Friday, November 15, 2013

Octoberish's Less Than Inspired Drivel

  1. Pranzo di ferragosto ( 2008 ) - a middle-aged man looking after his elderly mother ends up looking after a whole houseful of elderly women. Maybe the subject matter is too close to my own circumstances but I was less than bowled over by what many people seem to think was a delightful and charming film.
  2. Clash of the Warlords aka Mad Warrior (1985) - now this is more like it! A spectacularly shoddy post-apoc Mad Maxalike from the Philippines which is so stunningly inept it's hilarious. I haven't laughed so much for ages - any film that opens with a two minute freeze frame of an explosion has got something going for it. (Presumably the opening credits were supposed to go over this static shot but apart from a brief - 6 second - flash of the film's title... nothing. No director's credit, writing, music, producer, nothing. I don't think I've ever come across that before. How can you release a film without putting the opening credits in place? Though, as I type this, it occurs to me that maybe the film didn't have a writer, director, or a producer. That would explain a lot.

    Any of you guys directed before? Anyone...?

    So what happens? Basically a lot of podgy Filipinos in leather waistcoats and identical moustaches stare at the corners of the screen looking meaningful; when they're not trying to hack each other's limbs off with axes. The hero gets rescued, twice, by a girl with a machine gun and several characters appear from nowhere and disappear just as quickly. Every shot has at least 57 people in it, most of them yomping aimlessly from one place to another in an attempt to make it look as if something is happening on screen and in the end the villain and hero produce light sabres from god knows where and the villain explodes. Whatever the hero says to the secondary hero at the end, before riding off into an end credit freeze frame, is a mystery as they forgot to dub the dialogue for that bit. But they did remember to put in the end credits. Several members of the crew were listed with their first names only - presumably so the Philipino version of the Benefits Fraud Office couldn't work out who they were. (Though I do like the fact that they had a 'Booman' on the crew. Wonder what his job was? Sneak up behind people when the acting got too boring and shout "BOO!"?)

    As the cherry on my evening's crappy cake of delights, the transfer has to be one of the worst I have ever seen. Not only was there tape roll from the tatty VHS copy from which it is mastered but on at least two occasions the screen went to blue as, I guess, the tape jammed in the machine. Another quality product from 23rd Century. A keeper.
  3. Empire of Ash ( 1988 ) - in a post-apocalyptic America lots of people shoot a lot of other people - a lot. The sort of film made for those who find the thought of firing semi-automatic weapons sexually stimulating but who are too lazy to read a Jerry Ahern novel. Very dull. Occasionally the relentless monotony of people machine gunning each other to death is broken (with a different type of monotony) by just about every woman with a speaking part in this film getting naked - sometimes with comedy 'boinggg!' noises on the soundtrack as their norks come bouncing into view. (Oh, how I laughed.) In addition there's: a 'cute' computer robot, a bickering pair of middle-aged 'Nam vet gun dealers*, a pair of Victoria's Secret clad bimbos, cannibal zombie types lurking in the woods, religious cultists forcing captured nubiles to breed with their ancient leader, and, in a surreal moment that looks like it wandered in from another film, a character with a rocket-launcher hat who wears a glove puppet. But mostly it was Blam! Blam! Badadadadadada! Argh! F**k! Let's get outta here....! Blam! Blam! Badadadadada! Argh! Blam Argh! - Argh! Blam! Very very dull.

    Probably the only film ever to have had a threquel made without ever having had a sequel. Empire of Ash was, apparently, released in Europe under the marketing gimmick title of Empire of Ash 2. When they came to make the real sequel a year later they had to call it Empire of Ash 3 to avoid confusion.

    * 'Viet Nam vets who deal in guns' not 'vet guns'. Can't see why anyone would want to buy a gun specially for shooting vets - though if someone had one, and a time machine, I suppose they could go back and alter history so that Christopher Timothy's acting career didn't peak with his arm up a cow's arse.
  4. Satan's Dog (1983) aka Play Dead - in fact so aka that it said Satan's Dog on the case and disc, Play Dead on the opening credits.* Either way it was shit. One of those films so unengaging you notice continuity errors in the sex scene.

    *Mind you the distribution company also changed its name. On the box it's '23rd Century' on the disc '22nd Century'.
  5. Thor the Conqueror (1983) - the and then... and then... and then... 'adventures' of a well-oiled barbarian type who looks a bit like the way Brendon Fraser thinks he looks, wandering from place to place killing people or raping them, depending on their sex. (Though, to be fair, our hero does kill a couple of women without raping them.) Depressingly dull and dreadful Sword and Sorcery bollocks* enlivened only by the peculiar narrative device of an onscreen story-teller/owl/wizard character who basically hangs around being mystical, watching all this testosterone driven bilge, and commenting on it for our benefit - in a very good imitation of the sort of stuff Ed Wood wrote for his onscreen story-teller/mystic/undead collaborator Criswell. Speeches like this which he delivers as the camera pans away from our hero and his pregnant lover cuddling in their happy bide-a-wee tree-branch shelter:
    "Ena is expecting the fruit of their love. She is a female strong and intelligent; a son in her belly; a woman's magic... but there is coming Newt - the enemy of Thor!"
    His best moment comes when he magics up a quadruped for our hero to ride:
    "In centuries to come he will be called 'horse'!"

    My best moment came when I woke up and realised it had finished. (A moment which I then spoiled by rewinding the film to the place I last remember being awake and watching it again while concious.)

    * a phrase my spellchecker wanted to correct to "Sword and Crockery bollocks"; now that might have been a much more interesting film.
  6. Immortals (2011) - More sweaty men with swords but a much bigger budget, a story, and some seriously drop-dead gorgeous costume design by Eiko Ishiok. (The only reason I bought the film was because her name was on the credits.)

  7. Nightmares Come at Night (1970) - another dollop of sordid seventies' eurosleeze from Jess Franco.The usual mixture of pre-silicon age chesty bits, half-hearted lesbian sex and an utterly-incomprehensible plot (even by Franco's own fevered standards). The incomprehensibility is explained slightly by the fact that this was, apparently - and I guess still is - two unfinished films glued together. It looks like it. But who cares? The screen is full of euroboobs and there's dialogue like this to keep you amused when there isn't:
    "Before I met Cynthia I had a strip-tease act in a sleazy night club in Zagreb. But now I don't know who I am or what I'm doing... It's horrible!"
    and, as abstract as that looks on your screen, it made even less sense in context. Some man our Sr Franco.
  8. The Cry of the Owl (2009) - initially intriguing, but ultimately over-long, adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel. I was slightly wrong-footed by the packaging on the DVD case which shows a an axe holding silhouetted figure staring up at an old house with the strapline: 'When the watching stops... the terror begins'. It looks for all the world like your standard slasher stalker horror bollocks. What arrives on screen is a slow-paced tale of damaged, unhappy people and obsession which gradually turns into a Hitchcocky 'innocent man unable to prove his innocence' flick.
  9. Sin City (2005) - blah!
  10. Batman Begins (2005) - 2005 was obviously a good year for Rutger Hauer appearing in comic book movies. He was in Sin City too. I quite enjoyed Batman Begins though, after a while, I did get slightly distracted by counting the number of British and European actors in, what the surface, looks like a quintessentially American film. The cast (almost) in order of appearance on the film's IMDB page: Christian Bale (Welsh), Michael Caine (English), Liam Neeson (Irish), Gary Oldman (English), Cillian Murphy (Irish),Tom Wilkinson (English), Rutger Hauer (Dutch), Ken Watanabe (Japanese), Linus Roache (English), Larry Holden (Irish), Gerard Murphy (Irish), Colin McFarlane (English)...

    Katie Holmes, Mark Boone Junior, and Morgan Freeman appeared to be the only Americans in there. (Though Shane Rimmer did pop his head up too to deliver what looked like a very tacked-on bit of "Oh my god! I have to explain the dire consequences of what they are doing..." exposition at one point.) To my mind the best of Nolan's Batman films. More substance, less flash! bang! wallop!
  11. Le parfum d'Yvonne (1994) - slow gentle love and loss story. Very French. And probably the funniest single cutaway to a cage full of budgerigars in the middle of a sex scene in the history of cinema.
  12. The Science of Sleep (2006) - a rewatch. And I'm still not convinced.
  13. Dead Awake (2000) - a rewatch and odder than I remember it. A genuinely weird little thriller which just gets odder and funnier as it goes on without ever playing for laughs. About an hour into the film our hero, Desmond Caine, is hiding out in the tiny apartment of a legally blind all-night cafe waitress. The room is half filled by a huge television which is chained to the wall. He turns it on and finds himself the main news item:
    News Anchorman: "Corporate superstar, or love-crazed killer. Who is the real Desmond Caine? Here to offer a window into his bizarre world is Caine's attorney and confidant; Lena Savage. Miss Savage, if Caine did not commit this heinous murder-dismemberment of his fiancées wheelchair-bound lover - how do you explain his suicide attempt?"
  14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) - and I'm back onboard. After the last episode which I thought was a crashing bore I was pleasantly and happily surprised by this one. The first which only happens in the Magic world. Nothing takes place in the real 'Muggle' world here. No Dursleys. And very funny at times too with the humour coming from performance and character for the most part rather than any 'let's do some funny' writing.
  15. SOL (2013) - overlong, very low budget first time director SF film which plays as a variant on the Lord of the Flies, Tunnel in the Sky theme. ie kids, alien environment, survival. Not good but I have seen far worse. It got points for trying and not tromping down the usual tried and trusted low budget movie routes.
  16. Galaxy Quest (1999) - much fun.
  17. Soapdish (1990) - star-studded Hollywood pastiche-lite of an Almodóvar film. Safe and predictable with a couple of nice moments (usually delivered by the vastly underrated Kevin Kline), but not a patch on the OTT originals.
  18. Star Pilot (aka 2+5 Mission Hydra 1966) - wonderfully unintelligible piece of Italian SF. A rewatch.
  19. Future Women (aka Rio 70, The Girl From Rio, The Seven Secrets of Sumuru - and god only knows what else - 1969) - A slightly less incoherent than usual Jesus Franco Bondesque spy nonsense set in Brazil and featuring actors you may have heard of - well, George Saunders. A rewatch.
  20. Eragon (2006) - Just watched this for the first time with my mum (73), daughters (9 + 11), and son (4). as soon as we realised it was Star Wars with dragons (and pretty, scene for scene, blatantly too) we had a whale of a time with it.

    My favourite moment of the evening (not the film) had to be the moment when our young hero Eragon/Luke sneaks his way in disguise into the dark fortress/Death Star's prison cells to rescue princess Arya/Leia. He opens the door and slips inside. She looks up from where she is lying - and doesn't say, "Aren't you a little short to be a Dragon Rider?" It was a moment of anticlimactical disappointment that was beautifully paid off seconds later when the Vader/Durza villain steps from the shadows and says: "Forgive me if I stare, I knew you were young, but even then I was expecting someone a little more, well, more."

    Well I laughed.

    The best moment of the film was a pretty stunning dolly zoom shot. Dolly zooms are two a penny these days but this was the first time I had seen one done from a helicopter as part of what started out as a bog standard tracking shot.

    A large chunk of the evening was spent wondering just how much more like Boris Karloff Jeremy Irons is going to look the next time I see him:

  21. The Inglorious Bastards (1978) - Over-long Italian war film in which hundreds of people run into machinegun fire for no real reason, a train is in two places at the same time, and Ian Bannen plays an American. Dull shite. Tarentino loved it but then Tarantino is a schmuck.
  22. Mini's First Time (2006) - rich sociopath teen seduces her step father. They murder her mother. She frames him. Apparently it was a comedy. I was so hooked I spent most of the show trying to work out in which films I had seen the various, very familiar looking locations before. Pretty sure (without checking) of the ones used in Battlestar Galactica and Galaxy Quest but some elude me.
  23. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2006) - a rewatch of a visually interesting but deathly slow film. I only fell asleep once this time of watching. I think it was three last time.
  24. Dracula 2001 (2001) - I spent so much of this film wanting to like it a lot more than I did. All the elements were there but somehow it just didn't gel. The references to other Dracula films didn't help. Reminding the audience of better films they could be watching is always a risky move.
  25. Trancers II (1992) - humourless straight to video sequel to the mildly amusing Trancers which I watched last month. I'll not bother looking for any of the other sequels (I was wrong before there were in fact five of them).

Abandoned in October in an attempt to prove I do have SOME standards: 

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975) - there are lines, and this was well on the other side of too many them.
Infection: the Invasion Begins bloody awful, very amateur rehash of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers / Slither routine. You would have thought this story had been done so many times it was bombproof - but no, this time it was so ineptly done it was unbearable. This made It Came From Outer Space 2 my previous low-water benchmark (my mixed metaphor of the week) look REALLY good.


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