Sunday, 20 December 2009

Festive Viewing Habits

Okay seeing how it's christmas once again, I thought that I would share with you all what I consider to be my essential christmas viewing, as lets face it once you get past the present giving and have put yourself into a food induced coma, there is nothing better than digging out a guilty pleasure or two and just veg the holiday away
So here in no perticular order, are the films which I personally like to dig out each year.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas



This is pretty much the one film I always watch, usually on christmas eve and despite having seen it countless times, I'm still finding things which I hadn't noticed before, thanks largely to the sheer amount of detail which is crammed into each scene. True not all the songs might not be the greatest, especially with most of Jack's songs often going off on strange tangents, but these are easy to over look thanks to the memorable characters and black humour, which makes it all the harder to see this film as a Disney film and begs the question, to wether they knew what they were getting or not much like Princess Mononoke (1997). Still it has over the year gathered a dedicated following spawning a countless number of fan fiction stories, but this is probebly one film best left without a sequel.


2) The Matrix (1999)



You know those movies, which you can still remember watching for the first time? Films which contained moments which just made you sit up and say "Wow". Well for me the Matrix is one of those movies, as I can still remember the first time I saw it and just how blown away I was, as here was a film unlike anything else I'd seen up to that point and even now, it's still a great movie to pop on, if only to rewatch the carnage of the lobby shootout.
True the initial concept might have been waterdown by the lackluster sequels and various spin off's, with some working ( The Matrix Reloaded, The Animatrix) and others just being a mess (The Matrix Reloaded) and true I might not have gotten the ending I wanted for the series, with Neo waking up in his apartment and being right back were he started, but as a stand alone film, there is still alot to love about this movie, just for the sheer amount of ideas and fantastic moments, which it throws at the viewer, which makes it all the less suprising that the Wachowski's never managed to top it.

3) Beerfest (2006)



Honestly when I first sat down to watch this movie, I didn't think that I was going to enjoy it, especially seeing how it had been mauled so badly by the UK film critics upon it's release, this also combined with my failure to get into Broken Lizards first film "Super Troopers" (2001) which had lead to me skipping "Club Dread" (2004) meant that I really didn't have high hopes for this film. Guess I was kinda surprised to find it such a great movie, with the Broken Lizard team it seems finally managing to get a handle on their material, with this story of two brothers, who discover a secret drinking tournament, only to be thrashed by the Germans leading them to a plan to return with a team of their own.
True ethnic stereotypes might be in full effect here, which might dumb it down a little too much for some people, but seeing how the subject matter is drinking, it was hardly ever going to be high brow entertainment to begin with.
Jürgen Prochnow is fantastic as the coach of the German team and never seems afraid to ham things up when needed, helping to keep this a fun experience throughout and definitely a good movie, to put on when you just want to be amused.

4) Gremlins (1984) / Gremlins: The New Batch (1990)




It's hard to think of Gremlins as a christmas movie, but the first film is just that but it's still worth digging out at pretty much any time of year much like the sequel, which does suffer from being more like an episode of "The Muppet Show" than the first, but Joe Dante does a fantastic job of walking the tightrope between comedy and horror, but both a fun movies wether you love the cuteness of Gizmo or the plain randomness of his chaos obsessed sibblings, neither film seems to lose it's charm even after watching it for the hundredth time I still find myself laughing at the same stupid jokes.


5) Inglorious Bastards (1978)



Yes as much as I enjoyed Tarantino's take on the title, there is somthing about the original version which, just makes it such a fun film to watch, which could be largely down to it's brisk running time, aswell as the fact that it's not a war film about the horrors of war, but shot instead more like a boy's own adventure, as our convict heroes embark on a suicide mission for the French Underground Resistance, along the way killing a whole heap of Nazi's. Not only does it feature Fred Williamson, but also a memorable scene involving a topless chick and a machine gun, which kind of makes it worth checking out for that scene alone. At some point I will really give this film a proper review, but for the moment it definatly deserves a place on this list.
I also asked a number of my favourite bloggers to submit thier festive viewing, which I have listed below, so make sure you check them out and a big thanks to them, for submiting articles on their festive viewing habits.
Jenn (Calavade of Perversions) - Is all for a Horror themed Christmas
Evil Dead Junkie (Things That Don't Suck) - Gives his thoughts on "A Christmas Carol"
Jay (The Horror Section) - Is keeping Christmas Horror free and having a "Cosmic Christmas"
If anyone else wants to submit anything on thier christmas viewing habits just drop me the link and I will add you to the list.
Hope you all have a great christmas!!!





Monday, 14 December 2009

Regular Service Will Resume Shortly....



Okay, so some of you might have noticed that I havn't wrote anything in awhile, which is largely down to my current work situation. Regular readers will know already that I work for "Borders" possibly one of the best book chains on the high st......well it used to be, as a couple of weeks ago the company was put into administration, with the company being put up for sale as we looked for a buyer, which as the weeks has passed has become increasingly more unlikely meaning that I will soon be unemployed, which is a real rosey thought this close to Christmas.


With the company entering into administration, we have been selling off all the stock aswell as the furnishings, which has lead to a whole heap of vultures coming into the store, the majority of which couldn't have given two shits before about us, but now can't wait to get through the door and buying stock cheap and generally making the lives of the staff (even more) miserable.

Needless to say this whole situation hasn't exactly made me a fun person to be around, especially when my career aspiration was to always work for Borders, making me feel even more lost now, especially as I see these vultures trashing the store on a daily basis. This in turn really killed my desire to do anything, but now I feel that it has been too long since I posted anything and plus I have a whole pile of random films, waiting to be watched and wrote about here, so this is basically a post to say that I'm back and will hopfully get a new review posted over the next couple of days.

Another project I'm hoping to happen for this first christmas here on the blog, is to hopfully have some cross blogging happening, with writers from other blogs submitting thier throughts on thier favourite film to watch on Christmas Day, the kinds of movie that you put on, after putting yourself into a food induced coma, so if anyone is intrested in taking part let me know and we will see if we can make somthing happen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Electra Glide In Blue



Title: Electra Glide In Blue
Director: James William Guerico
Released: 1973
Staring: Robert Blake, Billy Green Bush, Mitchell Ryan, Jeannine Riley, Elisha Cook Jr.

Rating: 3 / 5

Plot: John Wintergreen (Blake) is rookie Arizona motorcycle cop, whose big aspirations of getting promoted to Homicide frequently drive his fellow officers and superiors insane, only for him to be granted this wish following the mysterious murder of a hermit.

Review: This movie is the kind of film that you stumble across on some late night channel, usually after having staggered in drunk and knowing that to go bed, will only mean spending the next few hours holding onto the side of the bed, as it flies around the room. It’s also in this state that you usually feel that Kebabs are suddenly a good source of food, which really brings into question how good a movie this really is, especially as most of the people who seem to have enjoyed it, were usually in the fore mentioned state when they saw it.



“Electra Glide In Blue” can be best described as a modern western, something only enforced really by the barren environment in which the film is set and a belief certainly shared by Cinematographer Conrad Hall, who was keen to shoot the film in the same style as John Ford’s westerns, which lead to a clash with director Guerico, who finally agreed to let Hall shoot the exterior scenes in this style while Guerico got to shoot the Interior scenes any way he wanted, which means that occasionally, the film does suffer from extreme changes of style, with the sweeping panoramic exterior views and the more grimy interior shots, but it does make it easy to understand why Wintergreen feels so frustrated, with having to work in this environment especially when his fellow officers such as his best friend Zipper (Bush) prefer to spend their time slacking off and harassing hippies, with Zipper especially taking a particularly hard nosed attitude towards them, even planting evidence on one hippy whose van he has just searched, which makes me wonder what it is about desert cops and their frequent disregard for protocol, especially when Zipper spends most of the film reading Comics in the shade, rather than actually doing any work.
It is through the murder of a hermit that we are introduced to Detective Poole (Ryan) who from the outset seems a man of similar mindset to Wintergreen, but who he soon finds is none to dissimilar to the officers he had previously been working with, if not with a memorable scene involving Poole brutally interrogating a bunch of hippies, who had previously lied to Wintergreen about knowing a suspect and it’s these scenes which at times verge on almost shocking that we see Wintergreen beginning to indentify with the these hippies more than his fellow officers, even more so as the sheen of working in Homicide is slowly worn away. It’s also during these scenes that Ryan really shines, even more so when he discovers that his waitress girlfriend (Riley) has been secretly sleeping with Wintergreen, leading to a crazy contest between the Riley and Ryan’s characters which towards the end I kind of shocking and certainly felt reminisant of similar scenes in “Blue Velvet” (1986).



Despite being a desert western in style, it is certainly not the most action heavy of films, with the whole film, much like Tarantino’s “Death Proof” (2007) feeling like the build up to the fantastic motorcycle chase sequence towards the end of the film, in which every crash and fall is emphasised by the film being slowed down noticeable, allowing the viewer to full appreciate each bone crunching second of impact of this crash porn, even going to far as to suddenly cut out the music, when the film switches into one of these moments, before suddenly blasting it back in, when the film returns to the chase and it was this scene which almost made up for the rest of the movie, which I found to be dialogue heavy, which wouldn’t have been a problem, had it felt as if any of the characters had anything interesting to say, with at times scenes of dialogue feeling over stretched and un natural, which was certainly not helped by often unnatural pauses between characters or them painfully dragging out their words, which is none more noticeable than in the scenes between Wintergreen and Zipper.
Another aspect of the film I never understood, was why they make the Wintergreen’s height such a selling point on the film, when it is barely touched upon or mentioned in the film and certainly doesn’t prevent him from carrying out his duties and it’s not like he is a midget or something, which might have made this film slightly more enjoyable viewing for me than it was, however if it does have an ending which did leave me actually kind of shock, in the same way that the ending of “Easy Rider” (1969) did which it felt certainly the most similar to, especially seeing how it is so unexpected, even more so when director Guerico has already given the audience one shocking climax, which would certainly have been enough to wrap up the film, only to pull out a second and certainly more abrupt and shocking second ending, which some might argue feels a little unnecessary, but to myself it felt more as if Guerico was trying to point out in much the same way that Rob Zombie certainly enjoys doing with his films and who has also been quoted as being a fan of this film especially, that nothing in life is as black and white as it seems.

“Electra Glide In Blue” might be seen by many as over looked cult classic, while I personally found little to keep my attention and as good as the chase sequence is, there is little to keep the audience attention, which could also be said for Tarantino’s “Death Proof” a movie which I keep feeling the need to compare this film to, but unlike that film, the dialogue constantly fails to hold the attention of the audience, meaning that most will have probably have given up before the stand out chase sequence, which as I mentioned earlier it does feel that the film is one big build up for. Perhaps its my dislike for the western genre, which accounts for my lack of enjoyment with this film, but I would certainly not be in a hurry to watch this one again.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Death of Bunny Munro



It’s been a long wait for Nick Cave fan’s who have eagerly been awaiting the follow up to his accalimed debut novel “An the Ass Saw the Angel” which was released twenty years ago back in 1989, so it’s safe to say that the fans have had quite a wait for his second novel, with his only real writing outside of music being the script for the Australian outback set western “The Proposition” (2005) which is actually one of the very small number of westerns that I have actually enjoyed watching.
Being the Nick Cave fan I am, I was eagerly looking forward to the release of this book, even though I have never (and still have to) read his first book and I was curious to know whether he would be able to adapt his writing style to suit a novel, even though his music, like that of Tom Waits (who I also adore) is very storytelling in style anyway, so I was hopeful that he would be able to pull it off, while maintaing his reconisable pitch black style.

“The Death of Bunny Munro” follows the middle aged lothario and travelling cosmetics salesman Bunny Munro, as he takes an out of control road trip across Brighton in the wake of his wife’s recent suicide, dragging along with him his son Bunny Jr.
From the start it seems that Cave is not trying to allow the reader to like Bunny, infact he makes it almost near impossible to like the character, with his constant womanising and alcoholism as he travels around Brighton and seemingly caring only for himself and little for the effects his actions has on those around him, surrounding himself with like minded men who continue to help boost his ego. It’s through his eyes which the majority of the novel is seen, painting the local area in only the darkest shades possible, especially with Britain being under attack from the latest serial killer, who chooses to dress as a devil while committing murders, which could be seen almost as a sign of the forthcoming doom, much like the cement truck which constantly seems to stalk Bunny’s Yellow Punto, as he travels from place to place.
From this darkness Cave create he does however allow a sole hint of light which comes from Bunny’s son, Bunny Jr. whose innocence to this world which surrounds him, only really proves to emphasise the shameful acts of his father, who he see’s only as his hero and the greatest guy and none of the things, which the reader see’s Bunny as and this it has to be said does at times make you question your judgements of Bunny, only for Cave to then force you to forget any forgiveness you might have felt for him, as he bombards you with another filthy act, usually involving Bunny’s constant daydreams about the vaginas of various celebrities, in particular Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavinge who he constantly uses for comparison, while staring at other women which did make me question whether this was perhaps a joke shared between Cave and Minogue, who had previously collaborated together during her Indie years and which it turns out wasn’t the case, as in a recent interview for the Guardian, Cave admitted that he did write an apology for these scenes, when he sent her a copy of the book.
The character of Bunny Jr. might be one of the sole likeable characters, constantly trying to do what’s best for his dad, who is constantly on an increasingly self destructive path, not even wanting to trouble him for the medication he needs for his eyes, while at the same time giving you the feeling that he feels strangely drawn to this adult world of his father, which might be the reason he provides such little protest, especially as he seems to have little life of his own outside of his constant quest for knowledge, which gains through reading his Encyclopaedia and something which might explain for his shy and solitary existence, outside of a brief encounter with a young girl on the road, which afterwards feels like another attempt to gain further respect from his father, has he listens to him tell the story of his first love, who he met at a Butlins holiday camp, with this story in many ways giving a brief insight into what made Bunny the way he is, much like the meeting with Bunnys own father Bunny Senior towards the end of the book, who it is made to feel played a large part in shaping Bunny into the man he became, a theory which relies heavily on the belief that it is a persons environment which shapes them.

The choice to set the novel in Brighton is great choice, especially seeing how it is currently were Cave lives and the spattering of local place names and locations only further drives home this love which he has for the city and for myself personally helped to continue the feeling that the novel is in many ways like the literary version of a great indie movie, though it is doubtful that we will ever see a true film adaptation of this book, with Cave clearly enjoying the freedom to be as controversial as he likes with the material, thanks largely to books not suffering from the same censorship which movies do. Still despite this the book has unofficially become the most returned title, to the branch of Borders I work for, usually accompanied by the words “Disgusting filth!” which really begs the question as to what they might have been expecting from a book written by Nick Cave, whose work makes him seem darker than the devils spit, it was pretty much clear to most of us even before we picked it up, that this book was hardly going to be a joyful romp, through the English countryside and on this front he does not disappoint, which may lead to him alienating a large proportion of the book reading public, which fans of such equally dark and warped writers like Irvine Welsh, Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk will no doubt find this an enjoyable, if slightly twisted read.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Quirk Classics Madness Continues


Before I begin this latest entry, please let me first apologise for not posting anything for a few weeks, which was mainly down to recently getting married (photos to follow for those interested) and before I head off today on Honeymoon, I thought that I would just quickly post about the latest title in the "Quirk Classics" series, which I have been following pretty much since the release of the hit and miss "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", which combined the Austin classic with flesh eating zombie hordes and ninjas a mix which would work in places, but by the end felt as if the joke had been stretched too thin. Their follow up "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" worked a lot better, with it's 70% new material, 30% Original material blend which gave me the impression that Quirk Classics might have learned from their mistakes of the first crossover, which helped see the sudden release of more than a few similar themed titles, as other publishers all rushed out their own Zombie infused crossovers with mixed results, in pretty much the same way that Stephanie Meyers' "Twilight" saga saw a huge increase in the number of Paranormal Romance titles being released.

Now Quirk Classics are back with the third title in their "Quirk Classics" series with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls" which has been given a release date of March 23 2010, and seeing how they have once again sparked my curiosity, just about gives me enough time to get through Don Delillo's epic 900+ page novel "Underworld" which I'm currently reading.

Returning once more to Regency England, this latest novel will be a prequel to the original "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" introducing the reader to Elizabeth Bennet before she became the seasoned Zombie Hunter of the first book, with this prequel being set at the start of the Zombie plague and long before the dead began roaming the English countryside. Seeing how this book is a prequel it will also be the first time in the series that a book is being written from scratch, with only Austin's original characters, being the sole connection to the source material.
Original writer Seth Grahame-Smith has once again chosen not to return, instead currently busy writing "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" with Quirk Classics bringing in another new writer, to continue the series in the form of Steve Hockensmith, who is best known for his Sherlock Homesian westerns, which star two cowboy brothers solving crimes using the methods of their hero "Sherlock Holmes".

I have to say that I am surprised that Quirk have chosen to do a prequel, rather than adapt another classic, as I never felt as if “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” needed one, having got my fill with the first book and I was looking forward, to seeing them turn their attention away from the world of Austin’s novels which it seems I may have to wait a little long for, though I can’t help but feel at the same time that this is Quirk trying to make up for the mistakes of their first book, only to emphasise the parts which were wrong with it to begin with I.e the need the to cram in ninjas!! Still as I wrote already I will no doubt be looking at this book when it’s released next year and finding out whether Zombies and Austin is a mix that will ever work.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters


Following on from the huge success of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” it was only a matter of time before Quirk classics unleashed their second reimagining of an established classic, here once again returning to the world of Austin with “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” something which came as a surprise to many, that they hadn’t stuck strictly to the horror genre, meaning that there is none of the suspected Vampires appearences here, which was a great relief especially to people like myself, who are sick to death of the recent Vampire obsession that being lead by Stephanie Meyers “Twilight” saga as well as Charlaine Harris’s “True Blood” novels, which in turn have lead to a whole heap of imitators, as various publishers attempt to cash in on this boom in the Paranormal romance market, while since the release of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” a huge number of imitators turning up, often just taking a popular story and giving it a horror twist such as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim” and “The Undead World of Oz: L. Frank Baum's Beloved Tale Complete with Zombies and Monsters” to the really unnecessary crossovers like “The War of the Worlds: H.G. Wells's Classic Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies”. Considering this you have to respect Quirk Classics and their decision, to instead take their newly created genre in a new direction.
It seems since the release of the first book in the series, though that Quirk have been listening to their critics, especially since the first book had an overwhelming feeling of a joke being stretched to thin, which could have been largely down to the 50 / 50 blend of original and new material, which did on several occasions stand out, rather than blend together, while the other problem for many readers being the somewhat un needed inclusion of the daughters being trained in Martial arts, as well as numerous references to training in the orient, which proved to only take the reader out of the story than helping to immerse themselves. Still these problems have now thankfully been corrected with the blend now being a much healthier 30 / 70 blend of original and new material, which works a lot more effectively especially as Ben H.Winters, who has taken over from Seth Grahame-Smith on this latest adaptation gives us a completely new spin on the classic story, which could almost at times be seen as it’s own novel, rather than a quirk adaptation with his introduction of a Adventure / B Movie style plot points, with the noticeable addition of a trip to the underwater city “Sub-marine Station Beta” which replaces their trip to London, while still providing everything that the Capitol city offers and at the same time, providing a reason to still include attacks from various sea monsters.
Story wise nothing has really been changed outside of adjustments to characters and locations, to help them fit more snugly into this world that Winters has created, with Devonshire becoming “The Pestilent Isle”, while several characters also receive a make over, with the most notable being Col. Brandon who having been cursed by a sea witch, has been forced to live as a man mutant, with a squid like face were as Sir John is now an elusive explorer, complete with a long white beard and necklace of ears, who previously had kidnapped Mrs Middleton who here, is a former tribal princess, whose village was slaughtered by Sir John and his men and now spends her time planning her escape back home, while lacing soup with Monkey Urine and cheating the local aristocrats out of their money, while playing extensively complex games of her own creation, providing several amusing moments throughout, but these changes all blend together well and never slow down the story, or have the feeling that they have been simply cut and pasted into the original story.

As with “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” Winters is more than happy to include several gruesome attack scenes, while also having the advantage of having a whole ocean worth of beasties to include, often using their appearances to heighten moments of high emotion, such as choosing to include an attack by the Devonshire Fang Beast, when Elinor learns of Edward Ferrars’ past or a gore soaked attack by giant lobsters, at the same moment of Marianne’s discovering that she has been betrayed by Willoughby.

“Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” is a big step up for Quirk classics, as they have now firmly with this latest entry established themselves as the trend setters in the genre and I personally hope that future additions to the series will be in a similar vain to this novel, though perhaps moving away from the works of Austin and perhaps turning their attention to another classic author, though as the publishers have been tight lipped on were the series will be heading next, but I’m certainly, like no doubt many readers of this latest edition to the series, I’m eagerly awaiting to find out.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Fatal Justice



Title: Fatal Justice
Director: Gerald Cain
Released: 1994
Staring: Joe Estevez, Suzanne Ager, Richard Folmer, David Lee
Rating: 1 / 5
Plot: Mars (Estevez) is the CIA’s top assassin, however the CIA have decided that is time for him to retire and send his hit woman daughter Diana (Ager) the assignment, who is unaware that he is her father, while meanwhile a power within the agency pits Ted Harmon (Folmer) against section boss George Marshall (Lee)

Review: I should start by thanking (if that’s the right word) Patch over at the now sadly defunct “Welcome to the Drive In”, who originally mailed this disc over to me, which I only now have got around to seeing and no doubt will not be a huge hurry to watch again, which is kind of a shame especially when you look at the hugely exaggerated cover art, none of which unsurprisingly enough appears in this film, which I’ll admit is usually something I look for when, trying to find some obscure bad film to write about here, but what is even more worrying when one of the pictures on the back of the DVD case isn’t a film still, but rather a promotional shot, of a blonde Suzanne Ager scantly clad and holding a rifle….well it works for me, but does set off yet another major warning signal about the kind of movie, your about to sit through.
Produced by Fred Olen Ray, who some of you might already recognise as the director of such classics as “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers” (1988) and “Bikini Girls From the Lost Planet” (2006) and judging from the introduction he gives to the film at the start of the disc, he seems like a pretty fun guy, who like Lloyd Kaufman seems to know that his films are awful, while at the same time proud to be part of the B-movie underground, which also makes it all the harder to sit here, knowing that I now going to have to write about how much I really didn’t like this film.

Right from the start you know, that this isn’t exactly going to be a high budget kind of production and it provides a suitable test for the viewer, as if you can sit through the first five minutes of this film, then the chances are that you will probably be able to make it through the rest of the film, which is certainly best watched soley for humorous value, as attempting to watch it for any other purpose, might be enough to bum out even the viewer with the lowest of standards, especially seeing how this film has all the production value of a low budget porn film, which funnily enough is what I thought I’d stumbled across when less then fifteen minutes into this film, we get a soft core sex scene, which is nice of Cain, as don’t you just hate it when those inconsiderate directors of equally bad movies hide these kinds of scenes, somewhere past the halfway mark, so for anyone hoping to see some nudity you’ll be happy to know that you get it pretty early on. (Wow I feel strangely sleazy having wrote that)
Ager's performance isn’t overly bad, especially when you consider some of the ropey acting on show here, with the prime offender being Folmer who is feels the need to exaggerate his evilness at any given opportunity, so he might as well be wearing a sandwich board with the word “I’m the Bad guy!” scrawled across it as he almost telegraphs every evil action and intention, yet no one bothers to do anything until he has had ample time to pull off his paper thin scheme. Still the same kind of criticism could be directed at Ager’s character Diana, which supposedly her code name, which isn’t bad but certainly out of place, when every other agent in the film has a code name based on a Greek god. Is it really that hard to come up with something similar for her, or maybe Cain had doubts about his audience being able to remember any of the female gods. Ager is however convincing enough as a hit woman, handling herself well in the few action scenes and only occasionally letting her performance slip into B-movie cheese.
Now if you saw the name Joe Estevez and thought that it sounded familiar, you’d be right seeing how he’s the brother of the more talented Martin Sheen and who like Emilio Estevez prefers to use the family name. As I said already he really is the less talented brother, though there are a few moments in which you can almost imagine that your watching his brother instead, especially during his training drills with a group of aspiring assassins, who rather than looking like Marines, look instead like a bunch of random guys dragged off the street in order to act in this movie and are almost as laughable as the fact that, they are sleeping in tents made from garbage bags, which really goes once more to show how low budget this film really is.
Despite the budget restraints, Cain still manages to pull out a few bangs for his buck, though I had the sneaking suspicion that some of these effects were stock footage carried over from other productions, only furthered while watching the previews for the other exciting titles being released under the same label as this film, but in a way it kind of added to the charm, that this film develops, once you release that its not to be considered high art in the slightest, though by this point your either just watching to know how it ends or just plain given up, depending on how much of a stomach you have, for films of this dire quality, especially seeing how this is now the lowest rated film review on the blog and rivalled only by the equally dire “Wrecking Crew” (1999) but in all honestly I’d rather sit through this film, than endure that again, which is really the kind of decision, that’s like asking someone if they want to be kicked in the crotch or punched in the face.

“Fatal Justice” is crammed with Cheesy acting and even worse dialogue and is only really best used as a time filler, when you’ve truly run out of things to watch, but if anything I’ve mentioned throughout this review sounds like your thing, then your no doubt be happy as a pig in shit, but despite this I still have a feeling that this won’t be the last time that I pay a visit to the cinematic garbage pile of Fred Olen Ray.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

It's Alive



Title: It’s Alive
Director: Larry Cohen
Released: 1974
Staring: John P Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Daniel Holzman1

Rating: 3 / 5

Plot: When the Davis’s baby is born, it turns out that it is far from an innocent bundle of joy, especially as this baby has quite a taste for human flesh.

Review: For regular readers of the blog, you will know already that I am expecting my first child next year, which has proven to be quite a surreal experience knowing that you’re going to be someone’s dad, all the more so during a recent scan, which also made me want to dig out this first film in the cult trilogy, all the more so with the recent remake, being treated to a severe critical mauling, like so many of the unnecessary remakes which have appeared in recent years, especially when you consider that it’s so much easier, to cash in on a franchise than starting a new one.
Originally deemed a flop upon its release, the film would only later find its audience on VHS, thanks largely to a clever marketing campaign, which like the film itself teased at the monstrous appearance of the baby, which is actually a smart move by Cohen, who it seems may have also had doubts about his monstrous baby, especially seeing how the baby is only shown in brief glimpses with the majority of shots throughout the film consisting of either it’s deformed claw like hand, or its fanged mouth, with Rick Baker being responsible for these effects and seeing how he only had a small budget, the effects are the majority of the time quite effective, even if they pale when compared to his later work.
The idea of a killer baby is typical of Cohen’s work, especially seeing how he prefers to take an everyday situation / object and putting a horror slant on it, often drawing inspiration from the most random of places, even proving that even Yogurt can be scary with “The Stuff” (1985). With this film Cohen looked at the world around him and the effects that it could have on an unborn child, with the frequent uses of pesticides and chemicals as well as the effects of birth control medication and surprisingly, it’s this world that Cohen chooses to focus on throughout the film, rather than making the baby the main focus, which is kind of what I expected, were as it soon becomes more of a study of the strains of parental responsibility, with Cohen especially focusing on it’s effects on Frank Davis (Ryan) who at the start of the film is excited about the birth of the baby, only for these emotions to quickly to be replaced with feelings of disgust for the new born child, showing little if any emotion for the child and more than happy to encourage the police to kill the child, while meanwhile the doctors and drug companies are also just as eager to destroy the child, to prevent any possible backlash. All of this adds up to an interesting look at humanity as a whole and how self preservation, often plays an important role. Something especially examined with the actions of the child, who from the outset might be killing at any given opportunity and it basically does however Cohen still finds a motive for it’s action, especially as it gets closer to home, determined it seems to still be part of it’s family, even if that family is not overly keen to be reunited with it.
Surprisingly for a film which is at it’s heart a low budget horror, Cohen doesn’t feel the urge to rush any action, especially when it comes to the attack scenes, which are sporadic to say the least, with the body count falling short of anything resembling double features with the majority of these death occurring during the birth scene, which also proves to be the downfall of the film, as the remaineder of the film fails to compete with this memorable opening, which might be a tad disappointing to some viewers, especially those looking for a killer baby rampage, as it certainly is not here with Cohen more interested in examining the strains of the Davis family, as things grow increasingly more tense between them, with mother Lenore turning to the bottle as her coping mechanism, were as Frank struggles to hold his family together, with an almost permanent expression of grim determination on his face and this it has to be said slows the film down considerably and past the point in which the more casual viewers will be able to endure, who will no doubt have tuned out before the film reaches it’s climatic chase through the LA storm drains before ending on a cliff-hanger, which informs us that the nightmare might be far from over.

“It’s Alive” like so many of the 70’s horror classics is heavy on social commentary, including Abortion, Pharmaceutical side effects, as well as the deterioration of the family unit, all of which give plenty of material for the script to work with and it is one of the stronger aspects of the film and certainly something that is clearly missing from more recent horror films, which are often more concerned with easy scares and providing the audience with eye candy than actual issues and while Cohen might be as highly regarded as other directors from the same era such as Carpenter or Romero, but here is proves still to be a noteworthy director in the genre, even if it is largely a film comprised of more misfire than those of memorable horror.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Trailer Trash

For a while now I have been a big fan of Roller Derby, which you might want to write off as me just being interested in attractive punk chicks on skates, which it's true might be some of the appeal, along with the fact that it is one of the most brutal sports out there, with fights regularly breaking out especially with them being actively incouraged, so why are more people not getting behind making this a national sport, after all who really likes football (or Soccer for my American readers) anyway? So as you probely guessed, I'm glad that someone has decided to finally make a film which combines, two of my favourite things in life together, Ellen Page and Roller Derby which is exactly what has happened with "Whip it", which see's Page joining her local Roller Derby league in an attempt to find herself.

For those of you not to sure what Roller Derby, here is a quick introduction video



So no doubt after seeing that video your wondering, why we bother with all these other lesser sports right. Well "Whip it" was written by "Shawna Cross" who herself is a former Roller Derby skater, having skated under the name Maggie Mayhem for the Sirens and based alot of the characters and teams, based on these experiences on the Roller Derby Circuit.

Personally I've been a fan of Ellen Page pretty much since, I first saw "Hard Candy" (2005) in which she took I think everyone by surprise, with a performance that verged on darn right brutal, as the pedophile torturing Hayley, while also proving extremely well suited to the pop culture obsessed dialogue of Diablo Cody in "Juno" (2007), which makes it all the better that she is once again in similar territory it seems with this film, which also see's the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore.



Ok so it could turn out to be a horrible film, but personally it's Roller Derby and Ellen Page so what more of a reason would you want to go see it? I just hope that it doesn't turn my beloved Roller Derby into some over glamorised mainstream nightmare, with corporations who will no doubt try to cash in on any success this film has. Still I guess we will have to wait until October to see, whether Barrymore can make the transition from screen to Director chair.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Final Girl Film Club - The Devil's Rain



Title: The Devil’s Rain
Director: Robert Fuest
Released: 1975
Staring: Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, Joan Prather, Eddie Albert, William Shatner, Ida Lupino

Rating: 1.5 / 5
Plot: When Mark Preston’s (Shatner) father goes missing, only to suddenly turn up demanding that the family give Corbis (Borgine) what he wants, Mark sets off on a journey to the desert town of Devils Rain, only to be captured, along with his mother Emma (Lupino) by Corbis. Now their only hope rests with his brother Tom (Skerritt) and Occult Expert Dr. Richards (Albert) as they prepare for a final showdown.

Review: It’s funny to think I was in such a great place with my life, what with my wedding only a month away (31st October) and my first hell spawn on the way, let alone the fact the blog is still going strong nine months after I first started out with an urge to write about the films I adore as well as those that I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered with, even along the way picking up the occasional comment from you like minded folks, who take the time to read these reviews. So yeah things were going pretty good…… until this movie came along, so thank you Stacey, and your “Final Girl Film Club” which is pretty much responsible for me sitting down to watch this film which looked quite promising from the outset, after all it features William “F’ing” Shatner, a man who usually can salvage even the most car crash of ideas and at the least make the outcome slightly humorous….kind of a shame that it didn’t happen here, as at more than one point I truly felt that I had found my own version of “The Manipulator” (1971) which Stacey herself deemed unreviewable, to the point were she didn’t even finish the film, which I actually managed to beat, by sitting through this film to the end, even if the final fifteen minutes, I watched after a brief break in viewing in a vain attempt to retain what was left of my sanity.


Ok surprisingly enough this film starts off pretty strong and I actually thought that I might have found another film to add to the collection, like I did with my last contribution to the film club, were we looked at Fulci’s “The Beyond” (1981), which as surreal a film as it was to watch, still turned out to be a pretty good film and it was a vibe I was getting here, especially with the creepy opening score by Al De Lory accompanied by the wails of what I assume to be tortured souls in hell, but this creepiness was really cranked up by Fuest, who chooses to play this over a slideshow of paintings by Heironymus Bosch, which proves to be more than a little unsettling and really prevents the audience any chance of settling into a comfort zone, something that is further reinforced by the fact that your barely ten minutes into the film, before your watching Mark’s father melting into a waxy puddle, after appearing suddenly minus his eyes and demanding that Mark and his Mother give Corbis what he wants! It certainly grabs your attention, as we now set off following Mark, as he prepares to confront Corbis. Sadly it seems that upon getting the attention of his audience, Fuest now doesn’t know what to do next and hence the film, suddenly starts to down spiral with the key moment being when Mark’s brother is suddenly introduced abruptly, making me wonder “Who the hell is this guy and why are we not watching Shatner?” and this also were I lost interest in this film, as Tom is not as interesting a character as Mark, even if he does have a psychic wife, whose psychic ability is really brought into question, when she couldn’t even see the Satanist hiding in the backseat of her car, which I think it’s safe to say that she didn’t see that one coming. Infact her only real role is to fill in the gaps in the back story, which seemed all too similar to that of Reverend Kane in Poltergeist 2 (1986), but were as Julian Beck was creepy as hell, Borgnine is about as threatening as a squashed frog, especially as he plays the character of Corbis the same as every other character he’s played and even when in goat-man form, he’s still none the more threatening, as he burbles away with Satanic quotations and generally spends the whole film chasing Tom around the town, which grows old pretty quick.

So after a strong start and a really dull middle section, it might seem that there is really nothing worth sitting through this film for, especially as Shatner is at this point also missing his eyes and generally mumbling to himself, like a crazy person. Thankfully it seems that Fuest seems to have at least thought of this as the film ends with an amazing meltdown sequence, which really makes the melting Nazi’s at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) seem pretty timid (despite mildly traumatising me as a kid) and obviously releasing that the melting scene at the start of the film is what everyone liked, so the ending is pretty much the same thing again, just on a larger scale and it

As dull a film as it is, it does at least have a few interesting bits of trivia attached to it, such as Satanic High Priest Anton LaVey, who was not only brought on an advisor for this film, but also makes an appearance as a satanic priest, but good luck if you can spot him, much like John Travolta who gained his first screen credit with this film. With LaVey attached to the film, it makes it all the more surprising that the film is so ropey, especially in terms of the Satanist aspect as they come off more laughable than threatening. It kind of in a way brings into question how legit LaVey’s beliefs were in Satan, seeing how I always felt that it was a hoax religion, lead by a man of obvious high intelligence created to basically windup the Christian community and this film only helped to reinforce these beliefs.

There are some fans who might claim that this film is more effective, when looked at in context to its original year of release, when the majority of the population were terrified of Satanists living in the community and the youth devil worshiping and true it might be one of the better Satanist movies, but even when looked at in context to it’s original release it is still an extremely ropey movie at best and one that will test the devotion of even the biggest fan of Shatner. Still I have to go to the Dentist today, so it will be fun to see which is the more fun experience … literally.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Bronson



Title: Bronson
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Released: 2009
Staring: Tom Hardy, Matt King, Hugh Ross, James Lance
Rating: 3 / 5
Plot: Britain’s most notorious Prisoner Charles Bronson (Hardy), who was born Michael Peterson and created his alter ego Charles Bronson, after being sent to prison for a failed Post Office robbery. Originally sentenced to seven years, he has been behind bars for 34 years, 30 of which have been spent in solitary confinement.

Review: It’s not too often that the British film industry manages to catch me off guard, by producing something so surprising and fascinating to watch, that I’m left in slight disbelief that we actually managed to create something worth wasting a few hours away with, which isn’t a bond movie!
True this jaded attitude is probably down to realising how behind the times anything the BBC creates is as well as the fact, that the British film industry in recent years has concentrated largly on costume drama’s which help reinforce the idea, that a large percentage of the rest of the world population have about the Brits, that we are all a bunch of well spoken, tea sipping aristocrats and that life is generally quite similar to a Jane Austin novel, which is quite an unfair stereotype really (well outside of the tea sipping part). The other side of the British film industry of course largely consists of those horrible crime dramas, such as “The Crew” (2008) and “Kidulthood” (2006) where it seems everyone is trying to imitate Guy Richie with supposedly quotable dialogue and everyone trying to cram in as many swear words per sentence as humanly possible, as they try to hold tough guy persona's which is weird when you consider that Guy Richie has only really made two good films with “Revolver” (2005) being the third at a push, though for fans of that film like myself, they do find it’s a very lonely club. I could gripe some more about how Noel Clarke has heavily contributed to this decline, but that would detract from this film which really is the shiny penny in the pile of crap, which has become the British film industry and which like Danny Boyle and “Film4 Productions” has given me hope yet for British film making.


Nicolas Winding Refn is surprising to hail as one of the savours of British film making especially, seeing how he is Danish, yet while watching “Bronson” I couldn’t help but feel I was watching a British film, as he has captured not only the subject character perfectly, but also the most simplest of interactions between characters, without none of the usual over characterisation to represent the British public, as the performances throughout all seem very natural and without any of the cringe worthy characterisation that seems to constantly plague more recent English films, almost as if the director doesn’t believe that the audience will buy into the idea, unless the characters are reduced down to were they are almost caricatures, of what the English are supposed to represent and something which is thankfully not present here. In fact this is were I found the first of many surprises to be, especially seeing the source material this film, could easily have just been made as the usual hard man prison drama, with characters spewing out the words “Slag” and “Cunt” every five seconds, along with a number of other colourful phrases, but none of that is to be found here, as Refn instead chooses to take a more surreal approach, with the character of Bronson appearing on stage in a suit, while addressing an equally smartly dressed audience, with the story of his life and how he came to be the man he is, from a hot headed 19 year old in 1974 to his current status, as one of Britain’s most notorious prisoners. It’s certainly a unique way of presenting the story and feels almost as if Refn is trying to reinforce the fact that, while being incarcerated that Bronson has become almost like a character in a play, as the film switches between these monologues and the main action of the film which is again laced with irony ridden narration, bringing to mind the character of Alex in Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), while also throwing in a scene, where while talking about his time at Broad Moor prison, introduces TV Footage of the real Bronson, shot during the riots which he helped spark during one of his numerous escape attempts, which led to Bronson receiving the title of “Britain’s most expensive prisoner”. All of these helping the film to rise about just being another Biopic, as at times it feels almost surreal including a conversation between Bronson and one his Psychologists, which has Hardy turning from side to side as he plays each of the two characters, with one side his face made up to appear femine, reminding me heavily of a deleted scene from the X files episode “Humbug” in which Mulder and Scully are served by a hermaphrodite waiter. It certainly is none the less surreal when used quite effectively here and it was moments like this which really surprising me with this film, not only because time had been taken to make this, more than just a straightforward biopic, but also because I didn’t think that Refn as a director would use such methods of storytelling, especially after watching his brutal “Pusher Trilogy” which certainly lacked any of subtly that he uses here, but it is during these moments that it really drives home the idea, that your not just watching another crime Biopic, but rather receiving an introduction to the Psyche of Bronson, a world were he openly admits that he does the things he does because he wants to and not because of some early childhood event, which would shape him into the man he becomes, infact it’s this idea that he is a creation of his own self, that is reinforced within the opening monologue, when he praises his parents for giving him such a happy childhood and that it was solely the belief that he was meant for bigger things, which lead to his first robbery. True it might seem that Refn only cares about the violence which made the man, rather than his later reform, with the film ending after holding his art teacher hostage, before receiving a brutal beat down at the hands of the prison officers, but these are the stories which most people associate with the man and seeing how the film, was released with a supposed audio introduction from the real Bronson in which he states

"I'm proud of this film, because if I drop dead tonight, then I live on. I make no bones about it, I really was... a horrible, violent, nasty man. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either... See you at the Oscars."

This statement also makes it feel as if Refn is not wanting the audience to show sympathy for the character by showing reform, which could make the audience forget about what they have witness before. Instead he prefers to sledgehammer the audience with a bombardment of violence and graphic image and here it is used to devastating effect.
Tom Hardy's performance is a force of nature in this film, as he embodies the character of Bronson to the point were you never feel, as if your watching him playing Hardy, but rather watching Bronson himself, carrying out the variety of brutal beatings, as he hurls an almost constant stream of abuse, at anyone who stands in his way. It is also a credit to Hardy’s attention to character detail, which only add to the believability of the performance, with Hardy gaining 3 stone of muscle in order to play the character, while researching Bronson extensively and its safe to say that it’s work which pays off. Equally enjoyable to watch is the performance by Matt King as Paul, who upon Bronson’s first (and shortlived) release from prison become his manager of sorts, setting him up to fight in bare knuckle brawls, while also helping him to create his alter ego. King’s sporadic appearances also provide many of the pitch black moments of humour, with one particular stand out moment for this humour coming after Bronson first fight as he calmly hands an irate Bronson, by responding with

“Magic? You just pissed on a gypsy in the middle of fucking nowhere.”

In a voice which verges on being almost comically camp, but never slipping into parody which is always a risk, which is run whenever a camp character is introduced to any story, usually to irritance of the viewer, which thankfully is not the case here.
Soundtrack wise the score is mainly orchestral, helping to add to the mood of scenes, with only on a couple of occastions, breaking away from this score to throw in an 80's synth classic with the most prominant being "It's a Sin" by The Pet Shop Boys, a song which I've always loved and here it is used to great effect.

For a film that could easily have just been another dumbed down crime biopic, Refn has instead created not only a unique vision which on occastion verges on arthouse, but also a definitive look at the notorious prisoner, while creating a film with a vein of dark humour running throughout, which takes the time to not only look at what made the man, but also at the intoxicating and dangerous allure of violence.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters

Ok so it seems that enough of you, thought that the idea of "Pride and Prejudice" with added zombies, was a good enough reason to hand over you hard earned cash, I know I was certainly one of those folks who thought it sounded like a fun idea and to an extent it was, but sadly if you remember my review , you will know already that it was a joke that got stretched a little too thin, with most of the added material working well with Mr. Darcy being turned into a super slayer of the zombie hordes, as well as finally giving the reader a reason for the military being stationed so close by. Where it failed though I felt was mainly with the sisters being trained in Martial arts and the numerous references to training undertaken, with wise old masters which really didn't fit into the world being created, unlike the zombie hordes which surprisingly worked really well, but overall the experience left the reader, with the feeling of a joke being streched alittle too thin.

Hopefully Quirk Classics has taken on board these problems from their first title, with their latest and once again unique adaptation of another popular classic, which this time see's another Jane Austin novel receiving the Quirk treatment with "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" again not the most witty or subtle of titles, but when you consider that your giving a popular classic a hefty shot of pop culture, does subtly really come into it?
Still to promote the release Quirk books have created this trailer, which is almost as cool as the one we saw for "Meg: Hell's Aquarium" but is still pretty amusing, once you get past the awful acting and the fact that her dress is already wet before entering the water, but anyways here it is for those of you interested in seeing it.





"Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" is set to be in a similar vain to "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by expanding the original text, this time with giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities As the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels?

I guess we will have see, when the book is release on September 15th wether Ben H. Winters has managed to pull off the joke, as he takes the reigns for this latest adaptation, but I know that I'm already making space for it in the reading pile.

Sadly the success of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" has lead to a number of different publishing companies all rushing out, their own twists on popular classics, in a bid to cash in on their latest publishing craze with "Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter" scheduled for an Autumn release, while more recently we have seen the release of "Mr Darcy, Vampyre" by Amanda Grange, which makes me fear that the market will soon become over satuated with lesser titles, much like what has happened for the Paranormal romance market, with it seems everyone currently obsessed with working darn vampires into thier stories.

I guess like everyone else we will just have to wait until September 15th to see if Quirk classic's can maintain it's dominance over the realm of the pop culture adaptation. Let battle comence!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Abe The Alien does Thriller

Ok in my last post I reported on the randomness which was Sci-fi day at Borders, in perticular mentioning a dance scene performed by Abe the Alien. So for anyone who was kinda curious to witness this, here it is for your viewing enjoyment.



What is especially great is the people in the background, who appear around the one minuite mark and don't appear to be overly fazed by the sight of a dancing alien, kind of like "Ohh it's just one of those crazy dancing aliens" which once again goes to prove that some people, just arn't impressed by anything.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Just Another Day At The Office

Saturday is Sci-Fi Day! Well this is true if I belive anything that the sandwich boards outside of work tell me, though for last Saturday atleast this was true, as for one day only Borders Southampton was invaded by a mixture of Time Lords, Aliens, Predators, Storm troopers and even a couple of Jawa's, thanks largely to the guys and gals from the "U.S.S Pendragon" who in thier ever continuing mission to raise money for the Princess Anne Baby Care Unit, with thier crew of like minded folks, who not only share a love for all things Fantasy and Sci-fi related, but also love to dress up as those same characters aswell, whenever they are given an opportunity. So last Saturday saw Pendragon teaming up with the branch of Borders I work at in Southampton, to raise even more money for this incredibly worth while cause, while also giving me an excuse to pose for this random photo.

This would be their third colaboration with the store, with the first being last year when we held a hugely successful "Dr. Who Day" and it was nice to see many of those same costumes and props once again reappearing at this event, after all who doesn't like to see a Dalek terrorising small children outside the store and with this success we quickly followed up with the "Beedle the Bard launch Party" and now Pendragon were once again back instore, only this time bigger than before, as this time they had called in some additional support including character actor Michael Henby, who not only is Southampton F.C's biggest fan, but also appeared in "Labyrinth" (1986) as one of the Goblin Corps aswell as an Ewok in "Return of the Jedi" (1983 and an uncredited role in "Willow" (1988) and he was more than happy to talk about these films, aswell as his stories of working with Warrick Davis.




We were also joined by fellow character actor Jerome Blake, who like Michael Henby is equally used to not being recognised on the street, seeing how when he appears in films, it is usually under several layers of make up, appearing as Mondoshawan (one of those giant golds things) in "The Fifth Element" (1997), which meant that of course I had to be a complete fanboy and ask what it was like to work with, one of my favourite directors Luc Besson, which he was more than happy to talk about, seeing how it was apparently almost as crazy to work on, as the film itself with Besson coming off as a real funny guy to work with, which is always nice to hear.
Jerome though will probably be best known amongst the slightly more geeky readers amongst you, for the various characters that he has played throughout Star Wars Episodes 1 and 3, especially episode one, were he played six different characters (feel free to put the answer in the comments if you can name them all). We also had a really random conversation about "Flesh Gordon" which I reviewed recently here on the blog, even though I can't actually remember how it came up.

Finally sticking with the Star Wars theme, we were also joined by John Chapman, who appeared in "Star Wars: A New Hope" as Red 12 and who has since gone on to write the children's book "Johnny Rocket".

Pendragon even managed to find a couple of predators as well as Abe the Alien, who has been used in the past for various pieces of promotional work, for "Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem". I don't know what it is but there is some sort of sadistic pleasure, from watching young children being scared out of thier little minds by these costumes, especially the Dalek which one young kid thought was chasing after him, when it started moving towards him, which reminded me just how powerful old school effects are and how kids today, never seem to experience those same sorts of feelings that I used to get as a kid when, you would watch films and see these kinds of effects, which have over the course of time been largely replaced by CGI, which sadly will never have the same kind of presence that these effects will always have.
Still before I go off on a rant about Old school effects VS. CGI I will wrap this up with some of the photos I took on the day, using the really shockingly bad camera which we have in the shop, so I apoligse in advance if any of these have come out a little blurry.
So until the next collaberation between the forces of Borders and Pendragon, I can only wish Pendragon, all the best with thier future fund raising events, as they continue tirelessly to raise much needed cash for Princess Anne's Baby Care unit.


















Thursday, 20 August 2009

Grapes of Death



Title: Grapes of Death
Director: Jean Rollin
Released: 1978

Staring: Marie-Georges Pascal, Felix Maten, Serge Marquand

Rating: 2 / 5

Plot: Elisabeth (Pascal) is on the train to see her boyfriend, when she is attacked by a man with a strange skin condition. Fleeing the train she finds herself stranded in a remote wine making village, where pesticides have caused the local villagers to go insane.

Review: So finally I’ve got round to watching a film by Jean Rollin, who is probably best known for his work in the horror genre, with this film being the first French gore film. He is also a director who has received numerous amounts of praise from both Jenn over at “The Cavalcade of Perversions” aswell as the “Vicar of VHS” which I saw as being more than enough to hunt out a bunch of his films, with the intention of making some sort of season out of it here on the blog, in much the same way as I did for Ozploitation Month. Sadly after sitting through this film I might be putting some space between this review and my next look at one of his films, as I found this film largely inaccessible, despite reading numerous comments from fan’s of his work who claim, that this is in-fact his most accessible film, which kind of doesn’t bode well for the other films of his I still have left to watch.

I should start really by clearing up the slightly misleading description which came, on the cover of my DVD version which describes this film as a “Erotic Zombie Classic” which are not really the words I would have used to describe it, seeing how the insane villagers are pretty much that insane with a slightly nasty looking skin infection and outside of the shambling horde they form, they share very little in common with what many would consider to be the traditional description of a zombie. As for erotic, outside of a few shots of naked women, there is nothing even remotely erotic to be found here.
“Grapes of Death” was a rare departure for Rollins, who is more usually associated with Vampire films and here appears to be throwing his hat in the ring, by giving his take on the Zombie genre, with the film baring a large amount of similarities especially in terms of atmosphere to George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, though were Romero used sporadic moments of explosive action, as he slowly cranks the tension, it is clear that Rollins intended to do the same here as well, though failing to achieve the same effect, as outside of a few moments such as Elizabeth’s meeting with the blind girl Lucy and their eventual discovery of the village, the majority of these moments fail to build any can of tension, for the viewer and only serve to increase the boredom of having to watch Elizabeth run around another set of empty fields.
The plot is pretty straightforward with Elizabeth running from scene to scene with only a seemly unaffected Bridget (Bridget Lahaie) appearing in the third act to break things up slightly, though no reason is ever given for how she has escaped being infected, nor why she is acting like some form of cultist?
Despite being largely devoid of gore, the few scenes which we do get are particularly graphic, including a beheading and a father attacking his infecting daughter with a pitchfork, but for those watching the film with any form of intrest, the majority of these effects come off more cheesy than scary, thanks mainly to poor execution. However the make up effects for the infected are particularly effective and on occasion, actually left me feeling kind of queasy, while wondering if these infected were any form of inspiration for the more OTT zombies seen in Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” (2007)? While watching I also couldn’t help but think of “Resident Evil 4” especially in the terms of setting, as the isolated village is certainly a welcome change from the usual deserted city, which are all so familiar with the zombie genre and here it works well to provide some kind of tension, which is constantly being lost either through the painfully slow moving nature of the plot, or those bizarre occasional bursts of Synthesiser music, which pop up through out the film, only to end suddenly when a scene changes.

All in all this wasn’t a great first jaunt into the world of Jean Rollins and I hope that this is perhaps just not the film for me, much like Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967) which like a lot of Rollins work, has received a large amount of praise, the reasons for which I have never been able to decipher and it is really my hope that with further viewings that I might finally discover those reasons which have put him in such high regard.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Flesh Gordon




Title: Flesh Gordon
Director: Michael Benveniste & Howard Ziehm
Released: 1974
Staring: Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, Joseph Hudgins, William Dennis Hunt,

Rating: 5 / 5
Plot: Emperor Wang (Hunt), the leader of the planet Porno has sent his mighty "Sex Ray" towards Earth, turning everyone into sex-mad fiends. Now only one man can save the Earth, football player Flesh Gordon (Williams). Along with his girlfriend Dale Ardent (Fields) and Professor Flexi-Jerkoff (Hudgins), they set off towards the source of the Sex Ray, unaware of the perils that face them!

Review: I don’t what it is, but there are some movies, which just put you in a good mood, while you’re watching them, making them that cinematic equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich or that great song “Shiny Happy People” by REM (especially with Beavis and Butthead commentary) and this film is truly one of those kinds of movie, as when I sat down to watch it, I could honestly say that I wasn’t in the best of moods, seeing how I was having one of those real grey kind of days, but all that changed while watching this, as something within this movie, just turned that frown upside down.
“Flesh Gordon” much like “Fritz the cat” (1972) was when I was growing up one of those movies that some of the kids, with slightly more liberal parents than my own, would often brag about seeing, mainly because of it’s rude content, it was a film that for one reason or another I only recently got around to watching for the first time and now I only wished I’d hunted it out sooner, as it truly is a film which is like a head on collision between 1950’s B-movies, Monty Python style animation and the sexploitation genre, as cheesy special effects are combined with gratuitous nudity, with a healthy splattering of humour throughout to hold the whole thing together and for some strange reason it works.
If you haven’t guessed already this film is basically a sexed up version of the classic Serial “Flash Gordon” which first appeared back in the 1930’s and whose own camp movie adaptation wouldn’t appear till 1980, a whole six years after the appearance of this raunchy bastard child of a movie, which still managed to cram in a whole heap of nods to the original series, with a similarly rousing orchestra score, aswell including those memorable cliff-hanger endings which provides one of the more humorous moments of the film, as the film cuts suddenly to an intermission, before restarting with “Part 2”, while also taking time for a sly dig at Flash’s costume and it’s these homage’s to the source material which help the film, to be more than a sexed up cash in, which ironically is how the film started, with the original plan of making an X rated version of “Flash Gordon” getting lost during production, to the point were it became this version of the film, though you can still see many moments, which were no doubt part of this original plan for the film, seeing how the audience is shown the passengers on a plane, having a spontaneous orgy after being hit with a blast from the sex ray pretty much within the opening ten minuites. Nudity (both male and female) is shown throughout with such abandon, that I almost thought that I had stumbled across one of the “Gore-Gore Girl” porn spoofs, in the same vain of “Jurassic Hump” and “These Something a butt Mary”. These continous moments of nudity also forms the basis of a running joke, for the character of Dale Ardent who like her namesake from the original series “Dale Arden” spends most of the film getting easily captured, but also seems to have a habit of frequently losing her clothes, meaning that she spends most of the film running around topless….not that it is an overly bad thing really.
Williams plays Flesh well as he portrays him with all the charm of the original flash and had all the nudity and sex jokes been edited out of this film, it could be shown as a similar style film to those original serials (while also being about 15 minutes long) his performance while wholesome, is never to the point were he grates, even with his apparent innocent image he portrays, when he's not off being seduced by strange space women, despite claiming to be madly in love with Dale, but such questions are really quite minor. However amongst the cast the performance which really stands out, is that of Hunt as Emperor Wang who is played almost like a sex crazed version of Fu Manchu, with him holding constant orgies in front of his throne, as well as celebrating the apparent demise of Flesh, with a spontaneous naked conga line (not something you see everyday), with Hunt, becoming all the more camp as the film goes on, to the point were I was almost drawing comparisons to Cesar Romero’s Joker in “Batman” (1966) as he frequently insults his overly stupid henchmen, by referring to them as dildo’s. It’s his performance that really helps put Emperor Wang into my top 10 cinema villains, even as random as he is.




For a film that is basically one joke, it never seems to get stretched to thin as you grow strangely accustomed to this bizarre and sexed up world, to the point, were you don’t even question the phallus shaped spaceship that Flesh travels around in, or the face that you get to see a one eyed monsters called “Penisaurus”, even if some of the jokes seem kind of obvious such as the planet being called porno, or the idea of “Emperor Wang” it all seems to fit quite naturally together, as it becomes an extremely random b-movie, something that is helped especially with the effects, which for those of you, who are fans of those classic movies from the 1950’s especially those directed by the likes of “Ed Wood” you will certainly get a kick out of the effects on show here, with many being similar to those used in the original serials, as spaceships are moved on strings, along with extensive use of miniatures as well as Stop motion animation, which in itself is truly a forgotten art and it was nice to see the majority of the film’s strange creatures being animated this way, rather than using a guy in a monster costume. While watching these effects, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of this was homage, rather than being down to lack of funds? More so especially during several of the sword fights were some of the cast never seemed to be putting any effort in. Thankfully it is assumed by the viewer that this is part of the joke and such things are easily over looked, even as you watch Professor Jerkoff and Flesh falling into a hole, which looks strangely like someone basically dropping two action figures.
What is especially worth noting about this film, is the early special effects work on show from the likes of Rick Baker and Jim Danforth (whose name is spelt backwards in the credits), while Craig T. Nelson also provides the voice of the monster seen at the end of the film, in an early film credit long before he became the voice of “Mr Incredible” in Pixar’s own superhero spoof “The Incredibles”, proof once again that genre cinema is often the launch pad to bigger things.
“Flesh Gordon” to summarise is a great fusing of two low budget genres, which creates a great fun film, which despite being extremely random, still provides a fun viewing experience, that is the cinematic equivalent of Prozac, while at the least a true forgotten gem of trash cinema.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

We all play games, so don't we play together?



So having finally got around to hooking my Xbox up to Xbox live, I have noticed a number of things

1) There are alot of seriously angry people online, who take thier gaming WAY too seriously
2) It's like a mecca for racists (especially on GTA 4)
3) Some people have alot of time on thier hands, seeing how I have encounted some scarily good gamers.
4) Apparantly being 26 is classed as being old, seeing how I got called Grandad by some kid.

But of course I'd much rather be playing against you guys and maybe exchanging some film junkie banter, while I no doubt lose badly..... so if any of you lot also play online and fancy playing a game sometime why not add me.
Gamertag= Film Freak 99

Just mention the blog with your friend request, which also helps me indentify your requests, from those frequent random ones, which keep filling up my mail box.



Casablanca Express



Title: Casablanca Express
Director: Sergio Martino
Released: 1989
Staring: Jason Connery, Francesco Quinn, Jinny Steffan, Manfred Lehmann, Jean Sorel, Donald Pleasence, Glenn Ford, John Evans

Rating: 2/ 5


Plot: In 1942 top commando Alan Cooper (Connery) is assigned to protect Winston Churchill (Evans), when a Nazi plot to kidnap him is discovered.

Review: Casablanca Express is really the blue print for how to make a film with major compromises, I mean if you can’t find any big named actors to play your leads? Why not just draft in their lesser known actor kids. Can’t afford a rousing orchestra score? Well who needs an orchestra when you have the mood setting sound of Synthesisers!! These really are just two of the money cutting costs which Martino incorporates into this film, which you kind of have to admire the balls on Martino and his directing choices, especially when you look at what he believes the audience would find belivable as a Winston Churchill clone, which it seems he too might have also had doubts about, seeing how he tends to shoot Evans either at distance or from behind.


The Italian war movie genre, is probably one of the least looked at genres when it comes to Italian cinema, especially with most cinema obsessive’s usually either concentrating on the Horror and Western genres, especially with both genres being home to more than a few notable directors such as Sergio Leone, Mario Brava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento aswell as Martino himself is probably best remembered thanks to the horror genre, in particular for “Mountain of the Cannibal God” (1978).

Strangely enough if you haven’t guessed already film isn’t a prime example of an Italian warm movie, unlike the grind house charm of Castellari’s “The Inglorious Bastards” (1978) which provided the inspiration for Tarantino’s own “Inglorious Basterds” (2009)

“Casablanca Express” it would seem, likes to view itself as a boy’s own adventure, with it’s quick pace and action scenes all being similar to that of war movies, like “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), especially when you look at minmal amount of humanization used for the Nazi characters, who are basically there to play the bad guys and provide target practice for our hero’s.

Connery’s its clear would have really liked to have been his dad and in this film, tries to play the character of Cooper with the same sort of boyish charm as Bond, which really doesn’t work overly well as you never once believe that he is ever in control of any situation he encounters, most of which ending with him surviving through blind luck more than any skill, a prime example of which being during of the early fights when he is ambushed by several bad guys, only to be saved at the last moment by Francesco Quinn’s American agent.

Connery with his well spoken British accent, constantly plays off British stereotypes, something which is also carried onto nearly every other character in the film, including an extremely cringe worthy moment, when one of the passengers, who is supposed to be a British officer complains to one of the station staff about, how they almost damaged his tea set! Thankfully most of these caricatures are killed off pretty swiftly when the train is hijacked by the Nazi’s, which raises more of a cheer than anything else. While on the subject of stereotypes it was kind of surprising to see that this was an Italian film, especially seeing how the American forces are basically the ones who are doing everything, even to the point at the finale where they are riding in on a train with a huge American flag flying, as they save the world once again from the Nazi threat. It kind of surprised me, even more when I discovered that it wasn’t an American film, which made me wonder even more so why Martino choose to portray the war in such an unbalance view, especially when it’s the British prime minister being kidnapped and all we send to save him is a bad James Bond clone!! Still I guess this could be to make up for the fact that the American Agent played here, by an equally uncharismatic Francesco Quinn has his character reduced even further, to the point were he becomes a mere bullet magnet, which might have been intended as a heroic death, but instead comes off more as a relief to the audience, that it is one less crappy actor we have to endure.
Seeing how Martino raided the Children of the stars academy for his main leads, it’s surprising that he chooses to keep the small amount of star power he does have in his cast, with Donald Pleasence and Glenn Ford relegated to supporting roles and spending the majority of the film, moving blocks across a large map, which is a shame as these are some of the best moments of the film and that’s again largely because we aren’t having to suffer Connery’s acting. Still for these brief moments that they appear in the film, they still manage to make the most of their roles and pull them off convincingly enough; even if you get the feeling that they could give the same performance in their sleep.
The Soundtrack as I mentioned at the beginning of this review is synthesiser heavy and I mean really heavy, seeing how every piece of music in this film comes from a synthesiser, which especially makes the seem a lot more dated than it is and certainly fails even on the basic levels to provide the intended mood, as every time the music kicks in it, draws your attention away from what is happening on the screen, pulling you out of the film watching experience and preventing you from immersing` yourself in the world which the film is set in.

“Casablanca Express” like so many of Martino’s other films is a light hearted film, which never really lives up to any potential it might have had, allowing itself to get bogged down with it’s numerous flaws, with only a handful of exciting moments, which are too few and far between, to really keep the viewers attention, especially when there are similar boy’s own adventures to be found, which do the genre better and only worth watching if you’ve seriously run out of things to watch or are a Martino completist.
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