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A Joyride with a Few Kinks in the Track
More than anything, this film at least proves that showmanship is still alive. The major drawback is that it shows Abrams up to be little more than a modern William Castle, in that, in the light of the viral marketing campaign that preceded the film's release, there is a definite sense of "design the poster first, make the movie second". Case in point; with the promotion of Lost, he placed heavy emphasis on the fact that the plot and structure had been carefully mapped out beforehand, with a pile of seemingly random events leading up to a solution that would ultimately make sense. It later emerged that network executives had to pressure the production company into actually retrofitting a structure to it, since there never was one to begin with. In this case, Cloverfield was promoted with a massive viral marketing campaign where dark hints and bizarre clues provided by various websites connected with the movie suggested something far deeper than the film actually delivers. Fans across the internet were filled with wild speculation and they proposed ideas far more interesting than those contained in the finished product. One is ultimately left with the sense that the film makers were fishing for ideas whilst making the film up as they went along. There was anticipation that Godzilla, something out of Lovecraft and a whole menagerie of mythical, biblical and literary entities would be responsible for the devastation of New York. The Slusho website in particular gave fruit to ideas not contained in the finished product and the viewer can't help but feel slightly let down. Having levelled this criticism, one should probably leave all that in the past and review the film on its own. While using the already tired victim-of-disaster-with-a-camcorder technique that went out of fashion ten minutes into the Blair Witch project, the film actually gets away with it for the most part by emulating the Naudet brother's footage from 9/11. This does however get a little daft at times, since one does get the impression that an ordinary citizen wouldn't keep the camera rolling the whole time. This this a especially true during the rather hazardous scene where the main characters are crossing over from the roof of one high-rise building to another that is in a state of partial collapse. However, it works splendidly during many of the action sequences (particularly during a running street battle between the monster and army and a creepy scene in an abandoned subway tunnel) and also allows for the use of a truly unique cinematic gimmick, whereby we are given flashes of the footage originally on the tape being used to capture the attack. Although these brief glimpses feature nothing more than what appears to a trip to Coney Island, they ultimately pay off by giving us clear evidence of the origin of the invader and allow for an ironic twist, in that the victims of the attack had the answers in their hands all the time, but never noticed. Although the film does give you a decent knocking about for two hours and feels like a real roller coaster ride, the human action is vaguely stilted. If we are supposed to care about these characters, there is not much evidence for it. The reason for this is that early attempts at character development during the opening going-away party are so obvious as to be flawed. Also, since a title card establishes that fact that the footage was found in the area where central park used to be, it's pretty obvious from the beginning that our heroes aren't going to make it out alive so one has a natural propensity for keeping them at an (emotional) arm's length. But this is a monster movie so we're not really concerned with the humans, are we? So does the film deliver on its main protagonist? Well, yes and no. On the plus side, early glimpses are too weird and obscure to give us too much information but odd enough to be scary. The downside is that after craning our heads, squinting our eyes and wondering, "is that a squid? Was that a foot or a head? Could it be a giant vole... etc." the movie breaks the cardinal rule and shows its Thing full on and in the cold light of day and by God, is it disappointing. It's not the creature design itself (even though it mixes so much contrasting biology as to not really work visually) but the fact that our imaginations were doing so much better when we just caught the odd glimpse. Seen full on, it's far to anthropomorphic to excite chills. It's got two arms, two legs and a tail. Worst still it has eyes, nose and mouth. In other words, its disappointingly recognisable and nowhere near as weird as it should be. I might got so far as to say that it looks a bit silly. I REALLY wanted something big and lumbering and aquatic. What we get is an anorexic man with polio wearing a bat-mask rendered in so-so CGI. This is one of those times when speculative internet fan art is infinitely better than the real thing. So, is Cloverfield any good? Well, actually, yes. Ish. There are some fantastic ideas on display (the parasites the monster carries are far worse than the big guy himself; people keep stopping to take pictures of the latest round of devastation with their iPhones) and there's a lovely, almost cheeky touch where the overture over the end credits pays blatant homage to the Japanese monster movie scores of Akira Ifukube (particularly the Godzilla theme) and one does feel that our heroes have a valid emotional reason for staying in the city while all hell is breaking loose but for all the hype, one feels that it could have been so much more. Basically, it's well worth seeing for the ride but it is a one trick pony and you won't need to see it twice.
Requiem pour un vampire (1971)
Stream of Consciousness Nuttiness from France's Foremost Nutcase
Initially, this incredibly simplistic film may look like a step backwards for Rollin after the highly experimental Rape of the Vampire and the highly strange The Nude Vampire but it could also be argued that it is, in fact a precursor to the dream-like The Iron Rose. It looks like it was shot over a long weekend and, indeed, would perhaps have worked better as a short film. The plot, what there is of it, concerns two girls (dressed as clowns) on the run after killing a would-be rapist. After their getaway driver is killed, they stumble upon a castle in which resides the last of the vampires and his servants. Aside form the odd diversion (one of the girls meets a man in a graveyard and offers him his virginity so as to remain free of the vampire's curse) that's about it.
Upon first viewing the film, there is very little to get out of it aside from the odd bit of S+M imagery (chained up naked girls attacked by bats, a kinky lesbian whipping scene) but ones whole perspective changes when one discovers that Rollin wrote it in ONE NIGHT. For those unfamiliar with Rollin, this would simply re-enforce the notion that what they are watching is complete crap but for those familiar with his work, it provides and excellent insight into the man's unconscious. Rollin's work is all about repressed sexual desire; his films are essentially adolescent fantasies, which is why many of them feel like fairy tales; they disguise their true meaning through the circumstances under which the images are presented. This is a true relic of the 60's/70's, a time in which Western culture was going through its own adolescence. Perhaps part of the problem with cinema today is that it has none of the innocence of that sexually uncertain time.
Caravan to Vaccares (1974)
Like A Bunch of Film-Makers Went on Holiday to France and Made a Movie in their Spare Time.
It's weird, this film; you get the impression that the makers of this snooze-fest spent more time in the local bars than on set. In fact, it's a surprise not to see Harry Alan Towers' name on the credits; it certainly has the flavour of one of his tax-shelter productions but here the motivation behind the project seems to be for all involved to enjoy a prolonged stay in Provence. Despite the fact that the film is supposed to take place all over the region, Les Baux and the area around it stands in for almost everything.
David Birney makes for a spectacularly colourless hero - as Michael Lonsdale says at one point "you're a walking cliché". What Lonsdale is doing in this is anyone's guess. For some reason, the most interesting character, played by Rampling, is sidelined, whereas, regardless of the book, she should have been the central figure because she clearly has the skill to carry the movie (which would have been dull anyway, but at least we'd have got more of something pretty to look at).
All in all a pointless affair that is only worth watching to see how action-less an action movie can be.
The Winter Warrior (2003)
A Film Made By A Man Who Thinks His Audience Are Idiots
I've seen some horrific pieces of garbage in my time and I never thought I would say this, but there is a film worse than Timbo Hines' The War of the Worlds. It's this one. The problem is it just doesn't have an ounce of entertainment value; whereas many terrible films have that so-weird-it's-fascinating charm, this just lacks personality. It sets itself up as an epic, but one shot on 16mm (which has been so badly shot it looks like mini DV) and with a cast of maybe ten people. Actually, the photography says a lot; there are scenes in dark woods shot with no additional lighting, grain screams out at you so badly that you think you're watching something shot on Hi-8 and night scenes look as though they were shot by use of car headlights or clip-on camcorder lights. Half the time there is so little light, the iris is wide open. Result? Much of the film is out of focus. Though some scenes do look striking, the look of the film is so variable as to be unwatchable.
Robbie Moffat, the director of this atrocity, has a penchant for reviewing his own films on here. In one review (of another film) he says, referring to the other reviewers, "Do they have any idea how hard it is to make a film?" Well, actually yes, we do but obviously Moffat doesn't. He is under the impression that his audience won't notice how little effort has gone into his productions. When one has little or no money to make a film, one is forced to spend one's only other asset: time. Had Moffat thought to do this, he might have been able to, say, organise at least one battle scene with the help of a Roman re-enactment society (such people are always willing to turn up for free). He also assumes that his audience are stupid. Populating the derelict countryside (which is free to shoot in) with as few actors as possible in the belief no one will notice the cheapness of it all.
His screenplay doesn't help either. It is aimless, as though after thinking up a story (which would have been a minor subplot in any other film), he decided to pan it out with nothing but padding and weird characterisations. People seem to do stuff with no real motivation behind their actions. We have to put up with endless repetition and reiteration. Moffat is currently holding a screenwriter's course at Pinewood. I shall not be going.
How he even got hold of professional actors is beyond me (and why they have worked with him more than once is also incomprehensible). I can only assume that they weren't getting any offers and looking at what they have done lately, that's hardly surprising. James Watson in particular seems pretty down on his luck. It doesn't matter anyway, because they're a complete shower. James Watson, Victoria Pritchard and Ilaria D'Elia are totally forgettable, much in the same way that plywood is forgettable, but the other actors are surely amateurs.
Oh yes. There's a title song. Why do these sorts of films think it necessary to always have a title song? And why do bad films contain so much walking?
La fiancée de Dracula (2002)
Clovis Trouille vs. David Lynch vs. Max Ernste...
...Or, a Jean Rollin film, in other words.
Certainly, this is his best film in years. Despite the sort of technical inadequacies that have always dogged his low-budget work, I have never been able to resist Rollin. Indeed, larger budgets have often hampered him, in that his unique style largely depends on a sense of post-apocalyptic dereliction and a wistful sensuality shot amidst empty castles and isolated necropoli.
If I remember right, Rollin had the largest budget available to him so far, yet does not make the mistakes he made with Deamoniacs (the first film where he had any real money) and fill the run time with lots of pointless but boring "action" sequences. Instead, the extra wad of cash allows him to expand his universe but at the same time revisit many of the locations of the past. And yes, before you ask, that beach IS in it.
As always, Rollin's unique sense of humour is present, though in a far more sophisticated manner than in his previous works(it helps if you see the original French versions). A sequence in a nunnery, for example is underscored by various paintings by Clouvis Trouille seen in the background. Long a huge influence, or rather "brother" in the same fraternity as Rollin, Trouille's work has been referenced more and more in his films as of late. Thank God, none of the campery of Frisson De Vampires here.
Most importantly, Rollin references and recreates images seen in earlier films. The Grandfather clock/TARDIS arrangement; the beach; various castle seen in other works. I could go on. The point is, Rollin has not only taken his time to retrofit is films into one great whole but to also hint that there is one continuous Master Story Arc throughout his entire oeuvre.
If you are new to Rollin, see The Nude Vampire, Rape of the Vampire and Fascination first. If you are a long-term fan you will not be disappointed and, indeed you will await his next film (which, despite all the secrecy, has, in fact finished shooting already) with eager anticipation...
Casino Royale (2006)
Looks Like Bonds 1 - 20 Were Just Practice Runs
I always had a vague feeling of disappointment while watching Bond films. True, I love them but at the back of my head there was always something wrong. Now I know what it is.
I was desperate for the makers to take what they were doing seriously. Well, now they have. In Casino Royale we are presented with a Bond who not only bleeds, not only gets genuinely hurt but at times is in serious danger of getting killed. Actually death probably looked pretty attractive to him at one point, considering what the villain was doing to him at the time. But aside from that, the big question is, "is Daniel Craig any good?". Well, here I have to be very, very cautious indeed as we are dealing with a Retcon (Reboot is rather inaccurate) and therefore the character is altered to fit Fleming's vision rather than anything we have seen before. In other words, I far prefer this version of Bond to the previous cinematic incarnation, collectively embodied by Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan. Rather than "Bond 21" this is more "Bond 1b" and it almost makes me wish I didn't have to put up up with the last 20. Yes; it is that good.
In essence, the anti-Craigs were probably more anti-ditch-everything-out-the-window-and-start-again than anything else but were could the series have gone after Die Another Day? The bin probably. Thank God we don't have to suspend our disbelief anymore and in a world were terrorists really are slamming planes into international landmarks, Bond has finally caught up. The violence, pain and suffering is real and dirty (one MI6 agent is seen restraining himself from vomiting on seeing a dead body at one point). No room have we for the frivolities of Moore or Brosnan; we just do not live in a frivolous world anymore.
9 Songs (2004)
Pointless Artless Sexless
It is hardly necessary to describe the plot; Boy (a geologist... glaciologist... something like that...) meets girl and together they proceed to visit various concerts and have some of the dullest sex (real or otherwise) committed to film. And sometimes they talk rubbish.
Actually, the sex might not be that dull, it's hard to judge; such was the hype about this film when it came out. I think what disappoints the most is that it is so downright normal. Personally, my main gripe about the film is that it has no story, no purpose, other than to dare to show real sex scenes in a mainstream context. It left the viewing public, the BBFC and the Daily Mail saying "so what?" It advertises itself as being shocking and controversial but it is none of these. If a film's whole existence is to trace a relationship between two people, possibly the least interesting aspect of it is what they do in bed and if the film's purpose was to show sex, why do it in such a mundane way? Some reviewers mention that it shows sex from a female perspective, but that is patronising. Certainly, all the women I know who saw it had a hard time not staying awake. Most didn't even get to the end.
Ultimately, there is no point to this film whatsoever; why couldn't Winterbottom have made a film, say, about a straight character who becomes attracted to someone of the same sex, or an otherwise average person who became attracted to S+M? Then the motivation to show genuine sex scenes would have been valid, perhaps. As it is, the most daring thing we have here is... well, I can't think of anything. Guess what adjective can be used to describe a film about two boring people who are boring in bed and listen to boring music and are otherwise boring? From what Margo Stilley has said about her role in the film, she did it possibly to defy convention (she is from the bible belt). Winterbottom did it perhaps to bring a new level of reality to the screen (only it has been done before and a lot better) but only turns out a film that is... boring... and as for O'Brien, I fall asleep just looking at him.
Overall, utterly pointless, completely unimpressive and why anyone bothered is beyond me. Did I mention it was boring?
Possibly the Most Horrific Half-Hour of Television Ever.
Such a powerful piece of drama this. It gives us a character so vulnerable and sympathetic that we, perhaps, see a little of the dreamer within ourselves in him. A small, mousy, child-like man at the mercy of his grouchy employer and domineering wife until World War III gives him a world of his very own.
This, like most Twilight Zone episodes, begins with a vaguely light-hearted feel that could go either way but by the end we are exposed to a reversal of fortune so tragic and so deeply ironic that I for one have never been able to return to watching this episode; the best laid plans of mice and men gone horrible awry.
Presumably this is meant as a warning against letting our dreams and fantasies get the better of us or perhaps it is intended to condemn those who force us to live too much in the real world. Stirling was always one to say the things we did not want to hear but in this, he succeeded only too well. It is perhaps merciful that Stirling had a sense of humour (let alone a heart) because if every episode of The Twilight Zone had reached this standard it would, conversely have been unwatchable because an audience cannot put up with this much cruelty every week.
If you see, it will affect you. I was left shattered and I don't intend to sit through it again. You may may only be able to take it once, but do see it.
The Adventures of Tintin's Naughty Sister!
Perhaps the best movie ever to be made (starring Brent Huff)...
What can I say? I tried to review NEMO (1984) a while back and was pretty lost for words. Whatever happened to films like this? There was a period in the early to mid 80's where cinema just went... not wrong... balmy, I think is the word.
This has been called INDIANA JONES meets BARBARELLA but it's so much more. By ignoring the comic book, Jaeckin has, ironically enough, preserved the graphic form on film. He is, after all (and first and foremost) a fashion photography so his arrogance of story structure leads to the best eye candy you'll see in a long while. Sequences from this film may have resembled Jodorowsky's aborted Dune project had it ever have been made! Sure the first half is pretty slow but it leads into the strangest and most mind-blowing balm-pottery ever to hit celluloid, as Gwendoline and her pals go on a mission to find a rare butterfly, her missing father and a lost civilisation. The city of Yik-Yak itself is some of the best visualisation I've ever seen, not unlike an S+M party in a salt mine. Forget the acting (PLEASE forget the acting) just sit back, listen to the vaguely Michael Nyman-esquire score and watch the mind-blowing images unfold. Otherwise, just pretend you're watching TINTIN: THE MOVIE, as rendered by Peter Greenaway.
Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004)
The "Die Another Day" of Godzilla Movies
OK, so it's not as bad as Die Another Day, and it doesn't feature Godzilla surfing away from a collapsing ice flow against dreadful matte work, BUT it does try to update the series with mixed results. The film's main problem is that it wants to reference every single Toho movie it possibly can, thus the spectacularly convoluted plot must include all the Toho stock monsters (if only in archive footage during the opening credits), Gorath, the Xilians (from "Invaision of the Astro-Monsters) and, worse still, Minilla, in a tacked-on plot that results in the last five minutes of the film turning into an episode of "The Goodies". It features The Gotengo from "Atragon", Don Fry looks like Captain Nemo in "Nadia"... need I go on? I probably should, for sake of completeness, but we could be here for years. Actually, one does suspect that the Toho executives actually did watch DAD once or twice and felt compelled to chuck in as many homages as possible. The weird thing is they went completely overboard and ended up remaking not only ALL the Godzilla cannon, but "Casshern", "The Matrix", "ID4", "Mission Impossible", "King Kong" even "Barny The Dinosaur"... where's it going to end? It doesn't, that's the problem. In real terms the cramming of just about ever movie ever made into one film is what keeps you watching, and apart from the downright barmy ending, it's great stuff. But be warned, Emerson's remix of the Godzilla theme tune is a bit hard on the ears at first. I'm not saying its bad, just weird.
Toho claim this is the last in the series (yeah, right). Give it a couple of years... hopefully we'll get something similar, but with a descent plot and proper resolution next time...
Jules Verne meets Lewis Carrol
I saw glimpses of this film when I was about 10, but my young brain couldn't handle it for more than a minute at a time, so I only saw a total of five. It gave me Stendahl Syndrome. Recently, with the DVD release ( a pretty dull, full-screen effort with burnt-in Dutch subtitles, but its the best we can hope for from such an obscure film) I was able to satisfy my curiosity. You will either love it or hate it, I was close to tears by how beautiful it was by the end (which is as obscure as the rest of the film). What is it about? You tell me. Certainly the impossibly beautiful Matilda May is worth the price of admission alone, but along the way we have the best representation of The Nautilus ever committed to film and production design unlike anything you've seen before. There's no logic, and possibly the makers simply filmed the writer's childhood dream, but its a precious, indispensable gem and if your none the wiser after reading this review, that's what you'll feel like by the end of the film. It doesn't make sense, it just feels right.
Land of the Dead (2005)
The A-Team with zombies!
What ever happened to George A. Romero? George, my boy, you should have gone abroad to find your finance. Japan? The UK? Germany? You could have pooled together a nice little international co-production (think of the tax avoidance schemes, man!) but no, instead we get a major Hollywood @rse-fest.
I went to see this with around 15-20 people. They went in Romero fans. They came out... well, we'll probably go see the new Spielberg movie next time. Actually, we might see the new Uwa Boll(ocks) movie next time. But that is too cruel. And reductive; its not actually Romero's fault this is as dull as it is. Studio pressures are to blame; this has "studio executive playing it safe" written all over it. Here in the UK it only earned a "15 Cert". This from the man that gave us Dawn of the Dead. Social satire has taken precedent over gore, entertainment and, well, story.
As far as I can tell, the film goes something like this; a Zombiefied B.A., naffed off that Hannibal, Face and Murdoch kill all his undead pals at night when they come to raid food stores in order to supply the faux-city in which the filthy rich have sealed themselves, leads an explosive assault on the pesky humans until... well, you get the idea.
The problem is, there is no straight forward plot to this film. Its all just a mix of hazy subplots, mainly concerning a giant armoured truck the "Dead Reckoning" (yeah, it is that lame). There are some very obvious points raised about the rich and the poor but what happened to the sequel we were SUPPOSED to get. At least we could have had something remotely connected with the rest of the series but Romero originally intended to cover his original script for Day of the Dead, with domesticated Zombies vs. Stooooopid Killer Zombies. Where are the Zombies in the White House? Its like he forgot to do the film he was supposed to, or a lack of focus (perhaps brought about by wanting to get back into production have all these years) forced him to hammer out any old rubbish. Most probable, though, is that the studio kept saying, "wouldn't it be better if..." and Romero just gave in. His style is just not evident at all. I know he didn't cut it, but someone should have thought to give it the pace his previous films, especially Dawn of the Dead, had. All in all, this is a tragedy. Like watching a CEO of a major multinational reduced to bagging groceries in a super market; one of the greatest film-makers of all time making half-baked pop corn garbage. Annoying, especially with everything that is going on in Iraq right now, the time would have been right for a Zombie war movie.
We still love you George, just don't do it again or you can go to your room.
Master of the World (1961)
"This is the Father of all ironies!"
There are two types of people in this world, my friend; those who've read Jules Verne and those who... er... haven't.
If you have (and if you're a fan, try the U.S. Navel Institute translation of 20k Leagues), you will know how incredibly lousy Verne's "Robur the Conqueror" and its mildly better sequel, "Master of the World" are. Essentially, Robur kidnaps two comical balloonists and their comical manservant, does some extremely racist things and does an "I shall return" speech at the end. When he does return, in his souped-up, high speed flying submarine jet-car all Verne can think to do with him is allow him a few days pleasant boating on Lake Eerie.
So, given the fact that the original stories behind the film are nothing to write home about, what chance has the film got? Well, considering it was made for about 5p, quite a good one. Richard Matheson makes the wise choice of ditching most of the novels in favour of doing a campy adventure instead. By amalgamating the heroes of the two novels (Prudent and Evens form "Robur", secret agent John Strock from "Master") and replacing the embarrassingly racist stereotype that is Frycollin (Prudent's butler) with Mary Webster as Prudent's daughter, we get an early example of plucky heroism as well. The fact that she dresses like a fellow male crew-member once aboard the magnificent paper battleship/helicopter The Albatross, and is far more use than her all-talk boyfriend Evens (David Frankham) ads more intelligence to the film than it deserves. No wonder she ends up with Bronson's morally ambiguous Strock by the end. In fact, no one in the film seems to be all that clear cut. Henry Hull's Prudent is an arms manufacturer who constantly jokes about how he has sold arms to the "wrong" people (eg, when the prisoners try to escape over Ireland, he objects, because he once sold arms to the British), Evens constantly tries to kill Strock, ostensibly because "he is a coward" but really to off a better suitor to Webster's Dorothy Prudent. And she herself seems instantly flirtatious with the more virile Strock from the word go. But most of all, and it goes almost without saying, it's Price's Robur who steels the show. Setting out to put an end to war by demonstrating his superior power against warships, he is at first the reluctant moralist who must make a stand but as he succumbs to megalomania, he pulls himself back from the edge only too late to realise his dream was never more than that.
Price consider this one of his best roles and its easy to see why. Despite the low-budget (but excellent, Vernesque production design) there is some brains behind the Saturdy afternoon antics on display here. It's a much better film than it's given credit for but it could have been real tasty given double the budget.
The War of the Worlds (2005)
I have seen some utter, utter garbage in my time; I have sat through flicks by Al Adamson and Ed Wood, I have endured some of the worst student films of all time and, I'm proud to say, I even made one of the worst student films of all time but this is from another dimension. Nothing can even begin to describe the stench arising from this piece of filth. Where can I possibly begin? The performances are universally abysmal. I mean amateurish is one thing, the acting in a Timothy Hines film is another. Anthony Piana not only varies between American and Australian accents but he manages to mix in Scots, Irish, Welsh, North Yorkshire and Jordie tones as well; everything except what he is supposed to. James Lanthrop is a joke. I don't even know where he is supposed to be from. He started the movie with an American accent and slowly graduated to communicating with sounds I never thought any human being was biologically capable of making. Jack Clay plays Ogilvy as if he were hard of hearing, always putting his hand to his ear, SHOUTING and making theatrical gestures... I could go on but it's to embarrassingly painful. The special effects deserve mention though; there are none. Hilarity ensues from the first frame. The CGI bares absolutely no interaction between the real elements of the frame, the actors and the camera movements. Coupled to this is the utter stupidity of the digital grading; night, day, sunrise, sunset, nuclear winter, smog pollution and a bad LSD trip are all depicted at anyone time. I'm guessing Timothy Hines has never been to the UK as he doesn't seem to know that over here, our air is made of Nitrus Oxide too and not, as the photography in the film would suggest, an Argon/Carbon Dioxide mix. Which brings me to my biggest gripe; the location work. CGI shots of London show it to be a 14th century village surrounding Big Ben. Big Ben is shown as a freestanding structure, which it is not, and never has been. Weirdly, the film opens with old silent footage of London and a clear view is afforded of the real Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. God knows why nobody thought to use this as a template. Other concerns are the backgrounds; sometimes actual "real world" locations are used (well, a field), other times very bad blue screen work inserts the characters into photoshop backgrounds executed by someone who cannot even switch on a pocket calculator. At other times, VERY American architecture can be seen in the background and indeed, most of the costumes are American in design. Much of the unintentional belly laughs come from the CGI horses, people and vehicles used in wide shots. There is a scene of a man running out of a church and getting flipped through the air by a martian war machine that will give you bladder problems for weeks. Believe me, the Big Ben shot in the trailer is the least the films problems. And what happened to such concepts of pace, cutting and location changes? In some sequences we get to see characters walk for ten minutes at a time, at others, the transitions are so quick that it is impossible to follow what is going on, even if you have read the book. I wish I had room here to analyse every frame; notice how, after a surprise explosion the Artillery Man throws himself against a door with an electric doorbell on it; all the (electric !) street lamps are those round American ones instead of the slim, rectangular British ones; the soldiers wear uniforms from three different periods; NO research into any aspect of 1890's period detail, of Britishness, of military procedure or even of how to actually make a film has been done at all. Bizarre, pointless things happen. An eternity is spent showing the Writer and his wife sitting with their friend at a table and the only thing that happens for five or ten minutes is that the Writer picks up a chocolate with his fork, pops it into his glass, knocks the glass over and then eats the chocolate, all the while looking like a pantomime villain in is mad fake moustache, which Piana takes off for when he plays the Writer's Brother. This is, beyond any shadow of a doubt is the worst film ever made anywhere. EVER. I hope Hines is reading this and taking note because someone has to make him understand he is incapable of filming wedding videos, let alone adaptations of classic novels. The whole three hours is nothing more than a joke. A three hour insult to the general public who purchase this. Yes, Tim, we Do notice when you use the same extras over and over again. We CAN tell the backgrounds are fake. We ARE aware that what you may think is London is in fact some fantasy land out of Harry Potter. And no matter how much frame judder you think is going to make the photography look filmic, we are quite capable of recognising cheap video work when we see it. I have only one thing to say about Timothy Hines; "Stop Him Before He Films Again!!!"
Update: It is telling that, as we have found out recently, the majority of this film was shot on location at a riding school near Seattle on weekends. further to this, the film was shot (and photographs have come to light that confirm this) on a Canon XM-1, a $1500 camcorder Timbo probably borrowed.
The Black Hole (1979)
Half a Good Film
Like most reviewers I saw this when I was very young, but even at the age of four I was baffled by the idea that one could dare to travel "in, through... and beyond!" a black hole. But THAT is the least of this movies problems.
Our gallant heroes, on a mission to find "habitable life" (!) in the the universe happen upon not only what is supposed to be the largest black hole ever seen (it can't be, since quite recently it has been discovered that not only are they common, but there is a REALLY BIG ONE at the centre of every galaxy in the universe. Indeed, and episode of HORIZON a while back discussed the matter and even used music from this film, but that sort of scientific accuracy does not matter here), but Dr. Hans "completly off his raving nut" Reinhard and his long missing spaceship the U.S.S. Cygnus. One of the crew of the Cygnus happened to be, by a coincidence beyond staggering when you consider the size of the universe, Dr. Kate McRey's father. Since she is on the explorer module that has found the Cygnus, they go aboard and find that not only is the ship apparently deserted of human life with only Rienhard left, but it is now run by robots controlled by the inexplicably psychotic "Maximilian", a red, almost satanic-looking super robot.
The real reason to watch this film, though, is not the plot, which mixes Star Wars with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (I know EVERY review of this movie says that, but that's all this film is) but its frankly balmy finale. You can't make a film called The Black Hole without going into one, but this tries to be all things; a kid's space adventure (there are a couple of pointless, really annoying R2-D2 knock-offs) and intellectual science fiction at the same time (but Disney aren't famous for having much upstairs). See it for the spectacle of hell at the end. Sorry, didn't I mention it? Yes, folks. Black Holes are gateways to HELL!
So to sum up then; this film is EVENT HORIZON set in a '70's disco.
Kindergarten Ninja (1994)
Burn the Negatives!!!
I saw this movie whilst working on a movie shoot. We had finished for the day and one of the actors insisted on showing us just how bad a movie can be. This is it folks. THIS is a piece of utter excrement THIS is the worst movie ever to be made and not in a fun ED WOOD way. Chan's direction is incomprehensibly poor. It's the sort that the worst, homemade porn movies would reject. We actually found it in a bargin dump bin in a market running as a double feature for £1.50! Yes 75p or about $1.00 a film. That's about 20 times what it must have taken to make this garbage. Presumably Chan approached the city council to make the film as part of the DARE anti-drugs programme so that he could get his first feature on his show reel. After seeing this, you'll probably need some drugs. You might even want to take a fatal overdose.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997)
I'll Destract It, While You Kick It In The Tentecles!
Michael Caine as Captain Nemo. Michael Caine as an embittered Indian Prince. Since when were Indian Princes blond, blue-eyed, wide-boy cockneys? In the book, Arronax is somewhat like Watson to Nemo's Holmes. In this version he is a flouncing runt who not only sleeps with his Father's young wife but Nemo' daughter too. Where Nemo actually got a daughter from I'll never know. This production is utter excrement. Unwatchable. The production design is unattractive, the casting is wrong, the... I'm bored now. Usually when I encounter a bad film (The BBC Christmas Sherlock Holmes adaptations for example) I like to have a good rant and give everyone involved the ticking off the deserve but with this, I can't.I just can't. It's not that interesting. There isn't even a story, just endless padding. Brian Nelson is obviously an amateur hack who hammered out the screenplay the night before it was due in. We have to blame somebody, though there is nothing in this whole production that is right. OK; lets blame everybody.
A Study in Terror (1965)
It shouldn't be good BUT...
This is one of those films you really shouldn't enjoy but you do because it at least makes some vague effort to be more intelligent than it is; pitching Captain Deerstalker against Commando-Top-Hat-And-Carving-Knife may seem clichéd now but this was the first film to do it. The plot is a little closer to the facts than Jess Franco's JACK THE RIPPER but not much. At least the names of the victims are more or less historically correct (althought the ripper's victims) are tastefully stabbed, rather than sliced, diced pickled and carved, and we never get to see what state they are in once Jack has finished with them (its all lift the sheet, police, detectives and doctors wince and say things like "could a human being have done this?") but if you're a Holmes fan you're in good, well, good-ish hands here. Neville's Holmes is adequate. Once you watch him the first time you'll think he's refreshingly different but see the movie again and you'll realise he does not actually add anything new to the part; he does not have the authority of Rathbone, the mysteriousness of Stephens or the... well, the EVERYTHING of Brett (the camp lunacy for one) but he does a good job none the less. Houston's Watson isn't so good. The script is written to allow an intelligent performance but Houston is a little to blustering for it to come across. Plotwise the movie doesn't take chances, simply going for an entirely fictional approach to the mystery so don't bother if you're a Ripperologist, but if you're a fan of Holmes try to catch it (though don't go out of your way). An entertaining diversion.
Holmes, having been missing for a year (falling off a 300 foot water fall while tackling your arch nemesis does tend to inconvenience you a bit) returns nuttier than ever. Hardwick is the new Watson after Burke left to join the RSC and is more fatherly; Jeremy Brett is of course the only Sherlock Holmes, the love-child of Peter Cushing and Kenneth Williams (those that have not seen the show cannot even imagine how camp he gets at times) and the show is more dark than before thanks mainly to the mental and physical problems Brett was going through at the time of his wife's death. This actually works, as Holmes goes "cold turkey" in THE DEVIL'S FOOT so your really start to believe he's burnt out and there are hints of a self-destructive personality coming out. Best of all, Watson's detective skills are approaching Holmes', a far cry from that ridiculous portrayal by Nigel Bruce. As if a man of Holmes' intellect could put up with such idiocy. Or my spelling for that matter.
I don't know whose idea it was to cast Rupert (should be the next James Bond) Everett as Holmes, or to bring back Ian (his ears can pick up satellite television) Hart as Watson but they didn't do themselves any favours. I actually spent a few hours on set watching this being filmed and had a much more interesting time than I did watching it. In a word, like the previous years Hound of the Baskervilles, it was remarkably MISCAST. Worst still, its very, very cheap; you can tell this by the vast amount of fog pumped into every frame to cover the lack of extras. It probably cost about half of what one episode of the Granada T.V. series cost and besides, Jeremy Brett's Holmes would have solved the case in the pre-credit sequence. Actually, come to think about it, the case is utterly ridiculous. Not Holmesian in the slightest. Aparrantly the production team's thinking was since they had made (well, ruined) the best of the Sherlock Holmes stories the previous year (The Hound of the Baskervilles, you know the one, the one where Holmes hardly turns up at all, best my eye!) They'd have to make up their own. Let us just hope and prey the don't do it again. Oh, an if you're interested (you won't be) it was twins what done it! Yes, the serial killer suddenly turns out to have a twin brother because remember, "When you have eliminated the impossibly whatever remains, no matter how lazy, crass, talentless and brainless it proves the screenwriter to be, must be the truth." Oh, that's harsh Holmes!
The Boys in Blue (1982)
The Worst Film Ever Made
The utter, utter stupidity of this film is legendary. It is in fact known in the UK (to the tiny, tiny, number of people that have ever seen or even remember it) as the worst British film ever. The cast is tiny, Cannon and Ball, God forgive them (no really, they may well go to hell for this) don't even look ashamed! And when I tell you that a major plot device involves... SPOILER WARNING... a van disguised as a flying saucer THAT ACTUALLY FOOLS PEOPLE, you will know the level this film is pitching to. The only thing about the original was Will Hay, and he is very funny. The only thing about this is that someone lost about 75p making it. Hell, that's what? $1.50?
Il fantasma dell'opera (1998)
There maybe spoilers in the following; if you get to see the film, you really won't care.
It is no wonder Asia is no longer appearing in her dad's films. She has certainly proved herself an infinitely better director all round; true, it would be hard for anyone to ever match the dizzying heights of Suspiria but this stinks. Really, it does; its a floater in the phantom's sewer. Most of the characters look like typical Eurotrash, especially the long-haired Raul, who is impossible to take seriously and WHY, Dario? WHY? WHY take away the mask? The Phantom's mask! What next? Porn without the sex? James Bond without his tux? Oi! But that isn't the half of it; we are exposed to such treats as Sands sticking rats down his trousers (yes, you read that right) and does it not worry anyone else about the amount of nudity Pop requires of Asia? But the film's crowning achievement is surely the crazy idea of Rats... yes, RATS... raising the Phantom from a baby. Where did he learn to speak? To dress? How did he come to be so good in bed? Did he read the Rata Sutra? or is it the Karma Ratra? OK, enough of that. I remember reading at the time a industry insider (who remained nameless) saying that if the film did not do well, the Italian film industry was in big trouble. No wonder they're shooting all their films on digital these days.
The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)
The Scottish Play was always my favourite of Shakespeare's tragedies and this, Polanski's first film after the death of Sharon Tate is EXACTLY how I imagined any film version of the story should look. The film is well researched; just look, for example at the witches' scenes, with ceremonies utilising such traditional tools as the severed left arm of a hanged man and a hangman's noose. Even better is the re-enactment of an ancient Celtic coronation ceremony. The grim, filthy setting of the Middle Ages is perfectly evoked; it really was this nasty, this cold, and this gory at that time and it makes perfect sense for Polanski to work out the horror of Tate's murder into this production. Sure, there are a couple of gripes; Annis' Lady Macbeth does not go mad half as well as Judy Dench's did in a 70's T.V. adaptation and the violence is rather toned down in comparison with Shakespeare's original text but less is often more. Finch's performance is nothing short of brilliant (his understated, nihilistic reaction to his beloved wife's death is a highlight) but the best point is the photography; the sky is all brooding thunder clouds and the hue of a coming storm pervades every frame. This beats Wells' ludicrous, Ed Wood-style adaptation hands down.
The Final Programme (1973)
Where's The Final Programme?
This is one of those spectacular misfires; Fuest has taken Moorcock's splendid book and cut everything down to the bone so much that what remains is only the irrelevant sci-fi plot that was basically a throwaway excuse to hang all the elements of the book together. For this there really is no excuse; the next two books were available at the time the film was in production (the last was not publish until 1977) and if anyone had bothered to read them, they would have realized that Jerry Cornelius ain't James Bond. This a cheap Bond rip-off. The books were trans-dimensional, time hopping wonders; they had an arrogance of plot structure that really captured the complexities of multi-dimensional realities. This is a chase movie. It has a conventional three-act structure and, worst still, it ditches all the characters vital to the novel (or amalgamates three, four or five of them into one). It misses out on Moorcock's views of sexual liberation and worst of all Fuest has absolutely no idea what his source material is about. After seeing the Dr. Phibes movies I thought him to be an entertaining and imaginative director. After seeing this I realize his style has nothing to do with imagination but a talent for making do with low budgets. The Final Programme was made for around £600,000. Not inconsiderable for the time but it is wasted in every frame on trivia. For example, an early chapter of the book revolves around a massive assault on Jerry's father's Chatauex in Normandy by a team of crack armed mercenaries with hundreds of casualties; here it is reduced to a bit of mild house breaking just outside London. Jon Finch's Cornelius is the only plus point about it (he was, after all, a friend of Moorcock) and what the books really need is $400 million throwing at them (they have to be filmed back-to-back), faithful adaption, and a director like Alejandro Jodorowsky. The books have recently been reissued in a bind-up as "The Cornelius Quartet". Read them; you'll be going back to them for years to come trying to unravel all the different strands. The film has no strands.