Before I bore the world rigid with this month's turgid list of films I have watched, here's an out. Something for you to go look at while I burble on to myself like the sad old obsessive I am. It's a page from a site devoted to Hammer Film Posters. A page of artwork for Unproduced projects. They were, apparently, working on a film called Zeppelin Vs Pterodactyls part of me is forever going to mourn the fact that it was never made.
- Source Code (2011) - Not bad. Not bad at all - right up to the last minute, tacked on, 'happy' ending which sank the movie. Grrrrr.
- Boxing Helena (1993) - Not Good. Julian Sands is an actor I am coming to find perversely, weirdly compelling. Last film I saw him, in Ken Russell's Gothic, he spent the entire movie playing Percy Bysshe Bash Bosh Shelley wandering around like Julian from the Famous Five, grown up a bit, and having first year uni fun pissed out of his tiny little head on Newcastle Brown and coke. Nose coke, not 'the real thing' coke. I don't think anyone has ever tried drinking Newcastle Brown and Cola. I may be wrong.
In Boxing Helena he is supposed to be a brilliant surgeon, with a galloping case of the Oedipuses, getting a fixation on Helena, played by the rather yummy Sherilyn 'Twin Peaks'* Fenn. He ends up keeping her captive in his house and then amputating all her limbs to stop her running away. Sands played this one like a British Crispin Glover all fumbling awkward manboy nervousness but without the charisma. (Luckily for him the rest of the cast didn't know what they were trying to do either; Bill Paxton turns in a particularly cringe-making performance.) I spent half the film just wondering what Sands was trying to do. He was obviously trying to 'do' something but I have no idea what. Maybe it's just me but I was pretty disappointed by the film. It's been on my 'must get round to' list for a few years now. People had warned me off it as a 'weird and horrible' film (And these were people who know me!? "I'sa begging you, Brer Fox, jess don't go an' throw me in thet briar patch!" I wonder how it took me so long to get round to watching it.) Sadly it just wasn't weirdly perverse enough. Maybe I'm getting old and jaded and have ODed on 'weird and horrible' films but Helena was pretty meh on both fronts. It was aiming to place itself in the creepily odd, but compelling, psycho-sexual darklands mapped out by Davids Lynch and Cronenberg et al, but missed and ended up in expensive, backlit humping, softcore erotic thriller territory - without the thriller bit and not that much of the erotic. Darklands lite. (And I can't blame the BBFC because they passed it uncut.) And then it all turned out to be a dream?! Fuck that.
*and the rest of her's not bad too... (baboom-tish!)
- Plunkett & Macleane (1999) - another chunk of 'Cool Britannia' Arts Council not entirely wasted. It's a British buddy-movie / comedy-western done with lots of design, lots of anachronistic music, and plot holes you could drive a horse and carriage through. The sort of film America turns out without thinking but, because this was British, had to be helped into the world with tax money. Lots of people didn't like it. They didn't like it, I suspect, because we're not supposed to have fun with our history on film in Britain. It's all supposed to be:
- special exemption licences are granted for proven producers with a track record in comedy ie Monty Python and the Carry-on team but anyone else who deviates without asking first is just asking for trouble.
- Merchant Ivory reverential and lovely soft focus, swanning around with Helena Bonham Carter draped in muslin.
- Dour, po-faced working-class, rickets and Hitler miserablism.
- Based on a novel that has already sold several bejillion copies. Preferably out of copyright - sorry, 'a classic'.
American films can do what they like with our history; no one gives a shit. We just raise our eyebrows, go "Tch! Americans, eh?,". If we're really incensed we write a letter to the Daily Mail. We still then buy the DVD by the truckload but home grown films? They have to toe the line. This one didn't. And it was fun. I liked it.
- Merchant Ivory reverential and lovely soft focus, swanning around with Helena Bonham Carter draped in muslin.
- Final Combination (1994) - Tedious, leadenly paced, join the dots, LA Cop vs serial killer crap. Made even more plodding than the script by having Michael 'The Plank' Madsen as our hero, and Lisa 'Am I in This Movie?' Bonet as our love interest. Oh the sexual tension! Both of them looked about as interested in each other as a couple of small kitchen appliances in a showroom window would be.
A sample of the witty, 'flirtatious' dialogue:
Her: "So, what about you?"
Him: "What about me?"
Trust me. That was as good as it got.
A film so awful the killer had to jump out of character, and then through several really stupid and pointless hoops just so the film could end on a car chase. Then, after he was supposedly 'killed' at the end of that, he had to do something totally improbable, unexpected, unexplained (and conveniently off-screen) so we could have the inevitable fistfight in the hero's huge, hanger-like, loft apartment.
- Ninja Apocalypse (1982) - which, sadly, didn't live up to its title. How could it? No ninjas and no Apocalypse just another Hong Kong cop movie with some terrible dubbing. I did get to pop the cherry of this film on the IMDb though. Long time since I've done that. Actually not quite true - there was already a review there but it was for a different film; so I shopped him and posted my own.
- The True Story of Puss 'N Boots ( 2008 ) - well that was a mistake.
- Les destinées sentimentales (2001) - leisurely paced three hours spent watching rich French people wallowing in luxury and philosophising at the drop of a hat about Art and Love in only the way people in French family saga films can. All in period costume too. Usually the sort of film that has me running for the hills. I nearly cried at the end. Some lovely lovely camera movements including one masterful cockup that was kept in because it turned out to be wonderful - or a masterful camera move that looked like a cock up but wasn't. Either way it was a magic moment.
- Flesh Gordon (1974) - any way you look at it Flesh Gordon is a real mess of a film with dodgy non-acting, wobbly camera work, rubbish sets, hardly any jokes, very variable special effects, no plot, no rhythm - and it makes me laugh. It's so naïvely enthusiastic it's just wonderful. Porn's Golden Age of Innocence, 'let's get naked and make a movie' fun.
- Blood Simple (1984) - the Coen Brother's first. Meh.
- The Best of Sex and Violence (1981) - not really a movie but a straight to video compilation of sordid and sleazy seventies film trailers (wall to wall tits and kung-fu) linked by the late immortal John Carradine. A glorious wallow in pre-compacted trash with a genuinely laugh out loud funny joke in one of the links that I fully intend to use at the first opportunity.
- The Pyx (1973) I suspect there was an Early 70s Golden Age of Canadian Film going on at the same time as the Early 70s Golden Age going on in Hollywood (the period from Easy Rider to Star Wars). The Pyx, starring a very young looking Christopher Plummer and the always watchable Karen Black, is a odd one. A slowly paced, police procedural with Satanic elements, two storylines, one following the detective detecting the events leading up to Karen Black's character's death and the other following Karen's Black character in the days before her death. There's some very very odd pacing and very very odd framing (people almost falling out of the frame half the time - though that might be a bit to do with the cropped copy I saw), terse sparse dialogue, some very odd music (Karen Black wrote and performed the songs). All very unsettling. I'd love to see a decent copy in the proper aspect ratio.
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) - Only one more to go...
- Hidden Agenda (1999) - Flat, plodding, unoriginal, under-achieving postwall Berlin straight to video 'thriller' with more than a few Third Man references. (Not overt homages, you understand. They just nicked stuff.) Second film of the week to have Christopher Plummer playing a cop. The most fun I had with it was trying to spot an exterior shot without a rising wisp or column of steam in it (some of the interior shots had them too) our director was big on steam rising from things for some reason. Quite often they were the most interesting things on the screen. My other game was betting which side of the screen our hero would clear the frame after walking down a long corridor towards the camera. That seemed to happen a lot too.
- She Freak (1967) - Whoohoo! Total grade A WTF? paydirt. The story is minimal, gold-digger waitress from a small town joins the carny and marries the boss of the Freak show. He gets killed by her roustabout lover and in revenge the freaks carve her up and put her in the show - the end. (It's a rehash of Tod Browning's Freaks - a film which still has the power to disturb and gave The Ramones some of their most meaningful lyrics.) The style here is incredible. Short bursts of dialogue sometimes rendered inaudible by lousy on-location recording and other times by inappropriately loud music slapped on in editing, interspersed with long (sometimes very long) silent 'sequences' (I'm being generous here) of documentary-style footage shot in a real carnival with whole catalogues of almost not terrible jazzy library music filling up the soundtrack. It's insane. Over half of this movie is silent footage of people putting up tents, eating candy floss, or riding the waltzers, occasionally our heroine appears and wanders around past these real fairground punters - in one shot she takes 50 seconds! to aimlessly wander across from one stall to another - and occasionally she interacts with other characters in that under-rehearsed, 'we have no real lines to say here' way that people used to do in cheap holiday commercials. Overly large gestures, smiling and nodding, Catalogue Man style pointing and uncomfortable body language. Everything screams,"We don't know what we're supposed to be doing but we're getting paid to be here and the camera's running so we had better do something!" an insane delight. The director went on to make several other films, only one of which I have seen: the gloriously awful Space Thing!She Freak makes Space Thing look like quality goods.
- Chained Heat (1983) - Linda Blair goes to jail. The jail is full of drug dealing lesbians, corrupt, sadistic guards, an even more corrupt warden (whose idea of fun is to tape himself having sex with prisoners in the office Jacuzzi), and an even even more more evil outside contractor (Henry Silver having fun hamming it up) who takes prisoners home for the weekend to parties. In short, all the usual Women in Prison staples:obligatory shower scenes, racial tension, plenty of sweary words and ultra-violence - at least two rapes, one drowning (in the Jacuzzi), and I lost count of the fatal stabbings and beatings.
And it was as boring as hell. The 'climactic' prison riot is one of the most lacklustre ever staged for film. Prisoner Cell Block H with T&A.
- Hellraiser (1987) - erm... I liked the music?!
- Battle for Planet of the Apes (1973) The very cheap and tatty final chapter in the Apathon. Less awful and more boring than I remember. I'm glad my rewatch of all the Apes films is over. I still think the first one is a terrific piece of cinema but it was sad watching their rapid decline into TV movie quality shoddiness (the first film came out in 1968 this last in 1973, only 5 years later).
- Police (1985) - French. Very French.
- Garage Days (2002) - I have now watched all of Alex Proyas' features and this one,which comes half-wayish (no 4 of 6) through his career to date, confirms my long held theory/prejudice that his earlier films were better and the more money he gets to spend on CGI flasheroonies the less interesting his films become.
- Zoom Aacademy for Superheroes (2006) - which was no better than the last time I watched it. The kids loved it. But they have no taste.
Abandoned this month:
- Last Images of the Shipwreck (1989) (original title Últimas imágenes del naufragio) I woke up an hour in to it to find the same two characters sat in a dark room having the same not very interesting conversation in Spanish that I had fallen asleep during half an hour previously. It may have been a different dark room. I didn't rewind to find out.
- Telling Lies in America (1997) - about 30 minutes in I realised I never want to see another obviously autobiographical American Coming of Age Story in my life, no matter how good the music, and acting is, or how shiny the huge, chrome-encrusted vintage cars are. I just don't care any more.