Sunday, 31 October 2010

2 & 3 Exorcised

Friedkin & Blatty's original Exorcist film is a right hoot and quite memorable. The sequel has a terrible reputation so I thought, as I've watched so much shit of late, I should see just how bad it really is.
Turns out it's pretty awful. Linda Blair returns as a teenage Reagan living a seemingly ordinary life except for some truly bonkers 70's therapy she's undergoing. Anyways all is thrown into chaos when Richard Burton turns up as an investigating priest and they use a hypnosis machine to mind meld accidentally reawakening Pazuzu's influence. Despite looking nice it's a bucket load of tosh with a guff script, nonsensical plot and some half hearted performances particularly from Burton who looks and acts medicated throughout. It's never scary and there's only a few mild chuckles to be had at it's terribleness. John Boorman has definitely done better.

The third film is written and directed by William Peter Blatty himself and he does manage a scare or too even though its more of a cop thriller than anything else. It's got a strong cast including the excellent George C. Scott, Brad Dourif and two actors Scott Wilson & Ed Flanders who appeared in Blatty's other film The Ninth Configuration. Anyways George C. is investigating a murder that appears connected to the original exorcism and gets drawn into some spooky shenanigans. It's a decent enough film with a sharp script and though it's still not a patch on the first it's certainly more enjoyable than the second.

Small Screen Screams

The Walking Dead is a new TV zombie series helmed by Frank Darabont. The 90 min opener is pretty amazing, you certainly can't accuse it of pulling it's punches with an uncompromising first death and some splendid fx. Andrew Lincoln stars as a Sheriff who wakes in hospital to find flesh eaters have taken over and after donning his uniform begins the search for his wife and kid. I've never read the novels but can't wait for the next episode it's just a shame AMC only had the confidence to make 6 episodes in the first season.

The first season of Psychoville was not bad, not quite League of Gents standard but a nice dark tale of local lunatics and their shared misery. The Halloween special is a portmanteau of stories adding background to the original characters all neatly framed by a story about a yoof showing a TV producer around the delipatated loony bin Ravenhill. It was ok, not scary but still pretty funny with some good lines along the way and tied itself nicely into the finale of the original series.

Halloween Howlers

The Lighthouse is a low budget Brit slasher from the director of Mutant Chronicles. A prison ship is sunk near a small island and the surviving crew and crims must contend with a seemingly unstoppable decapitator roaming the island. It's pretty rubbish with some laughable plot turns particularly towards the end. A waste of some competent actors.

Aargh The Beyond is another shitey horror this time directed by Italian Fulci. Some bint inherits a Louisana hotel that sits on a portal to Hell and struggles to cope with the ensuing madness. Even worse dialogue than the Lighthouse and an over reliance on eye gouging this muddled, poorly acted crap should be avoided.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Outer Space Obsessions

Hyperion, moon of Saturn, looking good. Reddit.

Despite NASA having it's wings clipped they're still dreaming big, burbling on about a 100 year Starship.

Others think a one way manned mission to Mars is the way forward. Gulp.

The Yanks have spent almost a trillion on Iraq Round Two but $145 Billion is too steep for a Mars mission? Oh dear something has gone very wrong. Wired via Reddit

It wasn't just water they found on our silvery Moon but er silver and loads of other stuff. Ta New Scientist.

Sounds from the South

I've been malnourishing my ears of late so I'm thankful for Lord Luton's lessons.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Satan in Suburbia

The Mephisto Waltz is a strange, semi successful supernatural yarn starring Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset. Alda plays a frustrated music journalist who becomes chums with a creepy pianist who likes a bit of sorcery. It's got a tv-movie feel about it ie not scary and it's amusingly 70's dated but it's alright, the Hammer-esque story has a nice twisted ending, a smidge of 'mosphere and Alda was way better than I expected.

I found myself a little spooked while watching the original PA so I wasn't expecting much from the recently released sequel, Paranormal Activity 2. The second film is a prequel thingy, focusing on the sister & family of the original hauntee and though it makes a decent effort in tying the two stories together the main problem is the lack of dread. The first couple of scares bombed in the cinema causing much tittering including my own and there's an over reliance on bangjump scares but probably unsurprisingly the cctv footage trick is getting well tiresome. Things do ramp up a bit in the final 20 mins or so but still struggles to be more than a mediocre for the cash sequel. It's doing ok at the box office so they'll probably make a dozen or so but maybe if they franchise it abroad it could retain some interest. Trailer for the Japanese tie-in below.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Dreaming Films

Tarnished Hopper Experiment

The Last Movie, written & directed by Dennis Hopper is pretty decent film that's sadly overshadowed by tales of it's notorious troubled production and actorly excesses. Hopper stars as Kansas, a stuntman/horse wrangler working a filmset on location in Peru. Hooking up with a native senorita he stays behind once the crew leave and becomes entangled in the strange film re-enactment the locals are undertaking. It's not going to be to everyone tastes with it's 60's pretentiousness, casual misogyny, occasionally loopy cinematography and how shall I put it the er chemically befuddled acting but regardless of all that I still really enjoyed it; an ambitious, intelligent film scattered with glimpses of genius and some nice tunes. Some of my admiration for Hopper waned though when I read on Wikip that Hopper initially offered a somewhat coherent version but took Jodorowsky's advice and fractured the narrative.

I Like Chinese

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) is a 6 hour documentary series about the Python team in a exhaustive Beatles Anthology type stylee. All the surviving members appear, with Chapman in video form, rambling about their work and the behind the scenes egos etc and over the six episodes they pretty much cover everything from inspirations, first steps, success, the movies and cracking the States. I'd have preferred a bit more detail about the making of the original shows and as a fan there wasn't too much I hadn't heard before but it's a good watch, with some amusing talking heads and plenty of clips. Strange then that it hasn't appeared on UK TV? apparently the Beeb have only aired a 1hr cut last year but Finland, Israel & New Zealand have all shown the 6hr version? I get Finland but why not it show here? I bet the stoopid BBC are sitting on it for some anniversary or something. Twits.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spacey bits

Bad Astronomy have a nice pic of a solar eclipse from space courtesy of the SDO

With doubts being raised about Gliese 581g exobiologists should be revitalised by the results of experiments replicating conditions on Titan that seem to indicate DNA could form there without the presence of water. & DailyGalaxy

Some nerds from the Paris Observatory have identified the oldest, most distant galaxy yet - born a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang.

Weird ring on the surface of the sun spooks kooks and millenarians. Ta DerrenBrown

Boffins have found a mysterious hot spot on exoplanet Upsilon Andromedae b. Catchy name.

Australia & The Moon

Roadgames staring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis is a decent Oz thriller with a strong Hitchcocky flavour. Keach plays a lonely truck driver whose curiosity draws him into cat and mouse game with a lady strangler & puts sexy hitchhiker Curtis at risk. It rolls along quite nicely with a good script, some stunning outback landscapes and an excellent performance as the stressed, overworked driver.

Mark Gatiss' adaptation of HG Wells' The First Men in The Moon was pretty good. An eccentric polymath cobbles together a spaceship and along with a chum ventures to discover the secrets of our silvery moon. Gatiss pulls the story forward in time a little and adds a contemporary-ish frame around the main adventure which worked surprisingly well and ensures there's plenty of comedic touches throughout. My one small complaint was I couldn't understand what the boss Selenite was saying and had to pop the subs up but otherwise a fine adaptation and I hope success cause I'd love to see Gatiss tackle some other classics.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Birthday Clock

The 600 Years from the macula on Vimeo.

Prague's Astronomical Clock is given a stunning video makeover to celebrate it's 600th Birthday. Thanks to BoingBoing & their submitterator.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

It's Just a Ride

American: The Bill Hicks Story is a touching, hagiographic documentary about one of the finest comedians to emerge from the US who was grossly undervalued in his homeland. Made by two British filmmakers with a strange semi-animated technique there's plenty of home videos and early footage peppering the testimony from friends and family. There's nothing particularly revelatory here if you're already a fan but it's still a great watch.

Near the end of the film there's a bit about toothless Dave Letterman cutting Hicks' final performance on the show so in case you're interested here he is trying to make amends to Bill's mum last year.

Parts 2 & 3 and one of my favourite Hicks bits below

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thrilling Females

Winter's Bone is a quietly brilliant thriller about a daughter searching for an errant father who's put the family home up as bail bond. Though the plot is pretty slim it's a well crafted, tense film that relies on the quality of the acting instead of explosions and familiar faces. The bleak naturalism reminded me of Frozen another rural thriller with a female dominated cast.

Otto Preminger's Laura is a classic film noir about a detective who becomes obsessed with a murder vic during his investigations only for her to walk through door a few days later. With a stellar cast including Clifton Webb, Gene Tierney and Vincent Price this finely scripted melodrama lives up to it's reputation.

Triple Meh of Horror

Cushing and Lee star in a Robert Bloch adaptation called The Skull. Cushing is a occult researcher and buys the Marquis de Sade's noodle box off a disreputable antiques dealer despite his friend Lee's protestations, needless to say things start to go awry. It's ok with solid performances but it's a bit plodding and lacks any menace. Not one of Amicus' best films.

Buried Alive is a tv thriller directed by a pre-Shawshank Frank Darabont. Some dude gets a taste of puffer fish from his Mrs and ends up waking up in his coffin while she celebrates with her Dr/Lover. Funnily enough hubby isn't too chuffed and plans his revenge while hiding out in the basement. What could've been a really good noir-ish film is spoiled by hammy acting and a quite mad finale.
Deadly Blessing, an early effort from Wes Craven, is mostly rubbish but a sort of good rubbish. A newly married Amishy escapee is mysteriously crushed by his tractor and his widow must try and cope with freaky religious nutballs, unhelpful college friends and some weird supernatural McGuffing. Sharon Stone pops up and scoffs a spider, Borgnine sports a chin strap beard with extra frown and it's got Berryman from Craven's Hills Have Eyes too. I wouldn't seek it out but it's kinda funny in that sort of 80's way

JFK & the Oil Biz

I had to really dig around to find Executive Action - a solid political thriller in a docu-drama stylee that's nicely acted by Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan - hard to find I guess 'cause it's about the rather obvious conspiracy to assassinate JFK. Presumably Ellroy's seen this at some point because the film's cabal of big money, shady spooks and disgruntled ex-Cubans seems awfully familiar nonetheless it's the straight forwardness of this film, the simple stating of the facts that makes this a much more effective film than Stone's over long effort 18 years later.

Collapse is an alarming documentary about our peek oil problem & geopolitics. Apparently the film makers had contacted Michael Ruppert regarding his investigative work on CIA drug running in mainland USA but both thought this was the more compelling subject. It is decent film and Ruppert is quite the interesting chap but sadly it feels a little tin foil hatty to me at times. Maybe if they'd bolstered Ruppert's pieces with some other talking heads or something it would have felt less a rant and more of a theory.

Gashole on the other hand takes a much broader view of the oil problem with a focus on the duplicitous industries that lie behind our addiction. It maybe doesn't have the polish or the intensity of Collapse but there's some interesting titbits strewn along the way like the fact that Rudolf Diesel's original engine ran on peanut oil and Ogle's '77 patent for a 100mpg engine. I'm not personally convinced by the bio-diesel solution trumpeted here as it requires stretching our already exhausted agriculture even more but it's still the more effective film of the two.

Moon Madness

Jalopnik have a stunning gallery of pics from the failed Soviet Lunar Program.

The Moon has inspired plenty of odd theories over the years and the idea it affects rainfall seems as barmy as the rest, but it might just be true according to boffins, accounting for maybe 2% of rainfall after new and full moons. They're still working out why though. Via io9

NASA might have given up on the Moon but China's second lunar orbiter has arrived successfully.

Apparently lunar craters may have dangerous electrical fields.

From our own celestial companion to Mars' mysterious Phobos which trumps ours by having it's own fricking monolith. Obviously boffins are keen to explain it away as ejecta from an impact but I'll keep thinking of C.Clarke until someone has a closer look.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Spy Vs Spy

Hopscotch is a fairly conventional spy thriller that's lifted by an excellent Walter Matthau performance and Ronald Neame's fine direction. Pushed out of his job as a field operative Matthau decides to write a book about his cold war escapades - cue a globe trotting game of cat and mouse as everyone scrambles to stop publication. An amusing little thriller.

Despite an impressive cast including Lancaster, Hurt, Hopper and Hauer Sam Peckinpah 's The Osterman Weekend is a right mess. Hurt stars as a widowed agent who enlists TV journo Rutger in hunting a Russian spy ring made up by his old college chums and encourages him to turn their planned weekend into a paranoia party. According to Wiki Peckinpah fought over the script, the production and the editing so I guess it's no surprise this is a preposterous and muddled thriller, apparently there's another cut available but I won't be bothering.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Odd 80's & another tame horror

Nothing Lasts Forever is a bizarre B&W urban fantasy starring the kid from Gremlins, Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray. Set in an alt-Manhattan where the port authority have seized complete control a young wanna-be artist finds guidance from some tramps who happen to be the hidden masters of the world and ends up on a lunar bus trip. Written & directed by some dude from SNL it's a bit of a mess but a charming, gently comedic one. If you can find it and you like Gilliam-esque strangeness I've give it a watch.

Devil is the first of Shyamalan's Night Chronicles series (based on his ideas but written/directed by other peoples) and too my surprise it's not terrible, certainly an improvement on The Happening or Lady in the Water. The premise is ridiculously simple; a bunch of strangers are stuck in a faulty lift with Satan and unfortunately for them he seems in a playful mood. Anyways it avoids the pretentiousness of Shya's own films and plays out as a pretty average b-movie; the acting is competent and it ticks along ok it's just a shame it's not scary.