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