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.
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