Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Troubled Waters


Delving into the Catholic Church’s seemingly systemic paedophilia problem doesn’t exactly make for an entertaining watch but Mea Maxima Culpa, directed by Alex Gibney, is definitely worth the effort. Gibney initially focuses on some harrowing cases at a deaf school in America before developing the story internationally and though it begins to chart the bureaucratic incompetence and obfuscation of the Church he admirably maintain a heart breaking focus on the victims. A well reasoned, step by step damnation of the Church’s response to a most horrifying, devastating epidemic.


Another talented documentarian, Eugene Jarecki, takes a similarly hard yet emotionally grounded look at the War Against Drugs in his polemic The House I Live In. Starting with a story close to home Jarecki begins to chart the dubious socio-political roots of our prohibition policy and it’s rampant escalation into a multifaceted war without end. Jarecki gathers an interesting bunch of talking heads, including police officers, prison wardens, users, academics, dealers & Wire scribe David Simon to detail the severe cost of utter failure of this approach to every part of our society.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Iridescent Black & Whites

A Taste of Fear is a tidy little Hammer thriller from 1962 starring Christopher Lee and Susan Strasberg. A pretty young crippled woman returns home from her schooling at the behest of her father only to find him curiously absent with just her new stepmother and chauffeur in attendance, her disquiet deepens when she begins to see visions of her Pops around the house in a less than lively condition. Nicely shot and sporting a tight, lean script ably fleshed by the skilled actors this brilliant little gem builds towards a finale that's as unexpected as it is brutal.
Blake Edwards is mostly remembered for his goofy comedies but he also made a considerable impact in other genres and thrilling Experiment in Terror is a fine example of his earlier work. A bank teller, played by Lee Remick, is forced into committing a heist by a seemingly ubiquitous, asthmatic bampot but his persistent terrorising begins to fall on deaf ears once she’s aided by a Fed, played by Glenn Ford. Stylishly shot and with buckets of atmosphere this thriller packs a fair punch and though, like Taste above, it’s plot is a little hackneyed the quality of script and performances elevate it well above the typical.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Paperback Perusalings


Mark Pilkington has penned a highly interesting, mildly amusing study of 60 years of Ufology entitled Mirage Men. The central thesis, essentially, is that a variety of American agencies have quite actively fostered and encouraged the mythos of flying saucery as a handy cover for the development ant testing of experimental craft and as an unusual conduit for espionage. Pilkington carefully reinterprets most of the main historical ‘occurrences’ showing how key players have been closely linked to Psyops groups started in WW2 and how their disinformation was spread to focus and refocus the attention of the curious and/or nutty. A remarkably lucid, rather convincing read that’s only slightly mired by the author’s occasional dips into credulousness.


A Time before Genesis is a po-faced little pot boiler that weaves millenarian ramblings into some batshit global demonic/alien conspiracy capering, which, given it was written by the late comedian Les Dawson, really is quite a surprise. The plot is pretty standard stuff with a journalist stumbling into the murky mire but finding respite with a motley band of Crusaders fight together to thwart the evil that pervades the modern world. The writing is fairly terrible, characters paper thin and the plot well, it’s at least as barmy as it is derivative though it does have a nicely downbeat ending. I’m left wondering sadly if the late, great comic was a closet loon, a frustrated author or just trying to cash in on his renown, all in all a puzzling curio that probably isn’t worth the effort in hunting out.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Wandering Whimsies


Whether you consider it a rip off or homage to Miyazaki’s work the animated Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a highly successful, quite charming adventure that could easily slip into Studio Ghibli’s masterful canon. A young girl picks up some unusual music on her crystal radio set that leads her into the company of an enigmatic boy from a subterranean kingdom and onto melancholic escapade. The writer/director Shinkai ‘borrows’ much of the animation stylings of Miyazaki, explores similar themes of loss and the passage of time and even cobbles together a patchwork plot that’s half Castle In the Sky, half Spirited Away but unfortunately forgets to lift the delicate scripting and well, modesty. A thoroughly entertaining film from a filmmaker with much promise.

Jackson continues to mine the rich Tolkien seam with the first part of his trilogy adapting The Hobbit. Martin Freeman, as usual, mugs his way through proceedings as Bilbo Baggins who gets recruited by a certain wizard into a dwarf heavy quest to evict a troublesome dragon blah blah blah, I’m sure you’re familiar with the plot. There’s more humour here than Lord of The Rings and it’s a sunnier production overall but Jackson still packs in plenty of action and, given it’s certification, a surprising amount of dismemberment.  As we’ve come to expect Jackson assembled a talented ensemble and his polished production and attention to detail make for lush storytelling and this, and it’s subsequent sequels, will no doubt rake in the cash as well as a plentitude of well deserved plaudits.

Abnormal Acts


David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, has clearly inherited his father’s penchant for body horror as his impressive debut Antiviral, a sneaky, low budget, high concept scifi flick positively glistens with creepy, twisted fleshiness. Working as a vendor of celebrity infections, our protagonist decides to scoop the competition and takes drastic measures to secure the mysterious affliction that’s struck down a beautiful young starlet. Cronenberg sketches out a nicely jaded dystopia where science has become a slave to the pernicious cult of celebrity and the quiet pacing and performances underpin it’s increasingly unsettling atmosphere. As Pops Cronenberg drifts more and more into mainstream features it’s a relief someone in the family is keeping up the tradition of squirming squeamishness.


Although Absentia doesn’t manage it’s budget quite as well as Antiviral it’s still manages a mouldering atmosphere of weirdness that lifts it above the average horror/thriller. After 7 years, a young wife is about to declare her missing husband dead and enlists her wayward sister to help tie up things only for the husband to crawl through the front door rambling incoherently about a close to home kidnapper. The script is a little thin at times and the production a bit low fi but the plot’s menace and weirdness are developed nicely as the character’s emotional churning soon blossoms into a sticky miasma of dread and confusion. A solid, interesting little chiller that’s worth a look and shows that Kickstarter funding might be a viable option for cash starved film makers.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Fine Fabrications


Tape sculpture genius. Via This Is Colossal.


New 23 foot sculpture installed in New Orleans Museum of Art. Via Neatorama.


Glass & wood waves from some Italian artisan. Via BBB

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Mining the ‘68 Seam


Alan Bates puts in a powerful performance as an unjustly imprisoned Jewish handyman clinging to his principles in The Fixer directed by John Frankenheimer and loosely based on the infamous Beilis trial. Anti-Semitism was rife in Tsarist Russia, so when a boy turns up murdered it’s easy for the locals and authorities to blame a nearby Jew but they didn’t count on his tenacious refusal to confess despite their brutal, merciless treatment. Bates is ably supported by Dirk Bogarde and Ian Holm but they pale way into the background as Bates rounds out the razor sharp script out with a perfectly pitched portrayal of a man driven to despair and beyond.


Tony Richardson scorched the screen in ‘68 with his savagely satirical The Charge of the Light Brigade. Targeted squarely at the idiocy of the Victorian upper class twits behind the planning and execution of the Battle of Balaclava, the film follows a young officer, played by David Hemmings, who fails to talk sense into his superiors and suffers a miserable end along with the rest of the troops. Trevor Howard, Vanessa Redgrave and John Gielgud bring plenty of colour to the smaller roles and Richardson’s deft direction balances the tragic and comic beautifully. An underrated classic.