Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sorry, but after two or even three almost real posts it's time for: (Fanfare please...)

The relatively short list of every film I watched in October.
  1. Beat (2000) - various progenitors of the 'beat movement' are imitated by various actors and the camera is pointed at them while they do so. I've never understood what made the the Beats so great; they've always come over to me like a bunch of self-obsessed pretentious druggy wankers but I guess their timing was right. I didn't come away from this film with my opinions changed or impressed in any way by the telling of the tale. Quite often you can see a film about characters you hate but still admire or enjoy the way the film is made. The music was nicely understated and whoever did the colour timing was good but other than that I was bored rigid.

  2. Daybreakers (2009) - A futuristic vampire flick which does that good old SF trick of saying "What if...?" and then riffing on it. This "What if...?" must have been something along the lines of, "What if the vampires in Matheson's 'I am Legion' had won?".* So - we get a nocturnal world which is pretty much the same as the modern world only run by vampires - with an ever dwindling supply of humans to feed from. Market forces come into play. Human blood prices skyrocket - cue cardboard cutout evil corporation blood farmers. (In this case the corporation really is evil 'cos it's run by Sam Neill who, since he was the Antichrist in Damien III: The Final Conflict, can play on-screen evil with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back - and he's a fucking vampire. An evil vampire corporation run by someone with Antichrist luggage; You don't get any more evil than this.) Vampire society is falling to pieces. One man holds out a possible hope for the future. Human-loving vampire scientist Ethan Hawke (who, since he played Vincent Freeman in Gattica can play lone sympathetic outsiders in a futuristic evil corporation with with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back). Unfortunately his formula for synthetic blood makes (vampire) people's heads explode. He makes contact with the human underground, who sense his inner decency and together they discover a blinder of a plot twist out of the arse cure, and after the usual amount of gun play, exploding vampires, and evil corporate suit types being dismembered in lifts, the heroes ride off into the sunrise with a voice over that suddenly makes the whole thing look like a shoddy 80s TV movie of the week pilot. Which is a pity because there was some interesting "What iffery" going on in the background. Some of the follow on logic that comes from having a society of vampires was pretty well worked out and fun. Trouble is the story it was there to support wasn't good enough to justify the effort. A nice try though.

    * ...oh poo, I just remembered. They did win, didn't they? (At least they did in the original book.)

  3. America Brown (2004) - an interesting buy from the Poundshop this one. Sometimes they have real films in there. Films you've never heard of right enough, full of people who you don't recognise but sometimes there's a goody in all the crappy, no-budget horror schlock.

    America Brown is a first (and so far only) feature from writer director Paul Black. It's a story of a young football player suffering a crisis of guilt and self-doubt who escapes Texas for a while to track down his childhood football hero (now a priest in New York). The story isn't complicated and the film is slow, takes its time, is never hurried but is never boring. I'm keeping hold of this one though for one superbly well-judged moment of nothing happening on the screen which I thought was wonderful. Towards the end of the film our hero is leaving New York. He says goodbye to the three friends he has made. And then descends the steps into the subway and out of our sight off screen. We see the three friends looking down after him. It holds on them looking. And holds. And holds. And then one says. "I wish I could do that." All the time we watch the friends we expect a cut. A cut to an angle from their POV (or near enough) of the boy leaving maybe stopping and turning, a final wave before he's gone? We don't get it. We wait but it doesn't happen. We wait just like the characters we're watching are waiting. He doesn't turn around. He just walks out of their sight. "I wish I could do that." It was a lovely bit of film making. Loved it. (And a nice counterpoint to the fact that when the two characters met they bumped into each other in the street and then both, taken with what they see, looked back at each other.)

    I wonder why I have suddenly started talking about films in the first person plural? I've obviously been reading far too many books of film criticism recently. Laocoon!)

  4. Thunderpants (2002) with the kids - and not for the first time. I love this film. A good old-fashioned family film about an 11 year old boy with uncontrollable flatulence. I really don't know why Disney didn't pick this one up because it's a real 'follow your heart' story. A young boy surmounts all the obstacles placed behind him to find his gift and achieve his dream - with fart jokes, (lots of fart jokes) it also has ludicrous opera singing scenes with the hero 'singing the high bits with my arse', a kid facing a firing squad, ritual humiliation, more fart jokes, and some crackingly knowing OTT performances by well kent faces - before climaxing in the launch of a shuttle rescue mission - powered by a tube stuck up our hero's bum.

    I find it hilarious. (Not a word I use lightly.) And I can thoroughly recommend it to all. If nothing else for the great weird design elements which mash -up an odd, never-really-happened, British early sixties (where the only vehicles on the streets are Minis and everything is various shades of bottle green) and a high-tech modern setting with an international space station and space shuttles. It's the kind of visual cognitive dissonance that I like.

    And it's got fart jokes.

  5. The Illusionist (2006) - I enjoyed that. Not sure it holds up plot wise (were we really expected to believe that the straw stables in the royal hunting lodge was unchanged for the several months between the night of the incident and the discovery of the locket?) but a good watch.

  6. The Matrix (1999). I first saw this when it first came out and I thought it was a pile of vastly overrated crap. Now, many years later and having watched many more much worse movies since, I thought it might be worth giving it another try.

    I still think it's crap.

    Actually the first few minutes are okay I like the movie up till the point where Maurice Fishbourne does the big reveal and explains what it's all about. The whole 'we are just batteries' bit just pushes a big red 'Oh Fuck Off!' button in my head. I persevered though and watched the eye candy but the bit that really made me laugh out loud was the moment when Carrie-Ann Moss' character brings our hero back from the dead with a kiss. Oh, come on! What!?!? Somehow we managed to get from a semi-decent looking, what is going on? SF distopia into a la-la Disney world where dead people are bought back from the dead with a whisper of love. I expected her to start singing and bluebirds to join in the chorus. This sort of thing is fine in fairy tales. Makes sense in fairy tales, part of the fairy tales rule book that is but in a 'science fiction ' film? Pants!.


    I realized it did make sense! Think about it. For the first umpty-x years of his life in The Matrix Reeves' character was a computer programmer. He lives alone in a room with computers. He's a hacker. He's a nerd. A social misfit. Now, just at the moment he's popping his clogs, a female woman of the opposite sex finally comes on to him? This is it! He might get sex! "Fuck this being dead lark," he's thinking with the last firing neurons in his head, "I might get to do sex - with someone else in the room! I'm going back!"

  7. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - more of the same but with more slo-mo and Keanu Reeves wearing a cassock. And a real dubious morality which (for all the fanboy knicker-wetting about how deep and philosophical these films are) boils down to us being asked to root for religious fundamental terrorists as they kill vast numbers of innocent bystanders, blow up power stations, and similar delights.

  8. Altered States (1980) - given that it is directed by one of my least favourite directors, Ken Russell whose arty 'boundary pushing' just comes over as cheap and puerile self-indulgent wank to me, and that it starred one of my least favourite Hollywood actors, the plank of wood incarnate William Hurt, I enjoyed this a lot more that I expected. I came to scoff but I came away slightly impressed. Partially I think because Russell's throw-everything-at-the-screen-at-once, wacky, let's offend the Christians imaginary is largely confined to sequences where it actually makes some sense (ie one character's subjective drug-induced hallucinations) and Hurt's character is the sort of repressed unemotional lump that perfectly suits his repressed, clenched acting style.

  9. Transylvania 6-5000 (1985) - Shot in 30 days in Yugoslavia. A 'comedy horror' which wastes its pretty good cast on one lame gag after another. The last half hour is just painful to watch. Gina Davis was fun for the few minutes she was on but everyone else was either going through the motions or hamming it up horribly. The script stank. Not even old reliable Jeffrey Jones could rescue this - and he made bits of Howard the Duck watchable.

  10. They Wait (2007) - above average horror flick which, though serving up nothing particularly new, served it up more than competently and with a few genuine 'Made ya jump!' moments along the way. Sort of like Poltergeist with a Chinese slant. Ghosts, not gore to the front here with many of the special effects being done in camera and not with a truckload of CGI in post. I like stuff like that, moments where someone has thought through an on-screen gag to the point where it's all done with the actors and the camera; one character stepping to one side to reveal there's someone standing behind them - when you know there can't be anyone there because of what you just saw in the previous shot. That sort of thing. I like that sort of thing. I much prefer that sort of thing which is smart, and thought about, than all the 'body parts flying through the windows and incommoding the passers by' stuff. Don't need to see that. That's easy. Scare me witless with an attractive girl standing motionless on the pavement, staring fixedly at a doorway? that's clever.

  11. Arsenic and Old Lace - An all-time favourite. I'll be saying "Bon voyage!" in a Peter Lorre voice every time I leave a room for weeks now.

  12. Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) - a good way to commission BIG SCREEN Film and Pizza (but Occasionally Onigiri) family film night. As usual with kid's films I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting.

  13. King Kong (1933) - just to test if the new digital projector does black and white and 3:4. It does. Great film. Total cobblers but great fun.

  14. Art School Confidential (2006) - Damn. One of those films I really really wanted to like a lot more than I did. Being the son of an Art College lecturer, and often spending great chunks of my holidays in the art school studios as Dad worked on sculptures. And having then gone on to be an art student myself, I was really impressed by the feel and the art direction here. They got the ambience and the look just right. It was horribly, accurately, grotesque without having to exaggerate anything. Some great laugh out loud lines too:


    How long have you been painting triangles?

    Professor Sandiford:

    I was one of the first.


    Professor Sandiford:

    Now Eno, why haven't you

    been doing the assignments?


    Frankly, I find them constricting and

    largely irrelevant. My work has nothing

    to with form or light or colour, but

    with questioning the nature of

    aesthetic experience.

    Professor Sandiford:

    I'll buy that.

    Being two of my favourites. And I have forgiven John Malkovich for doing the shit Mutant Chronicles which is the last thing I saw him in. But in the end the whole serial murder mystery bit just didn't work for me and felt tacked on to make it sell-able to a studio.

    On the double-plus good side we get to see Sophia Myles naked, which, sad old fart that I am, I think would go a long way to rescue any movie. Am I getting old? because I was surprised to find that lines like "We used to bump cunts." are rated 15. When I was 15 I didn't know what a cunt was! let alone that a certain type of lady liked to bump theirs with other ladies. Nice to know some things have improved over the last 40 years.

  15. House of the Black Death (aka Blood of the Man Beast, Blood of the Man Devil - 1965) - a wonderfully incoherent pile of poo which just makes no sense. At all. None. I had no idea for its entire 89 minute run time what was supposed to be going on. As far as I could make out it had something to do with Lon Chaney Jr trying to take over power from John Carradine by running a coven and summonsing up a demon to get his hands on some sort of magical book. Carradine's son turns into a werewolf. A visiting doctor has a sliver of the Holy Grail in a crucifix. The film also has large-breasted British 50s sex bomb Sabrina belly dancing in a graveyard FOR NO APPARENT REASON WHATSOEVER. (Other than the obvious, her previous screen credit was as 'Virginia' in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's. If I remember rightly all her character did was sit there filling a tight-jumper with which she then tried to knock over the camera). There were great jumps in the narrative where a central character locked in a room not only transforms into a werewolf off-screen but then dies between one shot and another without any reason being given. Another pair of characters return from somewhere unexplained having seen something that completely turns one of their world views upside-down. (We never find out what they saw.) A character who, while guiding two others, says: "I'm only allowed to take you this far!" before abandoning them - only to reappear at their destination and then offer to guide them somewhere (else?). (They might have got away with this drastic bit of machete editing if the character in question hadn't been the only person in the entire film wearing a very identifiable black and white spotted shirt.) Another fine mess from Jerry Warren, the man who bought you Teenage Zombies, The Incredible Petrified World, and The Wild World of Batwoman - all of which I have seen at least twice and all of which, deliriously awful films that they are, are vastly better than this. To be fair, he was bought in at the last minute to 'rescue' the film which had been made by someone else. But how bad does a film have to be before you bring in Jerry Warren to rescue it?

  16. Caged Heat (1974) - Jonathan 'Silence of the Lambs' Demme's first feature and a delightfully weird little movie it is too. It sets up all the typical Women in Prison clich├ęs and then ignores them (apart from extended shower scenes. This was a Corman production it was probably in Demme's contract that there had to be X number of tits on screen taking up Y number of minutes of running time - on reflection that's probably all there was in his contract. Give us ten minutes of tits and you can do what you want with the rest of it, so long as it's in colour and in focus.) So lots of tits. Sadistic guards, pervert doctor, dream sequences, sexually repressed governor, cartoon ultra-violence, lots of tits, a weird post-hippy revolutionary vibe, and a terrific score by John Cale complementing some very weird and fun sound design. Loved it. (And not just for the tits.)

  17. Matrix Revolutions (2003) - well that's them watched. God I was bored. Actually it started off disappointingly by not opening with Laurence Fishburne saying: "Previously, in the Matrix..." followed by one of those little two minute rapidly edited highlights of the previous films to bring you up to speed. You see, the previous film, Matrix Rides Again, had ended on an semi-cliffhanger and, even though I only watched it a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what was going on at the start of this one. Towards the end of number three however, I was so bored I suddenly realised I was checking my mail on my phone. I NEVER check my mail while I'm watching a film, 99.9¼ of the time, no matter how awful it is, I watch the film. I may occasionally fall asleep while watching a film. I don't want to fall asleep, I want enjoy the movie, but sometimes... duh... wha? oh crap I fell aslee... who's he...? ...end credits? wha...? I fell asleep again... Okay... time for bed, try this one again tomorrow.

    If I just can't watch it, if it is so unbearable that even I can't stomach it, I turn it off. And even then I'm trying to work out why I'm not liking it enough to do that.

    At some point during Matrix Revolutions I became so uninvolved with the film that I forgot I was watching it. It just faded from my mind and became part of the background. Once I'd realised what had happened I stopped the film and went back a couple of chapters and sat on my hands for the rest of it. I wonder now why I bothered.

    (Incidentally if you type "ascii code page" into IMDb's search engine as I just accidentally did while trying to how to do the ¼ thing up there, the first hit it returns is All Nude Page 3 Models: Eve Vorley and Charmaine Sinclair (1997) (V) How? Why? What!?)

  18. Megamind (2010) - Friday night family film of some brilliance.

  19. Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959) - a total joy.

  20. Dune (1984) The David Lynch one (and not for the first time so I have no excuse) which, in a weird and grudging way, I quite like for the first half its run time. The second half things just get absurdly crammed in as Lynch runs out of ways to get characters to tell each other what was going on and he just shoves several hundred pages of densely plotted book into three quarters of an hour of screen time and it gets farcical. Afterwards, in a fit of pure masochism, I watched great chunks of the TV edit from which Lynch had his name removed. I don't blame him. His edit was weird and flawed but strangely interesting in places. (Like most of his films, I suppose.) The TV edit is just cheap and tacky.

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