Thursday, March 11, 2010


  1. Night Watch (2004) - not sure what to make of this one. It was either total crap or really great fun - or both. I couldn't make my mind up while I was watching it and I still haven't made my mind up a day later. Whichever it turns out to be I felt bludgeoned after watching it. "There is room in your eyeballs for one more image and I'm going to hammer one in!" I'm going to leave it a few days before watching the next one.
  2. Vampire Circus (1972) - A gloriously bonkers piece of late (more boobs less Cushing) Hammer nonsense with (among many other delights) Lalla Ward as a vampire acrobat.
  3. Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006) - a Friday night kids pizza movie-night movie which promised little and failed to deliver. It's not that it was bad, it was just not very good. It looked good, the cast did their job, the design guys did their stuff, the cameraman got the people in the viewfinder and the director didn't do anything outrageously awful but it was all lacklustre. Nothing really jelled. It took ages to get going, scene followed scene without any seeming connection between them or momentum building up. The plot (such as it is) concerns a group of 'misfit' kids with special powers being trained by a has-been superhero to fight a returning super-villain. Sort of. Trouble was the villain of the piece was totally absent - after a long piece of off-camera exposition at the start of the show we just had to take it on trust that he would return by the end to provide a climax. There was a total lack of urgency about the, ill-defined, non-specific 'threat' he posed. So a second layer of threat was introduced: if the kids don't come up to expectations under our hero's guidance they will be artificially enhanced using the same dangerous technique which created the totally absent super-villain in the first place. Apart from the circular non-logic of that, it doesn't work in story terms as a threat because we haven't been shown the possible dire results of this treatment, to wit the totally absent super-villain they are being trained to fight.
    Often when I watch a film on DVD I will, afterwards, work my way through through any deleted scenes included on the disc. Most of the time you can see why they weren't used in the final cut - even without the director telling you. A scene may be funny, or have a nice moment but if it doesn't say anything you didn't already know (or find out later) what is the justification for including it? The big question is always: 'does it advance the story'? Most deleted scenes don't. Watching this film was like watching all the stuff that they could have easily cut, strung together. At the same time it contained odd jumps in the narrative that implied that scenes that should have been included, had been cut. At one moment our hero has hidden the kids and told them to stay hidden while he sorts something out, the next moment the kids are in a different location and being led to the very fate our hero was trying to save them without a word of explanation of how they got there.
    My girls both liked it; no scary bits.
  4. Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947)
  5. Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)
  6. Darkman (1990) - "I hate Danny Elfman! I hate Danny Elfman! Shut the fuck up, Danny Elfman!" I'm sure I had more lucid thoughts about this bit of comic book nonsense but they were driven out of my brain by the bloody score. I hate being told what to think by an orchestra.
  7. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ( 2008 ) - I don't think I've laughed so much for ages. Curiously for a 'kids' movie neither of my two, aged 7 & 5, were impressed.
  8. Species - Ooooh! Ben Kingsley can't half do a spooky 'I'm weirdly dangerous' look when he wants to. In this he's the weirdly spooky boss of a secret government project which mashes up Alien (near indestructible carnivorous ET designed by H R Geiger) with A for Andromeda (alien in female form created by scientists following instructions received via radio telescope) adds a wee bit of The Andromeda Strain (scientists locked in a sealed lab environment with an escaped deadly alien organism) and then, having run out of movies beginning with 'A' to steal ideas from, swiftly descends into a long plodding stop start chase (I think it was supposed to be a 'game of cat and mouse' but missed) culminating in people with big guns and bigger torches running around in sewers. Our hero is Michael Madsen, a man whose career totally baffles me - as in 'how does he have one?'. I've watched several of his films now and am still waiting for him to act. Someone must see something in him though - he currently has twenty-nine (29!) current projects listed on IMDb.
  9. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) - And my third Bruce Campbell movie of the month. This, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Darkman.
  10. Caligula (1979) - and the second movie in a row to contain great chunks of Khachaturian's Spartacus. (I may go back to my long abandoned Six Degrees game if this continues.) Caligula. There are many versions of this movie - some with lashings of gratuitous sex scenes and some without. There are, by my count, 13 different edits of this film listed at Wikipedia. At 98 minutes the copy I have turns out to be one of the shortest*. Is this a good thing? Not sure. I may have to go and find a longer version and sit through all that naked flesh (and more) again to find out.

    * ie the 101 minute edit running at British PAL system TV's 25 fps - which makes films run about 4% faster than at the cinema (24 fps).
  11. Up Pompeii (1971) - my plan to Caligula again tonight - a longer version this time - fell to bits when I discovered the copy I had ... erm ... obtained - had what looked like Portuguese subtitles, was out of synch by a good couple of seconds and was os such a low resolution it looked like it was made up of animated Lego blocks. So, plan B: more togas and tits* in Up Pompeii - which turned out to be even more disastrously unwatchable than I could have imagined. For those non-Brits reading this, a bit of background. Up Pompeii was an early 70s British TV series set in Pompeii sometime just before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Classy stuff you would have thought, a BBC production about the Romans made at the dawn of the heady glory days of television. Quality! - wrong. Up Pompeii was a studio-bound sit-com with cheap sets and most of the 'laughs' gathered by playing the supposed licentiousness of the Romans off against the accepted level of BBC approved prudery and sexual inhibitions. Most of the jokes (and most of the plots) seemed to revolve around innuendo - mostly misunderstanding the word 'it' every time it popped up.
    Have you got the fruit for the orgy tonight?
    I'm just on my market to get it.
    Get it at the market? Why not wait till the orgy?
    and so on... and on... the gimmick being the central character, the slave Lurcio played by Frankie Howerd, spent most of the time breaking the forth wall and talking to the audience. Like many unfunny British TV sitcoms of the time Up Pompeii transferred to the big screen, and apart from the obvious charms of (briefly) watching Madeline Smith in the bath - - and a better cue for another gratuitous screen cap of a naked woman I have yet to think up ...

    ... and watching Michael Hordern work** there is bugger all fun to be had here. Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike cheap smut an innuendo (I've written enough of it in my time) it's just that this was just so bloody predictable and banal smut and innuendo.

    * I like tits.
    ** I like Michael Michael Hordern too - but for vastly different reasons.
  12. Android (1982) - quirky little low budget movie which came out about the same time as Blade Runner and dealt with some similar ideas: how human can a robot really be? and for a low-budget bandwagon-jumper stuck in some very small sets it's really not bad. Not great, but not bad. Klaus Kinski keeps himself under control and doesn't chew the recycled scenery - some of which was designed by a young James Cameron - and despite the clunkiness of some of the special effects (1982 + low budget = Atari games console type graphics on the ship's monitors) it holds up pretty well.

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