Saturday, December 16, 2017

So, as 2017 draws to a close I strap a couple of electrodes to the long neglected corpse of my blog and administer twenty-seven point two thirds and a half billion electron volts of pure unadulterated Movie Diary.

I think this is every movie I have watched over the last year:


  1. Les yeux sans visage (1960) - extraordinarily weird and wonderful piece of French transplant horror which has been on my must see list for a while. Thanks to Father Christmas and with the indulgence of Number One Daughter, who shared the experience with me, I saw it tonight. Wow! Loved it.
  2. The Truman Show (1998) - Daughter Number One's turn to choose a film. I'd forgotten just how wonderful it was.
  3. Ex Machina (2015) - dang! I like good SF films. and this was a good one. And, as Daughter Number One pointed out, the second film in a row to deal with a character in an enclosed environment in which they had spent their entire life.
  4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) - Daughter Number One's last choice in our week of movie watching while the rest of the family are elsewhere doing healthy outdoorsy stuff. I now have this tune firmly embedded in my earworm banks.
  5. Robot World (2015) my IMDb review
  6. Star Trek 3 The search for Spock - well that was a ponderous bore. I'd never seen it before - I can see where the 'odd numbered ST movies are crap' theory came from. The best bits were some dreadful costume design, the usual WTF? get out of jail free handwavium technobilge, ( "Protomatter. An unstable substance which every ethical scientist in the galaxy has denounced as dangerously unpredictable!") and hilariously risible dialogue.

    KIRK: ... Bones...?!

    McCOY: ... Rapid ageing... all genetic functions highly accelerated...

    KIRK: And his mind?

    McCOY: It's a void. It would seem, Admiral, that I've got all his marbles.
  7. The Fantastic Mr Fox - which I like more and more each time I see it.
  8. The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) - a lot slower and cruder than I remember.
  9. Le Bossu (1997 aka On Guard) Good to see this wide screen on DVD as I only had ever seen it cropped on VHS. Great fun, a real old-fashioned swashbuckler with some great art direction and camera-work.
  1. Buba Hotep - silly fun in which a geriatric Elvis fights an evil Egyptian mummy in an old people's home.
  2. Jumanji - Friday Night Family Pizza movie.
  3. Labyrinth - ditto
  4. Survivor (2014) - Okay I like bad SF movies and This had 'bad SF movie' written all over the DVD case, "The fate of the planet lies in her hands - In the early 22nd Century, the Earth falls out of the sun's orbit..."

    "...falls out of the sun's orbit?"

    That's as far as I got before I decided I had to buy it. How? What? Why? Wha...? I mean for one thing 'falling' implies that something travelling in an uncontrolled manner down a larger gravity well. If the Earth had fallen out of the Sun's orbit that means... what the hell does it mean? And 'the sun's orbit', not the Earth's orbit around the sun.... I was in my 'This Makes NO Fucking Sense SF Movie Happy Place'.

    The cherry on the topping of the 'must buy this' cake though was realising that, buried in all the credits in that annoyingly small lettering cluttered at the bottom of the box (and yes I am the sort of sad git that reads them), there was no director's credit. There were producers credits, costume designers, DP, music and all the other usual (contractually obligatory) credits - but none for director. A film so bad they couldn't even make up an Alan Smithee name to shove in there? And they'd mispelled the name of the show's biggest name actor. 'Kevni Sorbo' (Formally known as Kevin Sorbo star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Andromeda, and voice-overs for Skylander video games etc.) I hope they spelled all the Kickstarter backers' names that scroll past in the end titles correctly.

    I live for this sort of thing.

    The film itself was pretty bad. The opening exposition - in which our heroine tell us that, after the Earth 'fell out of the Sun's orbit' we tried to steer the planet with 'particle accelerators' but accidentally created black holes 'all over the galaxies' that somehow boiled off all the Earth's water but only after seven giant space arks had made it off the surface - was the best bit. (By this time I was in a sugar coma of delight.) After that it was Mad Max on foot, before a Planet of the Apes-a-like ending, with a bit of The Time Machine sandwiched in the middle. Quite often the most interesting thing on screen was the geology in which drone-mounted cameras endlessly followed our (rather yummy) Army of One heroine and her parkour running 'alien' pursuers. Some seriously interesting looking rock formations on display.
  5. Solaris (2002) - the American remake. It's few years since I watched the 1972 Russian original which I consider to be a bloody brilliant film. I don't know what the 1972 version is about, alienation, despair, love seeing how long a director can hold a static shot of a slow moving river and still make it fascinating? I have no idea, but I love it dearly. The American version is sort of about, set design, heterosexual love, and the Judeo/Christian God in space. I doubt if I shall be rewatching it. (A decision I probably made during the cheesy visual reference of those hands from Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel with a small boy standing in for God and a (possibly dead) George Clooney being Adam).
  6. Paris, je t'aime (2006) - 18 short films around a common theme (love in Paris) and it works. There are one or two sections that don't come off but that is hardly surprising. Looking through the reviews on the IMDb everyone says there are one or two that fail - but no one agrees which ones.

  1. The Hidden Fortress - I just found a Kurosawa Boxset I'd forgotten about!
  2. Belle de Jour -
  3. My Neighbour Totoro -
  4. The Harry Hill Movie -
  5. Et Dieu créa la femme -
  6. Dominion (2014) - sometimes you know you're in for a bad movie from the moment you first hear about it. I first heard about Dominion this afternoon when I picked it up in a charity shop.

    It cost me a quid.

    The cover was chock-a-block with funky spaceships heading for Earth. Some of them appeared to be exploding. The back had a graphic showing a GINORMOUS spaceship hovering over a city, like the opening episode of V , or Independence Day - there was a lone human with an automatic weapon silhouetted in the foreground. There were two grammatical errors in the opening sentence of the blurb - but the masochistic cherry on the "I must buy and watch watch this piece of shit" cake was the fact than the film not only starred but was produced by Booboo Stewart. Booboo Stewart! I have only ever seen one Booboo Stewart film before, the amazingly dreadful Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft - my thoughts on which are buried in here somewhere - but his name alone was enough to make me buy it. He is a dreadful actor.

    Needless to say NONE of the stuff that was on the cover appeared in the film (which looks like it was shot on someone's phone - apart from the library helicopter footage establishing shots and prologue - more of which later).

    In a stroke of cost/design cutting genius, most of the alien ships zipping about the place were seen as stark black outlines against bright skies or planetary backgrounds. They might as well have been cardboard cut-outs. When we did get to see some light and shade on them, the SFX was about the level last seen in season three of Babylon 5 back in the mid 1990s. The script was fucking awful too and was probably created by randomly cutting and pasting from the comments under Youtube UFO-nut videos by someone who have never read an SF book in his life and wouldn't recognise a hoary old cliché if it bit him in the arse.

    "Oh 'Galactic Council' that sounds neat, 'Prime Directive 'oh I'll have that.... "Time is different there" Wow! Mind-blowing concept...." etc.

    Somewhere along the line I suspect the film came in three minutes short. I can't think of any other reason for the bizarre prologue in which a bunch of aliens (who never appear in the rest of the film) explore a desert planet as a voice over tells us (in meticulous detail) what is happening on screen. The explorers find an underground facility full of embryos in suspended animation and we learn that the Desert Planet is EARTH! Dum Dah Dahhhhh! and the embryos are mankind's last hope of rebirth after - cue flashback to the main movie showing how, with only five days till the invasion fleet of evil Booboo Stewarts from Draconis Nastiplanet arrive to wipe out humanity, a kindly alien twerp gets everyone around him killed as he rescues his girlfriend before vanishing off to the stars with the pointless crystal maguffin of something. Though to be fair, in a voice-overed post script, which looks like a total afterthought, he does come back and, by the magic of some cheap shots of a fleet of spaceships and some library music (the largo from Dvořák's 9th), rescues the unslaughtered bit of humanity that the beneficent aliens couldn't be bothered to save earlier in the film, and relocates it to some other stock footage which has been colour graded to make it look a bit 'alien'. All of which makes the pointless prologue even more pointless that it appeared at the beginning of the film!

    I know it's easy to say "this scene looks like it came from a different film", but the fact that the prologue is also better photographed than the main feature, and has its narration credited to a different writer, really, really, really makes me think it has come from a different movie entirely.

    So far the worst film I have seen all year and yes, that does include the Kevni Sorbo one.

    EDIT: A few days later, looking back at it, the highlight for me (there's always a moment in any crap movie, no matter how bad, when you learn something. Usually it's how NOT to do something. This film's nugget of  "well I'll remember not to do THAT in my movie" was the moment when our hero is looking through the super-secret, government-suppressed, UFO stuff on the USB stick of Destiny. Two characters peering at a screen muttering, "Wow!", and "Look at that!", and "Amazing!". The shot is framed so that we see the characters faces and the back of the computer monitor they are looking at. This makes a certain amount of sense. Filming a TV or computer screen is not as simple as it would appear - all sorts of interference patterns crop up between the scan lines of the screen and the frame rate of the camera. This set up, of only seeing the actors' faces looking at something the viewer can't see, also gives the editor more freedom to cut away from it to a shot of a screen with anything on it rather than having the actors and what they are looking at locked before it gets to the editing suite. The actors don't have to appear in the same shot as whatever they are supposed to be looking at. What went wrong here was that the editor chose to show screens full of folders. Hero: "Wow look at that!": cut to screen full of folder icons and a cursor: cut to hero looking at screen, "Amazing!". The effect was to make him look like a right bozo - easily amazed these UFO nuts.
  7. Intacto (2001) - Spanish film that plays about with the idea that luck is transferable and can be stolen or wagered. Strange and slightly wonderful.  I will be coming back to this one.
  8. Monsters University - Friday night pizza and movie with the kids.
  9. Atomic Cyborg Aka Fists of Steel - Italian low rent Terminator knock off without any of the special effects, plot, or character development. Another added to the stinky 23rd Century Label collection - 75 pence well spent.
  10. The Lego Batman Movie (2017) - which started of well enough but by the end of it I was overwhelmed with indifference.
  11. Alien Blood (1999) - Okay. THIS is the worst film I have seen so far this year and will probably remain so*. For a film involving aliens, lesbian vampires, gratuitous nudity, lots of machine guns, children with psychic abilities that can make people explode, and the random shooting of jugglers and bagpipers - this is one phenomenally dull film. One of those films in which nothing happens for ages and people stand around looking vaguely in the general direction of where someone else might be if the director had bothered established the geography of the room, while cheap synthesiser music tries to build some kind tension. At some point someone says "Fuck this!" and shoots someone else for reasons never even partially explained. And then we'll have a painfully slow series of cross fades of random pieces of countryside and (probably symbolic) flames till the film ends up somewhere else with some other characters doing something equally vague. According to the IMDb this shot on video, piece of shit had an (estimated) budget of £1,000,000. I would guess that estimate could be at least several hundred percent over-generous. It's a bad home movie.

    * Out-classes the other two nominees by far. Also a serious contender for the most pointless and ineptly shot gratuitous nude bathing shot of the year.
  12. Space Station 76 (2014) - erm... ok? That was all a bit pointless. A bunch of people are vaguely unhappy in an interestingly designed, retro look space station. (The conceit here is that this is what the future looked like in 1976 - all Space 1999 interiors, video cassettes.  Everyone smokes.  Lots of nods and references to other films like Silent Running, and 2001.) No aliens or melodramatic twists, just day to day suburban life of a bunch of unlikeable people on a space station. A bit like 1990s space soap Jupiter Moon but with a bigger budget, smaller cast, and fewer plot points.. and it's all just a bit dull.
  13. Clue
  14. Mondo Hollywood - "a magnificent display of Sixties self-indulgence. Timothy Leary wannabees, rootless rich kids, druggies and thrill-seekers join to make Hollywood seem like the center of the cultural universe. Too bad it's only in their addled minds." IMDB reviewer 'tdickson'.
  15. King Kong vs Godzilla - Godzilla films don't make much sense and were probably made for a target audience of seven year olds but this one was even more of a bewildering pudding than others I have seen. Some real kak-handed English language footage had been added in which 'UN reporters' talked straight to camera (while trying to keep a straight face) helping the narrative along by saying "Godzilla is now here!" while pointing at a small map of Japan. People pointed at maps a lot in this film; probably the only characters that didn't point at a map at the drop of a hat were King Kong and Godzilla.

    All that this cutting away to the UN newsroom did was slow down the action and make it look like the two strands of the film (Kong on one hand and Godzilla on the other) were coming from two separate movies.

    The best bit for me though was the sudden, strange cognitive dissonance moment when I realised all the black-faced, body-painted "primitive, superstitious natives" going "wugga wugga wugga" on Kong's island were Japanese extras painted up to look suitably 'ethnic'. Back in 1963 this kind of thing was acceptable in Hollywood films, when studios regularly sprayboothed and makeup-slapped Caucasian extras to double as 'Africans', or 'South Sea Islanders' but I'd never made the logical jump and thought that Japanese film makers would do the same.
  16. Scavengers - whooo that stunk! A Firefly like crew of misfit (but loveable) 'scavengers' led by a 'Russel Crow Look alike of the Year' winner...
    ... find the Maguffin of Evil Destruction and are pursued around the galaxy by Captain Black McNasty and his black clad crew of nasties - some of whom are black. You know Captain Black McNasty is evil because he has this habit of shooting his crew members dead half way through conversations, and spends most of his time whispering his dialogue in a gruff mumble while trying to count spiders in the corners of the ceiling. A seriously great virtuoso performance by Sean Patrick Flanery (whose place in history is guaranteed by having played Indiana Jones more often than Harrison Ford). A masterclass in bad acting.
  17. Evil Aliens - dreary alien invasion gross out splatter 'comedy' which has one genuinely interesting moment and one half way decent joke buried in all the tasteless offensive shite. One was the combine harvester having a cassette tape labelled "Ambient Farming Music" (in Welsh) the other was the moment when the blinded sound man of the on-screen film crew navigated his way down a beach using his sound equipment. For a second or two there was some interesting film-making on the screen. The rest of it was total garbage.
  18. Stranded (2013) - I bought this in a local charity shop purely because of the bit of the blurb that read "Directed by Oscar Nominated Roger Christian; the creative mind behind Star Wars and Alien" Whoohoo! The creative mind behind Star Wars and Alien! Cool! George Lucas and Ridley Scott's Svengali!


    Sadly I knew this to be a piece of wishful thinking on some sales person's part because if anyone from marketing had bothered to look him up they would have soon found out that, though Roger Christian did indeed work on both movies, he was hardly the 'creative mind' behind them. In the 1977 Star Wars he worked as a 'set decorator', and was one of two 'Art Directors' on Alien.

    What the blurb writer failed to mention though was that fact that Roger Christian is probably most famous for having directed the millennial mega-stinker Battlefield Earth.

    Sadly Stranded isn't as enjoyably bad as Battlefield Earth. It's just bad. It's yet another small crew in a confined space with something horrible in the air ducts picking them off one by one story. The entire crew of four of a lunar mining base are thrown into horrible jeopardy when an unexpected (huh?) meteor storm punches holes in some small bits left over from an episode of Space 1999 and suddenly everyone is running around in the dark trying to stop something happening while things explosively decompress stuff in the wrong direction - and for ten or so minutes I had no idea what anyone thought they were supposed to be doing. Seriously no idea. But whatever it was they had to do it NOW! Before things went CRITICAL! or OVERLOADED! So they did. And things GOT WORSE until Christian Slater OPENED A BIG AIRLOCK THAT WOULD FIGURE PROMINENTLY LATER IN THE MOVIE and let all the evil Carbon Monoxide out. After that things settled down for a bit and we found out what our characters were called - because you know all that boring stuff that you usually find at the start of this kind of movie? The sequence where you get to see them wake up and have breakfast and squabble for a bit? Where you get to meet the cast and find out who they are, and work out who the likeable ones are, and who the funny one is, and what the hell they actually DO for a living...? This movie didn't bother with that bit. It just threw rocks at the characters.

    Anyway, before we've got the characters' names straight in our heads (there are only four of them how difficult can this be?) one of them has got herself infected by some alien spores that came off one of the meteors and is suddenly MASSIVELY PREGNANT! Boss man Christian Slater is yelling about keeping her in ISOLATION and opening the door to med bay every three minutes (and leaving it open) and then LOCKING HER IN ISOLATION again till he has open the door again a few seconds later and then he's yelling he has to QUARANTINE her. But then she gives birth to an alien thingie which escapes through the door he left open.... And on and on it goes with people doing stupid and pointless things just to keep the plot running. For instance: at one point in this pile of keich our commander is wrestling with the infected quarantined woman in the med bay and, before he subdues her, is stabbed by her with some sharp surgical instrument . At which point the doctor comes in (through the door the commander had left open - yet again) and, for no other reason than the plot says he has to, the doctor takes his belly-stabbed commanding officer OUT of the Med bay (where all the medical equipment is) to to stitch him up somewhere else in the station (oh and they leave the door open again). You see, if he DIDN'T take Slater's character somewhere else to stitch him up, and leave the door open, another character couldn't do what he has to do to keep the plot moving in the med bay simply because there would be someone there to stop him. And the film would have ended. Stupid film.

    I spent most of the film trying to work out why a static, underground moon base would have seatbelts in the office chairs. I guess for a similar reason that the BIG AIRLOCK THAT FIGURED PROMINENTLY LATER IN THE MOVIE looked like it was designed by someone other than whoever designed the rest of the space base. The airlock is a fully articulated irising piece of sexy, almost organic, design while the endless corridors of the space base are utilitarian, rectangular, and drab. Factor in too that we never actually see any of our characters standing next to the thing and it would be very easy to presume that the airlock door did in fact come, second hand, from a different movie. The chairs had seatbelts because Stranded was shot, I learned from the 'Making of' extra, on a standing generic Space Station set that someone has in a shed in Canada. In the next movie made there someone would be flying that set through the heart of a supernova and would want to be well buckled in as the camera pointing at him was shoogled about.
  19. Deux jour, une nuit
  20. Brave
  21. Dracula 3000 - Holy mother of God! There aren't many films that cause physical pain to watch but this is one of them. Another of the endless number of low budget SF films in which a mixed-sex crew board a derelict space ship and find something nasty on board. This time it's Dracula. And that's the end of the plot. Seriously. The rest is just watching the director sneaking his cast and crew into what looks like a petrol refinery when no one is about and filming them walking up and down the same three corridors for hours and hours. Occasionally they stop by to see if the local high school art class has finished making the few purpose built sets and do some expositioning at each other. (The 'recreation room' where some of the 'action' takes place has a pool table and some comfy sofas, and a weapons rack stocked with loaded semi-automatics. Like all interstellar cargo ships.) Udo Kier lends his B movie credentials with a limp, on-screen, cold reading of bits of script that are supposed to be the the ship's previous captain's log. The ONLY thing that could have saved this film from the IMDb's bottom 100 would have been copious amounts of gratuitous nudity. There wasn't any.
  22. Guardian Angel - Cynthia Rothrock kicks stuntmen for a very long 97 minutes before there is a pointlessly dull motorboat chase (at the end of which our heroine is too stupid to turn the wheel of a speeding motorboat heading for some cliffs several hundred feet away and instead grabs hold of a rope that is inexplicably dangling from a helicopter hovering overhead). Other highlights included our villainess, holed up in a hotel room, boiling water in an enamel saucepan on a gas ring to make a cup of tea (do Los Angeles hotels normally come equipped with kitchenettes?) and then cauterising a bullet wound with the saucepan, and some fantastically crap costuming.
to be continued...

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