Saturday, January 21, 2012

While I'm at it (see my earlier post today) here's 3 month's worth of books which gets me up to date (ish). Real posting will resume soon.

  1. The Dinosaur Hunters - Deborah Cadbury.

  2. Modesty Blaise - Peter O'Donnel. I'm sad to say, camp trash fan that I am, that I have never seen the Joseph Losey film version with Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp. This books turns out to be a novelization of a script that wasn't used. Dated, but trash crime/spy action fun with a bit more than the usual amount of character development.

  3. Honey West: This Girl for Hire - G G Fickling. My scheme to spend September reading books with strong female protagonists wearing black and carrying a gun on the front cover comes to a grinding halt with this dull, badly written piece of 'tec drek. Girl private eye Honey West wanders around loosing her bra a lot and blunders around a Hollywood populated by six identical people who all hate each others guts and all have feeble excuses (and plenty of coincidence laden opportunities) to see every one of the others dead. I didn't finish it.

  4. The Dylis Powell Film Reader - Ed. Christopher Cook. Collected reviews and other writings from one of the doyennes of grown-up British film Criticism. Enjoyable stuff. As a book, however, it had one major annoyance. Each section - some only a couple of pages long - was dated at the end of the piece. Personally I would have preferred the date at the start of the article so I knew whether she was talking about a film she had just seen for the first time in 1949, or coming back to thirty years later. I never knew if I was reading an initial response, or a mature consideration. I took to reading with a pencil in hand, flipping to the end of the next article, then writing the date I found at the end in at the start so I don't have to wonder next time I read / look something up in it. It pained me every time. I hate writing in books.

  5. The Mad Old Ads - Dick Sutphen

  6. Scrivener's Moon - Philip Reeve.

  7. The Fortunes of Captain Blood - Rafael Sabatini. Swashbuckling nonsense from 1936 in which Captain Blood walks through six 'adventures' aided by a lot of luck, buckets of coincidence, and a motley assortment of minor characters who say things like, "Od's blood! He speaks aright!"


  1. Tyranopolis (aka Future Glitter) - A E van Vogt. Another late (1973) bonkers piece of van Vogtiness which starts with the words:
    Professor Dun Higenroth read the offical letter with pursed lips:
    "...Your good fortune to have won the Accolade for your field... Hence, your decapitation on behalf of your students in the advanced educational program... will take place on Patriotic Day. Congratulations..."
    There was more, but that was the gist.
    ...and ends with an incidental character everyone had forgotten about from midway through the book suddenly reappearing on the last page and decapitating the villain for no apparent reason. In between there is the usual van Vogtian confusion of false starts, unexplained endings, and 'what the hell is going on?' middles.

  2. The Winds of Gath - E C Tubb. The first of the 30+ book thud and blunder Dumarest Saga.

  3. The Iron and the Anger - Francis S Rayer. A forgotten novel by a forgotten author. Though with prose like this at his fingertips you have to wonder why:
    Kyrie Michaelson stood by the wide workshop door. "Explain what this crystal you call mensite is and what it does," he urged gravely. His brows jutted bushily. He was a large man and his wide face was concentrated somberly.
    dang it must have been great being an SF writer in the glory days of pulp.

  4. The Hell of it All - Charlie Booker. Either I have overdosed on Charlie Booker or (more likely) I am Charlie Booker. many of his fulminations and 'misanthropic scribblings' strike me as perfectly reasonable and sensible.

  5. Raven 5: A time of Dying - the fifth and final novel in the Raven Swordmistress of Chaos books written by the tag team of Robert Holdstock and Angus Wells. This one was written by Wells and is pretty dire. Stuffed to the gunwales with padding: detailed page-filling descriptions of rooms which the characters immediately leave never to return - that sort of thing. Expanding a paper thin plot: Five pages of plotless, "I'll tell you a tale", framing device. Ravening Beast terrorises a city. Ravening Beast captures Raven and takes her to another realm. Secondary hero companion rescues Raven who destroys Ravening Beast in the final pages. Two more pages of pointless framing device.

  6. Barrier 346 - Karl Zeigfreid (R L Fanthorpe) A long time since I have read a Badger Book. They haven't improved while I wasn't looking at them.
  1. 101 Movies to Avoid: The Most Overrated Films Ever - Alan Smithee. Not bad little, read in one sitting, list book by someone who I would guess is in the business but has chosen to hide behind the pen name Alan Smithee, a name used by Hollywood directors for years when they didn't want their name to appear on the final product.

  2. The Face on the Cutting Room Floor - Cameron McCabe. A really really odd detective novel which, after the story finishes on page 248 with the narrator/murderer about to be in turn murdered by the policeman in the case, there is a 50 page epilogue penned by one of the characters in the book explaining in laborious lit crit detail why what you have just read is all rubbish. At which point the original narrator comes back from the dead for a bit, and after it has been explained that everyone else in the book was in fact the lone murderer, it only remains for narrator of the epilogue to shoot someone dead in the last three words of the book. Everyone did it. Very very odd indeed.

  3. Projections 12 - Var. Probably the least interesting of the Projections series I have read so far in that it spends a lot of its length talking about Film Schools which don't really interest me. Not the book's fault, mine. I like this series. It's ostensibly written by film makers for film makers though I suspect their readership is mostly made up of fanboys like me who like to think we are listening in on part the creative process. That's the trouble with eavesdropping, sometimes the conversations you listen to are a tad dull.

  4. F.A.T.E. No 6 Settetee Alert! - by Greogory Kern. 'Adventures of Captain Kennedy Super-hero of the Spaceways.' Total rubbish with a cliffhanger '"Move and you die!' said a voice." endings to every chapter and a character so prescient he gets his people to investigate an evil corporation even though no one (his informant or the author) has mentioned their existence until he orders his minions into action.

  5. Witchcraft Through the Ages: The Story of Haxan, the World's Strangest Film, and the Man Who Made It - Jack Stevenson interesting little read. Could have done with a better editor though; some of the sentence structures were very odd.

  6. The Ice Schooner - Michael Moorcock. I consumed huge numbers of Moorcock's books when I was a lad. I remember this one as being better than most of his Sciencey Sword and Fantasy nonsense. A Heart of Darkness type journey through madness and obsession to an mythic goal set in a post holocaustian ice-age world. Moby Dick on ice. And it was all right too, right up until the last couple of chapters when the destination is reached and great gobbits of exposition are thrown at the reader to explain everything and finish the book quickly. Pity.

  7. The Black Corridor - Michael Moorcock. Written in the same year as The Ice Schooner (and at least one other novel - he was prolific was Mr Moorcock) this is a straight SF novel about loneliness and madness and isolation and it works. I read it one sitting. Hooked.

  8. The Distant Suns - Michael Moorcock. Now here's the other side of Moorcock, infantile trash which I hope was written for the juvenile market. A plot Hugo Gernsback would have dismissed as simplistic, and characters and situations which wouldn't strain the readers of Enid Blyton. According to the introduction it was co-written with Jim Cawthorn - who I remember as an illustrator more than an author. I would guess they wrote alternate chapters and left each other with cliffhangers to resolve. Like this from chapter 23. Our hero has just found his wife (previously presumed eaten by troglodytes) in a camp of the primitive tribes-people who have just captured him:
    Gasping, he halted before her staring into the face he knew better than any other in his personal universe. The familiar wide green eyes looked calmly back at him without any sign of recognition. "Cathy!" he cried, "My God, what have they done to you?"
    A brief chapter in some parallel action later he touches her face tenderly and all her memories instantly flood back.
    Note in margin of original manuscript:
    Ha! You have to do better than that, Jim.
    Hard to believe that this is the same author as The Black Corridor and harder to see why it was ever reprinted. (Even harder to fathom is why I just bought another copy having forgotten I'd just read it.)
  1. Movies From the Mansion - George Perry. Gushy, well illustrated history of the first 50 years of Pinewood studios.

  2. Critical Threshold - Brian M Stableford

  3. Coraline - Neil Gaiman. Read to the kids. Number one daughter says 'it's better than the film' and it's a joy to read aloud.

  4. The Drums of Dracula - Robert Lory. A New English Library Piece of shit from 1976 full of the most gloriously godawful writing:
    The Snake now had wound its way upwards to Euleila's thigh, a thigh which was trembling in almost volatile shudders as the snake's head rose even higher.
    'Volatile shudders' wow! Actually I feel a bit sorry for Euleila a 'beautiful black woman' with a 'primitive mind' who, for the sin of being easily duped by our musclebound hero, gets stripped naked, chained to a wall, gang-raped, almost sacrificed on a voodoo altar (see above) then gets turned into a vampire before finally getting staked through the heart on the last page.
    When the door of the ramshackle house had closed behind the old black woman, an almost silent pair of wings disturbed the air across the way. they had descended from a height not all that great, but so swiftly that, even had there been eyes to see their movement, they would have had to be especially alert. A blink of the eyelids, and there would have been nothing to see.

    But there was no observer. If there had been, the wings would not have come downward. They would have waited until the pair of red eyes between them had satisfied themselves that the risk of detection was gone.

    For the space of four human heartbeats there was no sound in the street, no movement anywhere, including the darkest of the dark shadows between the two houses across the way from the door the old woman had entered. And then, suddenly, where there had been nothing, no one, there was.
    The Drums of Dracula

    Drums of Dracula is number five in a series of nine. I can't wait to find the rest.

  5. Excavating Kafka - James Hawes. A fascinating debunking of the Kafka myth (lonely, isolated, unknown, tormented, persecuted Jewish genius) that places him in (and therefore his writing) in context. Turns out he was a well-liked son of a millionaire businessman father, and was well connected in literary circles. Kafka far from being an unknown was making a real name for himself before the minor inconvenience of the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire got in the way. The tormented bit may be true, but no more than any other middle-class sado-masochist of the day.

  6. Shadow and Light - Jonathan Rabb.

  7. The Planets - Dava Sobel. Easy to read, science lite, whistle stop tour around the solar system that, nevertheless, made me grind my teeth by using variably Fahrenheit, Centigrade, and Kelvin scales from chapter to chapter. So the Sun's core was X Kelvin, one planet's surface was Y Centigrade and another's was Z Fahrenheit. It's a personal hate of mine but if you're going to use a system of measurement, stick to it! She also sometimes used centemeters and sometimes miles and, at one point, miles and 'Roman miles' in one sentence without giving any way of comparing the two. Grrrrrr.

  8. The Master Weed by John Rackham

  9. The Master Weed (Another Adventure of the Space-Puppet) - John Rackham. Another oddity found in my attic. A 1954 'Tit-Bits Science Fiction Library' about the thrilling adventures of a Captain Video like space-ranger and his identical remote-controlable simulacrum. In this episode they thwart the evil plans of a mad scientist whose dastardly scheme to take over the planet Mars hinges upon everyone on the planet simultaneously smoking drugged cigarettes. So cunning is his plan that they all do just that! He would have got away with it too, if it hadn't been for our meddling hero who turned up at the fateful event as a robot. He had to pretend to be drugged until he could rescue the token semi-naked space bimbo which he did by skewering the villain to a control panel with a casually discarded screwdriver - and then electrocuting her head. They don't write them like this any more.

Oh No! It's a million and one films time! Just catching up. Here's November and December's traunch. I watched a few decent films. Highlights include finding several films never released on DVD and Meg Ryan naked.
The following list contains naughty words.

More photos, including those of
naked people, will be added later

  1. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) - Directed by Kenneth Branagh (which makes it Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was 'presented' (whatever that means) by Francis Ford Coppola who had, two years previously, made Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sometimes known as Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sadly - and I think they missed a trick here - they didn't go for broke and call this one Francis Ford Coppola's Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) - and what a pile of hysterically overwrought dog plops it is too. Full of jaw-dropping "you what?" moments. My favourite I think being the moment when Victor Frankenstein fulfils some fanboy notion of the writers when he cries out, mid-crisis, "we must reverse the polarity!"* The exploding Helena Bonham Carter was fun too. At the end of the film, unable to cope with the fact that her husband has chopped her head off and stitched it onto her childhood friend's body (and made a real pig's ear of her face while doing so) she smashes an oil lamp over her head then runs around the castle and everything bursts into flames - sometimes before she gets anywhere near them.

    Nothing happens slowly in this film. Everything is full-throttle all the way. It is not subtle. And nothing much makes any kind of sense. Where for instance does Victor get the gallons of human amniotic fluid he needs to create 'The Bride' - and when? One minute he's unpacking crates preparing to knock up a mate for his creature; the next minute he decides against it and gets married instead and, that night, having spent most of the day riding in the general direction of 'away', the miffed creature turns up out of nowhere and rips out his new bride's heart on their honeymoon bed. "Oh for fuck sake!" cries Victor (who in a weirdly semi-incestuous way has been waiting to shag Helena Bonham-Carter's character for years). He gathers up her body and moments later is back at his home where, in the couple of hours he's been away someone - probably pixies - has fitted out his lab, filled a copper swimming pool with the aforementioned amniotic fluid, and stocked up all the batteries with electric eels (sic).

    Amid all this hysterical bilge and lumbered with a face-full of rubber and a script made of wood, Robert DeNiro almost made the Creature work as a real character.

    *Disappointingly this is not true. On checking my facts (always a mistake) and watching it again, with the subtitles on this time, I find he actually said "reduce the polarity". Damn!

  2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998 ) - probably the most pointless film version of a book I have seen in years. It sticks closer than usual for Hollywood to the original book and relies on great chunks of voice over first person narration to tell the story. Too much. It's like listening to an abridged audio version of the book with moving pictures. Like some sort of drug fuelled Classics Illustrated comic. I was very disappointed.

  3. Rango (2011) - that was great! And Jonny Depp redeemed himself for last night's trudge.

  4. Troll 2 (1990) - Troll 2 is one of those legendarily bad movies that has developed a 'cult' following. I know a lot of films are labelled 'cult' but I think this one does deserve it. People organise screenings and chant along with the best bits, a documentary film, Best Worst Movie, was made in 2009 by the, now grown up, kid lead, reuniting the cast and exploring the sad world of film geeks and conventions.

    Troll 2, made by an Italian crew with American amateur 'actors', tells the everyday story of an All-American Family (and the ghost of the dead grandfather) having a house-swap vacation in the small town of Nilbog (geddit?). Niblog is populated entirely by shape-shifting vegetarian goblins who eat humans (sic) that pass through town by converting them into plants. The goblins (the word 'troll'' is never mentioned in the film so why it's called Troll 2 is never explained) are ruled over by a scenery chewing, eyeball rolling Gothic Queen who glories in the name 'Creedence Leonore Gielgud'. Her ancestors moved to Nilbog generations ago 'from Stonehenge' (double sic). The film is a total bollocks of a mess. It lurches from one flatly-paced, badly-acted underwritten, dodgily-photographed, hamfistedly directed, incomprehensible scene to another with no regard to any kind of continuity or usual story telling techniques. The film can't make its mind up what it wants to be, but the suposedly 'horror' elements are far funnier than the 'comic' moments which, for the most part, are totally baffling until the penny drops that they are supposed to be laugh points. The scene where the RV fills with popcorn during the 'sex scene' has to be one of the oddest.

    There's hardly a scene or shot (or gesture, or line) in this film that doesn't fail. It's all wrong. All of it. Every single shot. It even manages to screw up that old reliable weird little chill of the ball bouncing down the steps - when you know there's no one upstairs! Done right, as it was in The Changeling (1980), it can scare the bejesus out of the most cynical of movie watchers. Here it not only didn't make any sense - other than frightening the two people in the world for whom even the idea of a ball bouncing down a set of well lighted steps is terrifying, it wasn't shot well and was a pointless out-of-nowhere "what just happened?" moment which leads into one of the daftest, "even to deranged Italian film-makers it must be obvious this makes NO sense whatsoever" endings in 20th Century cinema.

    This one's a keeper...

  5. In the Cut (2003) ...this one isn't. I was driven to watch In the Cut by perversity (it's listed in my current non-fiction read, 101 Movies to Avoid: The Most Overrated Films Ever) and it was the first of many films mentioned in the book that I came across in my To Be Watched Pile. (Part of me really wants to alphabetize the 200 or so VHS tapes and DVDs in there but that way madness lies. I know it. But it's still tempting.) So, In the Cut. Shit film. Meg Ryan shows us her bits, and everyone who has ever seen ANY thriller movie in which the investigating cop has an affair with the heroine can chant-along-a-plot from there on in. Honestly, it's like the opening credits of Hanna-Barbera's Hong Kong Phooey*

    "Who is this psycho-serial killer? The hunky detective? NO!... Cornelius Webb the Gacy obsessed student? No way man!... Detective Ritchie Rodriguez the mild mannered hunky detective's partner? - could be!..."

    'Could be' my arse. It's ALWAYS the detective's partner. (That was a spoiler by the way.) Any flimsy credibility the plot may have started out with disappeared around the 45 minute mark when, after having hot and rumpy sex (Meg Ryan's bits, people!), our heroine and our detective have a little confessional session in which he tells her about how he lost his cherry, and she mentions the fact that he had seen her before (as he suspected), she watched him getting a blow job at the place and time where the killer's last victim was last seen. On hearing this the killer obsessed 'tec half-heartedly asks her a couple of questions, and after establishing that she has not only seen the victim - and almost certainly the killer - on the night of the murder, looks at his watch says 'I gotta go' and leaves. No reason. He just leaves. He leaves because the plot would have fallen on its stupid fat face if he had stayed in the room another second. One more question and the detective would have realised the only other person with the small (but distinctive enough to be seen across a room too dark to make out people's faces) tattoo on the inside of their wrist was... da da daaaa!!!!! His Partner!

    At which point the movie would be over and we wouldn't be able to spend the next hour looking at Meg Ryan's bits, while our arses went numb wondering just how and why her character would even consider having sex with the piece of shit, emotionally stunted, moron detective. (In order to make this plot point even vaguely plausible the script has to drag in Kevin Bacon to broad-brushstoke in a previous lover as a total twitching stalking cartoon fruitcake loon. It really is as ham-fisted as that.)

    And talking of ham-fisted, the only other heterosexual male (ie potential killer) with talking words in this show is one of Ryan's character's students. He's obsessed by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy and turns in his assignments liberally splattered with red, blood-like fluids. (I don't know why he didn't just walk around with a red painted kipper nailed to his forehead.) And why is every male in this show desperate to get in dowdy frump English teacher's knickers in the first place? Apart from feeding the film's screamingly obvious misandrist 'feminist' agenda item that all men are sexual predators and would happily shag a fridge if it was warm and didn't move too fast. (This is in fact true, but most of us are a little more subtle about it than the knuckledraggers shambling about here.)

    I suspect - though I have no evidence - that the only reason this film got made (and the only reason people went to see it) was because Meg Ryan wanted to get away from her wholesome Nice Girl Next Door image and flashing her pubes in a serial killer flick seemed the way to go.

    It wasn't.

    I'm off to dig out all the other 'movies to avoid' in my pile....

    EDIT: (Christ, I wish I hadn't watched this film. It's now 20 or so hours later and I'm still replaying it in my head - and not just the tits bits - and finding things I hate about it.) It's an incredibly insulting film, believing the audience is so stupid it won't spot the thudding great grinding and whirring as the mechanical plot strips its gears (eg our detective walking out on the smoking gun witness as mentioned above), because it's dazzling us with beauty shots of Meg Ryan reading snippets of poetry and asking us to contemplate their significance and meaning. Err, I don't get it. Must be fucking art then. It's a fucking art movie innit? What a clever person Jane Campion is; tits and poetry, all that's missing is the subtitles.

    And just why did our sexually unsatisfied English teacher spend so long drawing a large lighthouse on the blackboard when her class were discussing To The Lighthouse. I think even inner-city New York kids know what a lighthouse looks like. But why did she then colour it in red? Is it possibly because a red light house looks a bit like AN ERECT PENIS????? and as the climax (sic) of the film takes place at a bright red lighthouse that looks like AN ERECT PENIS (just like the model of a bright red lighthouse that looks like AN ERECT PENIS on the killer's office desk) they had to drag in some foreshadowing somehow. I'll lay money the shot of that drawing is being used as a text book example of how not to do foreshadowing in film schools around the world.** You know, if Tony Scott had directed this film it would have been laughed off the screen and derided as sexploitative, career-wrecking shite; on the up side it might have had a car chase in it as padding instead of all the endless shots of city architecture and those lingering shots of American Flags which are non-American film-maker's shorthand for "I am holding up a mirror to your society! Gaze upon it and despair!"

    Crappy Foreshadowing

    I hate this film.

    *Geoffrey H Christ! There's a live action Hong Kong Phooey film in pre-production!
    ** To be scrupulously fair we don't actually see her do the drawing so it may be that the serial killer drew it before she arrived in the class. It's still shit though.

  6. Body Heat (1981) - My faith in the system is restored. No matter which way you slice it this is as near perfect a sweaty sexy noire as you are ever going to get. Every one in it is perfect (even, though it pains me to type this,William Hurt). The music is perfect. The pacing is spot on. There's not a bum note in the whole thing. This time of watching I was struck by the subtlety of the business meant to throw the audience off track. For instance, as our sleazy lawyer, Ned Racine, is arranging the body of his victim in the cellar, in a building he is about to torch - making it look like the victim died while committing arson - he carefully unwraps the body from the bloody plastic it has been wrapped in. (People don't usually commit arson wrapped in plastic bags.) He tosses the crumpled plastic into a corner. There is a shot of the plastic sheeting landing. For the next ten minutes I was convinced (and I have seen this film several times before) that this carelessly discarded plastic, which we had been carefully shown, was one of the "25 ways to fuck up" that our killer hadn't thought of. It wasn't. The victim's glasses which he always wore were not on the body. That was the killer's mistake. I had totally forgotten about them because of one simple shot of a plastic bag. Simple misdirection. The audience is looking for the mistake. Give them something that looks like one. Don't make a big thing of it, let them think "Aha! I spotted that." Let them have a few minutes of smug superiority and then have a character point out what they really should have noticed. Clever scriptwriting. Great editing. I love this film.

  7. Amazon Warrior ( 1998 ) in a post-apocalyptic America where everyone has clean hair and good teeth, and suspiciously well maintained fences can be seen in the background, Tara, last of the Amazons, is hired to guide two women through dangerous territory. Plodding rubbish with clumsy fight sequences, even clumsier dialogue, and a budget that must have been in in the low dozens. One sequence in particular, where the 'king' hires our heroine, looks like it was filmed round the edges of a Renaissance Fair, not at a Renaissance Fair, but round the edges. As in:

    "Quick, while no one is looking we can get all these costumed extras for free - yeah, well, they'll be standing with their backs to us watching something interesting happening out of sight of the camera - but they'll cost nothing!"

    Total bilge, starring the producer and a lot of actors who went on to appear in such classics of his such as Vampire Time Travelers. Some of the actresses got their norks out (I love that word) thus leading us to the conclusion that no matter what: fire, flood, famine, or the end of the world by all out nuclear heck, the plastic boob implant industry will be alive and well and operating somewhere in southern California. One of those films where you know the actors walking towards the screen have hit their marks and are going to start talking because they're suddenly where the reflectors are adding fill light to their faces.

  8. Brainstorm (1983) - Directed by Douglas Trumbull, Brainstorm starts out as a great little slow paced, thoughtful, hard SF film playing with ideas about new breakthrough technology, turns somehow into an evil corporation/military combine thriller, has an extended sequence of clumsy slapstick comedy before ending in a mystic, revelatory, light-show. It's a bit of a mess. An interesting one but a mess. It might have been a bit less of a mess if one of the stars, Natalie Wood, hadn't died in the middle of the shoot.

  9. Yojimbo (1961) - Akira Kurosawa. 'nuff said.

  10. The City of Ember ( 2008 ) - Friday Night with the kids. I enjoyed it more than I expected but it didn't make much sense in the end. The closed world civilisation which has forgotten its history and where no-one (apart from our heroes) questions the existence of a world beyond the city boundaries is a tired old Science Fiction trope - but done here with some nice set design. The inclusion of giant insects and moles (which are not apparently in the book) skews the whole film into making you think that the humans here have been miniturized in some way to survive the holocaust mentioned in the prologue sequence. (Which is another old SF idea see James Blish's 1952 story 'Surface Tension' for a good example). This is hinted at several times during the film obliquely (one of the old Mayors, whose portraits we see at one point, is called Podd which is as near as damn it the name of the father in the Borrowers books) or overtly. A character finds a piece of beetle and looks it up in a book. points at the picture and asks his father how they used to be so little when they aren't now? There's a carnivorous mole rampaging round the tunnels below the city eating people. Things like that. The fact that the heroes, when they finally make it to the surface, appear to be normal sized human beings is just confusing and unsatisfying.

  11. Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General (1968 ) - the 'Export Version' (ie more tits and violence). What a great film. I mean really horribly good.

  12. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - my annual watch of the ever-fascinating most famous contender for the best worst film ever.

  13. A Bizarre Love Triangle (aka Cheoleobtneun anaewa paramanjanhan nampyeon geurigo taekwon sonyeo 2002) My first foray into Korean film. Within a framing device set at a wedding on the moon sometime in the near future (with some very very dodgy special effects and costumes that push all the wrong campness buttons) a guest tells how the three parents of one of the grooms (sorry, just told you the socko twist ending) got together. This turns out to be a long story of teenage lesbian lust, under-age schoolgirl seduction, suicide by self-immolation, kick-boxing, burglary, babies dying on operating tables, fruit fucking and sundry other everyday Korean pastimes, culminating in one of the central characters having a life changing revelation as she shits herself in a public toilet. It was at this point - somewhere about the two hour mark (the film is only 93 minutes long) that it finally dawned on me that I was watching 'a comedy' and I was supposed to be finding all this stuff funny. I can see why it was in the pre-owned bin of my local Blockbuster for pennies. It's going back.

    Things I learned from this film:

    1. You can show men sniffing artificial vaginas, women holding huge rubbery double-ended dildos, and waving strangely gyrating life-size artificial penises around on screen and still get a cert 15 in the UK. (qv 'bumping cunts'.*)
    2. I do not understand Korean humour.

    * You know that moment that sometimes happens when you type something and think: "this may be the first time in the history of the English language that these three words have ever been placed together in quite that order"? I just had it. 'qv bumping cunts'. Not a phrase you see every day - but a great name for a band!

  14. Time and Tide (aka Shun liu Ni liu 2000) second Asian movie of the week (from Hong Kong this time) and the second Asian film to have a Lesbian getting pregnant after a one-night stand. Is this a common theme in Asian films? And why does everyone seem to steal cigarette lighters? I've watched 230 or so films so far this year; none have them have included scenes of cigarette lighter stealing until last night. The rest of the film was totally OTT Hong Kong Action nonsense which had me absolutely fascinated and totally lost in equal measure. I had no idea who anyone was or what was going on but everyone seemed to be having fun jumping out of seventh floor windows firing machine guns while talking on the phone to the person they were shooting at.

  15. Invasion From Inner Earth (1972) - I first watched this jaw droppingly tedious piece of drek 4 years ago. Every now and then, while raking through my increasingly huge pile of shite films, looking for something to watch, I come across it and think,"It can't be as bad as I remember it". Tonight I proved myself wrong. It is.

  16. Radioactive Dreams (1985) - A (possibly) not yet released on DVD piece of Big Box Video Trash from the glory days of Big Box Video Trash. Radioactive Dreams is the everyday story or two four year old boys left alone in a bomb shelter with nothing to read but hard-boiled detective fiction. They emerge 16 years later to a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of the usual MTV vibe post punk post Mad Max bestial types. This time the tribes were a little odder than the usual hairy biker types vs peaceful farmers, one tribe for instance was called The Disco Mutants and consisted of seven year boys wearing white suits who carried big hand guns and said 'fuck' a lot. In the end it all got very irritating with our two heroes looking more and more like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis wandering around an endless series of early MTV music videos. Videos from back in the days when they pretended to tell a moodily lit 'story' and didn't just fill the screen with jiggling well-tanned body bits. The film seemed very familiar somehow, though I'd never seen before. Only when I looked director Albert Pyun up on IMDb did it click. He also directed Alien in LA which was very similar in that it featured a lot of pointless wandering around in a MTV style Mad Maxiverse. Unusually for a 1980s PostApoc flick there were no noticeable displays of fingerless gloves - though there was at least one incidence of that other good old 80s PA Flick cliché, the burning oil drum.

  17. BASEketball ( 1998 ) - Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in a David Zucker film. Stupid, rude, crude, and very very funny.

  18. Vampire in Venice ( aka Nosferatu a Venezia 1988 ) - Another not yet released on DVD piece of treasure from my Freecycle haul of last week. A weirdly slow, decadent, Italian vampire flick that took four writers, and (depending on who you believe) up to five directors to get to the screen. Klaus Kinski gets to do his usual wild-eyed fruitloopery, grope two naked ladies, and walk slowly towards (and occasionally away from) the camera a lot. Christopher Plummer and Donald Pleasence appear in great chunks of what appears to be nearly, but not quite, the same film. And there are sequences of flamenco dancing vampire gypsies, priests being thrown out of upper storey windows and someone climbing up St Mark's Campanile then jumping off for no apparent reason (and getting caught in mid air by Klaus Kinski in a really crappy special effect). It sounds like a mess. And it is. The narrative lurches around all over the place, characters appear without introduction and then vanish without trace, but it's so oddly put together, and some of the photography and atmosphere is so beautiful, I was half convinced that if I kept watching it ought to make sense eventually. It didn't in the end but by then I was half convinced that it might make sense if I watched it again.

    Which I will do.

    One day.

  19. The Naked Cage (1986) - A Cannon Films 'Women in Prison' piece of exploitation crap. The usual dutiful parade of all the clichés of the Women in Prison exploitation crap genre, you know, innocent blonde victim who can't act thown into a gaol, where no one wears a bra, run by a sadistic lesbian warden. Cue lots of cat fights, a bit of rape an obligatory shower scene. All topped off with a contrived happy ending. Even by the low standards of the genre this was a shoddy, and tedious, piece of shit. I was bored. A very long 91 minutes.
  1. Snake & Crane: Arts of Shaolin ( 1978 ) - Jackie Chan hits people a lot for 96 minutes. Occasionally one of them gets to hit him back. I have no idea why.

  2. Ella Enchanted (2004) - A teen / kids film that pitches its tent right in The Princess Bride, Shrek territory and doesn't do a bad job. A Friday Night Pizza Film Club that I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting.

  3. Orlando (1992) - For the umpteenth time (it's a ravishingly beautiful piece of work in every department) but on the big(ish) screen for the first time. And I was struck by just how funny the film is; I laughed several times.

  4. The Shadow (1994) - another failed attempt to create a movie franchise based on an existing character. The Shadow is a masked vigilante striking fear into the hearts on villains with his almost supernatural powers, and has been credited with being the model for many pulp heroes since. (Batman bears more than a passing resemblance.) He's been fighting crime on and off since 1930 in endless pulps, novels, comics, and on radio (as played by Orson Welles no less) and the character has appeared in previous films in 1937, 1938, and 1940. There is now a big budget remake on the cards with Sam Raimi 'at the helm' (as they say in the funny papers). The 1994 film looks great, the faux 30s design elements are great, but it does suffer from a plodding script and is, sadly, just very dull.

  5. Star Pilot (1977)- an American dubbed version of the 1966 Italian film 2+5: Missione Hydra. Somewhere between 1966 when it was made, and 1977 when it was released in America as part of the Star Wars feeding frenzy 2+5: Missione Hydra accumulated footage from at least three other films. The American distributors edited in footage from Doomsday Machine (which was originally shot in 1967 - after the release of 2+5: Missione Hydra - and which in turn contained footage from an earlier, 1962, Japanese film Yôsei Gorasu). I don't know what was cut out to make room. The original has got to be more coherent than this version which was crammed with more trash SF clichés than average with apparently no attempt to join them together in any way. Knowing he was stuffed from the get go, the director hit upon a stunning device of distracting the audience from the plot deficiencies by dressing the insanely yummy heroine in a variety of costumes that cunningly alternated between LOOK AT MY TITS! and LOOK AT MY ARSE! subtlety. Even when she wasn't wandering around in nothing but a small piece of net with some feathers sewn on the crotch she had obviously been instructed to flirt with the camera as much as possible. Every time there's a scene of earnest clunking dialogue going on, she just walks in, waves her arse at the camera bounces up and down, and does just about everything she can to get the audience to look at her perky titties - bar holding up a hand-written sign saying 'TITS'! She can't even get a coffee cup in the background without doing an arabesque in 'Look at my Bum' pants:

    She's upstaging us again, isn't she?

    Oh to hell with it, long time since I posted any pics of Astro-crumpet. Some more screen caps of the little minx I think.

    Here she is running back into a building during
    an earthquake just to show us her knickers

    Overhead shot of weightless writhing
    - two years before Barbarella.

    Oh no! They forgot to restore
    her 'artificial weight'...

    What the average girl, kidnapped by aliens,
    and about to be attacked by men
    in gorilla suits wears of an evening.

    And this is what she looks like from the neck up.

    I may well watch this one again - just to see if I can make any sense of it. I do know, however, that if I ever get to direct a film it is going to have a sequence in which a woman is dropped onto a trampoline in slow motion. As attempts to simulate weightlessness goes it wasn't bad. As attempts to show us the heroine's knickers go it was pretty desperate. Looked like fun though.

  6. White Castle (1990) - She's 43 and a waitress in a burger joint; he's 27, a Jewish yuppie still in love with his dead wife. Join the dots. I defy anyone not to laugh at the climactic, emotionally charged pivotal moment when our yuppie hero finally realises he's lost the love of his life. At a party set up to get him together with a 'suitable', ie yuppie, wife, he takes her hand-held vacuum cleaner of the kitchen wall opens it, peers inside and wails, "There's no dust in her Dustbuster!" I nearly pissed myself with laughter.

  7. Girl 6 - 1996. The first time I've seen a Spike Lee film since Malcom X back when it came out. I have no real reason for never having looked at any of his other films, I just haven't ever got round to seeing any. Girl 6 ended up on my screen tonight as part of the game I'm playing at the moment. Over in the corner of my living room is a huge cardboard box full of VHS tapes with no cases. I have no idea what's in the box. I choose one at random without looking at it and if I'm careful where I look as I put it in the machine, and FF past the black and white identification thingy that appears on-screen for a few seconds right at the start of the tape, I have no idea what I'm watching until the titles come up. It's fun.

  8. The Club (1994) - one of those straight to video horror films starring 'Who?', 'Who?', and 'Never heard of him.' The clock is approaching midnight at the Prom night dance which, for unexplained reasons, is being held at a large mock Gothic mansion. A dreary slow plodding opening suddenly takes a sharp left turn into Lynch lite weirdness as all but six of the guest mysteriously vanish followed by lots of running up and down the same few corridors as the camera man tries out a variety of wide angle lenses. After a while it all got very samey and repetitive and the initial 'This is weird', vibe gave way to a 'This is dull' vibe. In the end it wasn't quite an 'but it was all a dream' ending - but not by much.

  9. Tank Girl - Violent stupid and almost fun.

  10. L'atalante (1934) - the older I get the more I realise I just don't 'get' French films. Especially those deemed by those who know to be 'classics'. Over on IMDb L'atalante is variously lauded as the most beautiful, the most erotic, or the saddest film ever made. There's hardly a dissenting voice on the boards; it is a 'masterpiece'. Maybe it is and maybe it's just me being thick but what I saw was a scrappy, almost amateurish film with the occasional nice shot but which jumped about from scene to scene with very little unifying style, some very dodgy transitions, a very very thin story with huge narrative jumps in it, annoyingly selfish characters, and some underwhelmingly unfunny 'comic interludes' (what the hell was all that nonsense in the dance hall with the singing peddler all about?). Maybe I'm just a pleb with plebby tastes but it just looked like minor league, of its time, best forgotten, so-what? (The cynic in me also wonders if the director hadn't been dying romantically young from TB during the shoot whether it would be remembered at all.)

  11. The Corpse Bride (2005) - Daughter number one stretches her Pre-teen Disney-Noir Goth muscles and chooses this as her Friday Night Pizza and Film Night choice because: 'it's by the same people who made Coraline,' and 'it's stop motion animation not computer'.

  12. Rush Hour ( 1998 ) - First time viewing, random Lucky-dip film of the night. Isn't Chris Tucker annoying? I mean annoying? I'd only ever seen him in The Fifth Element before, he was annoying in that but I assumed that that was the part. It wasn't; it was the persona. I doubt if I'll watch the sequels.

  13. Metroland (1997) - I liked this. I really liked it. It 'spoke to me' as they say. Some nice acting and a great use of colour.

  14. The Big Brass Ring (1999) - Political 'thriller'? based on an unfilmed script by Orson Welles.

  15. Diva (1981) - un Film Policier which sort of convinced me that sometime I do 'get' French films but only, I suspect, if they have ludicrous moped chases through the Paris metro system and naked women in it. Why though does every French film seem to have to have at least one scene set in a woods at dawn? Total credibility stretching, coincidence-ridden, plot-hole ridden nonsense but done with great style.

  16. Arlington Road (1999) - Pretty good.

  17. Carry-on Spying (1964) - I was tired!

  18. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) - there are only two reasons to watch this movie. They're pretty good reasons too.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A new year. All sorts of stuff has happened since I last posted here. (New Year's resolutions about posting more often on my blog getting broken for one.) In lieu of anything interesting to report to the world, here's a list of every film I didn't manage to finish watching last year. Tomorrow I'll post the films I did manage to finish in November and December and then I'll be up to date and can think of following the kids around with a notebook in the hope that they will say something amusing or baffling.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Disaster Movie ( 2008 ) - dear Mother of God! this was awful. I lasted 20 minutes.

Brothers (2001) - and twenty minutes was all I lasted with this self-financed piece of bumdrizzle about lads on the pull in Greece. Just how bad is this movie? If I tell you it has more semi-naked and naked women in it than any other film I have seen this year and I STILL couldn't watch it, you may get some inclination of just how fucking crap this is.

Monster from Bikini Beach ( 2008 ) - a 95 minute 'comedy/horror' made for $10,000 dollars. A splatter homage to all those beach party monster films of the 60s - in living colour with more nudity, and gore, and I fell asleep. Dreadful. I can see why no one has bothered to reviewed it on IMDb. Usually cheapo drek like this can usually attract someone who was in it, or did the catering, to write something about how much fun they had making it. Not this one.

The Sasquatch Gang / The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang (depends whether you read the box or the opening credits 2006) I gave up after 15 minutes when I realised that the mumbling morons on screen were A. incomprehensible B. supposed to be funny C. not going to die violent and horrible deaths in the next two minutes.

Jambon Jambon (1992) even the prospect of Penelope Cruz appearing naked couldn't keep me interested in this haphazardly unfunny bore. I gave up after 30 minutes.

Mutant Chronicles (2008) - What a mess! I gave up after 30 minutes when the narrative structure had disintigrated to the point where the monk narrator (Ron Perlman hiding behind an Oirish accent) got fed up re-explaining the back story (and what had already happened on screen), stopped, and listed one by one the assembled team we didn't see him just recruit. One minute he's saying "I need twenty men and a fast ship," the next he's listing the crew recapping a sequence the director didn't shoot or cut. There was a lot of weird narrative dead ends in this and sundry bits of story flapping about looking for a home, so many in fact that I stopped the DVD at one point and looked it up on the IMDb convinced that what I was watching was a whole TV series hacked down to a 110 minute movie. It wasn't. It was supposed to be like this. What I was watching was a film based on a game. What the hell is John Malkovich doing shit like this for?

Battle in Heaven (2005) - piece of arty Mexican shit full of stupendously long shots in which nothing happened. Most of them were of nothing. Look! some traffic on the street. Look! some people walking. Look! some more people walking. Look! our 'hero', a bovine Mexican non-actor who stares at things that were off-screen a lot.
Occasionally the camera would hand-held pan from looking at his profile to follow his eyeline and we would see what he was looking at, the pan would then often continue past whatever he was looking at, come round in a full 360º and find HE HAD MOVED! Shit on a stick! The fat Mexican has moved! My willy sphincters could hardly contain my fucking water! After 45 minutes I started to watch it at FF X2. It didn't make any difference except I had to read what few subtitles there were a little bit faster. I turned off at the 50 minute mark. Imagine yourself being trapped in a cinema with the most obnoxiously pretentious 'I'm going to challenge and then redefine the whole diegesis in the narrative structuralism of cinematic language,' type arty wanker film student as he shows you seventeen hours of unedited rushes of rusty oil tanks by the side of a railway line. That would be preferable to watching this. It would be preferable because:

a. you wouldn't have to see overweight Mexicans fucking and
b. you could grab the director and force feed the little tosser with the endlessly spooling film till he exploded.

Bloodsuckers aka Vampire Wars: Battle for the Universe (2005) - piece of shit Sci-Fi channel TV movie that must have looked so good on the back of the envelope it was written on. I really can just see how this show happened. The boss of The Sci-Fi channel walked into the the office one day and said "Firefly with Vampires! Here's a couple of million dollars. Come back Tuesday with a rough cut." It was dire. I mean unwatchably dire. The Sci-fi Channel's stuff is usually pretty stinky but this was just too far the other side of stinky, even for me. One of those shows that has a captain 'with a past' who is initially disliked by all the members of the renegade crew (who all have 'pasts' of their own to deal with) where everyone snarls and snipes at each other because it's the only way the writers can generate 'conflict'. The usual lazy TV bullshit.

Incubus (2006) - Six vaguely symmetrical young people, lost in the forest after a car crash and desperate to keep warm, break into a windowless building. The building is unmarked on any map but we know, from a pre-credit sequence, it has at least one axe-wielding crazy inside. I gave up at the point where the six vaguely symmetrical young people lost in the forest climb on the roof, kicked open the cover of a huge ventilation shaft and pulled out hitherto unmentioned ropes and abseiling gear which they had been carrying around in their rucksacks for no other reason that there had to be some way for the scriptwriters to get them into this building without them being able to leave. (The rope breaks.) Apparently this film is so bad it even bypassed the 'straight to DVD' route and went 'straight to download'. This was, according to the IMDb, 'The first direct-to-download film. The film premièred on t'internet and was released through AOL.'

Sci-Fighters (2004) Starring Don 'The Dragon' Wilson (I really should know better by now). Martial artists get stuck in a virtual reality game and have to kick things a lot to a pumping 80s style soundtrack. In the 80s this would have been crap. In 2004 it was well past its sell-by date, as were most of the Martial Artists on screen. I wouldn't like to say this to their faces (I value my nose too much) but they looked really slow and plodding (our hero is 50 and the heroine 47 - it shows). Some of the fight choreography just stank and the script and acting were laughable. I fell asleep.

Mimic (1997) I had hopes for this one. Based as it was on a short story by Donald A Wolheim, a writer and editor who knew his SF, and directed by Guillermo del Torro. I gave up after 50 minutes when I wandered off to the IMDb to find out just how long this boring, predictable there's 'something in the sewers' yawnfest was going to go on for. I didn't go back.

Invisible Mom - Another Fred Olen Ray film I couldn't be bothered with after the first ten minutes.

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