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Sex Farm (1974)
After years of searching I finally got to see this title! (Ask me how.) And since there are no reviews of it up here, well, I just HAD to write one.
It's not a good film. Of course. It's similar to 1972's Clinic Xclusive (aka Sex Clinic) and has much in common with other British sex comedies of the period. Two frustrated wives (which was used as an alternate title, possibly to persuade people that this wasn't a notorious film involving farmyard animals) head off to a health farm to get away from their dreadful husbands. Neither of them are especially pretty but their bods make up for it - one suspects they were cast for their chests.
The film was for a while refused a certificate by the BBFC (outside London) for excessive sexual content, but it doesn't seem excessive nowadays (although I should add that the copy I watched had two or three obvious cuts - I suspect a couple of minutes of sexy time was edited out, annoyingly). What will instead stagger any millennials/snowflake generation types watching now (unlikely, I know) is the sexual politics. Their jaws will hit the floor as they see molesting and sexual harassment treated like a joke. Tut tut, they will say, it's no wonder the likes of Jimmy Savile got away with what he did when the cultural climate was like this (the issue is vastly more complex than this but I'm not going into that now). Some women are not treated well in this film.
What also takes the breath away is some OAP sex - some lady, who must be nearly 70, has a topless snog with a guy probably in his 40s. It's not that nice to watch. There's also some inter-racial lesbian fun, which may have raised eyebrows at the time.
The most titillating sequence is one near the end where a husband's bit on the side gets fully naked. The camera homes in on her naked crotch as she goes to put her knickers on. It's a rare bit of pubic hair in the flick.
But Sex Farm isn't a good movie, it's pretty dull and vacant with little in the way of wit or incident. It's easy to see why it resides in obscurity (and that title probably didn't help). Seek it out if you must but don't expect much.
The Killing$ of Tony Blair (2016)
Impressive evisceration of Labour PM
Thought it'd be good to give another view on this as I suspect the only other reviewer of this title on this page at the moment hasn't actually seen it, and just has an axe to grind.
I'm no fan of Galloway but he's made a decent film here. It certainly isn't guilty of having 'no structure', and I'd say Galloway is better at this sort of thing than the disingenuous and dishonest Michael Moore.
Galloway eviscerates Blair, pretty much every aspect of his premiership (he believes his only two successes were the minimum wage and the Northern Ireland peace process); such complete takedowns of one politician are quite rare. While there is a great deal of focus on Blair's engagement in the Middle East (his wars, followed by his risible role as a 'peace envoy'), there's also much on the astonishing amounts of money Blair has made. He apparently has around 30 UK properties alone and could be worth £100 million. His other misdemeanours, like the Formula One sponsorship scandal, don't go un-noted.
Seeing Blair in full flow takes people like me right back; the mannerisms, the verb-less sentences, the doe eyes, the halting delivery, the cheesy grin... what a chap!
While I personally disagree with some of Galloway's conclusions - that, for instance, the terrorist attacks we now see in Europe are entirely due to Bush and Blair, or that he 'destroyed' the Labour Party (he won them three elections!) - he's made an entertaining documentary that is not without historical value. Made with professionalism, wittily edited and with plenty of historical footage and an impressive array of talking heads, this a good watch for anyone interested in British politics.
Doctor Who (2005)
Season eight half-time report
I'm writing this after watching The Caretaker, episode six in the twelve-part series eight. And what an atrocious series it's been so far.
I speak as a (40-something) lifelong Doctor Who fan. So why the ire? Many reasons. It's not necessarily because of Peter Capaldi, who may be a decent actor. But one problem IS the character of the Doctor, which is all over the place. One example: in Into The Dalek he takes coldly logical decisions, including ensuring a colleague dies; the actions of a level-headed military commander. And yet he now appears to hate soldiers. Huh? How do they square that one? (I'll reveal how they do later.)
Worst of all, character-wise, he's now an idiot, a fool, someone who gets it wrong, as in Robot Of Sherwood. A darker side was hinted early on but more often they just make him look silly and out of step. His companion, or whatever the PC term now is, Clara, is now the wise one, the dynamic one, the one who does brave stuff. Clara was actually quite likable in the last series but is now deeply irritating: Jenna Coleman's mannered, twitchy, doe-eyed performance is enough to make you wish your toenails were being pulled out. Acting-wise, though, she's nowhere near as bad as Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink, an actor with roughly the same versatility and range as a park bench, unable to show more than one emotion, no matter what he is faced with.
And the two together: forgive me for yawning when I'm not vomiting. Their sub-Coupling romance is not only totally unconvincing but utterly boring. Yes Mr Moffat, you're oh so clever with your snarky dialogue ticks and the use of the word 'stuff', but do you really think the kids are into all this talky, tedious stuff that belongs 1,000 miles away from Doctor Who? And having characters continually tell one another to 'shut up' is not only lazy writing but grating and unpleasant to hear.
I also hate the way the Doctor and Clara aren't properly travelling together, and the way he comes to the school or her flat and picks her up occasionally - if there's anything that'll remove any sense of wonder from the show this is it.
Other problems? Well how about the basic stories? Deep Breath was indigestible stodge; Into The Dalek feeble fan fiction; Robot Of Sherwood had people getting locked up, shouting at each other and then saving the day in an absurd way; Listen was portentous and made no sense; Time Heist was a joyless heist caper; The Caretaker was like a cross between The Sarah Jane Adventures and a bad episode of Coupling, a boring, verbose, parochial smudge of an episode.
A major issue is that the show is so full of itself. Bolstered by a wildly successful 50th anniversary episode, it now believes its own publicity. It sniggers to itself, it binge-eats its own mythology, it believes it's so much more than a kids' show, it thinks it has to convey 'socially important' messages. It's forgotten its primary objective, which is to be an entertaining adventure programme with characters we can take to our hearts.
And finally, just to fully ensure that I get plenty of NOs on the 'was this helpful to you' bit, a comment on how left-wing the show now is. It's pro-gay, pro-multicultural, pro-feminist, anti-military (which explains the absurd contradiction in the Doctor's character). Stridently so in fact, so it interferes with, and warps, the storytelling. In short, it's everything the left-wing socialist Steven Moffat believes in. That's why you don't get, for example, messages about standing up for cherished institutions, fighting for what is right as dictated by common sense and human nature, or getting from life what you put in to it. These sorts of messages are alien to the left. (How appropriate that Clara was clutching a copy of cherished left-wing bible The Guardian in one episode.)
But to end on a non-political note: Doctor Who simply isn't as much fun as it used to be, it's not exciting or suspenseful or thrilling. Declining viewing figures may confirm that am I not alone in this opinion.
About Time (2013)
About the worst film ever made
I'll admit straight off that I hate Richard Curtis with a passion generally reserved for mass-murdering dictators, but I was willing to give About Time a fair chance and see whether he could in fact charm me. I was wrong, and how.
From the start he makes the bile rise in your stomach. There's a character called KitKat ("who is always bare-foot"); her family have Sunday lunch on the beach all year round ("no matter what the weather"); they even watch a film projected onto a rock on the beach, in the rain.
But things get much, much worse. Curtis basically recycles scenes and ideas from all his previous crimes (sorry, films). We get the eccentric older family member, the kooky friends, the cute and nondescript American girl wooed in a fantasy London, the births, a death and of course a ****ing wedding. Mawkish music on the soundtrack tells us when to be happy, when to be miserable. The cynicism of the project and the vapidity of its intentions would be unbelievable were it not for Curtis's previous form.
Do not see this film. Watch a Hitchcock, a Kubrick, a Wilder, something that is proper cinema. This is an abomination, a dreadful, lazy, meandering, actually quite nasty (how on earth did a film with numerous F-words get a 12 in Britain?), vomit-causing, stupid slice of celluloid which, if there was such a place as hell, would be shown there on a loop.
The Girl (2012)
As Total Film magazine said of this one-off drama, "it amounts to nothing less than a wholesale character assassination". They were right it makes Albert Goldman's biography of John Lennon appear hagiographic.
While it looks great and Sienna Miller is fine as Hedren and Jones captures Hitch's voice well, The Girl is a narrow and nasty portrayal of the world's greatest film director. In its attempt to construct a drama it forgets some important points: people often have to suffer for their art; Alfred Hitchcock was a film director who knew his audience better than anyone, his understanding of the human condition was deep, and he realised that the thing that mattered most was the experience that the audience would derive from his work. If it meant discomfort and long hours on the set, that was a price worth paying there's no room for fluffy dressing gowns and tea and biscuit breaks when you're trying to create a masterpiece, something that might last for centuries.
To suggest that Hitch unexpectedly sent a model bird crashing through a telephone box window just to terrify and "punish" Hedren, as opposed to being a desire to frighten the wits out of the audience, is absurd. The shoot of The Birds had been meticulously planned for literally years, and in any case, why would Hitch risk harming his leading lady's features? The greatest of people are endowed with light and shade, and possess the ability to view human existence from deep and differing positions. Hitchcock was one of these people. This greatness is something to be lauded not bemoaned and belittled, as was the case with The Girl.
Quite a playlist
Four lookalikes perform the songs of the Beatles. And here are the 30 songs they perform, in order:
I want to hold your hand, She loves you, Please please me, Help!, Day tripper, If I fell, Can't buy me love, Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, We can work it out, Nowhere Man, A day in the life, Strawberry Fields forever, Penny Lane, Magical mystery tour, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Michelle, Get back, The fool on the hill, Lady Madonna, Got to get you into my life, Come together, With a little help from my friends, All you need is love, Revolution, Helter skelter, Hey Jude, The long and winding road, Let it be, The End.
A good selection then, although I would have preferred a few more lesser well known ones. I understand the film was a cut down version of the play so maybe some got left on the cutting room floor. I guess it's a reasonable split between John and Paul songs. Sadly there are no George ones.
As a nitpicking Beatlemaniac I found it slightly annoying not so much that the songs are performed in the 'wrong' order but that many of them are performed in clearly the wrong 'look' for the time. A bit of crossover is acceptable, but having the guys sing If I Fell in their Magical Mystery Tour outfits feels a bit weird.
This isn't a great movie, in fact it's barely a movie at all, but it's nice to hear these songs again. It always is. But as always the ear wants it to be the originals. Oh well, I guess there are other films for that.
The World Ten Times Over (1963)
Low key drama of a little interest
Here's an obscure British drama now available on DVD.
It is about two 'nightclub hostesses' aka prostitutes working in London. One has to deal with her dad (Hartnell, just before Dr Who) and the other a married businessman who's been having an affair with her.
The front cover of the DVD has Ritchie in bra, panties and stockings and suspenders but there's not a great deal of titillation here. It was an X back then and a 12 now. Her character is a little irritating; Sims gives the better performance here - there's meaning beneath those eyes.
This rather downbeat drama, with flashes of style, is lifted by extensive location shooting. For those who want to see 1963 London it's a treat. Particularly good is the scene where Hartnell walks through Soho amid the flashing neon lights advertising the sexy delights on show. He also walks past a film poster for West End Jungle.
The director did better than this (Village of the Damned) and worse. Now it's difficult to judge how ersatz it is.
Concrete Angels (1987)
No 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'
In 1964, a group of youths form a group to try and win a competition which has as the prize the chance to support the Beatles in concert. Because the director knows nothing about cinema, this insipid, lifeless and cheerless musical drama has these faults: amateurish performances, charmless characters and a non-script that fills it redundant scenes with long pauses, pointless profanity and dodgy covers, mainly of Beatles songs (including Misery, I Saw Her Standing There, She Loves You, A Hard Day's Night, PS I Love You, Love Me Do and From Me To You). Dismally painful, it even shows footage, on television, of the Fabs in 1965 rather than '64.
Doctor Who: Turn Left (2008)
RTD proves his genius
I have to calm myself down to write this because that was such a brilliant ending to a fantastic episode.
I feel like when you've been supporting a fair-to-middling football team for years and then they go and win the cup - and you feel marvellous, and you say to everybody 'See! I told you we were great!' Because Doctor Who is now terrific, spine-tingling television, with ace acting, ace writing and ace technical values. It is galaxies ahead of the old series, and series four may even be better than the first three seasons of the new one.
For this ep RTD took the Sliding Doors/Run Lola Run template and entwined it with the show's mythology and history (and what mythology!). Tying in everything from the Racnoss to the Adipose to the Sontarans was sensational; to link it forward with what looks to be a classic finale is beyond sensational.
There were so many good things about Turn Left: the unsettling feeling of doom that was conveyed thanks to world order collapsing (and it also made us feel extra adoration for the Doctor); Catherine Tate's strong, versatile performance - she carried the episode and not once were we wishing the Doctor would show up (quite an achievement, which Love And Monsters didn't quite do); the ingenuity of the plot structure; the 'something on your back' terror; and of course THAT next episode preview. Boy oh boy.
I'm not ashamed to say I shed a few tears during these 50 minutes.
This Is England (2006)
For the politically naive and or lefties
A kind of compilation of bits from the director's previous features, this honest, vivid drama gains from its naturalistic performances and observant asides, but has brutal and hysterical extremes that may alienate many audiences.
The director no doubt fells strongly that yes, this is England. As a left winger he will be keen to play up the bad aspects of his country and down play anything positive. Such is his policy on this movie. Don't get me wrong, the film is well made and well acted but to say it offers an unbiased view of England is laughable.
The left in the media love to paint anyone who questions mass immigration as a Nazi or a fascist. It is just not credible to them that the National Front had people in it who were perfectly normal, decent people who felt frustrated about the changing face of their country and the mainstream politicians' inability to do anything about it. Sir Keith Joseph voiced such an opinion. According to people like Meadows, skinhead thugs were the prototype NF members. This was not the case.
Where this film really falls to pieces is at the end when the Falklands conflict is equated with what has gone before. The determination to embed the narrative in a political context is misguided at best and insensitive at worst.
It is really no surprise to me that lesser film critics, who are all liberal left, have praised this film so much, where the odd wiser one, like the chap in the Telegraph, have exposed it for what it is: a blustering, fake, sham of a picture with pretensions to say so much more than it has the genuine intellect to.