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PS...If anyone vaguely connected with the film industry ever reads this can we please please PLEASE have a version of Roadside Picnic hands down the greatest SF novella of all.
PS...There were a couple of REAL obscurities that even IMDB didn't have listed, a special mention should go out to Heartbeat In The Brain (date unknown) and Niku daruma 1998 both are INCREDIBLY difficult to track down and i have seen each only once, i can't really recommend them as such as they aren't really movies as most people would understand the term, however they both left quite an impression and if you want to push your boundaries then they certainly do that. I also hear persistent rumours that Genesis p orrdige and cossi fanni tutti's performance piece "Cease To Exist" performed at LAICA in the US in 1976 was filmed, has anyone ever seen this, from the written description i don't think you would forget it in a hurry.
Sound City (2013)
Hands down the finest music documentary of the lot
This, essentially is one mans love poem to a mixing desk, and from such an unlikely premise something very special indeed is born. Dave Grohl's (Nirvana, Foo's) directorial debut (this is one talented and VERY cool guy) revolves around the legendary and infamous ("i felt i could take a pee in the corner and no one would mind" as one protagonist fondly remembers) recording studio Sound City and in particular it's custom made Neeve mixing desk, which really becomes the star of the show (one of the standout moments is the interview with creator Rupert Neeve, quite obviously a genius, trying to explain to a stunned, star struck Grohl the finer points of transistor based thermo dynamics)
Think of the great rock albums from the 70s to the 90s and chances are many of them were recorded there, Fleetwood Mac joined forces with Buckingham/Nicks there, Nevermind was recorded there, and Rick Sprinfield's dog bit chunks out of the wall, the place just dripped music history and this is caught wonderfully by Grohl and a veritable who's who of the musical pantheon, all who obviously loved the place and the music they recorded there,the love and care these people put into their creations is breathtaking. (spoilers) And to top it off after Grohl has bought the Neeve and installed it into his own studio he invites these same musical luminaries for an extended jam and recording session, if you ever need reminding what REAL musicians look like then just watch the interplay between Grohl/Trent Reznor and Josh Holme, genuinely inspiring, and McCartney (who i have never been a huge fan of) just f..kin ROCKS. Warm, inspiring, informative and laugh out loud funny (the priceless moment when Butch Vig mutters "yeah Butch, tell Paul McCartney what to do" is worth the price of admission alone) this could well be the finest documentary about musicians and making music ever made, it's a bold claim, but this is one fine film.
Right then lets just preface this by saying that i am a big fan of Camerons genre work to date, Terminator, Aliens etc but Avatar in NO way stands before those movies as an equal.
Yes the visuals are technically flawless, and i appreciate that this film was made at all, in a increasingly re-make happy Hollywood it's encouraging that avatar pulled in the crowds, BUT (and it's a big but) there is nothing in the story that hasn't been done and said before, where is the ORIGINALITY ? (spoilers) soldier starts fighting for the wrong side, attempts to infiltrate the locals, goes native and swaps sides, leads the locals in epic fight back and gets the girl, it's all been done so many times before (Man Called Horse, Last Samurai, Silent Running, Dances With Wolves and a dozen others i could mention) we know Cameron has the nounce and weight to pretty much make what he wants so why stick to such a weary formula?.
I haven't read all 3000 plus reviews for this movie (God Forbid) but flicking through the titles i was struck by how many people raved about what a revolutionary movie it is, how it will change the way movies are made and how "Real" Pandora was, just to straighten things out a bit the answers are NO it isn't, NO it wont and NO it wasn't respectively. Of course this film has taken a zillion dollars already so i am obviously in the minority, however here are a few specific points that i will take issue with
1. Where is the character development? 2. Where is the damn backstory?, WHY is earth dying?, what does unobtanium DO? HOW was Pandora discovered? 3. That "Epic" final battle.....waaay too short 4. That pesky cockpit glass sure changes density fast! 5. That whole "Living world" thing, just didn't cut it for me, it was like watching an animated Roger Dean album cover.
But the one thing that kept me from immersing myself was the fact that a big part of me was screaming IT'S A CARTOON, a well made cartoon certainly but at no time did i feel that any of it was "Real", this is now i believe the most successful film of all time and all power to Cameron, but c'mon Jim for the next project let's have something that's REALLY out there......please
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
oh no no baby no
The term "Miscast" could have been invented for this movie, the protagonist is supposed to be a streetwise, tough talking private eye, with a girlfriend/partner on his arm and a fast quip on his lip and a faster gun on his hip, so who does Ben Affleck cast?, but his younger bro Casey, who looks....and maybe it's just me....about 12, and for me that central jarring problem proved impossible to get over, i mean he looks too young for acne let alone to be a private eye. Harris and Freeman, play Harris and Freeman, they struggle with paper thin dialogue and one dimensional characters and it shows, an overly complex kidnapping thriller with a frankly ridiculous denouement, i didn't like, sympathise, or identify with any of the characters overall a C-. One thing i have to mention is this movies frankly f----d up moral compass, as pointed out by other equally bemused reviewers, at one point (spoilers) Casey shoots an unarmed (although slimy) man in the back of the head executioner style, and takes part in a drug deal, and YET in the "stunning" end twist has to make a choice between leaving the kidnapped child in the arms of it's new and "saintly" parents or returning it to it's real crack whore, drug running mother, well what you have done kids?....deeply unpleasant movie, avoid
Where the hell did this come from?
*SPOILER* Boll directs a good movie, i have only subjected myself to one Boll picture before, the blood flecked turd that was Alone In The Dark widely referenced as the worst movie ever made, but this was somewhat of a revelation, a nasty, gore soaked revelation maybe but a revelation none the less, a slacker assembles an arsenal of weapons and a kevlar body armour suit and goes on a rampage, so far so predictable, but (and i cant believe i am going to say this) Boll elevates this paper thin plot into a genuinely gripping piece of film. Brendan Fletcher is remarkable in the lead role, a naturalistic performance which, as another reviewer stated reminds me of a young Christian Bale, intense, and hugely watch-able he fills his character with real life and despite the HORRIBLE things he does (or maybe because)i was rooting for him all the way....oh dear. The rampage itself is gory, shocking, kinetic, well filmed and very VERY brutal, special notice must be given to the beauty parlour scene, it's been a while since i watched slack jawed muttering no WAY at the screen, and i particularly enjoyed? the scene when he stabs the sheriff leaving him bleeding to death after having muttered "16 to 17 seconds" in his ear, sent chills down this reviewers spine, the twist ending is (again cant believe this, what is the world coming to) handled neatly and effectively, overall a tautly directed!!!! very effective shocker from Uwe Boll, and now i am going for a lay down.
Night of the Eagle (1962)
Surprisingly effective occult thriller
Well this IS a surprise. I recently picked this up online for a song, mainly because i am a Fritz Leiber fan and wanted to see how his classic tale "conjure wife" translated onto film. Well i was very pleasantly surprised, Peter Wyngarde (Jason King, Dept S, he of the heroic sideburns) plays a resolutely logical psychology (Spoiler) professor who discovers his domestic goddess wife is in fact a practising witch, in an attempt to persuade her that all this witchcraft gubbins is nonsense he burns all her herbs, talismans and dried spiders!!!, and then the weirdness starts..... In the wrong hands this would have been a slice of high campness but in the highly competent hands of Sidney Hayers this becomes a taut, effective thrilling tale. A great atmosphere, moodily shot in B&W with some effective set pieces helps to elevate this pic into the rarified atmosphere, of the Haunting and village of the damned, full marks to Wyngarde for playing this straight, his scene in the college when he confronts the OTHER campus witch is a particular favourite. If you haven't come across this before then give it a whirl, goes to show that you don't need CGI or special effects to send a shiver down the spine.....splendid stuff indeed.
The Objective (2008)
A true sense of the Alien (spoilers)
I picked this up recently and to be honest was not expecting much and so was pleasantly surprised at an intelligent, thought provoking movie which pulls off that most difficult of science fiction staples, portraying a real sense of the alien.
The bare bones of the plot involve a group of special forces troops being led into the mountains of Afghanistan by a mysterious CIA operative whose stated mission is to make contact with a cleric who may be pro US and to record a statement, of course this is all bunkum and the REAL mission (SPOILERS) is to investigate a radioactive signature picked up by a satellite pass over this area post 9/11, the CIA agent Keynes is part of a group within the CIA tasked with discovering just what the radiation is caused by, could it be an AQ nuclear weapon or something stranger? something not of this planet?
So far so standard and this could so easily have gone the way of the usual Hollywood "Space Alien" fare, but then director Myrick pulls off a neat trick, he Doesn't provide pat or easy answers he Doesn't present the "Aliens" (if indeed they are Aliens) in horrible CGI or portray them as having basically good 'ol fashion American morals underneath their green scaly skin, no instead,and displaying a commendable sense of restraint he just lets the film document this group of hardened men as they come face to face with the unknowable and struggle to come to terms with a series of bizarre events. I particularly enjoyed the deep vein of cynicism and nihilism running through the objective, as Agent Keynes explains the only mission here is to see what happens when and if the troops find the source of the radiation deep in the myth shrouded haunted and holy mountains, there is no fallback position, no back up and no extraction, sacrificial goats one and all.
There are some powerful and unsettling scenes in the Objective, Keynes watching the triangles and their occupants over a hazy desert, the old hermit consulting with the Djinn and the final scene (which i think is knockout and reminiscent of 2001) of Keynes under observation. Yes there are faults, the acting is workmanlike, there are some casting issues (Keynes looks about 19 to these aged eyes) and a few glaring plot holes but these should not detract from a very worthy thinking mans SF flick.
On a final note the fact that director Myrick stubbornly stuck to his guns and did not deliver an easily digestible and understood finale seems to driven some reviewers to teeth gnashing fury, surely this is the whole point?, the inference being that these "Aliens?, Angels?" are so powerful and advanced that we CANT understand them and when one tries to impart knowledge to Keynes the consequences are tragic, so why should we as an audience understand them?. The studio clearly didn't know what to make of the objective but don't let that stop you tracing down this rough gem.