Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Month in Movies ...


  1. Spiderman
    - Pizza night choice of daughter number one. First time I have seen it. Spiderman was never my favourite Marvel character - a lot to do with Steve Ditko's drawing - I never did like his stuff so I wasn't too disappointed. The kids loved it. I spotted continuity errors and enjoyed some of the character actors doing their thing; J.K. Simmons (whoever he be) was brilliant as the newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson. Best bit of the whole movie.

  2. Queen of Outer Space
    - I love watching actors work. Even bad actors. And the best time to watch actors work is when they aren't saying anything, when they are reacting to what is being said, or when they are watching other people saying things. Cheap shoddily made films like Queen of Outer Space allow plenty of time to watch actors work because, for a lot of the time there isn't much else going on on screen. Actors willing, or forced by circumstance, to work in cheap low budget movies like this are cheaper than just about any other element of the film - except maybe stock footage. Special effects - even crappy ones - are labour intensive and expensive. Which is why I was overjoyed to suddenly find this piece of cockuppery in a piece of bilge that I know far too well for my own good.

  3. Devil Fish (MST3K)
    - "A shark... with tentacles!" That's about all you need to know really, isn't it?

  4. Charlotte's Web
    - I've never liked Charlotte's Web, too overly-sentimental for my taste. Mind you, I never read it as a kid and that often helps make childhood classic reading - er - classic. So I was not looking forward to this (it'll be bloody Heidi next, mutter, mutter ...) and the constant bloody Danny Elfmanesque music was driving me up the wall by the end of the first ten minutes, but some of the CGI was pretty good - actually some of it was pretty amazing if you stopped to think about it - and there was always the old standby of 'Spot the Voice' which can keep me entertained during the dullest of animated movies. What does it say about me that I recognised Steve Buscemi's voice but not Julia Roberts' or Robert Redford's? The end was vastly over-long. I just sat there for the last ten minutes willing it to end. "For god's sake stop milking it - the movie's over already." The end credits finally started to roll, I heaved a sigh of relief, Holly burst into tears - and so did I. (Almost.)

  5. Quest of the Delta Knights (MST3K)
    - David Warner - one of my favourite character actors, whose staggering workload of genius includes Tron, Time Bandits, Time after Time, and a gazzilion voice-overs pays the rent by playing three roles in a straight to video piece of historically confused junk which seems to have been filmed at a Renaissance Fair. It must be strange being a jobbing actor, one day you're playing opposite Steve Martin (when he was funny) in the Man With Two Brains, the next you are picking up an Emmy for playing a Roman in a miniseries, the day after that you are hiding behind a variety of bad, stick-on facial hair surrounded by a dozen or so extras trying to recreate a geographically woolly Dark Ages by sheer will-power alone - an effort doomed from the start by the costume designers letting anyone who had their own 'olden days' costumes turn up and be in the movie. "Vikings hat? Fuck yeah! you're in. Hey, Louis! There's a guy here with a viking hat. Shove him on a horse and give him gun will yah?" The only thing going for this movie were the heroine's tits which were shoved into one of those 'lift 'em up and wobble 'em' dresses Barbara Windsor always seem to wear in the 'historical' Carry-On movies. They were fun. Probably the only reason Warner took the part.

  6. The Screaming Skull (MST3K)
    - The movie opens on a shot of a coffin. A voice over by a Serious American Male: "The screaming Skull is a motion picture that reaches its climax in shocking horror, its impact is so terrifying that it may have an unforeseen effect. It may kill you. Therefore, its producers feel they must assure free burial services to anyone who dies of fright while seeing - The Screaming Skull!" The camera dollies in the the, now open, coffin which is empty save for a hand lettered sign: 'Reserved For You'.- Dramatic Music!

    I fell asleep.

  7. Mission Stardust
    - When I'm not watching unwatchable SF films I am quite often reading unreadable SF books - I'm especially fond of the execrable Perry Rhodan books. Mission Stardust (aka the usual shitload of names around the world) is the first, and sadly, last attempt to bring the character to the screen. I had heard of it's dreadfulness for years It is, I read, so dreadful that fans of the books deny its very existence. A movie so bad people who liked Perry Rhodan books thought it was crap? This was a movie I had to see!
    And now, thanks to the mighty power of the Interweb and unseen friends across the Atlantic I have, at last, watched it. It is as dreadful as I had hoped. I will have to watch it again and write more about it because it appears to be a woefully under-appreciated piece of Eurocheesyness (only 6 reviews on IMDb). The special effects were remarkably shoddy for a movie of the period - at one point the light from a descending model rocket casts shadows of the surrounding Lunar mountains onto the painted sky behind them. And I swear the 'rays' the aliens robots shoot out were made by scratching the emulsion off the negative. This looked crappy in the 1930s when Buster Crabbe zapped people with hand scratched zap rays in Flash Gordon serials. Deserves a closer, more detailed viewing. Watch this space - if you dare. Or watch it here if you dare. (It starts about 5 minutes in after a long montage of bits of other better films which you can easily skip without loosing anything.)

  8. Werewolf (1996)
    - Archaeologists (hah!) discover the skeleton of a werewolf in the Arizona desert. The film crew has no budget - though they did have at least on an arc lamp with a switch on it so lots of lightning but never any rain. The leading actors are both Germans pretending to be American; for both of them this is their 'other' movie (I have an IMDb listing longer than either star of this turkey). Highlights (and most of the on-screen budget) include:
    • An ancient Italian American security guard turning into a werewolf - while driving slowly past the same petrol station several times - before crashing into a sudden outbreak of middle of the highway, randomly placed oil drums full of explosives.
    • A lead actress who, struggling with her insufficient English, cannot say the word 'werewolf' the same way twice - even in the same sentence. The ability to say 'werewolf' convincingly should, I would have thought, been an prime asset in a film which is, for the most part, about wherevulfs. Whurwolfs? Wharwulfs? Worewolvs...?
    • A lead actor who presented with the task of transforming from vaguely symmetrical human being (as far as I could tell his only qualification for the part) to hideous hell beast (or at least the hairy teethy glove puppet shown in close ups) without the use of make up, choosing to writhe around and gurn on a bed like a constipated porn actor being told to fill in while his co-star goes for a pee. First year drama school stuff. "Now class, I want you to imagine you are bacon frying ... "

    And there's a 'twist' ending too! - pity it doesn't make any sense and its obvious from a mile away what it's going to be.

  9. The Thief of Bagdad (1927)
    - not The Thief of Bagdad (1940) which we had been expecting - damn Blockbusters! but both daughters, having got themselves into the frame of mind to watch an Arabian Nightish adventure, chose to watch a black an white silent epic with actors spending half of the time pointing wildly at the corners of the screen than something else more modern, in colour and with dialogue they didn't have to read off the screen. None of us realised it was two and a half hours long. One fell asleep, the other was hooked. Stunning sets - and Anna May Wong was lovely. "I think she is beautiful," as number one daughter kept saying. Mind you, she also said of some black actors: "I think they are African people, but I can't tell because it is in black and white."

  10. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
    - What a quiet, restrained little movie this is. After watching far too many hysterical 1950s SF movies in which the 'World Communistic Threat' was thinly disguised as Aliens From Another Planet, either worming their invidious way into the vital bodily fluids of right thinking Americans, or rampaging, destroying and plundering property before being vanquished by the gallant Army, Navy, and Air Force - or assorted white coat wearing scientists - it was a pleasure to watch to see the other side of the coin for a change as a human like alien with a Message for all Mankind ("Stop with the bombs already or face certain annihilation from Higher Powers") is pursued and persecuted by the paranoia of the age. The Christian Allegory subtext isn't very far beneath the surface (the visiting alien calls himself 'Carpenter', is killed and resurrected before delivering his message, and then ascending to the heavens) but doesn't intrude.

  11. Bedtime Stories ( 2008 )
    - Meh Disney Family Movie which I watched with my family in a family way and we are all happy... I think I did laugh - once. Afterwards, as I thought about it, the movie really started to annoy me. Disney pride themselves on presenting a Family Values package. Good wholesome films that the whole family can enjoy together. Common values. So what do we learn about what Disney thinks America thinks it's okay to do in a family film? What do we learn from Bedtime Stories? The mother of the kids in this film is a hard working, single mom school principle who has to leave her two children in the care of her feckless brother for a few days while she attends an out of State job interview.
    We learn that's okay to ignore peoples' wishes when it comes to bringing up their kids. Especially when they are single mothers 'unable' to keep a husband. After all she doesn't really believe in what she's preaching does she? Even she doesn't like the healthy cake she made for the birthday party. All kids really need, according to this film, is to be fed hamburgers and watch TV - both things she is trying to avoid bringing into her children's lives. How cruel of her. How dare she upset the natural order of things by denying her children the God given right of every American child to be an unthinking overweight drone like all the others? How dare she not bring them up to be good Disney consumers? When the mother finds out about her brother breaking the house rules is she bothered? No. She's only upset that he told them there were no 'happy endings' in real life - the one thing that her brother did with which her character would have the least problem.
    We learn that it's okay to be rude to total strangers who not unreasonably are a bit miffed with you selfishly taking up two parking spaces for no good reason other than you're crap at parking.
    We learn that it's okay to steal. Our 'hero' steals, then trashes, a motorbike in the contrived and illogical climactic ending.
    We learn that it is okay to destroy other people's property and endanger their lives - our hero deliberately knocks over an advertising billboard onto an occupied car (driven by an innocent bystander*) while driving the stolen bike.
    We learn that education (past elementary school level) is a waste of time. The most highly educated character here is consistently the least happy, and the self-confessed illiterate ends up marrying an heiress.
    We learn that single parent families don't work and that as soon as there is a heterosexual couple within miles, children will go and live with them rather than their hard working, over educated, single mother.
    We learn that debilitating mental illness can be cured with a hug. One hug from Adam Sandler and Misophobic people rush off to become school nurses. Truly he is the chosen one! (Incidentally, what's a nice Jewish boy like Sandler doing promoting bacon?)
    We learn that Guinea Pigs are really carnivores. Even small South American rodents cannot resist the lure of Hamburgers apparently.

    * I know, if he was driving he couldn't be a bystander ... but you know what I mean.

  12. Succubus ( 1968 )
    - My first Jess Franco film. I'm really not sure what to make of it. Sort of like Federico Fellini crossed with Luis Buñuel with great dollops of Ken Russell thrown in for good measure. I adore Fellini, I'm new to the wonders of Buñuel, and I loathe Russell. I hope I learn to like Franco for no other reason than he has directed some 190 movies. Some great titles too: Vampyros Lesbos, Killer Barbys vs. Dracula, Naked Super Witches of the Rio Amore, and the immortal Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties. No idea what the films are like, but the titles are great.

  13. Fun With Dick and Jane (1977)
    - I've been wanting to see this again for years. I have fond memories of it. And for the last few of years I have been repeatedly disappointed as I keep thinking I have found it when all I have found is the remake with Jim Carrey. Today - Tad Dah! Morrison's cheapo bin rewards my diligence by turning up the George Segal, Jane Fonda original. And what a fun little movie it is.

  14. The Anderson Tapes (1971)
    - inevitably there is a remake in the pipeline.

  15. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    - A second viewing for me. Not a Potter fan to start with I was less than bowled over on a second viewing. I got a bit of entertainment from watching the editing and spotting blunders (Harry P is at one point is - if his POV under the Cloak of Invisibility is to be believed - as tall as Professor Snape. Which he patently isn't.) and wondering why the owls in the movie were so damn loud! Owls are silent flyers. They have to be. They hunt small animals by swooping down on them unheard and, as my local National Trust naturalist pointed out - I do research this shit you know, they also rely on their hearing to locate their prey in the first place. The reason the owls in this movie were so noisy is that pigeons had been dubbed in over the top of them every time they spread a wing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're new to Jess Franco ?! Succubus is good, but his style seems to differ with every film, I find. Check out Venus in Furs. I think it's his best. Beautiful film.

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