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Uncle Joe Strummer. RIP Voice of my Generation.
Dirty Weekend (1993)
Women are from Venus, men are from, erm, the sewer.
It's difficult to know if Dirty Weekend finds Michael Winner taking the rise out the urine, or if he genuinely feels he had something to say? And what of Helen Zahavi, author of the novel and in charge of the adaptation to screen here? What's her story - motivations et al? It's quite possibly that Helen and Michael at their respective humane cores were a match made in cinematic heaven, but how come Dirty Weekend just feels dirty, lazy dirty at that, a sort of shock for shocks sake as Zahavi gets to curry favour with the feminist movement and Winner gets to be seedy, with murder death kill and the grotesque thrown in for good measure.
Plot, for what it's worth, has dowdy Bella (Lia Williams) suddenly turn into a sexual vamp over night with a blood lust for offing all men who dare to leer and pester. In Brighton, the place of rock, candy floss and degenerate male members of the human race.
It would have been easy to root for Bella had she at the very least had acquaintances or drinks with some normal men, but it's hard to take seriously a film where every single bloke she meets is either troubled mentally, a sexually deviant, has a penchant for serial killing and etc etc. Even her best friend's husband is a milquetoast who probably should have been on Bella's hit list as well!
Winner achieved everything he hoped for with Dirty Weekend, the critics frothed at the mouth, the British censors sharpened their scissors, and crucially the film became a holy grail of uncut home formats for the intrigued and degenerates. It undeniably was shocking back on release, I mean when the broad sheet newspapers of Blighty are dissecting it frame by frame you know it's a fire-cracker piece of cinema.
Rufus Sewell can be forgiven as this is right at the start of his career (he is edgy, nutty and Anthony Perkins like), same for British legend Sean Pertwee, but what is David McCallum's excuse, Ian Richardson also? That Lia Williams is bold and cheeky with her performance saves the film from stinker hell, it's great to note that she carved out a strong career in British TV and still works today.
Hard to recommend and guaranteed to make you angry, but fair play to Winner, boy did he know how to punch buttons! 5/10
Mekagojira no gyakushu (1975)
The last of the original wave of Zilla movies.
It has a mixed reputation among the fans, but Terror of Mechagodzilla is a romp of a sequel, one that's not without deep emotional heart.
Plot is bonkers of course, aliens are plotting to rule the world and have recreated Mechagodzilla after Godzilla shredded it to pieces in the previous meeting of the two beasts (Godzilla V Mechagodzilla). There's Interpol agents running around not exactly in control of anything, a vengeful scientist with an agenda who aids the aliens, while his daughter has become a cyborg designed to control Titanosaurus, a gigantic amphibious dinosaur that teams up with Mechagodzilla to stomp on Tokyo. All is lost for mankind, until Godzilla climbs out of the ocean to hopefully protect his domain.
The return of Ishirō Honda to the director's chair is a reassuring presence, and it helps the film retain a classy production level. The monster smack-downs are neatly choreographed, the model work is wonderfully 1970s, and Akira Ifukube's thunderous score gladdens the spirit as it simultaneously rocks your bones. Yukiko Takayama's screenplay contains intelligence, where the sci-fi boffin speak is spliced with deep observations on humanity and what it means to be part of such a race etc.
Fan division usually comes down to who likes super-hero Godzilla or who likes Godzilla in destroy everything mode. This is the former, and it's cheer worthy, the atomic lizard in a bad mood would not surface again for 10 years, and by then the direction of Zilla's fortunes got increasingly silly. This marks "Terror" as something of a franchise closure to be cherished, and rightly so because it has all the good parts that made the first Toho wave so enjoyable. So turn up the volume, open your screens out and indulge. Wonderful. 8/10
Blow Out (1981)
Superior entry on De Palma's CV.
Brian De Palma has always gotten a bad rap for his penchant for essaying his heroes and favourite thrillers, what often gets forgotten is just how great he could be in crafting said thrillers.
Blow Out has John Travolta as a sound engineer for low budget horror movies, who while out recording sounds one night witnesses a car crash and dives into the river to rescue the call girl trapped in the back seat (Nancy Allen). Upon listening back to the footage of the crash, he hears two noises which point to a gun shot being fired at the car. So with the dead man in the car turning out to be a big political mover, he quickly finds himself spun into a web of intrigue, peril, paranoia and conspiracies. Can he and the girl stay alive long enough to solve the case?
Blow Out finds De Palma at the top of his game, blending the twisty plot dynamics with virtuoso technical smarts. A number of scenes are striking, both visually and in execution and the garnering of acting performances. Pino Donaggio provides an unforgettable music score to marry up to the layers of sub-plots folding together, and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond sharpens the primary colours to give the story a Giallo like sheen that runs concurrent with the emotional states of the major players.
A sprawling and bustling Philadelphia plays host to a conspiracy sandwich, with a corking side order of the film making process. Sometimes bleak and complex, but never over stuffed, Blow Out is both thrilling and smart, while Travolta has never been better and John Lithgow is tailor made as the unstoppable crack-pot unleashed into our two protagonists' world. 8.5/10
Get Carter (1971)
When Jack went home!
Get Carter, not just one of the finest exponents of British neo - noir, but one of the greatest British films ever, period. Michael Caine stars as Jack Carter, a tough no nonsense operator in the London underworld who returns to his home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne when his brother turns up dead.
Directed and adapted to screenplay by Mike Hodges from Ted Lewis' novel Jack's Return Home, Get Carter is a bleakly atmospheric masterwork that takes the period setting of the time and blends harsh realism with film noir sensibilities and filters it through an uncut prism of doom.
Jack Carter as created by Caine and Hodges is the quintessential film noir anti-hero. He smokes French cigarettes and reads Raymond Chandler, there is no hiding the respect and homages to classical noir pulsing away as Jack goes on his not so merry way. He's a vengeful angel of death, but sexy as hell with it, he even has humorous pearls of wisdom to spout, delivered with relish by Caine who is at his snake eyed best.
In a strange quirk of the narrative, Jack is home but he's a fish out of water, he's a suited and booted Cockney lad moving amongst the flotsam and jetsam of North Eastern society. It's a crumbling landscape of terraced houses and coal yards, of seedy clubs and bed and breakfast establishments where, as Jack wryly observes, the beds have seen untold action.
Jack Carter is a hard bastard, borderline psychotic once his mind has tuned into the frequency that plays to him the tunes of mistrust, of double-dealings, liars and thieves, of pornographers and gangsters who thrive on gaining wealth while the society around them falls into a depression. It's Fog on the Tyne for sure here. Yet Jack is not devoid of heartfelt emotion, his family ties are strong, and there is a point in the film when Jack sheds a tear, it is then when we all know that all bets are off and there will be no coming back from this particular abyss.
Hodges and cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky strip it all back for maximum impact, so much so you can smell the salt of the murky sea, feel your lungs filling up with chimney smoke, the whiff of working class sweat is all around, and all the time Roy Budd's contemporary musical score jingles and jangles over proceedings like a dance of death waiting to reach its operatic conclusion. And with Caine backed up by a roll call of super working class character actors, Get Carter just gets better as each decade of film making passes.
Like its antagonist/protagonist (yes, Jack is both, a deliberate contradiction) it's a film as hard as nails, where home format releases should be delivered through your letterboxes in a metal case. No lover of film noir can have an excuse to have not seen it yet. Funny, sexy, brutal and not without a ticking time bomb of emotional fortitude as well, Get Carter is the "A" Bomb in Grey Street. 10/10
Fatal Extraction. December 25th 1993
Not since the early 1980s had the show actually had Xmas Specials that featured Xmas as part of the story, so it was nice to finally get one that does, and what a Christmas Cracker it proved to be. The title is a play on Fatal Attraction and the episode takes the core essence of that serious thriller and turns it into a riot of gags and situations. Dentist problems, stalking, trying to get pregnant, estate riot and of course the stress of Xmas are all played out with splendid results. The screenplay gives Del and Raquel the chance to play deadly serious as their relationship hits problems, but this also produces some seriously funny moments as the fall out takes them elsewhere
Lovely Jubbly. 9/10
Thicker Than Water. 25th December 1983
Thicker Than Water. 25th December 1983
The only time we get to meet Reg Trotter, the boys dead beat father who turns up out the blue all dishevelled and bringing bad news instead of Xmas gifts. A superbly written episode, both in comedy terms and how it cements the bond between Del and Rodney. Reg is up to no good but only Del can smell the rat, Grandad and Rodney are prepared to forgive and forget, everyone deserves a second chance don't they? A little cracker of an episode, it's however an episode tinged with sadness as it would be the last appearance of Grandad Trotter played by Lennard Pearce, Pearce would pass away before series four of the show was filmed. 8/10
Norman Jewison and William Harrison expand Harrison's short story into a full length feature film, with great results. Story takes place in 2018 and the world is a global corporate state, a hegemony of six ruling cartels. There are no wars, poverty and etc, so the cartels provide the antidote to pent up frustrations with Rollerball, a bloodthirsty arena sport where no quarter is given or taken. But when the sports number one star, Jonathan E, becomes a free spirit and too big for the sport, the corporations aim to retire him
Headed by a superb James Caan as Jonathan, the performances are from the high end, the photography superb and the action during the games themselves is beautifully choreographed. The use of classical music to run concurrent with the themes in the narrative is smartly rendered to the tricksy plot, while the writing is sharp and deserving of the utmost attention from the viewer. It's folly to suggest that when the film is away from the Rollerball ring it sags a touch, so patience is required and a respect of literate posturing is also expected to get the most out of it.
A deftly crafted dystopian sci-fier with literate smarts and lusty blood letting. 7.5/10
Zero Hour! (1957)
Tension and Terror in the Skies!
Famously parodied as Airplane in 1980, it gets forgotten just what a rollicking good thriller Zero Hour! is. Dana Andrews is the airman scarred by an incident during the war who has to battle his demons when the crew and passengers of the jumbo jet he is aboard fall victim to food poisoning. Sterling Hayden is down on the ground smoking loads of ciggies and having no faith in trying to talk Andrews down safely.
One of the first disaster aeroplane movies, it follows what we now regard as the staples of the genre. Troubled protagonist, family strife, calm characters, panic characters, lovely ladies, square jawed men, raging weather conditions and an aeroplane in serious danger of plummeting from the sky and killing all on board. It's sometimes hokey and one dimensional in terms of plot developments, but it commits to the drama and grinds out a suspenseful last half hour that can have you edging towards the edge of your seat.
A must see for fans of such fare. It's OK to love Airplane! and prefer its comedy smartness, but it's also OK to doff a respectful pilot cap towards Zero Hour! as well. 7.5/10
Pet Sematary (1989)
And the night when the cold wind blows, No one cares, nobody knows.
The Stephen King novel from which the screenplay was adapted very nearly didn't see the light of day. It was actually written by King based on a real place and instances during a stay at a rented house. He was never quite happy with the tone of the book and only submitted it as a contractual obligation. Glad he did because it provides a very solid grounding for horror and deals with the very real horrors of overwhelming grief.
The film gets the tonal flows right, the family dynamic is neatly pitched in readiness for what is to come later, the house and the titular Pet Sematary of the title are eerie personified, and Fred Gwynne is on hand for a sage old characterisation. The potential for shattering horror is not fully realised, yet the makers deliver a good quota of scares and unease to make this a better than average King adaptation to screen. The use of the Ramones in the soundtrack is a good one, King loved them, they loved him, so much so they wrote the title track and named an album after it. 6.5/10
Not Going Out: The House (2013)
The House. 24th December 2013
A great show and a great Xmas Special. Lee hopes to gain a whole bunch of Brownie points by putting on an unforgettable Xmas for Lucy and her parents, with Daisy in tow as well of course. The setting is a big spooky house in the country, a family abode belonging to Lee's recently deceased auntie. Soon as they arrive strange things begin to happen, and things are more compounded when Frank, Lee's dead beat dad, turns up in the latrine!
The standard comedy tropes of the writing that made the show successful are evident here, the constant sexual tension, Daisy doing doofus and Lee's on-going battles with Lucy's father. When the spooky shenanigans up in intensity, so does the comedy. This is an episode where all the characters get a script to showcase their respective strengths. Excellent. 9/10