Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Couple of Corman’s

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Electoral Dysfunction

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Robert Redford is approached to run against a long standing Senator in the political drama soft satire The Candidate from 1972. As the reluctant nominee hits the campaign trail the idealism and values he started with are slowly eroded as his chances improve and real power comes close to hand. Nicely acted by Redford and Peter Boyle this bitter, sharp swipe at the Amurican electoral system has a nuance that could be mistaken for understatement these days but it's a fine, depressingly prescient film that deserves a lot more attention.
40 years later and there's little if any understatement in The Campaign, a starry, comedy nutpunch towards Amurica"s current political idiocy. Zach Galifianakas, playing a campy tour guide, gets recruited by a pair of billionaires to unseat the incumbent oaf Will Ferrell and the race to Congress pushes both men to the brink, redefining classic political pandering and dirty, dirty tricks. Though it crumples into a typically cheesy finale there’s a surprising amount of bite to the comedy, hidden as it is beneath an avalanche of puerile and slapstick nonsense. Considerably better than expected.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Mild Bogglers

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The removal of a longstanding French moustache sparks an enigmatic and paranoid thriller called, unimaginatively, La Moustache. As the mundane event unravels the urbane architect’s relationship and sense of reality, the film reveals itself to be something other than straightforward but unfortunately it’s this pivoting, intended to deepen it’s mysteries, that is it’s undoing. Despite the decent performances and cinematography the film fluffs it’s tensions with a fairly stark change of pace and a drift into rather clich├ęd ambiguity. It’s still a good watch just a little unfulfilling.

Mark Romanek’s 80’s debut Static is a modest but peculiarly effective drama about a bereaved inventor who builds a device which offers glimpses of heaven and gathers the odd-bod residents of his small town to witness his ingenuity. With a quiet humour softening the tragedy of the main character and some great acting from Keith Gordon and Amanda Plummer Romanek marshals a delicate atmosphere and some poignant observations on our oh-so-human condition. Even though, like La ‘Tache, this stumbles a bit with the denouement it’s a much more interesting and successful film.

Little Link Lustration

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Someone’s found a Russian geoglyph, above, that predates the Nazca lines. Daily Grail.

Ancient Mexican Ley Lines? Reddit.

Intriguing tale of an Icelandic medium. Daily Grail.

Does questioning the motive behind the bombing of Nagasaki & Hiroshima make you a conspiracy nut? Reddit.

Didn’t know L Ron Hubbard wrote songs, shit ones sung by Travolta and other brainwashed idiots. Disinfo.

Russian kid finds a Mammoth carcass whilst walking his dog. BBC

Anomalous booming is irking the residents of some Amurican town. Reddit.

There’s another ‘solution’ to the Zodiac killer’s code. Reddit.

A neurosurgeon goes all gooey after a rather Christian NDE. Reddit.

Science/Art synthesist Neil Usher has built a robot which scans the skies for pareidolia. Wired.
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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Poised, Paged Pleasures

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Allan Kurzweil’s debut novel A Case of Curiosities is an entertaining and surprisingly accessible story about a French peasant from the 18th Century who becomes an engineer of wondrous automata after receiving tutelage from a eccentric, defrocked priest. Despite the fizzing, Eco-ish, display of erudition Kurzweil keeps the prose light and fun, interspersing theories of sound and chromatics with pornographic enamels and nicely drawn odd bods and although the first third is a bit of a trudge once our protagonist arrives in Paris both the author and his characters get plenty of room to dance. A thoroughly entertaining slice of historical fiction that manages a fine balance between bawdy and brains.

Don DeLillo struts about the pages of The Body Artist exhibiting his ample talents with a deceptively slight novella about grief and our experience of embodiment. The quiet life of a couple of artists is shattered by suicide and the seclusion of the grieving widow provides DeLillo an opportunity to drive his solitary character through a hazy examination of loss, identity and what it means to be ‘present’. De Lillo’s simple, spartan prose lulls the reader into deep waters, churning up a slew of unsettling and uncomfortable ruminations with a panache that few authors can match.

Saturday/Sunday Sounds

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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Raving & Lunacy

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Where's Poppa? is a darkish 70's comedy about a beleaguered son tending to his crabby, increasingly deranged aging mother. After falling in love in with her new nurse he decides to rid himself of his hectoring burden once and for all. The script although amusing relies too much on a glut of farcical situations for most of the laughs and though George Segal and Ruth Gordon put in reasonable performances the film's dark discontentment gets squandered somewhat. It's good but not really worth the effort required to find a copy.
Donald Sutherland and Gene Wilder perform double duties in the silly farce Start The Revolution Without Me. Set in pre revolution France the duo play a pair of muddled-at-birth twins, with one pair destined for penury and fecklessness while the other luxury and ruthlessness. A plot to murder the King reunites their fates in a madcap torrent of misunderstandings and slapstick antics. The comedy comes in all guises with pratfalls, satire and irreverence steeped in a quick but goofy wit that’s handled marvellously by the talented cast. Though it’s probably too silly for most it’s a nice little nugget of offbeat laughs.

Rare Good Feelers

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The Bird People in China is a beautiful, quite touching film about the toil and toll that contemporary life fosters reflected against the simplicity of country, peasant life. A salary-man and yakuza are sent to mainland China to investigate a jade mine and after a gruelling journey they become entranced by the picturesque village and the purity of the villagers lives. Aside from stunning cinematography and the marvellous performances there’s a gentle humour to the script and depth to the plot that takes the viewer on a remarkable, emotive journey. It’s not often I gush about films but this is probably one of the best films I’ve watched this year as well as the most surprising, who knew Japanese horror maestro Takashi Miike was capable of such humanism.

The heart warming continues with Harry &Tonto, a 70’s road trip flick about an old man crossing the US with his pet cat after being evicted from his apartment block. The central performance of Art Carney as Harry, the weary but wise pensioner, shines with a warmth and understanding throughout which occludes some of the cheesier encounters during his journey. For the most part it’s a charmingly amusing, poignant movie that takes the time to address the darker aspects of our lives and our treatment of the elderly, it’s just a shame that it’s period styling seems almost laughable now. Still it’s a testament to it’s effectiveness that Carney won the Best Actor Oscar against Pacino in Godfather Part 2 and Nicholson in Chinatown.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Artful Factuality

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Information is Beautiful has been doling out awards for infographics and there’s some stunning entrants. The Lunar Calendar above and Cover Song river below are some of my friends. covers
There’s a lovely chart depicting hurricane paths on CoolInfographics.hurri

Bartel's Twisted Past

Paul Bartel had a varied career as successful actor, writer and director. His 1972 debut behind the lens, Private Parts, is a sleazy black comedy which follows a virginal teenager fleeing her squat and into the care of a distant aunt who runs a decrepit hotel populated with a bunch of perverts and weirdos but as the young girl settles in, her attachment to a creepy photographer puts her in jeopardy. The acting is piss poor and there's barely enough comedy to justify it’s existence but it does have a sort of grubby charm and an enthusiasm to offend (even if it does seem tame by today’s standards) so it’s not a complete waste of time.
Eating Raoul followed a ten years later and is much more accomplished dish of bad taste chuckles. Bartel himself plays one half of a professional couple who come up with a unique method for funding the culinary ambitions however their peculiar plan becomes unstuck with the arrival of a young handsome confederate. The script is much tighter than Private P and despite the murderous lunacy of the main characters Bartel still, somehow, manages to elicit some sympathy. Sure it looks terrible and the shock has paled over the years but it’s a decent watch
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Monday, 8 October 2012

Hailing Halloween

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Sound engineer Toby Jones arrives in Italy to work on a Giallo in the ambiguous psychological horror, Berberian Sound Studio. Never quite finding his feet nor making friends with his colleagues Jones finds himself a little lost and reality and the disturbing film he’s working on begin to seep together. The juicy audio and murky cinematography churn a deliciously thick atmosphere which is ably magnified by Jones’ marvellously crumbly performance. I was a little disappointed that the drift into a Lynchian weirdness didn’t amount to much but this is still an unnerving, quite brilliant homage to 70’s Euro-horrors.

A little Irish island gets plagued by rapacious squid-ish critters from Outer Space in the modest but entertaining Grabbers. Playing out much like Tremors, the monsters soon start munching the locals with much abandon but, rather fortuitously, the key to the villagers survival is drunkenness and the fight back begins albeit in a slurred, uncoordinated fashion. The reasonable cast have enough laughs in the script to keep things ticking along between the action and though it probably had a tiny budget the sfx are quite good. With a bit more work this might have been great but it’s a strong b-movie effortless and the sort of film our film industry should/could easily bang out a la Hammer or Amicus.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Animal Antagonisms

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Peter Weller stars a rising exec tormented by a jumbo rat in 80's psych-horror/comedy(?) Of Unknown Origin. When Weller’s wife and kid take a holiday, he neglects his work for the task of ridding himself of the irritating rodent invader but the slow burning feud takes it’s toll and descends into all out man v rat war. The production is horribly dated and plot totally preposterous but Weller puts in a suitably tormented performance that manages to stitch together all the nonsense. Not great but surprisingly not awful.

Stephen King's canine horror Cujo, also from 1983, shares the simple man vs beast storyline as Origin but lacks the competent acting to bring it to life. A backwater mechanic's lumbering St Bernard gets rabies and after munching the family hounds a woman and child for a couple of days when they arrive to pick up their car. It's got a decent reputation but this little thriller bored my rigid and by the end I was wishing that more of King's usual one-note characters had got the chomp too.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Scientific Spatters

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Jaw dropping pictures by some Russian photographer of the an Icelandic eruption on a river.

Scientists discover a method for repairing defects in crystals by inserting particles. Via Reddit.

Evidence builds for a massive Earth strike 13,000 years ago. DailyGalaxy.

Nice demonstration that your conscious mind isn’t quite as in control as we like to think. Via Reddit.

Interesting story about the discovery of unusual ‘ritual’ tunnels at Baiae. Simthsonian.

Bird brains appear to have cell structures similar to those found in the neocortex – a formerly distinguishing characteristic of mammals. ScienceDaily

Looks like we’ve found an ancient Martian river bed. DailyGalaxy.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Haphazard Image Array

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Bibliodyssey have some lovely prints from a 19th C book of eccentrics and oddballs.
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Gorgeous but mistitled gallery of liquids up close. Courtesy of Reddit
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Adorable scifi covers from a early 20th publication. Via Retronaut

Dark Dabbler Docs


Maya Deren’s hypnotic footage is the basis for the documentary Divine Horsemen about Haitian Voodoo.

Interesting if amusingly muddled BBC documentary about English Witchcraft circa 1971.

A surprisingly even handed but brief documentary about the life of Aleister Crowley.

Hip Hop Historicals

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Ice T uses his clout to gather the heavyweights of rap for his excellent documentary Something From Nothing. The focus is squarely on the craft of writing rhymes and his own legendary status ensures his interviewees are happy to relax and share their writing secrets with a fellow rapper. There's a few notable absences and a little too much Kanye West for my tastes but overall this is a thoroughly entertaining history of rap that, thankfully, eschews the macho posturing and bling that sullies their art.

Run DMC and the Beastie Boys collaborate in the 1988 nonsense thriller Tougher Than Leather. DMC gets released from prison and rejoins the band with the prospect of a new tour but when their friend is murdered they go looking for revenge instead. The plot, performances and production are pretty awful but it’s fortunately  festooned with cracking old school performances from both bands and steeped in some badass period ‘charm’. Great fun but for fans of the music only.