Monthly Archives: February 2014

Evil Roy Slade 3.5/5

Evil Roy Slade

This is, I think, one of the best TV movies ever made, definitely the best TV-movie comedy. John Astin is in fine form, cackling and grinning his way through the goofy action, and also in fine form is Mickey Rooney, Henry Gibson, Dom DeLuise, Milton Berle, Dick Shawn and the cute-as-a-button Pamela Austin.

There’s even some good songs (‘stubby index finger’, and the terrific Evil Roy Slade theme song), and it seems to be riffing on the Western genre and a Marx-brothers-like goofiness that isn’t a million miles away from Blazing Saddles.

Despite this being over 40 years old, the comedy still works very nicely.

Best line: “I learned a valuable lesson today. Never trust a pretty girl, or a lonely midget.”

Abby 3/5

Abby

This was a film of that was a distinct mix of good and bad (fittingly). Condemned to purgatory by legal threats from Warners about it being a ripoff of the Exorcist, it’s been hard to catch, and even now it’s only possibly in a terrible print.

It’s an interesting take on possession, and this time it’s about a Nigerian demon possessing a church-going, demur housewife who becomes sexually aggressive/rampant, and violent. So here’s the breakdown:

– Good: William Marshall is masterful; Carol Speed is pretty decent as Abby; the sound design is very effective in places, there was even one decent song in the middle of the movie playing as background.
– Bad: Rest of the cast. Even Austin Stoker, who went on to be pretty decent in Assault on Precinct 13, is bad. The direction, scene-setting is poor; the set design/budget is super-cheap, and whoever was involved didn’t have the talent or time to hide it.
– Odd: Why the hell was Warners threatened by this? Legal action seems ridiculous to me, and I’m guessing the makers of this movie didn’t have the financial clout to make a case (they’d have won against Warners imo).

Enjoyable, for a one-off watch.

Book Review: Rage by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) 9/10

This is a fierce book. I can understand completely why King decided he didn’t want it in print any more…the reality that’s happened that echoes this book is too soon, it makes sense. But it’s too good a book to be lost, and I can see it being dissected and analysed in a hundred years’ time.

The think about this book, is that it confirms to what the very best King does…it rings absolutely pure and true of authenticity. King has a power to convey in words the feeling and mood that feels completely genuine, even when you know that, say, a high-school girl or boy would clearly never, in a million years, say some of the things King puts in their mouths.

Yet King’s writing transcends the need for authentic dialogue by replacing it with authentic mood and the essence of a situation. When he talks about specific things, he has an ability to plug into the mainline of human experience.

King, at his best, is truth. This book, while it’s become a precognitive echo of how things have turned out, conveys something of the horrible, complex truth of certain states of mind.

It’s a shame that to some people ‘King’ equates to ‘hack’. To me, he equates to ‘truthsayer’, and the truth is there, no matter how fantastic the material.

It Conquered the World 2.5/5

It Conquered The World

Passable scifi with a solid cast and one of the worst monsters I’ve ever seen. Lee Van Cleef in an early major role is solid, as is Peter Graves, and the acting quality is fine, and it was reasonably entertaining except for (a) a ridiculous monster, and (b) one of the worst closing monologues I’ve ever heard.

It was redeemed somewhat by the graphic, exploitation death of the monster though. I also liked the flying bat/skin-pizza monsters the alien sent out to control people – that reminded me of similar beasties in original series Star Trek.

Transylvania 6-5000 1/5

Transylvania 6-5000

Pretty bad comedy that has the writing to blame. The talent is here: Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr, Carol Kane, John Byner, that guy from Seinfeld, but the actual jokes fall flat. As the film proceeds, you get a whiff of desperation as they start cranking up the ‘whacky’ and ‘energetic’, but unfortunately this leads to no funny jokes.

The only really funny parts to me are the husband/wife pair played by Carol Kane and John Byner. Kane in particular has that manic glee that transcends this terrible mess, and she’s funny as hell (it reminded me of her psychotic fairy from Scrooged).

Give it a miss.

Barbarian Queen 1.5/5

Barbarian Queen

Goofy sex and sandals exploitation movie, done 80s style. Which means lots of tops getting ripped off, rapey middle-aged guys in silly outfits, and women who, no matter what hell they’ve gone through, look like they just got out of the beauty parlour.

Some nice costumes and sets, and the odd good special effect (sword through neck, anyone?), but otherwise pretty disposable.

Trekkies 3.5/5

Trekkies

Documentary about Star Trek fans which contains some great parts (the stars of Star Trek telling their stories about the fans…highpoints being Nichelle Nichols and Jimmy Doohan; the trekkies telling how Star Trek inspired them to go into various careers), and some rather sour parts – showing the extremes of the fanbase. I used to be amused by this kind of freakshow, but freakshow aspects of modern reality TV just feels vulgar these days, so that part felt tiresome.

So, definitely a documentary of polar parts – some really great, some really bad, and some that mixed it up so you had to pick what you got out of it.

Overall, definitely worth seeing.

Stalled 2.5/5

Stalled

While extremely low budget and with some technical issues, it does have a certain charm that reminded me of Peter Jackson’s early efforts, like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, and the central performance was solid. The issues were some of sound design was quite poor (the music sound design was good though), and some of the initial plotting was a bit juvenile. And character naming was from the Big Book of Carry On Movies.

Reasonably enjoyable but very lightweight zombie comedy.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 3/5

Ghost Rider

Gleefully goofy Ghost Rider movie that’s propped up by Edris Elba as a French special ops monk and Christopher Lambert as a walking walloftext, we have the fiery spirit of vengeance going at it with Eastern European gangsters, arms dealers and Satan’s little helpers with glee. We also get Cage in more full-on crazy mode compared to the tamer Cage from movie 1.

However, it is a bit of a mess of a storyline, and the Crank-treatment doesn’t quite work as well here as the first Crank movie this was made by the guys that made Crank, if you don’t know what I’m going on about), but there are some hilarious odd bits and nice CGI/mad scenes.

Not quite the roasted turkey some reviewers suggested it was.

Pusher 2012 3/5

Pusher

A remake of the Nicolas Winding Refn movie of 1996, this does not reach the same levels of intensity and claustrophobia as that one, but it’s not a bad crime thriller in its own right.

Richard Coyle is pretty damn good in the central performance, and the supporting cast are decent. Nice music design, and some nice cinematography of London. Feels realistic in many spots. However, some of the bit players aren’t great actors, and spoil some of the short scenes.

Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United 1/5

Iron Man and Huk Heroes United

This was rather poor, but I admit I was kind of excited to see a Hulk/Iron Man pairing, so perhaps my expectations were too high. To break it down
– Good: a few (a very few) of the shots and action sequences were quite good. I liked seeing the Hulk wearing a little Iron Man armour.
– Bad: Quite shallow, childish script that really made this not suitable entertainment for anyone over, say, 13, but at the same time it seemed a little strong and full on for younger kids. The CG mostly looked very poor.
– Odd: A section where the guys had to fight off monsters that seemed to have nothing whatever to do with the main story. Yeah, watching the duo fight a pack of wendigos was cool, but made no narrative sense at all.

Bad Day At Black Rock 3.5/5

Bad Day At Black Rock

Solid drama with a quite outstanding cast (noticeable as town toughnuts are Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine!). As I watched it, it seemed quite wordy, and I became convinced it was based on a stage play, though searching the intertubes doesn’t indicate that. Very short and punchy and with a whiff of John Steinbeck about it, as well as detective/noir.

– the good: superlative cast, acting and dialogue, nice story and resolution.
– the bad: While the direction was adequate, you really never felt a sense of tension around what should have been oppressive tension about the threat to Tracy’s character
– the odd: the quite old Tracy apparently standing up to the threat of the likes of Lee Marvin.

Ghost Rider 3.5/5

Ghost Rider

watched this at the cinema when it first came out and rather enjoyed it, but wanted to check it again, at it seems to be kicked around a fair bit.

I enjoyed it just as much this time, but to break it down

– the good: the presentation of Ghost Rider is fantastic. The flaming skull the bike, the chain weapon. All great. And Sam Elliott. Good visual direction and sound design during the action.
– the bad: the villains were weak,
far too weedy for GR. The execution of the nonaction elements was poor. satan’s CGI shadow.
– the odd: Cage’s displaced acting and his obsession about monkey videos, jelly beans, and The Carpenters.

Hooper 3/5

Hooper

Easy going, fun, undemanding stuntman comedy with Burt Reynolds, interestingly touching on a man getting to the end of his career, and damaged from it. It has a few laughs and exciting scenes, but my favourite parts are the bar fight and the final jump.

God Bless America – Odd One Out 050

God Bless America

God Bless America – podcast

Beowulf 2/5

Beowulf

This pitches up between real-life cinema and more cartoonish styles, and feels like the worse of both. The nearly-human animation feels unreal by its very nearly-ness, giving the whole thing of watching a cast acting through thick botox-poisoning. In contrast, the animation of Grendell seems oddly dated (it felt that way when it came out), and feels like a prototype cgi-rendering of the first version of Treebeard, or like someone asked the muppet guys to built a large model of a monster for stagework, and then someone converted that to CGI. It’s a very odd feeling. Another odd section is a sub-Austin Powers part where Beowulf fights naked, but his genitals are hidden by strategically placed items/people throughout several parts of a long scene.

It really doesn’t fly, except the final fight with the dragon. But at nearly two hours, this felt a long, unentertaining slog, only lightened by the obvious yarning of Beowulf, and the final fight with the dragon, which was quite enjoyable.

Wolf of Wall Street 4/5

Wolf of Wall Street

The 3 hours just flies by for the most part, and even though it is baggy in places, the scenes that play out remain pretty entertaining. Leo is doing great work here, as is Jonah Hill, and it’s kind of fun watching these scumbags enjoy themselves at the expense off of the faceless schmucks they rip off (that side of the story is something you never see here).

There are a lot of very solid scenes, and many sales pep talks, but my favourite scene my far is the one involving the ‘lemmons’. I was laughing, wincing, gasping, laughing again, as Scorcese uses his director tricks to put us in Leo’s perspective, and then show us what actually happened. Terrific film-making.

I also hear there may be a 4-hour cut coming out on blu sometime. Sign me up, I’ll be buying that.

Star Trek The Original Series Season 2 Episodes 01-10 – Odd One Out 049

Amok Time

Mark talks about Star Trek The Original Series, Season 2, Episodes 1-10

The Heat 3.5/5

The Heat

If you’re fine with a constant stream of profanities, which I am, then this is the movie for you.

I’ve always liked Bullock as a comedienne, and this pairing with McCarthy is pretty fun. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good and chugs along nicely with the odd overindulgent scene. The villains could be a bit stronger (I got some of them mixed up to be honest), but that’s offset with McCarthy’s great BAH-STAN family that cracks me up.

Enjoyable, lightweight profanity-bombing comedy.

Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai – 130

Seven Samurai

In this episode, Mark and Sam discuss The Lego Movie and a few other movies/games, but then move onto 3 Kurosawa movies: Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai.

The Lego Movie 4/5

The Lego Movie

Very fun movie with one insanely catchy tune that will lodge in your head like a brainspider. It’s goofy and surreal, with plenty of jokes, some of which are at oldschool Lego expense, which is fine. Without spoiling however, I think this movie is not just working on a meta-level (big deal, a lot of kids movies do that, to keep the adults interested), but actually transcends this in the last act and becomes meta-meta-level (meta about meta-levelling).

Combine this is various butt-reference jokes, Batman, robo-pirate and similar, and you have something that the kids will enjoy, but so will the adults. In the screening I was in, you could hear the kids really laughing in places, but you could also hear the adults laughing just as hard in the same places.

Definitely recommended.

World’s Greatest Dad 3/5

World's Greatest Dad

As I watched this, I thought I really didn’t like it. It seemed disjointed, and I found virtually all the characters unlikeable or positively annoying. I cannot fault the movie on the acting, sound design or cinematography though, the problem I have is with the dialogue/story mechanics.

However, by the end, I did find much of the imagery stuck with me, along with the mood. Bits of it still annoy me, such as some of the characters and character dynamics seeming pointless with respect to the movie (for example, the girlfriend Ginger – who obviously had maturity/daddy issues, but to what point?), but it seemed there were 3 characters I did like, and 1 performance I greatly respected. The 3 characters I liked were Robin Williams’ father, the friend of the repulsive son, and the elderly neighbour next door. They were essentially good, kind people, with their own weaknesses, who found some solace with each other.

The performance I admired was that of Daryl Sabara as the thoroughly unpleasant, unlikeable and frankly repellent son. It must be tough for a young actor to play such an irredeemably terrible person, a braggard, a foul-mouthed pervert whose aggressive, immature character holds zero charm. It was a terrific performance I think.

I’m not sure I can recommend it – Goldthwaite’s other movie, God Bless America – is a ferocious, fun-ride that worked a lot better – but it didn’t bore me. Annoyed me a little, but any film that has imagery and mood that sticks with you like this is one that’s worth a little time to check out.

Seven Samurai 5/5

Seven Samurai

Here’s the short version: Superb, one of the greatest movies of all time.

Here’s the long version: This is a terrific film, and the version I saw at 3 hours, 26 minutes really shouldn’t have a single moment removed, in my opinion. It moved at a good pace, never faultered in maintaining dramatic tension, and uses its sparse dialogue to get to the heart of the matter straight away, with feeling like monologuing or exposition. Almost every scene lodges itself in your memory as distinct – a sure sign of a very well-put together movie.

Of the 7, I think maybe 3 of the samurai characters were a little underdeveloped, though not to the level of just being a blank. That leaves 4 distinct and interesting characters though, the leader Kambei, the master swordsman Kyuzo, the ‘fool’ Kikuchiyo, and the Apprentice Katsushiro.

Kurosawa picked his characters well. Kyuzo is one extreme of the samurai, the dedicated master who cares only for his art (though even this extreme has a human side…. we see him laugh as hard as anyone at Kikuchiyo’s antics on the horse, and smile sardonically as he wants to sleep and gets some hero worship from Katsushiro) and still as a rock, with Kikuchiyo at the other end – not too skilled, but brave, fearless, angry, emotional and funny, and scratching and twitching like a dog with a terrible flea infestation and a nervous disposition. Contrasting Kambei and his experience we get the Apprentice, who wants to learn and have glory, but lacking in any sort of knowledge about what needs to be done to actually fight the bandits or handle the villagers.

Like I say, the whole thing is a pleasure to watch, and there are a dozen+ standout scenes in the movie, but the personal standouts for me are:

  • The intensity of Kambei when watching Kyuzo for the first time…you know this old experienced warrior is watching and appreciating a master at work
  • Where the old farmer has lost the rice and gets scolded, and starts to pick up the rice thrown in anger, one grain at a time
  • Kikuchiyo railing at the samurai about how the villagers are cowardly and murderous, but it is the samurai that made them that way
  • Kikuchiyo sitting next to the bandit with the gun and bantering with him
  • Kambei drawing arrows in the rain in the midst of battle
  • The death of Kikuchiyo…he’s so lively it’s kind of stunning when he falls face-first into the dirt after getting the coward and lies so still. So Un-Hollywood, and so much more stunning and moving for it.

Carnival of Souls 3/5

Carnival of Souls

This is a really interesting movie. It falls flat on a lot of the acting and dialogue, but really stands out for several reasons; the weird overuse of weird organ music throughout and indeed the whole sound design, which is a little rough, but fits well with the tone of the movie; the look, movement and charisma of the leading lady, who isn’t the most accomplished actress, but still gets across the weird nature of the character and her predicament; the cinematography is really very good, as is some of the editing – there’s a great edit in particular where we see the heroine jerk and suddenly appear behind the wheel of a car.

Interesting, as I say, and a real mix. Good, bad and odd.

Sanjuro 4/5

Sanjuro

Whilst not as thoroughly engaging or immersed in a coherent story as the similar Yojimbo (and there’s debate as to whether this is a sequel, or different character), this is still a lot of fun. With very little dialogue, we have characters who reveal their true nature by their words and actions (the mother is extremely wise, as is the father, who we only see at the end), and it’s very enjoyable to see Mifune cut and chop his way through hordes of guards like they were shop dummies.

It’s Mifune being magnificent that really makes this movie, and its fun to see this mighty warrior have to think a bit more than fight, at the mother’s request to avoid violence. There’s also some other really nice touches, like a guard that’s been captured who, so taken with the mother’s naïve trust, acts with respect and honour to her, and does exactly what he’s told, and is genuinely happy for the men who support her when things go their way.

Fun, fine and will put a smile on your face for much of the time.

Cabin in the Woods 3.5/5

Cabin in the Woods

This is a fun watch. I particularly like the Lovecraftian element that runs through it, and spotting which monsters are actually monsters we all know and love. I particularly enjoyed seeing the modified versions of Pinhead and Pennywise, but wished for a Freddy and Jason knock-off too.

I enjoyed the meta-nature of the story, but was surprised the whole underground surveillance and modification deal was shown so early – that could have come later, as a complete surprise – however, the guys in the bunker were a lot of fun to watch.

Rather enjoyable, lightweight, decently written, non-scary but otherwise very engaging horror tinged with ironic comedy.

Get the Gringo 3/5

Get the Gringo

Yep, we have Mel Gibson doing what he’s good at, which is excessively violent action genre movies. This one’s quite unusual and not what I expected, as he spends most of the time in a Mexican prison, but it’s fun, it’s cool that this action guy is seen planning and thinking through how to get what he wants, with a touch of the conman thrown in. Fun.

Yojimbo 4.5/5

Yojimbo

Wonderful Eastern, with Tishuro Mifune spending the first 3rd of the movie munching rice, meat and other assorted goodies, drinking sake and killing tough-talking bandit types, whilst nonchalantly bringing the town to a boiling tension as he plays one gang against the other in assorted ways.

The bombastic jangling sound design, Mifune’s charismatic killer, the silly gurning faces of the heavies, and Kurosawa’s wonderful eye for composing shots and letting the camera enjoy the movement all adds up to a real treat and highmark of samurai genre movies.

The daddy of Lone Wolf and Cub movies, and the partial granddaddy of the impressive recent 13 Assassins.

Recommended.