Sunday, March 24, 2013

Every Film I Watched in November 2012

Stupidly late:

  1. Screamers (1995) - a lot better than I remembered. A paper thin adaptation of a Philip K Dick short story, which manages to get some 'will they / won't they make it?' tension going. Mostly this time I was struck by what a good job Peter Weller did as our hero; why he didn't become a major star is a bit of a puzzle to me.
  2. Screamers: The Hunting (2009) - a belated, straight to DVD sequel of the above which managed to hide is small budget fairly decently but within minutes the script has run out of ideas and is piling up the WTF?s at an alarming rate. Various bits of other movies are imported (the Alien films being the obvious source) to try and distract us from the crappiness of the central idea. And I'm sure a great drinking game could be developed where everyone has to take a shot every time our heroes explain (in great detail) the story so far to every new character they encounter. (Basically it's 'We're looking for new batteries for our space ship. Do you have any? Oh crap! We just managed to let the indistinguishable from human killer robots reduce kill half of your friends - sorry about that. Note to self. Stop doing stupid things and stop thinking people aren't 'indistinguishable from human killer robots' just because they have a nice buns, a cute smile and talk about art and shit.) The best thing about this DVD is the 'Making of' featurette which has the cast talking about their characters and the film as if it was Important and Significant and a Serious Piece of Work. It's so funny, and sad at the same time, watching these people talking, with utmost seriousness, about a piece of shit they would lose off their resumes in a minute if ever they moved into the A list. I suppose jobbing actors have to think like this. "I can relate to this character, she's challenging to me as a woman - and as an actor." - no she's not! She's a cardboard cut-out with a thinly sketched in back story. She's a fifteenth generation photocopy of Ripley. Sigourney Weaver did all the work. Just assume the poses, stand where the director tells you to and run away with the money. The writer didn't think about the script. The audience aren't likely to be thinking at all after five minutes because we know exactly what is going to happen from minute to minute. Stop making life difficult for yourself.
  3. Labyrinth (1986) - Friday night Pizza Movie Night with the kids. The kids loved it the first time we saw it watched on my battered, much loved VHS tape. This time we saw it on DVD. The first time I have seen when it hasn't been panned and scanned for 4:3 TV/Tape. It was like watching it for the first time all over again. A joy of a film.
    The disc also has a contemporary 'Making of' obviously intended for television which has to be one of the best 'Making of's I have seen. Interesting, detailed, and documentary in style. No heavy sales techniques in sight. Well worth a look.
  4. Aliens (1986) - Thinking about Screamers 2, which I watched the other night, I realised I had never actually watched Alien 2 all the way through from start to finish. Long isn't it? (The actor Lance Henriksen was in both - can't fit Labyrinth into the puzzle yet...)
  5. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009) - a comedy SF film which manages the rare double of being both good SF (it all makes sense) and is very funny. Three ordinary blokes find a time rift in the toilets of their local pub. Complexity ensues. Wonderfully written stuff. Loved it. (An Aliens reference towards the end too.)
  6. Queen of Blood (1966) - a rewatch. Not as creepily good as I remember but it still had its moments. You have to admire the tenacious way Rathbone managed to hold onto his script for most of the time he was on screen. They obviously weren't paying him enough to learn his lines but luckily, as his character was a head scientist, he had an excuse to carry around a succession of clipboards, memos, lab results and so on.
  7. Toy Story 3 (2010) - again. And I cried. Again.
  8. Deathbed (2002) - straight to DVD nano-budget old fashioned ghost horror story about a haunted bed. Not very good all round but does contain one shot of note. About 35 minutes in our hero and heroine are shown searching their own apartment with a flash-light - despite the fact that the electricity is clearly working (the heroine has just been using a hair-dryer in the bathroom and the bedside light is on). Presumably they are searching their own apartment with a flash-light for no other reason than this is a horror film and and the editor needed a shot of someone searching somewhere with a flash-light to cut into the trailer. Another 50p well wasted at Poundland - long story.
  9. To Die For (aka Extramarital - 1998 ) Starring (and to varying degrees produced by - what IS an 'associate producer'?) Jeff 'Lawnmower Man' Fahey and Traci 'Yes, THAT Traci Lords' Lords. To Die For is a not very erotic erotic thriller - which isn't that thrilling either - so I guess that just leaves... erm... well, it's 90 minutes long. Lords is not a good actor and, though woefully miscast (sorry, but no one is ever going to accept her a frustrated almost prudish happily monogomous married woman) she positively shone here. Some real "Plot delivery Service! I've got a plot point here, where do you want it?" acting from the rest of the cast. (Not that you can blame them really. The script is lumpen like that. Neither writer nor director have worked again but the actors are still gigging). Very underwhelming in every direction. The film did however allow me enough time between its predictable moves (the Machiavellian killer behind the overly complex - the writer wishes! - murder plot is obvious by the end of the first reel) to formulate another one of my 'Why is it in American movies...?" questions.
    'Why is it in American would-be erotic thrillers the beds always have metal bedsteads?' Apart, obviously, from the facts that it is difficult to frame shots of half-hearted sexual writhing through a solid, dralon covered, padded bed end. And it's easier to attach the inevitable handcuffs to a metal bedstead as well... erm... I guess.
  10. Botched (2007) - a 'Comedy Crime Horror' movie which starts out as a laddish crime romp, full of speed ramping annoyance editing before segueing into a bonkers splatter gore horror with our heroes running around the same two corridors being chased by a gun-toting female religious maniac and her sword wielding brother who believes he is the reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible. Very gory, very stupid, and quite funny.
  11. Blade (1998 ) - I think I need to widen my random selection movie gene pool. Blade starred Steven Dorff who was in Botched and had a brief appearance from Traci Lords, who was in To Die For. Having said that I quite enjoyed Blade in a 'park your brain' mode way.
  12. Arrietty (2010) Studio Ghibli's beautiful take on the Mary Norton Borrower books. I read the books as a kid and have seen just about every screen adaptation over the years (well, bits at least) but this film is by far the best. (Though Penelope Wilton is still my favourite Homily.) Slow gentle and utterly enchanting. And not just me. My three kids: aged 10, 8, and 3 were riveted. I don't think I have ever seen them quite so engrossed in a film before. (We watched the UK dubbed version. The US dubbed version is, I understand, very different and very horrible.)
  13. Virus (1999) - Alien life form infects Russian research vessel and kills everyone on-board and then uses their bodies for spare parts - until it is outwitted by a bunch of Americans of mixed ethnicity waving hand guns. Only the Caucasians survive. Basically it's the usual huge pile of clich├ęs cobbled together, lots of running around in confined ill-lit spaces with THINGS made by SFX people who have watched Hardware, Moontrap, and Screamers jumping out at you. Jamie Lee Curtis, the star of the show, described it as "an unbelievably bad movie". She should know.
  14. The Monster Maker (1944) - Good old fashioned horror crap, you can't beat it. Just shows what's wrong with modern horror films. No Gorillas. Every mad, foreign-accented scientist used to have a gorilla in a cage in the corner of the lab for no real reason. One mention of it being "essential for my experiments" was all the justification given here. Needless to say it was let lose and implied ravaging nearly occurred before a faithful pet dog saved the day.
  15. Starcrash (1979) - one of these days I will get a decent copy of this film. I love Starcrash. It's just so fucking awful.
  16. Bram Stoker's The Legend of the Mummy (aka Legend of the Mummy 1998 ) Dull, confused (what are all those Brits and Australians doing in San Francisco?), shonky mess of a film that suffers from being dreadful in just about every department (some seriously iffy editing) but not dreadful in any one direction to make it bad enough to be good. (And boy am I glad to get to the end of that sentence.)
  17. Loose Shoes (aka Coming Attraction 1980) - a hit and miss (mostly miss) collection of skits themed as a bunch of film trailers. The highlights are the future director of Doctor Dolittle, Betty Thomas, shaking her bare boobs as a wanton Skateboarder from Hell (it's always surprising how a little gratuitous nudity captures my attention) and the utterly brilliant NSFW title song which I have had stuck in my head on and off for the 30 years since I last saw this film:
  18. Tunnel Vision ( 1978 ) - another hit and miss - though with a slightly higher hit count - themed sketch film. Rude, crude, dated and stuffed full of dubious racial stereotypes - it's hard to tell from this distance how much irony is being applied here (I suspect a lot) - and another sighting of Betty Thomas' norks. Yay!
  19. Beetlejuice ( 1988 ) - one of Merriol's favourite films... it's okay.
  20. Outlaw of Gor (1989) - The Gor books by John Norman are bloody awful. Sword and sorcery science-fantasy set on a counter earth with great dollops of highly detailed, misogynistic sado-masochism thrown into the mix. Very badly written. Even I can't read them.

    They deserved better than this.

    This sequel, shot apparently concurrently with the first film (called, simply enough, Gor) is one dreadful film. Nothing much happens. Hero Tarl Cabot is whisked back to the planet Gor (aka the usual generic Italian Sword and Sorcery desert location) where he is reunited with old friends, framed for murder, walks around the desert a lot, gets captured and has to fight for his life for a bit in the arena - before someone else kills the villain and the film can end. It's insane. The hero does nothing for the entire film.

    I have seen two other films by the director of this piece of poo: Mutant, and The Day Time Ended. Mutant I remember very little about but The Day Time Ended is a masterpiece of vagueness - a whole movie in which the protagonists do very little but react to unexplained weirdness around them. They don't actually DO anything for the whole film. A similar malaise affects our hero here. He just drifts along through all kinds of leaden-paced mayhem doing very little to make us root for him. Framed for the murder of the king, he runs away, and is cornered by well-muscled, spear-wielding extras. He is rescued by his mentor, the sage old wizard, stepping in front of the approaching guards. "They will not kill me. Run, Tarl Cabot!" Cabot runs. The wizard gets run through.

    Out in the desert it's Cabot who nearly drinks from the poisoned water hole before being stopped by his dwarf sidekick. It Cabot who stands around being ineffectual at the slaver market while the dwarf rustles up some bulky face-hiding disguises, it's Cabot who rescues the slave girl (or rather his stunt double - Wait! You thought those bulky face-hiding disguises were part of the plot? In this kind of film there's only one reason why our hero dons a face-covering disguise, it's to make the stuntman who is going to double for him for the next sequence a tad less obvious). But hurrah! our hero (or someone dressed like him) has actually done something heroic! He rescued a scantily clad hotty from certain... something. They camp out in the desert. The hotty, grateful for being rescued from something, wants to 'pleasure' him. He refuses. He is in love with the princess you see - he's also, weirdly for this kind of film, a vegetarian. They go to sleep. Cue close up of creepy feet creepily footstepping towards them over the sand and - bazingo! Next shot they're in chains and bound for the slave pits again. Nice going, hero. What was the point of all that? Back in chains our 'hero' spends the rest of the film being whipped and force-fed porridge before he doesn't kill the evil queen or rescue the princess in the final reel. Other people do that. Dreadful! Awful! Terrible! I'm downloading the original as I type!...
Films I have fallen asleep during this month: Dune (David Lynch's), Queen of Blood ...

Films I have abandoned this month: Resident Evil I nearly gave up after five minutes when it became obvious the top-secret super sciencey place had a infectious biohazard containment area that shared a ventilation system with the rest of the building ONLY BECAUSE THE MOVIE WOULD HAVE STOPPED IF IT HADN'T. But I persevered for 30 minutes (most of which was spent analysing Milla Jovovich's acting. I quickly realised she was doing this film with two expressions: Mouth Open and Mouth Shut. Both worked. - it worked in The Fifth Element, why change a winning formula?) I persevered until the moment that I realised that none of the elite troops on this deadly search and destroy mission was going to have the wit to jam open any of the endless number of doors that kept closing behind them. Just put something in the door jam, you morons! Nope, they did it again. Bye!
Next Day. Penny drops! Resident E was directed by Event Horizon, Death Race bullshit 'what's the next cool image? director Paul W.S. Anderson. No wonder I hated it.

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