Monday, May 31, 2010

Run Away! - It's Movie Time

  • Dudley Do-Right (1999) - Guilty secret; don't tell anyone but I quite like Brendan Fraser's comedies, hell, he made bits of the misbegotten Bedazzled remake almost watchable. There's something about his dumb but amiable boy-child persona of that somehow works for me. It didn't work here. Dudley Do-Right was, I guess, supposed to recreate the success of George of The Jungle made two years earlier. Both films were based on kids' TV cartoon series created by Jay Ward, and both co-starred a Python member. What was gloriously silly in George of the Jungle just turned deathly dull here. There were a couple of moments that raised a smile and Alfred Molina obviously had a whale of a time playing Snidely Whiplash but even running at a mere 83 minutes it felt very long. Comedies shouldn't feel long.

  • Earth Girls are Easy (1988 ) - Christ! the Eighties were weird. Somehow I seemed to have missed them entirely. (I was probably drunk.) Watching this makes me think I didn't miss much.

  • Hot Fuzz (2007) - I ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I was going to. I'm sure I missed a lot, not being a great fan of overly violent cop movies, but I laughed frequently and often nevertheless.

  • Sin ton ni Sonia (2003) - Mexican black comedy. I suspect it is an acquired taste but there were bits of this that did make me laugh.

  • Eden Log (2007) - I don't think the 'Log' of the title is meant as a synonym for 'turd' but it might as well be. For 98 minutes we get to watch a nameless mud covered character wander around the insides of a cave system disguised to look suspiciously like the inside of a 1970s Art School. (That's when everyone was making 'Installations' and 'Environments' out of sheets of plastic and bits of piping.) After 90 minutes or so of unexplained tedium and messy camerawork the protagonist discovers what the audience had worked out about three minutes into the film, plugs his belly button into a tree root (for no apparent reason) watches all the lights in the city go out (for no apparent reason). He is sad (for no apparent reason). The End. Imagine the crappiest post-Akira anime plot you can think of then reduce the number of characters to three, then give it to a French film student director who thinks he has just invented the cinema. And you'll have some idea of the sheer pretentious awfulness of this piece of merde. (The 'Making Of' feature is hilarious, full of gushing people describing the director's 'Vision' - my favourite was the one who was almost wetting his knickers over the director's genius idea that the audience should know no more than the central character, as if this were the newest and greatest idea ever.)

  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) - The plot is even thinner than I remember it but I still pretty much agree with my earlier self. Number one daughter was enraptured. I don't think she's ever said 'cooool!' so often during a movie before, giant robots, Zeppelins and eye-patch wearing female military officers are obviously her thing. She IS my daughter!

  • Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) - George Clooney's slow but compelling account of journalist Edward R. Murrow's attacks on Joe McCarthy. Gripping stuff, beautifully underplayed by great ensemble cast. I have no idea how accurate it was but I was convinced.

  • Robotrix (1991) - In Hong Kong a female cop with the very Chinese name of 'Selina', is killed during the kidnapping of a Sheik's son. The prince (who for some reason has an Italian accent in the crappily dubbed 'English' version) was kidnapped by fiendish scientist & robot designer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, who wants the contract to build the Sheik's robot army. While he is waiting for the Sheik to agree to his terms, (which seem to consist of, "Let me build your robot army or I will drill more holes in your son's leg with my Black and Decker") Sakamoto commits Harakiri and transplants his evil mind into his latest robot creation - and then proceeds to go on a hooker-killing rampage. (Are these normal Chinese business practices?) Luckily, Japanese scientist Dr. Sara and her robot assistant Anne are standing by to donate their services, (phew!). The two of them transfer dead Selina's mind into a clone of her old body, and together they hunt down the evil whore-slaughtering robot and save the prince. Lots of soft-core bonking, absurd ultra-violence, and inept comedy ensue. The killer robot eventually has a shipping container dropped on him while he is standing in a car crusher. (Note to any evil robots who may read this: choosing a hideout with large overhead electro-magnets and gigantic hydraulic presses is not a good career move.) I think this may be the only movie outside of a Monty Python skit where a character is beheaded with a picnic basket.

  • Flesh Gordon (1974) - the famed porno pantomime which I watched purely in the name of research, honest, M'lud.

    Emperor Wang, despot ruler of the planet Porno, beams his mighty 'Sex Ray' towards Earth, which has the effect of turning everyone into sex-mad fiends (the ray is represented on screen by someone holding a small firework just outside of the frame line). Impromptu orgies break out everywhere . Only one man can save the day, football player Flesh Gordon. Together with his girlfriend Dale Ardent and the variable accented Professor Flexi-Jerkoff, they set off towards the source of the sex ray. Cue a (sometimes shot for shot) reworking of the old Buster Crabbe serial with lots naked people all over the place, and as many penis references as can be shoehorned into the script. For a cheap piece of crap with wobbly sets, under rehearsed porn movie level acting and point-the-camera-at-the-actors-and-hope direction it is, sometimes, very funny. After enough repetition even lines like "Take that, you dildo!" can become amusing - if you haven't had enough sleep.

    The research?

    The local high school is putting on an end of term show based on Flash Gordon and, due to time considerations and other factors, it looks like I'm building the minimal sets and maybe writing some of it too. I was looking for jokes to nick. All concerned will be pleased to know I didn't find anything that I could use - well, not if I ever want to work around here again. Tomorrow night I start on all twelve gripping episodes of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). Again. I did start tonight but fell asleep after ten minutes.

  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) - again.

  • G-Force (2009) - The shit I watch to keep my kids happy. "I got a brilliant idea, wait for it... Spy Kids but with Guinea Pigs! How can we lose? I'll get the Disney List of Required Clichés faxed over and we'll have the script done by Tuesday...."

  • Dracula (1992) - Big fun! I'd never seen it before (just brief snatches here and there - mostly over there, on the television). And though I thoroughly enjoyed it I'm not sure it really held together, it felt like there had been some real cuts made and the narrative felt a little disjointed towards the end but the atmosphere and effects were brilliantly creepy and often so simple! - well they were made to look simple, they were probably very complicated to do, but creepiness done by misdirection, subtle camera movements, reverse filming, great lighting and music and actors who know what they are doing ( ...erm... yeah, I know Keanu Reeves was in it... but... but everyone else was great!) is far more interesting and effective (and probably cheaper) than throwing a shitload of CGI at the screen.

  • Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (aka Doppleganger 1969) - repeat viewing. Not dreadful.

  • Catch 22 (1969) -

  • Hot Shots (1991) - More Americans in airyplaynes and, not surprisingly, Catch 22 is a lot funnier. There's something desperately unfunny about this movie that is made all the sadder by the cast trying so desperately hard to be funny. The most fun I had was watching Carey Elwes' eyebrows - that man acts from the bridge of his nose upwards, even when he's talking, the only bit of him that moves is his forehead.

  • Yellow Submarine ( 1968 ) - delightful. A no question about it, Pizza night choice of daughter number one who had never seen it before - I usually select a pile of possibles (anything from Disney CGI crap to Danny Kaye musicals) for the girls to choose from. This time H announced we were going to watch Yellow Submarine before I had a chance to get organised. She was enraptured by it - I'm going to make a cineaste of that girl yet. It's many years since I saw Yellow Submarine - I first saw it in the cinema when it was first released, I must have been eight or nine, and it still looks as good as it ever did even on our less than perfect pan and scanned VHS copy. Time to buy a DVD version methinks.

  • Kôkaku kidôtai aka Ghost in the Shell ( 1995 ) - I'm obviously in the mood for an animation binge this week. I've never really bothered to explore Anime. Ghost in the Shell is pretty damn good. A script way above the levels of most American SF movies (animated or not), interesting visuals, and some seriously wonderful music. From what I can gather, reading around a few sites, Ghost in the Shell is as good as Anime gets. I've started at the top.

  • A Scanner Darkly (2006) - Wonderfully fucked up and very funny adaptation of Philip Dick's wonderfully funny drug paranoia novel. The movie most faithful to the spirit of his books by far.

  • Southland Tales (2006) - having been baffled and frustrated the first time I saw this (was it 145 minutes of puerile wanking, possibly the biggest single waste of time money and talent put up on the screen that I can recall ever having seen? - or was it me just not getting it?) Tonight I sat down tonight to watch the even longer 160 minute 'Cannes Cut'. It's been several months since I watched the shorter version and, apart from a few shots of Janeane Garofalo pacing behind a desk doing not a lot, I can't say the extra fifteen minutes did anything to enlighten me. Still looks like overly ambitious pseudo-philosophical/mystical puerile wank to me.

  • Hans Christian Andersen (1952) - My kids are introduced to Danny Kaye and the gorgeousness of Technicolor. Paper thin plot, some nice enough songs and one knock out bit of staging. The moment in the ballet where the little mermaid runs into the sea is brilliant.

  • 2010 (1984) - not as dreadful as I remember. But if there was ever a film that needed the first thirty minutes removing this is it. It may be faithful to the book (I don't know) but it's painfully dull and pointless. the story starts when our hero is woken up in space. All the sitting around talking about going in the first place and laboriously setting up the East West tensions that don't really go anywhere could have easily been left to the audience to fill in themselves later with a few helpful nudges. And preferably not delivered in the 'I am patching the holes in the narrative by pretending to read a letter to my loved ones voice' used all over the place here.

  • The Stuff (1985) - A killer pudding threatens to take over America. Only a slimy ex-FBI man, an advertising executive, the racist head of a private militia, and a seven year old boy can save the day. Nearly as crappily crap as it sounds. For the most part it is the usual mess of muddled story, sudden narrative jumps, and never explained incidents, all filmed with muddied sound and a very weird line in low angle shots that sometimes has the actors legs filling the screen for no understandable reason - but then, suddenly, right in the middle of all this dross is a very weird and spooky sequence where the seven year old boy realises his family has been taken over and brainwashed by the addictive pudding. Derivative? Certainly - I was reminded of William Cameron Menzes' Invaders from Mars, and episodes of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits - but for a few minutes the film really worked.
  • Saturday, May 29, 2010

    Here's a game I just invented that we can all play in the comfort of our own living rooms - well those of us living in the UK can. With the World Cup less than two weeks away let's all count how many times the BBC (and/or any other British based news organisation) mentions the fact that England won the Cup in 1966. I hardly watch TV and actively avoid sports coverage and I'm up to three already. One mention was really weird in that the paid commentator remarked that "no one would ever forget the moment that Roger Moore held the trophy aloft". I was only seven years old at the time and I think I would remember that - the Saint also captained the World Cup winning England team? Cool.

    To avoid any further confusion, here is a quick and easy spotters' guide:

    Henry Moore - sculptor of monumental abstract bronzes

    Sir Thomas Moore - author of The Watchmen comic book

    Demi Moore - maverick film director of Bowling for Columbine

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Google Earthlings

    The Google Earth streetview thing has got round to adding our village! (From the internal evidence in the images we guess the photos were taken sometime around last Easter.)

    Click on the picture to have a wander around.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    A piece of Lidl packaging I like:

    Formil Non-Bio washing machine tabs. Been keeping my family's clothes vaguely clean for years. I like this box not because its well-designed, or weird, or funny. I like it because it is exactly the right size to keep all those newspaper give-away 'free' DVDs I keep buying from charity shops at 20p a go.

    I've got boxes full of them.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Commercial Break

    I've decided it's about time I joined the rest of the Twentieth Twenty-first century and carry advertising on this blog. One of the joys of reading all the crappy old SF books and magazines that I do is the adverts. They are, more often than not, a lot more interesting than the stories next to them.

    Ferristance: turn this bloody dreadful 1950 front cover

    And you will find this:

    (Just to save your eyes, I've typicated it all out:

    I.B. Am-bou-i


    Have You a garden
    or Even a Back Yard?

    WOULD YOU LIKE £1,000 A Year?
    Then send me a 6d stamp1 and a large S.A.E. and I will send you a copy of that enthralling story "In the Cornish Jungle" demonstrating how you can get an income of £1,000 per annum growing these pretty plants. They work for you whilst you sleep or go on holiday. They still work for you on Christmas Day and Bank Holidays2. Why not turn your garden hobby into a profit? You who are reading this can start in your own garden NOW, and extend later when you are convinced.3
    On the 28th Oct 1948, Mr Nisbet Cunningham of Lanarkshire, Scotland, wrote to say "the success of last year's clump of canes warrants the purchase of another. Enclosed find cheque etc.4"

    Write: I.B. Am-bou-i care of

    37 Lanivet, Bodmin


    --------CUT ALONG DOTTED LINE --------

    1 For younger listeners I should point out that '6d' means 'sixpence' in pre-decimal money. It's not some strange request for a multi-dimensional postage stamp.

    2 But not Yom Kippur

    3 By annexing your neighbours' gardens!

    4 "... and my wife's run off with a door to door shoe salesman; I think he's a Martian. Do you like the green ink? I make it myself from the saliva of baby monkeys...

    5Who, curiously, have not filed any papers with Companies House recently.

    6 Is it my imagination or does this sound pervy to you too?

    Now for the ad...

    Yes! You too can own this remarkable piece of 1950's junk memorabilia in the privacy of your own home! Just visit my eBay page and bid bid bid! You know it makes sense.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    My occasional obsession with Lidl's packaging has been annoying me again this week. In particular, their apple juice:

    What is it with Lidl's graphic design team that they can't afford to buy fruit? Their old grape juice carton used to have a huge pile of Photoshop cloned grapes on the front. The same few grapes repeated over and over again - though since posting about it last October the packaging has been changed and now has what looks like a real bunch of real grapes on the front - is this a coincidence? Probably, but I like to think someone in Herr Lidl's vast megabunker 'somewhere in Germany' read my blog and swung into action.
    "Scheiß! Someone has noticed! Get me Helmut and a crack team of cheap graphic designers here at the double..."
    So, to the apple juice carton. Five apples. Five juicy apples. But let's look a little closer... *

    If you look at it for more than a few moments it's incredibly obvious that top left apple and bottom right apple are the same piece of fruit - possibly the same photo - just reversed with some semi-convincing drops of Freshness implying liquid painted in and a leaf slapped on in a place no apple leaf would ever grow in real life. Same for the other diagonal pairing, a different same apple** - reversed. I suspect the apple in the centre of the group is the same as the first one as well, it's just been shot from a different angle - but even if it isn't I find it hard to believe that Lidl's couldn't find more than three photogenic apples in the whole of Europe. Makes you wonder what the ones they are squishing up and putting in the cartons look like.

    To stop myself going crazy thinking about this sort of thing (what else is there to do in Lidl's?) I took a look at the This Week's Offer bins. Aha! Cans of expanding polyurethane foam. Useful stuff - under the right circumstances. Cheap too. 'Squeasy' is a bit odd but what sold me on buying some was the label telling me I had '360º use of the can'. Brilliant! I hate only having 270º use of the can or even if you get really cheap shit from the Pound shop 90º use of the can. What really really sold me though, was the fact that in some part of Europe I have yet to identify, expanding polyurethane foam is known as 'pu-skum'.

    * Ooh! Yes, let's!

    ** I know what I mean.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    One of These Days I Would Like to Wake Up and Not Find Half a Swannee Whistle and a Pair of Maracas in my Wellies

    For a couple of years now, during the less rainy, or 'tourist', season we have put up couch-surfers from all over the world and met some really interesting people. Over the weekend we hosted Yara who hails from Venezuela & Graeme from Scotland who, it turned out to my great delight, are both physicists.

    Great! Someone who may be able to help me with my intermittent part time struggles with understanding the basics of Quantum Mechanics!

    After dinner I gave Graeme a piece of paper and a pencil and got him to explain Schrödinger's cat, the double slit experiment, and wave–particle duality to me. Sometime later, after both he an Yara had tried their damnest not to confuse me, I was almost at the point of understanding that my not understanding the basics of Quantum Mechanics was due more to the fact that no-one understands Quantum mechanics and less to do with me being thick (which is what I had suspected) when I had to go read the kids bedtime stories. So we never did get onto superposition, tunnelling and all the other fun stuff that leaves me feeling about as brainy as a haddock when I read about it.

    The point of all this is that, during this tabletop tour of my bafflement, Graeme mentioned that he had given a lunchtime talk at Cambridge about something obscure he was working on around the edges of Black Holes*. He didn't expect many people to attend, but, as there was free food, the entire faculty turned up** - including Steven Hawkin! So I've had quantum mechanics explained to me by a man who lectured Steven Hawkin!

    I still don't get it but take great solace from this quote from Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."

    Applying the inverse square rule of comedy I think that makes me an expert.

    * I guess it's safer at the edges.

    ** These people aren't stupid.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    To disguise the obvious fact that I haven't done any blogging for ages I thought I had better quickly paste another post over the top of the one I just added ( ie my usual monthly interminable list of crappy movies I have watched).

    So, I'm happy to report that the kids and Merriol are all happy. The washing machine hasn't broken down (which means I'm happy) and I have recently spent an awful lot (far too much) time wondering why is it that every episode of Star Trek that I watch is crappier than the last one? This is starting to bother me. Recently, armed with a pocketful of loose change and faced with a wall of really cheap videos in a charity shop, I bought a whole pile of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I have no idea why. I hate Star Trek. But on those evenings when I'm not up to watching a crappy movie and I don't want to think for forty-five minutes, I'll bung one in the player. (Watching a crappy movie rather than episodic TV involves not thinking for ninety minutes and sometimes I just don't have the energy for that.)

    It is impossible that every episode of Star Trek I happen to watch at random is crappier than the one I previously watched. (Unless I have by random chance hit the exact order of descending episode crappyness .) I suspect that if I watch a set of, say, ten episodes and when I have got to the end of the tenth episode immediately watched the first one again it would, somehow, appear to be crappier than the last one, despite the eight in between each being worse that the one before. I do not intend to try this experiment - there are limits that even I can't imagine overstepping and watching any episode of Star Trek more than once is one of them.

    It's an interesting phenomenon, rather like the famous Shepard Scales which never reach an end*. Watching a whole series of Deep Space Nine must be like trying to live in a house designed by Escher.

    I have been working on a method of trying to gauge the crappyness of any individual episode of Star Trek. The object being to find the crappiest episode ever, watch it, and then watch another one and see if it is an improvement.

    So far the factors I have decided that need to be taken into consideration when evaluating the Crap Quotient of any given episode include:
    • Does the Enterprise encounter an unknown energy field?
    • How many of the crew members are possessed by an alien life form?
    • How many common everyday words or idioms have to be explained to Spock/Data/Worf/Seven of Nine etc. (Extra weigh will be given to this question if it can be shown that any of the words of idioms explained had already been used correctly by Spock/Data/Worf/Seven of Nine etc. in a previous episode.)
    • How often does Riker look smug?
    • Does the hitherto unseen crew member with a speaking role survive to the end of the episode? (As if...)
    • Does the episode take place on a faulty Holodeck or a parallel Earth that has, by some amazing coincidence, built a Paramount Studio back-lot exactly the same as the one on the real Earth.
    • Does the episode have a crew member playing bland lounge jazz.
    • Does the episode contain the word 'Recalibrate'.
    All I need now is a team of willing volunteers and that Ig Nobel Prize is mine! Mwahahaha!

    *I don't understand how they (it?) works either, despite having read and reread several different explanations.

    1. Salute of the Juggers aka The Blood of Heroes (1989) - There are lots of sport movies where the underdog team, usually lead by some 'could have been a contender' has-been, wins through in the final moments of the movie. There are plenty of SF movies with brutal gladiatorial contests at their centre. There are many many movies where the young naive talented rookies grab a chance at the big time at the expense of those around them. Salute of the Juggers (a dreadful title) combines all three and, damn me, it gets away with it! In a post apocalyptic world - think Mad Max without the budget, Rutger Hauer (as the old has-been) and Joan Chen (as the new kid on the block) beat the living shit out of anyone who gets in their way as they try to win a game called 'jugging', the object of which is to shove a dog's skull on a stick before someone throws 100 rocks at a sheet of metal - or the other guys break your legs. There's precious little back story - or even front story. Most of the set (and costume) design consists of old tyres and chunks of Hessian sacking. The characters are paper thin and most of the time is spent watching people hitting each other in the face. But it bloody works. Not great, but well worth a look.

    2. Alienator (1990) - Hooooo-boy! My DVD player now smells bad. Opening with an establishing shot lifted from a Gerry Anderson TV show and establishing Jan-Michael Vincent in my mind as one of the great bad actors of the century (even before we got to the opening credits) Alienator is your typical running-around-the-woods-staying-alive while-being-pursued-by-a-relentless-threat movie. This time the threat comes from a semi-naked seven-foot female android with a ray gun glued to her arm and a bleached ferret stuck to her head who is relentlessly pursuing an escaped killer, who dresses in one of Gary Glitter's cast-off stage costumes, and the fun-loving arseholes he befriends on Earth (well, they don't really befriend him - they run him over in their truck and don't bother leaving the movie afterwards).

      Is this a washing-machine component which I see before me? Come, let me clutch thee...

      The director, Fred Olen Ray, has made over 100 films. No-one has managed to watch any of them all the way through. The only other film of his I've tried to watch was called Bad Girls from Mars and I didn't get more than three minutes in before I gave up. Why don't I ever learn? Anyway, the Terminatrix is defeated when someone on a roof throws some chicken-wire over her this has the effects of "syphoning off all her electrons in alignment with the earth's axis" (sic) which is total unbelievable bollocks, anyone who has ever wrestled with chicken-wire knows you can't throw it off a roof like that. How he got it up there in the first place in the few second of screen time allowed for the act is a mystery too - it's dreadful stuff to work with, always goes in the wrong direction and then coils back at you, but anyway, even after she has had all her electron syphoned off she comes back to life and kills the real baddy. The end. ('Terminatrix'? Hmmmm, I think I just had a really bad movie idea...)

      Edit: And someone beat me to it... Terminatrix (1995) "In the future, killer sex-droids rule the universe... "

    3. Encounters in the Deep (1979) - After a voice-over waffling about the mysterious mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and the 'undoubted truth' of UFOs (the off-screen narrator interviewed an equally off-screen fictional scientist to prove it) a pulsating green light and a high-pitched noise sink a (not very big) model battleship. After a brief interlude, with some very dodgy dubbing work as an under-paid voice-over artist puts on a 'Black' accent ("Sho 'nuff, Sir") for a minor character, a honeymooning couple suffer a similar fate. The father of the girl finances a 'scientist', who has a radical new theory of something vague, to find her. An hour of screen time later, most of which is spent watching people swim about in Scuba gear or sat around on a boat having meaningless conversations, the daughter returns, magnificently backlight and surrounded by vasalene smeared on the lens:" Hello Daddy, come with me!" There are, she vaguely explains, aliens and they are beneficent. All the cast go away, walking slowly into light and smoke followed by a clunky spaceship shot.

      Uno effect especial.

      So, all the boring bits of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with a bit of Cocoon thrown in for good measure, all done at a leadenly plodding pace with all the characters speaking in 'Manglish'. The strange mangled English that appears in the mouths of Spanish and Italian actors when they get dubbed from a translated script - like this indigestible chunk of stream of conciousness prattle:

      Daddy Warbucks: "How do you explain it Peters?"

      Professor Peters: "The only explanation that is logical is the existance of strong magnetic fields - on the other hand what we have seen proves without a doubt, that these grottos were once on the surface."

      Daddy Warbucks: "Yes, but... Professor, forgive me. What I would like for you to explain what relation exists between the magnetic fields and the fact that once this region was not underwater - and the disappearances."

      Captain Whateverhisnamewas: "Umm... the explanation of those disappearances should be associated with the presence of underwater currents caused by the attraction of the magnetic fields."

      Professor Peters: "That however doesn't explain in any way those disappearances. We need some sign. So it seems that it is evident the cause of the phenomena, no one known factor exists - and only in this ocean is it possible to find a solution."

      Daddy Warbucks: "Would it be possible, Professor, for you to be more precise?"

      Professor Peters: "Well according to Ballantine's (?) theory there exist forces from outer space situated below the seas, John Spencer sustains, however, that other beings from outer space visit us periodically on this planet - carrying out authentic kidnappings. Unifying these two theories, I've come to the conclusion, that these disappearances are due to the workings of extra-human intelligences and that they work hidden in the depth of the seas."

      Daddy Warbucks:"In spite of common sense telling me otherwise, I hope that you will be able to prove what you say is true. The hypothesis I mean."

      Professor Peters: "In the future that which seems impossible will be normal. According to Einstein, these unidentified objects are a kind of space ship which existed on our planet millions of years ago, and are now trying to return."

      Daddy Warbucks:"I only hope this is scientific truth and not mere illusion."
      It's quite a relief when they stop talking and just swim around pointlessly for a bit. And even more of a relief when they all fuck off to outer space. A very long 82 minutes.

      The surrealness factor was ramped up slightly on this one by my copy* repeating a scene. The same couple of shots just immediately appears again for no reason. Very odd. But it does give you a chance to watch one of the actors suffering from a magnificent lack of direction. He's obviously been told to get out of the frame to let the shot focus on our leads as they have an earnest discussion, but has no idea why he's going. He delivers his line and then just ambles off.

      *Which came on the 23rd Century label - always a sign of quality.

    4. Stalker (1979) - 163 minutes of staring at the back of three blokes heads as they wander round a desolate landscape being very bleak and Russian about everything.

    5. Orgy of the Dead (1965) - a film of immense ineptitude which would have disappeared into obscurity if the (very meagre) script hadn't been penned by the famously not good Edward D Wood Jr. As it is, it is almost unwatchable. As a framing device, a couple have a car crash and witness 'The Emperor of The Night' watching a series of female undead dance in a graveyard. It's Tam O'Shanter but crap. The Emperor is played by fake medium, and Ed Wood regular, Criswell, who can't deliver a two word sentence without putting the emphasis on the wrong one, and the female 'undead' are portrayed by a stream of burlesque bump-and-grind 'dancers' who happened to be passing the studio door and needed a quick fifty bucks. I've got to say it; erotic dancing wasn't very erotic in the early 60s. At best it resembled badly done copies of the 'exotic' dances that inflamed the passions of actors playing Genghis Khan and various Roman Emperors in the sword and sandal epics of the fifties*, all arm waving and the odd 'oriental' head wiggle, but performed here wearing only a G-string and a wig; at worst it was"I'll just jog about making it up as I go along and throw in a couple of clumsy arabesques - to make it look arty - and shoogle my tits". The acts - and this movie was no more than a series of these girls shaking their bits - varied from the bored repetition of a nightly chore, to the cringingly inept (one girl was so embarrassingly clumsy and timid it felt shameful watching her), to the frankly weird - one girl's entire routine consisted of leaning forward and jiggling her right leg. This made her boobs bounce about like they were having epileptic fits - which she did for about 5 minutes of screen time. Okay... Yup... Next? After a while, bored, and thinking I didn't care if I never saw another boob again in my life (sic!), I checked the elapsed running time - 25 minutes. A long night.

      *"Have that one washed and brought to my tent!"

    6. Aurora ( 1998 ) - micro-budget SF movie which played like Scott of the Antarctic meets Ice Cold in Alex on an alien planet, with next to no plot, SFX that had been done on a home PC, and some terrible direction in places - the director had no concept of the 'line of action' and dropped some real clangers - but it's better than any of the movies I've never made. Just. It was refreshing though to see a low budget SF film that didn't head off in the usual easy crowd pleasing body count slasher horror monster direction, there are only two deaths in this movie - one off screen and both are credible and not gratuitous. Most of the time is spent watching people walking across desert terrain or sitting in a tent.

    7. The Last Patrol (2000) - Dolf Lungren in Mad Max mode. Odd.

    8. Baron Prásil (aka The Fabulous Baron Munchausen 1961) - A wonderful Film. The copy I have is in Czech with Spanish subtitles but it doesn't matter. The visuals tell the story and are so stunning they don't really need any words - what few words there are are voice-over narration - (my good friend Mr. Bali Hai has a few on his Flickr photostream here). There isn't a bum frame in this whole movie.

    9. Planeta Bur (1962) - Russian SF. Finally I get to see the original. I have previously seen two American 'versions' of this movie. Roger Corman got lots of mileage out of this one when he bought the US rights, releasing it as Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet in 1965 with the only female member of the first manned expedition to Venus edited out and Faith Domergue and Basil Rathbone edited in as replacements. Then, three years later in 1968, they in turn were edited out and a new sub-plot was added with Mamie Van Doren and sundry other busty young women added in the roles of Venusian mermaids (with some pretty obvious Californian Beach Bunny tan lines in inappropriate places if I remember rightly - I notice these things). The film was re-released as Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, the mermaid scenes were directed by Peter Bogdonavich. Like all Soviet SF that I've seen it's slow, contemplative, looks great, and what it lacks in plot and action makes up for in optimism and sheer 'otherness'. Not sure what I mean by 'otherness', but I like it.

      Look at me, I'm dancin'! I'm Dancin'!
      Basil Rathbone

    10. THX 1138 - The not 'New Improved, All Singing All Dancing, Now With Added Special Effects!' Director's Cut that came out a few years ago, but the original 1971 cut* which confirmed some suspicions I had that all the buggering about and adding special effects did nothing much to improve things, but also confounded me slightly by showing that I had in some parts misremembered the movie. I had always though that, without exception, everyone wore white, and that the coloured clothing occasionally to be seen in the re-edit (hereinafter to be known as THX 1139) was another of Lucas' post hoc buggering abouts. I was wrong. There are brief moments where red and pink clothed extras are seen wandering about. It's a minor detail I know but one that whipped the carpet from under one of my set-piece fulminations about dicking about with perfectly very good movies for no real reason.

      The original trailer that came on the same disc is incredibly brightly coloured. The marketing people obviously thought they would have trouble marketing something so starkly white and abstract and managed to make the movie look more like a contemporary action thriller by using differently colour-corrected footage. (God, I'm such a nerd!)

      *Not strictly true. Apparently (according to IMDb) In the original release the movie includes a one minute clip from Things to Come (1936) before the opening credits. When re-released in the late-1970s this clip was replaced by a clip from the serial Buck Rogers (1939). So I just watched the late-1970s re-released version. (THX 1138½?)

    11. Aquamarine (2006) - it had a mermaid in it; the girls were happy. I spent most of my time trying to work out why I was convinced it had been filmed in Australia (the film was set in Florida) and wondering how many times our lead actresses were going to do the 'Well, d'uh/did she just say that?' confused smile thing. Answers: Because it was, and lots.

    12. The Chronicles of Riddick (2006) - okay, It's time to take David Twohy's toy box away from him. Back in the days when he had no money to throw shitloads of SFX at the screen he used to make, not perfect, but interesting SF movies like Timescape and The Arrival then he made Pitch Black... and there's another one on the way.

    13. Moon (2009) - now this is what low budget SF film making can be! Character and plot driven with essentially one set, one actor and a good script - that made sense! (Pick me up off the floor!) Director Duncan Jones, in one of the extras on the DVD, mentions paying homage to Silent Running, 2001, Alien, and Solyaris (as we are now supposed to call it after the Soderberg remake colonised the name 'Solaris') and, bored as I am with the modern movies makers seemingly incessant need to homage everything they've ever watched, I'm more than happy to see someone returning to that kind of solid, 'grown up' Science Fiction school of film.

    14. Strawberry Blonde (1941) - one of my all time favourite feelgood movies. Starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland (who never looked more gorgeous than in this film), Rita Hayworth, Alan Hale, Jack Carson, and George Tobias, it's a slight piece of fluff written by the brothers Epstein (who wrote Casablanca the next year), directed by Raoul Walsh (who had just made High Sierra), and photographed by the great James Wong Howe. Another Warner Brothers production line movie that worked. It appears never to have been released on DVD in this country and used VHS copies on Amazon start at £27.25!

    15. 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) - what a soulless piece of shit! A real paint by numbers dumb dumb movie. Basically what happens is the world is doomed, and it stays doomed right up to a couple of minutes before the end of the movie when the rampaging intergalactic monster about to devour the planet just explodes and goes away because somebody does something unexplained for motives that aren't clear. The End. What!? All the characters (the heroes especially) are arseholes and played with such an amazing lack of enthusiasm it was almost painful to watch. I wonder if anyone on this movie woke up in the mornings and thought "Woohooo! We're making a movie!"? I doubt it. The only thing I can find positive to say about it is that it was better than the first one.

    16. Critters 2: The Main Course ( 1988 ) - and before David Twohy made not perfect but interesting SF movies like Timescape and The Arrival he scripted drive-in fodder like this. A couple of of the gags made me laugh but half an hour later I couldn't tell you anything about either of them. Fortunately he did write in one of the vital SF movie ingredients - a large breasted semi-naked woman with a big ray gun - kept me amused anyway.

      Rural Space Bimbo
      Like I wasn't going to....

    17. Neon City (1991) - Aha! I see how this one happened: one day the director suddenly didn't have a brilliant idea and went and filmed it. What ended up on the screen was Stagecoach done a la Mad Max. The post-apocalyptic overland bus to Neon City, populated with a set of stock characters, is attacked by Indians or mutant biker stuntmen or something. Whoever the baddies were, they were very anonymous and very easily disposed of. The tensions on the bus were not very tense and it was all very dull really. A very long 99 minutes. Not quite boring exactly but not as interesting as the people who made it thought it was.

    18. Azur et Asmar (2006) - plodding (but pretty) animated fairy tale of love, adventure, and well-meaning heavy handed messages about racial tolerance. Lots of well-meaning heavy handed messages about racial tolerance. So many in fact that somewhere about half way through I was getting urges to go out and kick an Arab to make them stop.

    19. How to Train Your Dragon (2010) - Great fun. Glad to see that someone in Dreamworks has finally had the courage to make a kids movie without all the referencing and homaging, and just have enough confidence in the material and the audience. The biggest thrills for me though was that I was watching it in a real cinema and I was watching it with both my daughters. A real Dad moment.

    20. Ghost Rider (2007) - Nicolas Cage IS the Ghost Rider - stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze who gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante, fighting power hungry Blackheart, the son of the devil himself. Back in the days when I read comics I always thought Ghost Rider was pretty crap. Even the presence of Sam Elliot doing his usually wonderful Western Narrator shtick fails to save the movie version from being pretty crap too. I haven't seen many Nicolas Cage films. Does he always do a lot of pointing? He seemed to spend half the time in this movie doing Elvis pointing at things.

    21. Species 2 ( 1998 ) - what a Piece. Of. Shit. It made the first one look good. Seriously, this made Species look like a solid, well-crafted, race against time thriller. Species 2 was just an exploitative gory mess. Next! (At least number 3 doesn't have Mumbling Michael Madeson in it.) This one (2) does add an interesting and bizarre addition to the list of seemingly innocuous substances that will destroy rampaging aliens (Triffids dissolving in sea water etc.). The aliens in this series have a violent allergy to the DNA of people carrying the gene for Cycle Cell Anaemia (or even 'Sickle Cell Anaemia' - damn spellchecker). So, in the climax to this bloody mess, the hero plunges a pitchfork into the leg of the only black character and then jabs it into the alien - which promptly expires with a lot of screaming and thrashing about. Like I said, a piece of shit.

      The best bits

    22. Project Shadowchaser (aka Shadowchaser 1992) - It's Die Hard with a killer android! Plodding bore with more "Oh for heaven's sake! Who wrote this crap?" moments than seven or eight of your standard averagely bad movies. Project Shadowchaser spawned three sequels. The two I have seen (3 & 4) have nothing to do with the first one, apart from having the same actor (Frank Zagarino) play an emotionless killer android. I have no idea what else he can do but he is very good at playing an emotionless killer android. Very good at turning his head 90º really fast without blinking. It's a talent.

    23. A Little Princess (1995) - (again). I cried (again).

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