had are trying to guess how much blood the makeup department will have splattered over our heroine in the next shot. I guess there must have been a continuity person on set at some point but their work was for naught as shots from here, there, and everywhere are cut together willy nilly so that people get cleaned up and messy again from shot to shot, costumes vary in the same scene and one actor's mustache gets a trim and gets shaggy again within a couple of minutes. And I have to wonder where some of the establishing shots came from. The mother's rather groovy ethnic medieval hut has a huge radio mast sticking out of the roof!

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