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.

September's Heap of Filmic Tripe


  1. Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) - Russ Meyer's last film. A frenetic sexplotation comedy centred around the everyday story of a husband with an IQ of 36 and 'an inability to look a good fuck in the face' and his wife who suffers from 'enthusiasm'. It's cartoon stuff, Warner Bros' Loony Tunes capering - with tits. And it's pretty funny for great chunks of its running time, though for the life of me I couldn't really tell you why. Most of the funnies come from the strange mock earnestness of the on-screen, direct to camera narrator who hustles the narrative from one bonkers set piece sex scene to another. His monologues are a weird mixture of Dylan Thomas-like relentlessly mellifluous free-flowing poetry, and straight, plain-speaking American newsreel commentary. Strange stuff. And it's not just the narrator - at one point two characters converse in rhyming couplets while having sex, and one of the many bouts of furniture-rattling humping is cut to the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore. It's almost free-form film making, chaotic, jazzy, uncontrolled. Bebop softcore porn. I like it. And not just for the boobs.
  2. How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (2000) - A curmudgeonly writer, happily childless, is changed by meeting a neighbour's little girl who suffers from cerebral palsy. Actually, written down like that it sounds like a real piece of over-sentimental crap but it's a mildly amusing tale and mildly heart warming in an unsentimental and remarkably non-gushy manner.
  3. Dorian Gray (2009) - The Oscar Wilde story with, as usual for National Lottery funded projects, a shitload of money thrown at the art department and not enough thrown at the script. It could have been worse.
  4. Rollerball (2002) - pointless ADHD remake. The best bit of the whole sorry mess was the rather good music by Fifth Element composer Eric Serra. I may have to find the original sound track. I play the Fifth Element OST often enough.
  5. Bugsy Malone (1976) - for the gods-knows-how-many-timesth time but the first time on the big screen since I saw it in on its first run in the cinema 37(!) or so years ago. It is now Number One Daughter's 'favourite film' - replacing Labyrinth in her affections.
  6. Forbidden Planet - for the gods-knows-how-many-timesth. I dearly love Forbidden Planet and, now I own a decent DVD copy, I got to watch it projected for the first time in 27(ish) years. (Last time was in Hull library theatre.) It's a film of its time; contemporary magazine SF made flesh and gorgeous to look at.
  7. Dolls (2002) - my second Takeshi Kitano film (the first was the multi award winning Hana-Bi) I'm still not convinced. Slow, elegiac (it says so on the cover), and emotionally engaging - I'll admit to having a real lump in my throat when the girl shows the boy she remembers the necklace - but in the end it didn't just work for me. I kept getting thrown out of the film. Some of the editorial decisions bordered on the patronising. It was almost as if the director wasn't confident that the audience would remember who characters were without him reminding them from time to time. 'Look it's HIM!' - the fade in of the traffic warden / obsessed fan's character as his blood was being washed from the street was the most obvious. We knew whose blood it was. It had been clearly established it was the traffic warden / obsessed fan's. He was the only character wearing a white suit and carrying a white blind person's walking stick. We had seen him walking down the road. We had just seen a shot of his blood splattered body lying on the road. Why did we then need the fade in to remind us who he was as his blood is washed off the road? We didn't. It might have been useful to know how he had gone from walking down the road to lying dead on it - did he get run over? did he kill himself? THAT wasn't clear, but there we go. He's an award winning director and I'm just some poor chump who doesn't know my arse from my elbow or if ALL Japanese women are insanely beautiful - or just the ones that appear in movies.
  8. Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974) a vastly disappointing piece of late Hammer nonsense that I had never got round to seeing before. Brilliant title though and proof (if proof be needed) that I would watch any old shit if it had Caroline Munro's cleavage in it.
  9. Crash of the Moons (1954) - an early TV movie nailed together from episodes of the Rocky Jones: Space Ranger TV series. It's pretty awful stuff; it's only really redeeming moment was the one when our hero dons a space suit to deal with a red hot meteorite (in interstellar space?) that has become attached to his ship's tail planes. He deals with it by taking a fire hose out the airlock and squirting the thing with water - then shooting it with a hand gun till it falls off. I nearly hurt myself laughing.
  10. Reptilicus (1961) - which was a vast disappointment. I didn't really have high hopes for it. It's a Danish Godzilla with a winged prehistoric lizard thingie stomping the landmarks Copenhagen flat while the combined might of the Danish armed forces futilely fire everything they have at its general direction. (But not the Air Force. Did the Danes not have an Air Force in 1963 or did they get a preview of the script and decline to take part?) But I was expecting better from Ib Melchior the writer of Deathrace 2000, the rather good Robinson Crusoe of Mars, the very odd Angry Red Planet, and the oddly good The Time Travelers. It was directed by Sidney Pink (ditto some of the above). Not one of their better efforts.
  11. Ikarie XB1 (1963) - a rewatch of one of my favourite pieces of Soviet Block SF but this time it's a brand spanking new DVD with subtitles (in English!) without spelling mistakes from the newly discovered Second Run label. Happy birthday, me.

    Untitled by dpsantos, on Flickr
  12. Sucker Punch (2011) - what my mate Nou says: "unbelievable garbage from start to finish, not even all the [scantily-clad symmetrical women flashing their knickers while firing machine-guns] could save it." (How can anyone make scantily-clad symmetrical women flashing their knickers while firing machine-guns boring?)
  13. Buffalo '66 ( 1998 ) - odd.
  14. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) - the Alan Rickman one. A lot longer than I remember.
  15. House of Usher (1960)
  16. The Legend of Hell House (1973) - the second film in a row to feature four characters stuck in a house written by Richard Matheson. Some genuine chills here but ultimately it all fell a bit flat. Nice score though. Some genuinely weird stuff on the soundtrack thanks in part to the great Delia Derbyshire.
  17. Quatermass 2 (1957) - meh.
  18. Elektra (2005) - comic book guff which I abandoned a couple of years ago at about the twenty minute mark. Occasionally I go back and look at films I didn't like first time round just in case I was wrong. Sometimes I am (cf The Stuff above). This time I wasn't.
  19. The Phantom Planet (1961) - clunking piece of not very good SF watched with Number One Daughter. We giggled a lot.
  20. Crypt of the Living Dead aka Hannah, Queen of the Vampires(1973) - another fine DVD product on the defunct cheapo (and questionably legal) 23rd Century label. Most of their discs appear to have been hand-mastered from battered ex-rental VHS copies and often have tape roll and other undigital blemishes but this was the first one I have watched that changed aspect ratio from scene to scene. Some scenes full frame, some matted off top and bottom. I have no idea why. It was almost as if the DVD had been mastered from two different sources. The film itself was pretty run-of-the-mill American abroad / superstitious locals vampire nonsense but with the odd moment of interest: like the moment when the metal conduits for the lighting in the tourist site location look slightly out of place in the recently excavated archaeological dig the site is pretending to represent. Makes you wonder why all the characters are wandering around in the dark holding up piddling little paraffin lanterns when there's a whole son et lumière waiting at the flick of a switch.
  21. The Sleepwalker Project (1997 - or 2003) - an accidental rewatch of two 60 minute episodes of a short lived TV series chopped into a 84 minute TV movie. The TV series aired (and was cancelled) in 1997 and the movie seems to have appeared in 2003. I accidentally rewatched it because I thought I was watching two different episodes chopped together than the episodes I watched chopped together last time. The show had potential and was passingly interesting - researchers can enter other people's dreams and poke about and solve crimes, right wrongs, etc. etc. Mission Impossible with reality bending (years before Inception). It had potential. Somewhere along the line the 'film' had been released under two different titles. Sleepwalker Project and or Sleepwalker/Sleepwalkers (depending whether you believed the disc or the case). By the time I had realised the cause of my growing sense of deja vu tonight I was too knackered to change the disc and get something else to watch. And Naomi Watts is hot....
  22. Specimen (1996) - low budget SF constructed from bits of garbled retellings of several other (much better) movies: Terminator, Starman, Firestarter and Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (sic - Abraxas, Guardian of the Galaxy was better) and very flatly done. For most of its time it looked like a tatty pilot for an unambitious 'man alone wandering America helping strangers while looking for his destiny' type series - complete with fade to black commercial break points - but with nudity. (Thinking about it, the nudity footage could easily have been edited out if the they'd sold it to TV but was obviously shot to spice up the trailers if the film got a release.) It sucked; even with the nudity - it's a measure of the film's suckiness that the script doesn't even nod at the essential creepiness of our hero imagining his dead mother stripping naked and getting impregnated by aliens. (The fact he accidentally burned her to death when he was a child makes it even creepier.)
  23. Trancers (1985) - a Rule Seven movie ( 'Rule #7: Any and all time travel devices [in low budget SF films] will only transport you to Los Angeles the year the film was made; no matter how hard you try to make it take you somewhere more interesting.'*) Part of a minor group of post Blade Runner low-budget movies that mash-up the hard boiled detective and SF Genres. Some work, some don't. This one teeters on the edge by not taking itself too seriously but not desperately striving for the yoks. By not taking itself too seriously it allows the audience to sit back and ignore the gaping plot holes. By not scrabbling to milk every laugh it avoids the sad, mind-numbing desert wasteland that is the unfunny comedy. Best line: "Dry hair is for squids." There were four sequels.

    *I wish I could remember what the other rules were.