Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Page Based Productions


Cronenberg’s shiny/grimy adaptation of Cosmopolis (a sharp knife in the shallow guts of 21st Mammonism) retains some of it’s edge despite the uneven performance from Twilight Pattison. The film follows the book quite closely with most of the billionaire-on-the-brink’s varied antics included during his slow limo crawl across a gridlocked city and I’m sure there’s a fair bit of dialogue lifted too but there’s not enough time to give either their significance. It’s a fine looking film and there’s still plenty of smarts behind it’s gleeful, grim comedy so it’s worth catching but I’d recommend the novella first.

Another thought provoking, nuanced novel, Steppenwolf, got a big screen version back in 1974 and although good, similarly lacks the depths of the original. Max von Sydow stars as the melancholic scholar who, adrift after WW1, finds his mind and life lifted by an unusual jazz loving woman oh and lots of drugs and esoterica. The acting is excellent, the production not so much, peppered unnecessarily with some dated, gimmicky animations and sfx . Still there’s an effectively dreamy, dissolute weirdness that pervades proceedings and like Cosmopolis plenty of the big thoughts are intact.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

British '78s

Richard Burton stars in the curious British paranormal chilller The Medusa Touch from 1978. The chronologically jumbled narrative follows a detective’s investigation into the attempted murder of a man who’s witnessed a few too many tragedies but perhaps unsurprisingly a far darker truth is slowly revealed. This is a low budget curio which, despite some of it’s frippery, musters an effective brooding atmosphere that ticks along nicely towards a suitably grim finale and of course It does help to have Burton in the centre of the piece exuding a smouldering menace that far outweighs his screen time. Understated & underrated.

Shape shifting aliens, cannibalism & lesbians feature in Prey, another British horror from ‘78 that, although quite ridiculous, has a potent, dreamlike atmosphere that masks most of it’s shortcomings. On arrival to Earth the alien adopts human form and infiltrates a nearby mansion only to loaf about for days winding up the squabbling lovers that live there – so far so idiotic and though the script  is half baked and the acting, er, shit it somehow kind of works. There’s some nice directorial touches but I guess it was the sheer weight of all that strangeness that kept me watching to it’s baffling denouement. Probably just for aficionados of cult crap but there’s enough here to justify a remake,

Peace by the Dozen

Peace Go With You Brother  - Gil Scott Heron

A Chance for Peace – Lonnie Liston Smith

Peace – Horace Silver

Whatever Happened to Peace - Visioneers

Peace in the Valley – Sam Cooke

Prince of Peace – Pharoah Sanders

Peace of Mind - Neil Young

Peace Brother Peace – Dr John

Peace Be Still – James Cleveland

Peace Piece  - Bill Evans

Give Peace a Chance  - Leon Russell

We Gotta have Peace  - Curtis Mayfield

Doltish Double

Seth Macfarlane peddles his particular brand of shtick onto the big screen with the foul mouthed fable Ted. A young boy's wish comes true when his ursine companion comes to life but 20 years later the bear has some nasty habits, a potty mouth and seems to be dragging his friend down. Wahlberg's acting isn't much better than the CGI bear's and though there's a couple of decent laughs the script consistently aims low and I found it a depressingly tawdry watch. Probably quite enjoyable when drunk.

There's  a few more dull witted chuckles in 321...Frankie Go Boom but it has a meanness of spirit that really shouldn't be encouraged. Chris Dowd stars as an unrepentant bunghole who thrives on humiliating his brother on camera and on his return to the family home post rehab he recommences the torture despite being a fully grown adult. Lurching from jape to jape the script never really picks up momentum and it, like Ted, prefers the low hanging fruit of pratfalls and crudity to crafting any decent character comedy. Instantly forgettable nonsense with sour note.

Audible Additions


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Drivelling Low Lights


Sometimes even I am surprised by the lazy, craptaculars that get churned out by Hollywood machine these days but Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter was quite astonishing in it’s vacant, soulless idiocy. Retelling the story of an American hero with some fang action thrown in probably seemed a good idea on paper but it’s a pitiful, by the numbers plotted pile of steaming dung that has literally no redeeming merits and will no doubt be an endless source of embarrassment for the director Bekmambetov, producer Burton and the talented cast including Brits Sewell and Cooper. Avoid.

Resident Evil: Retribution is a similarly crummy action flick with Jovovich and Anderson seemingly deluded into thinking that there’s mileage left in this weary franchise. Seguing directly from the 4th the action starts with Alice rescued/kidnapped from the wreckage of aircraft carrier by the Umbrella Corp and her subsequent monster stomping escape. Paper thin characters stumble through predictable set pieces with the usual fan favourite critters making intermittent appearances and though I’ve nothing against the games or some of the earlier film efforts this is a complete waste of celluloid that’s neither scary, thrilling, inventive nor even that grisly

Hard Realities


The artful documentary The Impostor is a look at the baffling experiences of a 20 something Euro-drifter who assumed the identity of a missing Yank teenager. A murky, quite disturbing undertone is unfurled along with the facts of the story but none of the well handled interviews with the key players manage to clear up the central mystery, done deliberately I presume, to keep things light and breezy. Still this is riveting, quite barmy viewing that’s presented with some nice flourishes of style.

There’s nothing light or breezy about Kirby Dick’s new documentary The Invisible War which is an unflinching expose of the epidemic of rape in the American military. The testimonies from the victims, mostly women, are harrowing but it’s the systematic obfuscation and half hearted investigations by the authorities that are somehow almost harder to bear and though there has been some policy changes it’s a woeful state of affairs – I hope our own Services are better policed. Tough going but an admirable, entirely necessary watch.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

There’s something about Stacy


Stacy Keach puts in a powerful performance in Luther, a 1974 film about the religious reformer produced as part of the so far excellent Masterpiece Theatre series of stage adaptations. The film follows the theologian's career from ordination and onto Wittenberg and his cataclysmic showdown with the Vatican sporting a powerful script which manages to balance the character of the man with his unflinching scorching idealism. Keach is ably supported throughout but dominates this film with a nuanced, quite remarkable turn. Heavy going but brilliant.


Keach's stunning portrayal of a damaged Viet Vet focuses the kaleidoscopic threads of 1970 counter-culture classic End of the Road. Adapted for the screen by Terry Southern (famed screenwriter rake) the film charts the recovery of a once catatonic patient and his reintroduction to society under the manic but paternal tutelage of his psychiatrist, played with much brio, by James Earl Jones. Shot with dollops of 60's psychedelic accoutrements that are probably an  acquired taste this is a tricksy, occasionally amusing film that shines a light into the damaged, delirious mindset of late Sixties Amurica that has plenty of substance to back up it’s style.

These Strange Relationships


Russell Hoban's black comedy/thriller Mr Rinyo-Clacton's Offer is an entertaining, if slight, read about a heartbroken man who impulsively strikes a strange Faustian bargain with a predatory millionaire. Our protagonist soon regrets his decision however as the unusual Mr Rinyo-Clacton begins to take a close interest in his and his ex-girlfriends lives and the tensions builds. I’ve only read Hoban’s excellent Riddley Walker previously so was a little disappointed by the simplicity of the plot and prose of this book but it’s still a nicely grubby urban fairy tale that’ll keep you busy for an afternoon or so.

Like Hoban’s Offer, The Haunted Woman by David Lindsay is a more mainstream effort from the author who wrote the early philosophical, scifi novel  A Voyage to Arcturus. A young woman accompanies her aunt to view a country mansion and finds herself and her engagement troubled by the mysterious building and it’s current owner but tragically is unable to reconcile herself to the opportunity presented to her by some unusual, supernatural experiences. Lindsay handles the dichotomous narrative with aplomb and though it felt a little underdeveloped at times there’s a wonderfully dreamlike atmosphere to events and he has the confidence to leave most of the ambiguities unresolved.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Monday, 12 November 2012

Spatial Specials

5 years of Solar X-rays. Reddit.


Hinode snaps Venus in solar transit. Reddit.

Nebula wigglegram from Know Your Meme.

Superfluous Reduxes

It's been a while since I've dipped into anime, mainly due to it's preoccupation with giant robots and panty shots, but the recent OVA reworking Berserk: Golden Age is showing in a local cinema so I'd thought I'd give it a go. Set in a medieval-ish era, Berserk follows the career of a single minded mercenary called Guts and his bloody travails in search of vengeance. The animation is a distinct improvement on it's 80's predecessor and surprisingly it’s retained it’s commitment to violence and viscera however the story, squashed as it is, lacks much of the finesse of the original leaving me to wonder what viewers unfamiliar with the story will make of it.

Alucard is under the kosh at the start of Hellsing Ultimate Ep. 9, the latest in the reworking of the vampiric anime/manga but it's not long before he dusts himself off and scrapes the streets of London with his enemies entrails. This OVA retelling doesn't quite seem to tickle me like the original series did maybe it's the feverish animation, the thinned out, hyperbolic characters or the Nazi-Vamp Zeppelin invasion storyline I dunno, it does have some merits however with a rich smorgasbord of gore and a bucketful of attitude.

Scant Cinematics

The Day is a gloomy lump of Canadian post apocalyptica that attempts to blend the bleakness of The Road with the action of Book of Eli but with little success. A gaggle of survivors drift aimlessly across a ravaged America trying to avoid strangers but after resting up in an abandoned farmhouse they become prey for a cannibal horde and a desperate siege ensues. The plot and script are uninspired and though there's a fair bit of action it's filmed in such a blurry, poorly lit way you can barely tell what's happening. Bog standard B-movie stuff.
Barry Levinson tries his hand at found footage horror with The Bay. A survivor recounts her experiences about a small town's 4th July celebrations that are somewhat dampened by a flesh eating parasite from the local estuary which cuts a bloody, grisly swathe through the inhabitants. Rather than focus on a single camera source the framing narrative allows Levinson to mix things up with cctv, mobile and police car footage and though it's admirably modest in it's ambitions it isn't scary and some of the key performances are unconvincing. Better than Day but not by much.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Powerless Paranormals

Red Lights is a starry thriller about psychics and sceptics that, despite the classy production values, has little original to say about either and isn't particularly thrilling. Cillian and Sigourney play a pair of sceptical paranormal investigators who debunk about exposing charlatans and the deluded but when a once-famous medium, played by De Niro, rolls back into town things get all serious and they're faced with someone with seemingly genuine powers. It's well acted, nicely shot and there's a surprisingly realistic representation of the work of parapsychologists but that's all thrown away by a denouement of unabashed mumbo jumbo.

Clint's Hereafter, on the other hand, takes on a more traditionally dim-witted perspective on the paranormal and is just as unsatisfying. Matt Damon leads the cast playing a reluctant medium who slowly ties the disparate threads of the story together into one giant mawkish, internationally-flavoured lump of schmaltz. Eastwood can make decent films and though it looks nice and the characterisation/script are of a reasonable standard I found the plot is too earnest, too po-faced that I almost fell asleep twice. One for the true believers only.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Four Things Sonic


Rummy & Tricky


Richard Lewis stars as a recovering alcoholic in the film Drunks. Set predominantly during an AA meeting our protagonist is asked to retell his saga of booze, pills and heartache but the effort leads him to flounce out and falling with great gusto off the wagon. The script is painfully honest/earnest and there's plenty of talent on display including Faye Dunaway, Amanda Plummer and Sam Rockwell but it all feels a little uneven as the film flits between Lewis' quite tedious, shouty lapse and the remaining addicts quiet recounting of their individual tales of woe. The film has, I guess, quite admirable intentions but it doesn’t exactly make for great entertainment.

Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst star as a pair of ditzy hippy chicks in the Presidential comedy Dick. After straying during a tour of the Whitehouse the duo befriend Richard Nixon and slowly, unknowingly become involved in the Watergate scandal. This is goofy stuff that’s more charming than funny but it’s nicely spun into the actual historical facts of Nixon’s downfall and the endearing leads are supported by a number of surprising cameos playing the key figures.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bitter Belly Laughs

Peter O’Toole struts his stuff as an upper class lunatic shepherded towards the House of Lords after his father's death in the irreverent, blunderbuss satire The Ruling Class. O'Toole's family are exasperated when he's nominated as the sole heir of the late Earl's fortune and when he turns up, asylum fresh, yet still convinced he's the big JC, his relatives develop a cunning plan to resolve the situation. With O’Toole in fine form and some excellent support from Sim and Lowe this is a gloriously scathing, dark swipe at our beloved class system that isn’t afraid to be more than a little silly. It’s long but worth every minute of your time.

Apparently Blake Edwards drew on his own ambivalent experiences in Hollywood for his cynical, lolloping satire S.O.B. A celebrated director is driven to suicide after his first flop but after his friends rally his spirits he embarks on a foolish re-edit to rescue the picture. Julie Andrews, Edwards’ actual wife of the time, leads the cast as a starlet smashing her wholesome image with her first nude scene and she’s joined in the fun by a bevy of famous faces including Vaughn, Loggia, Swit, Hagman and William Holden depicting a slew of hanger-ons, shady agents, dodgy docs and rapacious producers. It’s not nearly as focussed as Ruling Class and Mulligan’s central performance is, ironically the weakest but it’s acerbic script is sharp and funny.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Couple of Corman’s

Dean Stockwell leads the cast in The Dunwich Horror a Roger Corman adaptation of the famed Lovecraft short. Stockwell turns up at a library hoping for a squiz at the Necronomicon in an effort to continue his ancestor's research but after entrancing one of the librarians it becomes clear his interest is more practical then academic. Despite the low budget and a hokey script this is still a half decent Hammer-ish chiller mainly down to Stockwell's creepy, weird performance which only falters during the climactic, highly amusing, ritual. Goofy fun.

Doug McClure stars as a fisherman-buffoon in another Corman produced horror B, Humanoids from the Deep. A spate of fishy attacks and a couple of corpses eventually lead the dull witted locals to the realisation that they're being invaded by murderous bottom feeders who also appear rather keen to make sexy time with catchable ladies. I suppose there’s some so-bad-it’s-good titters to be had along the way but the dreadful acting, dire script and piss poor production values (bad even for a Corman flick) meant that this was almost switched off more than once. Don’t bother.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Frightfully Eighties

Scott’s smoky vampire flick The Hunger with Bowie & sapphism.

Mann’s spooky castle The Keep sports a Tangerine Dream soundtrack.

Cushing, Price & Lee unite for a horror spoof The House of Long Shadows.

Mental Matters

Interesting excerpt  about the role of placebo/nocebo and Dancing outbreaks. Scientific American.

Seeing sound? Livescience have an article worth reading.

The sense of self seems to lurk behind children’s peekabo behaviours according to Cambridge labcoats.

Mindhacks has a nice article about the psychological lure of puzzly videogames.

Looks like the mechanism behind prosopagnosia has been found. Reddit.

Science Daily has an article about our revealing predilection for monsters in our culture.

Dishonesty is unpicked by a Duke University boffin in an interview with Scientific American.

Investigating the body/brain’s interaction with weight gain. Reddit.

Decoding dreams in Japan? Telegraph.

Terminating Teens

A deserted, overgrown town situated near the meltdown site provides a suitably creepy background to the by-the-numbers chiller Chernobyl Diaries. A bunch of yank tourists take an ill-advised tour of the ramshackle settlement and quickly become prey to it’s current, rather murderous mutated inhabitants. There’s a few nerve jangling moments hidden among the cheap jumpy scares but the acting and script are so humdrum that it all slumps rapidly into mediocrity. Not terrible but hardly terrifying.

High school kids are getting killed off by a movie inspired psychopath in the frenetic, po-mo Detention. After the first couple of corpses turn up a disparate group of students take it on themselves to unravel the mystery and find themselves neck deep in a genre/mind bending escapade. Though the acting is so-so this comedy/horror has a quite exhilarating hing pace, driven relentlessly forward by a flashbang, music video editing and a script rammed tight with gags and a plethora of pop culture references a la “Community”. Shallow, fast paced fun but with a style that’s bound to be divisive.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Horror Throng

Brit horror/comedy Cockneys vs Zombies is as basic as the title suggest and it’s best bits are crammed into it’s trailer sbut it sill managed to raise a chuckle or two. Builders pop a sealed tomb and inadvertently unleash a zombie outbreak on the East End sending a bunch of bungling bank robbers battling across town to rescue their Grandad who's holed up in a scheduled-for-demolition old folks home. There’s a few nice chompy bits but the stronger, better acted and funnier OAP's segments are secondary to a predictable and cliched main story that has little imagination or charm. Half decent.

British 80's cult horror, Xtro, is just as flawed but at least has the decency to be quite, quite bonkers. When a UFO buzzes a remote cottage and abducts a middle class dad his traumatised son grows up with his mum and her yank boyfriend. When hubby strolls back into their lives a few years later, seemingly sans memories but with extra odd, his presence seems to unlock strange abilities in the kid and a merry, icky rampage is excreted. This is low budget stuff that's badly shot and poorly scripted/acted but it does mine a thick vein of gooey, quite repugnant body horror that's interspersed with some genuinely barmy deaths.

Comic Contests

Bruce Dern smirks and slimes his way through the beauty pageant comedy Smile released back in 1975. As the ladies arrive in town for the judging, Dern, playing a local business man, revels in his role as organiser/judge and finds himself drawn to one of the pretty younglings, ignorant of the venom and heartbreak that’s happening backstage. Wonderfully acted and with a script that disguises it’s considerable with a light and breezy atmosphere. A brilliant yet neglected slice of seventies satire.

Butter doesn’t have the same bite as Smile but it’s a fairly reasonable swipe at another Amurican pageant tradition, butter carving. A  wholesome, vacuous couple dominate the local competition but when a little black girl and stripper enter the fray things get personal and new heights/lows are breached. Jennifer Garner takes the lead and is joined by Jackman and the gorgeous  Olivia Wilde but their efforts are mostly wasted on the thin script and a cheesey side story.

Auditory Aces