July's List of Magical Movie Moments
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
- The Fourth Kind (2009) - aliens, found footage, and Milla Jovovich. As crap as it sounds.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Great Garrick (1937) - another of my all-time favourite feel-good films. A forgotten gem from director James Whale.
- The Paper (1994) - a day in the life of a New York newspaper. And rather well done too. I quite enjoyed it.
- 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.
- High Heels (1991) - Pedro Almodóvar
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: