Monday, September 09, 2013

July's List of Magical Movie Moments

  1. The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

  2. The Fourth Kind (2009) - aliens, found footage, and Milla Jovovich. As crap as it sounds.

  3. The Objective ( 2008 ) - A bunch of special ops types wander round Afghanistan one by one falling prey to Ancient Mysterious Thingies till the last one meets God/gods/Ancient Mysterious Thingies. One of those films that is almost... something... not 'good' but something. Felt a lot longer than 90 minutes though.

  4. Stories of Lost Souls (2005) - seven (or eight if you have the US edit) shorts assembled to form something with a feature length running time. The shorts (like most shorts) vary from the bland to the banal and back again with the odd interesting moment. There is some attempt to link them with intertitles (which also help smooth out the changes in aspect ratio) but they do little to disguise the fact that what we have here is a bunch of shorts stripped of their credit sequences (where possible) and nailed end to end with gaffer tape. The Shooting Gallery on Channel Four used to show this stuff late at night when all but total film geeks (or those of us waiting to see our names in the credits) had gone to bed.* The Propeller Channel on SKY used to do similar but both had the decency to run the opening and closing credits. WhatStories of Lost Souls has got is a stunning cast list: Paul Bettany, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd (in US edit), Sophie Dahl, Michael Gambon, James Gandolfini, Jeff Goldblum, Daryl Hannah, Josh Hartnett, Hugh Jackman, Keira Knightley, Maureen Lipman, Joanna Lumley, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Andy Serkis, Sarah Silverman, Imogen Stubbs and others. After a while it became apparent that lots of actors will be very generous with their time to wannabee directors (lots of favours called in I suspect: the short directed by Hugh Jackman's wife is very red carpet) and that most of these films were selected for inclusion here because of their casts not because of any thematic unity. Of the seven I most enjoyed 'Supermarket', written, directed, and starring Illeana Douglas. It might not have been the best film of the bunch but it was the most likeable; possibly the only chance you will ever get to watch Jeff Goldblum sing a George Formby song.

    *Cool! It has been revived! That'll teach me not to watch TV or look at the listings any more.

  5. The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) - I have never seen an episode of the Brady Bunch (did it ever air in the UK?) but this updated and modernised self-parodying gem is so clever and well made that I didn't feel the lack. A film that plays that game of tottering naive, fish-out-of-water characters (and the sympathetic audience) towards embarrassment predicament situations and then rescuing them at the last moment with some very funny twists. It's a formula that usually has me running a mile; it can slip over into mawkishness so very very easily. This show played the game with such full-on nauseatingly gung-ho gusto that it rolled right over the pathos potholes and carried me with it. I'm not ashamed to say I laughed; a lot. I now have the theme tune stuck in my head.

  6. Lair of the White Worm ( 1988 ) - I am a man who is easily pleased and watching Amanda Donohoe outrageously camping it up as an immortal vampire lizard woman in thigh high PVC boots, or naked and painted blue wearing a huge 'ceremonial' pointy strap-on dildo pleased me immensely. (I know; I'm sad.) This film just doesn't work on so many levels (like all of Ken Russell's films) but it is amazing. It's not funny, it's not horror, it's not sexy, it's not interesting, exciting, weird or... anything really but it is just so gloriously bonkers trying to be all of those things it becomes something else. I just can't help wondering what it would have been like if it hadn't been directed by Ken 'Phallus' Russell in his usual histrionic manner. I doubt it would have been as funny.

  7. The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) - Again. I don't often rewatch films quite so quickly but after enthusing about this piece of jolly fluff to my mum I decided I wanted to share it with her. I'm afraid I have a new Top Guilty Pleasure film.

  8. Satanik ( 1968 ) - very cheap and instantly forgettable fumetti-based film with a female scientist type doing a bit of an inverted Jekyll and Hyde; turning from disfigured monstrosity to beautiful (but ruthlessly deadly) master criminal.

  9. The Great Garrick (1937) - another of my all-time favourite feel-good films. A forgotten gem from director James Whale.

  10. The Paper (1994) - a day in the life of a New York newspaper. And rather well done too. I quite enjoyed it.

  11. Session 9 (2001) - another random selection from the VHS pile. It's the innocents in a creepy place falling one by one to an unseen killer routine but given a twist. Instead of the usual assortment of teenage wannabees stranded in the spooky place (in this case an abandoned mental hospital) we have instead a group of white, blue collar workers with a contract to strip the asbestos out of the place. They're working to a deadline and going home at the end of the day. It's all very credible - and creepy. Not bad at all. Great sound work.

  12. High Heels (1991) - Pedro Almodóvar

  13. Fearless Tiger (1991) - tedious piece of straight to video martial arts crap which involves a wafer thin plot nominally about international drug running but really about the producer star showing of his kung-fu moves - endlessly showing of his kung-fu moves over and over again... okay already! enough with the hand waving, can we have some plot please! Mind you, when he does start talking it's hard to work out what he's saying a lot of the time. I had to rewind the tape a couple of times before I worked out that the 'seeny krute' meant 'the pretty way round', really really bad acting (we are talking village hall am-dram levels of credibility here). Very dull.

  14. Be Kind Rewind (2008 ) - should there be a comma in that title? Feels like there should be but there isn't; I checked. I nearly abandoned this the first 20 minutes of so just left me stone faced and very very unamused. Maybe it's me but I just don't find Jack Black at all funny. It got better once the 'Sweding' started but it seemed to take an age to get there.

  15. Raising Cain (1992) - erm? I'm not sure I really got what all that was about but Lolita Davidovitch was hot, John Lithgow had fun chewing up the scenery in every direction he could think of and there were director Brian De Palma's trademark extended shots - one of which followed characters down three storeys. I like shots like that - for one thing, it gives the actors a chance to do some real acting. I think I like the way De Palma makes films more than the films themselves.

  16. Candy ( 1968 ) - I finally get to see Candy a star-studded piece of late '60s kitsch I've been meaning to look at for years. Starring everyone from Brando, Burton, and James Coburn, written by Buck Henry (who wrote the screenplays for The Graduate and Catch 22) from a book by Terry Southern (who worked on Dr Strangelove and Easy Rider)... and I didn't really like it - there were okay moments, but few and far between. For the most part I thought it too long, too self-indulgent and very very dated. Many people compare this film with Barbarella which was made in the same country (Italy) released in the same year, has a superficially similar(ish) plot line (innocent sexually attractive blonde falls in with a succession of men who take advantage of her naivete) and both films contain shots in which actors writhe around on sheets of glass (the 'weightless' stripping sequence under the opening credits in Barbarella* and a weird, out-of-nowhere shot supposedly in the back of a Mercedes in Candy where Richard Burton's character attempts to seduce the virginal heroine.) Anita Pallenberg is in both films, The director of Candy starred in Barbarella director Roger Vadim's...And God Created Woman (1956) Terry Southern Co-WROTE the screenplay Barbarella etc etc etc. You can see why people compare the two.

    The really big difference is that Barbarella is an adult, a woman; though she doesn't understand what is happening a lot of the time she is a willing and active participant in the sexual acts that occur during the course of the film and is shown to enjoy them. (The only time I think that she isn't a willing participant is when Durand Durand's attempts to pleasure her to death with his Excessive Machine - even then she has a capacity for sexual pleasure far beyond its capabilities and the machine is destroyed instead.) Candy on the other hand is a girl - a teenager still at high school - who is repeatedly coerced into having sex (if not actually raped) by everyone she meets including her uncle and, in the end, her own father. For the most part she seems to get no pleasure from any of these incidents - and for the most part this is all played for laughs. Sorry, but these days this just looks like big-screen child abuse.

    * One of the high water marks in 20th century SF film making in my humble opinion:


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