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Lovecraftian Lunacy (H.P sauce)
Ezra Godden, he of limited 'Band of Brothers' exposure (enough of these war series, btw) stars as Paul, a nebbish dotcom millioniare out yachting with his wife Barbara and their friends. But, as you might expect, they run aground and are forced to seek assistance from a weird and desolate coastal village; Barbara is kidnapped, the others disappear from the boat and Paul begins to feel very claustrophobic indeed...
Ok, straight up, this is a very decent and well made Lovecraft movie. Stuart Gordon of course helmed the original, classic 'Re-animator' way back in 1985 and the equally kooky 'From Beyond' a year later. Here he reuintes with long-time producer Brian Yuzna ('Society', 'Bride of the Re-animator') and screenwriter Denis Paoli to vividly depict one of old H.P's most atmospheric tales: 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', a fun account of decay, sea-worship, ritual sacrifice and some bad calamari. The screenplay joins up the dots with some of Lovecraft's other 'Deep Ones' stories, hence the new name, changed I would imagine because the movie isn't actually set in Innsmouth anymore.
This deserves attention. Lovecraft's mythos fiction was mostly set in and around New England (he himself lived on Rhode Island), and it is not the most PC stuff you'll ever read. The man was intensely xenophobic to the point of outright racism, and in addition he loathed the sea, so therefore oddball alien-fish-human mutations probably represented quite a signifigant personal disgust on his part. However, given that the US is presumably no longer interested in making proper horror films, just the standard recyclable teenage junk, Yuzna and Gordon relocated to Spain and drew funding from many different sources. Hence the movie is set off the Spanish coast, something that doesn't really affect the story at all, but something which will no doubt p**s off the purists.
The acting is generally very good, though it would have been nice to see Jeffrey Combs in the role of Paul, given his associations with previous films by the director. You get the feeling that he could of cranked things up a notch; but to his credit Ezra Godden does a pretty good job. He captures a very entertaining sense of gormless helplessness which throws some of the nastiness into welcome sharp relief. Macarena Gomez, looking oddly like Barabara Steele, plays the High Priestess Uxia to a tee: unconscionably cruel, grotesquely be-tentacled, yet meltingly sweet and vulnerable. And the late, great Fransisco Rabal appears in a performance that manages to be both moving and largely incomprehensible because of his concret thick accent (better put the subtitles on here).
A lot of this movie is actually very funny, in an absurd way. Most of the laughs stem from Pauls bewilderment and completely ineffectual methods of dealing with his situation: in pitch darkness he'll shine a highpower flashlight onto his own face, set the horn off when trying to discreetly hotwire a car, having got said car going he drives for maybe 50 yards before running it off the road etc. Then there's the fact that a lot of these fish-humans look more ridiculous than actually frightening and all seem to have this unusual crippled gait and squeeky voices.
Plenty of storming visuals and ambience too, with some stunning underwater photography and a dilapidated crumbling village in muted washed out tones that emphasise the warped, distorted atmoshphere. Add in a constant torrent of rain and a frenzied ritual in an underground cavern and you have a pretty solid B-picture. Oh and the gore? Plenty of that, to the point of wanton unpleasantness. There's something disturbingly lingering and gloatingly sadistic about some of these money shots; a snapped leg crushed by a rock, a slashed throat, a suicide technique not dissimilar to Hara-Kiri, disembowlments (fillet-of-fish) and a pretty gross sequence in which someone very graphically has his face pulled off.
Worth a look.
'My God, they're using tools!' - (Bride of the Reanimator)
Blood for Dracula (1974)
Gory, sexy, witty and political updating of the classic tale.
'Blood for Dracula' began shooting the day principal photography for 'Flesh for Frankenstein' finished, and utilised the same three lead players: Udo Kier (as Dracula), Arno Jeurging (as his manservant) and Joe Dallesandro (as a socially conscious and randy farmhand). In comparison to the earlier film, 'Blood for Dracula' may appear somewhat more restrained, with less of the delirium and dementia which made it's sister movie so memorable, but in place of the outrageous black humour and OTT excesses it possesses a more subtle sense of satire and a frequently beautiful and poetic visual style.
Just a quick recap of the story: Dracula, who is here only able to feed from the blood of virgin girls, is forced to leave his ancestral home in Transylvania (apparantly he's exhausted the supply there) and travel to Italy with his manservant, under the pretence of seeking a 'suitable wife'. They come across a family of supposedly noble stock, whose daughters are not in fact as pure as they might seem to be. This is due to the presence of a hot-headed young farmhand, whose political ideologies have been much influenced by the recent revolution in Russia...
Morrissey's first image in the film is a mischievously existential sequence that immediately works to blur the distinction between the realm of the film and that of the filmmakers. Dracula, a bone white albino, is seen applying black dye to his hair, rouge to his cheeks and ochre to his lips in an effort to appear more robust and more human. The obvious parallel is that of an actor being made up in preparation for a scene; Dracula's 'scene' is the rest of the movie and therefore we do not see this process repeated. Opening with such an introspective shot, one that is entirely outside the narrative and which so successfully marries the worlds before and behind the camera, denotes the artistic sensibility which will lend the film a modernist flavour and throw the hokier aspects of vampire lore into sharp relief. Here Dracula merely has an aversion to sunlight, garlic and crucifixes, rather than crumbling to dust at the sight of them; if outside during the day he only shields his face with his hat, and in his room at the inn he simply takes down the cross on the wall and puts it away in a drawer. It's a good example of how rules of legend as interpreted through iconic cinema (think Bela Lugosi repulsed by a crucifix, or Max Shreck dissolving in the dawn's light) are not binding in any sense, and in any case such constraints on the character would sit badly with the plot of the film. The director's personal touch allows him to express his ideas with more structure and balance, which makes for a more satisfying and coherent picture.
In 'Flesh for Frankenstein', Morrissey used the basic set up of the Frankenstein story, itself heavy with Freudian overtones in the context of Man attempting to create life independently of Woman, to showcase and satirise a gallery of corrupting behaviour and sexual deviancy. Here the contemporary relevance is the political subtext of the Dracula myth. The Count as a wealthy aristocrat is presented as both a literal and metaphorical vampire: he drains the blood of innocents in order to perpetuate his existence, and his social class figuratively leeches off the lower orders for it's own survival. His sickly pallor and physical frailty is both representative of his caste's dying influence and perhaps also a comment upon the debilitating results of long term inbreeding; a sharp contrast to the youthful strength and virility of Joe Dallesandro. The character of the latter is a dedicated communist who despises the Count for being, as he sees him, the wasted product of an archaic and fading tradition of social inequality, and the perception of aristocracy as decrepit and defunct extends to, and is reinforced by, the Italian family upon who's daughters the count has set his sights. Clearly once wealthy and influential they have now fallen on hard times and are under financial strain; the daughters work in the fields and gardens and the house is in need of repair and redecoration which they cannot afford. Hence the Mother's desire to marry one of her children into a moneyed lineage, in spite of such an unattractive groom and her daughters' unsuitability for his requirements, is an act of both base greed and snobbish ambition.
The film also makes great use of the power of human sexuality. One character early in the film remarks, upon hearing of the Count's intention to marry: 'A wife? He doesn't look up to it!' Indeed the key to Dracula's undoing is ultimately sex. He cannot drink the blood of non-virgins, yet is tricked several times into drinking the contaminated blood of the family's daughters, which leads to bouts of copious vomiting. His servant's somewhat erroneous belief that Italy is a good place to find a chaste wife, because of that countries Catholicism, demonstrates his unfortunate reliance on, and faith in, the upholding of old fashioned principles. The girls' unrestrained sexual familiarity with Dallesandro is indicative of their embracing of a more modern and unconcerned attitude to sex, where the crumbling social climate and values of their parent's generation have little bearing. When Dracula reveals that due to his families' 'traditions' he can only marry a virgin, the Marchesa knowingly tries to palm him off with her daughters, whom she knows are experienced, anyway. There is little genuine sense of honour about such duplicity; the motivation is wealth even at the expense of her children's happiness. Morrissey is always quick to savage the supposedly sacred community of the family; in 'Flesh for Frankenstein' it was blighted by incest and depravity, and here the briefly seen relationship between Dracula and his sister (also a vampire) is more touching and heartfelt than the caustic behaviour of the Di Fiore's toward one another.
The film remains to the end a coruscating and biting take on human values. At it's conclusion the enforced tyranny of an autocratic society has symbolically been put to a bloody end and supplanted by another: that of communist oppression. It is not a happy ending, perhaps because Dracula here is a much more pitiable and ambiguous character than generally depicted in other films. He does not communicate a sense of being an evil and vicious monster; he comes across as a weak and highly strung aesthete, delicate, sensitive and refined (the fact that he can only drink the uncontaminated blood of virgins is an extension of his discerning tastes and a genuine reflection of the traditional requirements of well-bred families in matters of marriage). Violence is abhorrent to him, yet ironically it is concomitant with his survival, whereas Dallesandro's character is brutish, self righteous and far more morally dubious (he more or less rapes the youngest daughter so that Dracula cannot now feed from her impure blood).
The key performances here are perfectly realised and genuinely involving. Kier captures the lethargy and malaise of the ailing Count with inimitable panache, although in order to shed the necessary weight for the role he simply didn't eat anything and was therefore actually too weak to move most of the time anyway! Arno Jeurging here plays an authoritative, arrogant and controlling servant who is worlds away from the submissive and degenerate Otto character in 'Flesh for Frankenstein', while Maxime McKendry imparts a very real sense of desperation in her part as a declining aristocrat grasping at straws in a changing economic climate. Dallesandro here seems as out of place as he was in FFF, with a hilariously anachronistic Brooklyn accent despite supposedly being a second-generation servant to the family. You could look at this as the Director articulating his indifference to the conventional importance of verisimilitude, or merely the inclusion of a bankable international star for the purpose of returns at the box office (I suppose it depends on how cynical you're feeling). Whatever, Dallesandro endows his character with the sense of preening and aggressive self-importance that is vital for the film, where the intention is to have no clearly demarcated hero and villain. The girls are all achingly beautiful and shed their clothes at almost every opportunity, while two notable directors, Vittorio De Sica and Roman Polanksi (!) have brief parts as the Merchese and a cunning villager respectively. Jeurging's mother also plays a small role as a customer at the inn.
Gore wise, although the film, as noted, somewhat lacks the unrelenting intensity of FFF's flying entrails and severed heads, it is still not for the squeamish. The protracted scenes of Dracula throwing up unsuitable blood into the bath are pretty gross, as is his lying on the floor to sup at the remains of the youngest daughter's hymen after Dallesandro takes matters into his own hands. The conclusion takes the grotesquery to the heights of blackly comic inevitability, with a mess of severed limbs and a double puncture with a single stake. However, the elegance of the cinematography, despite the low budget, renders these scenes almost as beautiful in their own perverse way as the long establishing shots of the Italian countryside.
This film, like it's predecessor, remains a genuine cult classic, and in my opinion they are both valuable documents of the prevalent artistic attitudes of their day and two of the most important, literate, well composed and intelligent horror films of the last thirty years. Maybe someday Morrissey and Kier may make another. Here's hoping.
Cradle of Fear (2001)
Dani ups the filth.
A psychopathic, serial killing, child molester (BAD man you see) is using his demonic servant (Dani Filth, from Brit Death Metal outfit 'Cradle of Filth') to carry out gruesome revenge against the people who put him inside, including a slightly warped police inspector whose trademark idiosyncrasy is touching up dead bodies, to ensure they're actually dead (Hmm, sure, whatever you say... especially necessary when they have their entrails spread across the living room...). Cue an 'Asylum' type anthology of stories, the sort of thing that Amicus used to do, based around several vicious murders bound up in the common thread of the inspector attempting to solve said murders.
Ok, lets deal with some major issues. First of all the writing is extraordinarily weak in places and the direction quite blatantly exposes the low budget of the production, rather than attempting to conceal it behind, say, intelligence and talent. I won't dwell on the latter too much, since at least the special effects (largely consisting of much Kensington Gore being chucked around) are sometimes quite effective (excepting an inexcusably awful CGI Car accident), and the film was obviously hampered visually by having to be shot on video, but the script seems to be the films main weakness. Given that the last genuinely successful British Horror Film was 'Hellraiser', I think we really need to do better than this kind of writing. Of all four stories, only the fourth ('The Sick Room': an, and I'll freely admit it, gloriously vile and inspired idea) displays any real kind of imagination. The possessed limb segment is as tired and obvious as you would expect, while the other two are evidently nothing more than showcases for some low budget gore effects.
The FX were apparently provided by the same people who worked on 'Hellraiser' and 'Black Hawk Down', although I would imagine the connection is tangential at best; perhaps it was the runner or the caterer who bridged the gap, since I don't see much evidence of genuine ability on show, unless maybe the budget was way, WAY lower than I understood.
Nevertheless, let's evaluate the good points, as much as we can. The cast is pretty much a role call of people who no one outside of low budget British Horror films will recognise, which, naturally, can only be a good thing for selective cult audiences. Dani Filth, though much touted in the publicity, plays a largely episodic, silent part (a sensible idea considering his brief moment of speech towards the end; has a creepy character ever deflated as much on opening his mouth?), which will undoubtedly appeal to COF fans. The absolutely gorgeous Emily Booth (played 'Pervirella' in the film of the same name, also directed by Alex Chandon, and now appearing as Eden on UKTV Channel 5's cult film show 'ouTThere') displays no acting talent, but a great deal else besides (the drooling is not lecherous but an immutable human instinct) before bearing a child that makes Damien look like Donny Osmond, while Eileen Daily ('Razor Blade Smile') delivers an unintentionally hilarious response to her husbands new leg before unfortunately ending up wrapped around a lamppost.
Other than that I don't recognise anyone in the cast. The Police Inspector is quite amusing; terrible dialogue ensures that every other word out of his mouth is unprintable here (i.e. 'That new computer system is a load of w**nk, you feed some s**t into it, and just get a whole new load of b*****ks back). I'm no expert, but I imagine talking to your superiors in the force like that might get you at least a caution.
Ah well, a grisly enough gore fest if that's what you're after (there is a LOT of blood and depravity: people having limbs hacked off, stabbing their own stomachs with scissors, eviscerating cats, tearing out throats, being stabbed in the eye with a broken bottle, throat slashing, decapitating etc), but not particularly laudable in terms of good filmmaking. Still, good for a Saturday night with some friends and an inordinate amount of drink, which is after all what it was probably designed for.
5 severed hands out of 10 ('Who's Laughing NOW!!!')
I Am Sam (2001)
Glutinous and empty headed TV movie made big.
Another year, another actor making a desperate Oscar bid by playing the fool. You can always be sure to get noticed that way; even though this mess received hearty derision all round Sean 'I used to have integrity' Penn walked away with a nomination, and of course several milllion dollars. I think that the Academy believes, with some kind of warped logic, that failure to nominate an actor playing a handicapped character would be a direct insult to the genuinely disabled. Either that or they feel that to play such a character requires a huge amount of courage, dedication, sensitivity, responsibility, respect and above all talent. Let me be the first to burst that shiny bubble of witless reasoning. Playing a handicapped character requires a totally mannered performance; you observe real life cases and imitate, and try to make it as genuine as possible. Thats about the height of it, and it's something that's pretty easy as far as acting goes. But then of course, a subject like this is important, but instead of being treated sensibly and with intelligence it simply degenerates into a completely anodyne and sugar coated lollypop of a message movie, devoid of any sincerity.
That's a major problem I have with this movie. Since someone figured that a comedy drama ought to have some jokes in it we are forced to tread a fine line between harmless fun and Farelly brothers style humour. Nothing so obvious as Warren in 'There's Something About Mary', but still a lot of the laughs are built around the behaviour of the mentally handicapped. Now in reality I'm sure a lot of people do occasionally see someone with mental problems doing or saying something that's unintentionally amusing and the reaction is to laugh at it. That's fine, that's instinctive, it's by no means malicious, and it happens. But it's one thing for it to happen randomly in the real world and another to deliberatly make a series of jokes about such people for public enjoyment, expecially in a film that's supposed to be supportive and understanding. I mean programmes like 'South Park' have jibes at the disabled but then that show has always worn it's non PC attitude on it's sleeve, the gags are more absurd than outright offensive and the characters are only kids anyway. In something like this the effect is far more pernicious and uncomfortable.
Let's look at the film's logic. Sam is a guy with an emotional age of about 7. The authorities want to take his daughter away from him and put her into foster care, so he's fighting for the right to keep her. Does that really, really sound like such a good idea? I mean, it is a distressing and complicated situation, and one that in reality would have to be handled with tact and moral respect for the family, but I am not in favour of having someone with an acute mental disorder being allowed to raise a small child. But the film piles greasy sentiment and some self righteous posturing on top of that minor issue. The crux of the argument seems to be that since regular people can be bad parents, who are we to judge abnormal people's abilities in that area? Ok,maybe so. It's an irresponsible proposal, but on a human level you can see the point being made. But then, at least most regular parents understand certain important things, like the necessity of insurance, education, having and holding down a job, being able to drive a car and all the other necessary minutae of adult life. Plus, if mentally adjusted people can't properly bring up their kids, who in the hell is going to believe this guy can? A child needs adult supervision for any number of reasons, not least for it's own safety.
Incidentally the child character in this movie is utterly unconvincing and trivialises the issue still further, giving not one ouce of realistic drama to an already flimsy narrative. She's like some sort of Buddhist monk, a picture of serenity and compassion, mouthing Hallmark sentiments and weighed down with unconditional love and adoration for her father. No one bit of conflict or confusion, never torn between her loyalty to him and perhaps a desire to live a more normal life. Nothing like that. No, what we get is 'All you Need is Love'. All I need is a bucket to be noisely sick into.
This is a burnt offering of a movie; offered up to the public as appeasement in the name of a 'Worthy Cause'. BURNT offering you notice. As in overcooked, chewy and, yes, tasteless. I pefer mine rare and succulent (sorry for all these weird meat references but I can't sing, so I couldn't end on a song).
Kevin Smith's worst film, but not totally without merit.
Kevin Smith has had a pretty varied career in terms of quality product. His first feature Clerks, which is my own personal favourite of his and something that I think he's never matched since, was brilliant because it was razor sharp, superbly written and actually quite insightful. It tapped into a gen-x underside to small town life, made up of people who are too intelligent to waste away their time in low-rent, boring jobs but find that's what they choose to do rather than make the attempt to really better themselves. More than anything it demonstrated that you don't NEED special effects and egotistical A-list stars to make a good movie, you just need raw talent and ingenuity. Mallrats is much more of a fan-boy picture. It's funny, hilarious at times, but the humour felt somehow stretched, as though Kevin had simply been asked to do more of the same on a bigger budgeted, studio outing with better actors. It's really just an escapist, feel good romantic comedy. Chasing Amy on the other hand, made for only about 250,000 dollars, was superb, a funny yet poignant and acutely observed film about contemporary sexuality and relationships. Dogma: an interesting failure, good ideas and intelligence let down by excess and sloppy direction.
All of which leads you to conclude that Kevin Smith is a genuinely good filmaker, but his talents lie best in writing, and if he must direct, then he should limit himself to low-maintenance, understated indie movies. Give him a huge budget and he tries to cram in too much, too many visuals and too many inconsequential details. He doesn't have any real sense of cinema aesthetics or mise-en-scene which means his films can look badly shot and put together. But he's a very funny guy, with a knack for realistic and erudite dialogue and situations. It's a shame therefore that as far as most people were concerned his major contribution to contemporary cinema was the creation of Jay and Silent Bob. As most people have noted the guys are fine in small amounts, as comic characters designed to temper the more normal people we meet in Kevin's films (lets face it, they could have been left out of Chasing Amy without any major repercussions) but too much of them and we begin to see that they really can't carry 90 minutes of screen time on their own.
Not that they're forced to. At least Kevin managed to secure the talents of many quality actors for this film, including cameos from just about everyone who's been in a previous View Askew production: Chris Rock, Jason lee, George Carlin, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Joey Lauren Adams, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Carmen Lee etc. He even manages to dredge up Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill for a couple of scenes (Mark Hamill has to have, amusingly, a onscreen caption with his name when he appears, due to the fact that he hasn't done anything noteworthy for about 20 years and is therefore unrecognisable to Star Wars fans). Unfortunatly that's one of the movies most signifigant drawbacks. It's very much an insider film, full of self-referencing and in-jokes from other films by the director, and if you haven't seen these movies then you might be a bit non-plussed at times. Then again, if you haven't seen these movies you're unlikely to be rushing to see this one. People say he made it for the fans, and that's fair enough, but I think the fans deserve better.
That's the second problem and probably, now I come to think of it, a more important one: the movie isn't actually very funny. Oh it has its moments, it is Kevin Smith after all, but nothing like the volume of quality gags we saw in any of the earlier films. There's an amusing Scooby Doo parody which, to be fair, gets more laughs in about 5 minutes than the recent feature did in an hour and a half. There's Jay's impassioned speech on behalf of the Coalition for the Liberation of Itinerant Treedwellers (geddit?). There's even a very welcome 'Good Will Hunting' sequel: 'Hunting Season', and it's nice to see Ben and Matt send themselves up so freely. But a lot of the movie grates. Jay isn't a marvellous character to listen to for over an hour, some of the material is obviously recycled from the comic books (which fans will presumably have read), then there's a lot of redundant dick and fart jokes and profanity just for the sake of being profane i.e. that swearing alone is somehow inherently amusing.
It's not a total disaster, and the quickfire approach to the gags means that while little is set up or developed sufficiently to make the jokes really funny, if a line or visual hook falls flat, there'll be another one along in about 15 seconds, so you ought to be able to find something amusing in there. By the way the film, I noticed, came under a lot of fire from certain pressure groups due to accusations of obscenity, homophobia etc, but if you actually watch it you'll realise that it in no way condones anything Jay says; he's like a five year old with tourrettes and it's funny because he has no idea how stupid and offensive he comes off.
Flawed, but Kevin Smith is now working on a more mature and intellectualy challenging project, so hopefully this kind of low-brow, juvenile slapstick is behind him now.
Mindless, witless, idiotic brain rot.
Here's a little story. One day me and a couple of friends were watching Cheech and Chong's classic 'Up in Smoke', and someone said that if we liked weed, then we ought to watch 'Friday'. According to this doorknob, everyone in America who smokes grass absolutely LOVES this film. All sorts of positive epithets were bandied around; 'amazingly funny', 'brilliant dialogue' etc. Well, if you consider the sight of someone smoking a joint inherently amusing then I'm sure you'll probably lap up this mess. If however, like most discerning viewers, you probably require some accompanying and complimentary jokes to make a movie worthwhile, then you might be more than a little disappointed. I actually can't think of anything I found remotely entertaining here at all. Normally for even the worst films, the sappiest rom-coms or the preachiest kid's flick, there's a tiny glimmer of enjoyment, even if that's just a one liner or a micro-second sight gag. Not so for Friday. Lets just consider what may be the highlight: a father lectures his son from the toilet on the importance of being a man while noisely evacuating his bowels. Hysterical. Later on the son demonstrates the value of manhood by throwing a half-brick at the back of another guys head while brawling with him. The rest of the film is made up of lazy stabs at easy targets, all wrapped up in the misogyny and homophobia you'd expect from big-name rap artists. An utter chore of a film, with no artistic value whatsoever.
The Naked Chef (1999)
Good cooking, Infuriatingly presented
For some reason cookery shows have stopped being simply about good food and useful recipes and have started being used as a platform for peddling lifestyles and self-absorbed smug personalities (Think of Nigella Lawson and Tamasin Day-Lewis with their irritatingly upper-middle class attitudes to contemporary family life, where all the ingredients come from organic farms in the midlands and the 'local shop' is Harrod's food hall - 'I don't have much time in the evenings so it'll just be duck magrets in pomegranate molasses and saffron crab tartlets'). Jamie Oliver's manifesto is to make cookery hip and accessible in a sanitized way. Supposedly he's the boy every mother would want as their son, the guy the girls find cute and the lad the blokes can relate to enough to kindle an interest in the kitchen. In fact he's pretty much nothing more than an annoying pratt with a line in pseudo-cockney banter that grates rather than endeares. The recipes are fine, with his pedigree in restaraunt work I'd expect nothing less, but it's almost impossible to sit through the programmes due to the sheer embarrassment of being a member of the same species. Another negative aspect of the show is the directors prediction for oh-so-fashionable wonky camera
angles and shot's straight out of 'Sam Raimi's guide to aspiring film school students'. Instant migraine, just add aggravating background music and bits about his friends and family. WHO CARES ABOUT THESE PEOPLE?
Incidentally, he writes the books in exactly the same way that he talks. I never thought I'd read a recipe that referred to a chicken as 'a great blooming geezer of a bird'.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Ghastly, pretentious mess of a film.
First of all, I don't think 'The Thin Red Line' was a rip-off of 'Saving Private Ryan'. That's an infuriatingly stupid attitude to take towards the two films. Working on that basis 'Platoon' must be a rip-off of 'Apocalypse Now' since they are both set in the Vietnam War. 'Private Ryan' is also terrible, but that's largely due to the fact that Spielberg produced a slickly directed peice of jingoistic, sentimental art-as-propeganda (William Goldman dismissed it as 'an execrable piece of sh*t', and I heartily agree). But 'The Thin Red Line' plumbs new depths by actually appearing to be something of artistic quality. Terence Malik is a fine director, 'Badlands' and 'Days of Heaven' are both excellent films, but TTRL is nothing short of disastrous. It sprawls. It doesn't cohere. It looks beautiful but has nothing so say other than the usual trite and hackneyed mesages about mans inhumanity to man and the human condition. There are far too many characters, so we aren't actually given the opportunity to see any of them develop satisactorily. Perhaps Malik wanted to show how hundreds of little stories were being played out, with the war itself merely a huge framing device. On the other hand a more cynical, and accurate, perspective would be that lots of extraneous parts were written for the huge number of A-list actors who wanted to attach their name to such a project.
The film is also too long. There's nothing wrong with a 3 hour plus running time if the narrative can sustain it. But about 10 times during the last hour the music swells, the camera pulls up into the sky and the screen fades. On each occasion I was halfway out of my chair before it cut back to another boot camp sequence. This was because I genuinely felt the film had ended. Had there been conflict I felt was unresolved, or a plot that hadn't satisfactorily ended I would have stayed seated awaiting it's conclusion. But since the film is essentially one big non-event with no perceptible story or point it could have ended anywhere with no bother. Someone really needed to sort out the editing, and leave a lot of the self-effacing cameos on the floor.
Needless to say the critics loved it. 'An overlong, superficially meaningful war movie by a reclusive director coasting on past glories, with a huge cast and aspirations to making some kind of meaningful statement? I'm There!'. It's also the kind of film you can't just come out and say you hated. The usual response is 'Oh you just didn't understand it.' Oh, but I did. I understood it only too well.
A gigantic, sparwling ugly mess.
Caligula was a waste of time for everybody involved. So why not buy it and join the club! A somewhat ambitious project, written by Gore Videl, with an impressive cast and a $15,000,000 dollar budget, the film managed somehow under Tinto Brass' delicate and restrained, ahem, guidance to become two and a half hours of ugly overweight people fondling each other interspersed with some prime ham performances, extraneous gore footage and a really claustrophobic sense of set design. I don't mean that there is anything remotely psychologically adept with this, simply that for a film that wwas supposedly shot on location, this could mostly have been done on a sound stage at Pinewood. We get no shots of any real city streets, vast crowds or architecture, just murky and sometimes inaudible master shots that could have been taken in a cave.
Is it accurate? Pretty much. Is there lots of gratuitous T&A? Yep. Is it remotely engaging or entertaining? No.
Get Out of My Room (1985)
Feeble rubbish from the bottom of the C&C barrel
Lets face it, Cheech and Chong were never that funny. Don't get me wrong, I liked 'Up In Smoke' a lot, and for me it's still the quintessential smoking film, but they pretty much plundered their albums for a lot of the material and I guess just kind of ran out of comedy mileage afterwards, since they didn't really produce anything else worth watching for the rest of their careers. Ok, maybe 'Things are Tough all Over' deserves another look, although those arabs got old real fast (and not in a Beetlejuice way, sadly), but 'Next Movie and Nice Dreams' are very mediocre and the abysmal non-movies 'Still Smokin' and 'The Corsican Brothers' (shudder) deserve only to be shown to convicted War Criminals.
This was the last project they wrote together, and it looks like the parting of the ways came not a moment too soon. Essentially it's a documentary style film of C&C farting around on absolutely no budget (the studio execs were obviously getting a bit wary), interviews with some C&C fans (a worrying lack of basic cognition here), and some truly dreadful music. The gimmicky 'Born in East LA' (which became the basis for a FILM ITSELF, my Godfathers) is the best song to be found, but be prepared to spin through Cheech's ever infurating Ian Rotten character and the truly, truly dire 'I'm not home right now', a strong contendor for both the worst song of the 1980's (and thats up against some pretty stiff competition) and the worst Music Video OF ALL TIME. Flee, Flee, Run Away!!!!!!!!!!