Tuesday, 7 March 2017

No.258 : Where the Devil Hides

Where the Devil Hides at the IMDb

Pat Farrell in Lee Van Cleef’s hat stars in this low budget 'serial killer in an Aimish community' romp.

The film opens with Pat making dramatic statements regarding ‘the prophecy’ Word on the streets is that when six girls are born on the same day only one will live until their 18th birthday and that one will become the Devil’s Hand.

Before the title card appears the girls start popping out and Pat is on the scene with his sickle to get all biblical on their asses. He’s shoved down the stairs by Rufus Sewell out of ‘The Man in the High Castle’ but that’s not the end of the matter, sadly.

One of the six new mums, who has presumably seen the rest of the script, opts to smother her baby and cut her own throat. Probably easier to wrangle five accesses than six and it’s easier to remember who everyone is too, so it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

We flash forward to the present day and the girls are about to celebrate their 18th birthday - which is strange as one of them looks about 30. Their community of New Bethlehem has accepted them but the nearing of the prophecy puts them all on edge - a good time for a skinny dip in the lake then. The girls meet a couple of horny lads, one of whom saves one of them after she has a fit and lots of visions.

They split up and go to their own homes but one is soon butchered with a big sickle after choosing somewhat bizarrely, to hide down a well. With the murder weapon clearly shown it has to be Pat who is the murderer - surely?

Things take a predictable path as the girls start to thin in number and we have to wonder if the prophecy will be true and whether someone with vested interests in local jam and quilt sales may be pushing things towards his own agenda.

As we near the welcome 86th minute, sorry 18th birthday, we have to wonder who will survive, who’s doing the killings and whether the prophecy will become true - bet you manage 3 out of 3 too!

This was a lot of clichéd and risible nonsense but I have to confess to quite enjoying it. The dialogue is atrocious with poor Colm Meany having to spout out so much drivel. Sewell gets little to do and you can almost see him mulling over new agent options as he delivers his Aimish lines that look like leftovers from ‘Kingpin’.

For a horror film they are quite coy with the sex and violence with a bare bum and a few off screen slashings all you get.

If you are looking for a new take on the serial killer genre you won’t find it here and the religious angle is just ridiculous and never given any traction, no matter how many ‘visions’ they crash cut in.
Overall a bit of throwaway hokum with nothing to really to recommend it apart from a few unintended chuckles and a plot that couldn’t be more transparent it it were written on glass.

Best Bit : Pat has a look for the ‘Devil’s sign’ - the dirty bastard.
W Rating  12/23

Thursday, 16 February 2017

No.257 : War on Everyone

War on Everyone at the IMDb

 Well we’re back after a brief year long absence. I know the appetite for ‘W’ based movie excitement is unabated but fear not, the wait for the four of you is now over!

‘War on Everyone’ is the first American film by English director John Michael McDonagh who impressed with his last two offerings, ‘The Guard’ and ‘Calvary’ both of which starred Brendan Gleeson. I say ‘American film’ but I noticed that it was partly funded by the National Lottery despite starring two ‘B’ list Americans and being set in Albuquerque. Still if anyone likes a gamble it's them.

The film is billed as an ‘action comedy’ but the laughs were few and the action was low rent.

Michael Pena, last seen (by me) in ‘The Martian’ and Alexander Skarsgard who was Tarzan in his previous film before this, star as couple of New Mexico police detectives. They play fast and loose with the rues but can’t afford a scriptwriter to supply them with any zingers - “Where’s my X-Box?” “Do ya wanna look up my ass?” Titter you will not.

They highlight their badness by drink driving and swearing a lot but they just come across as a pair of tiresome jerks who are trying too hard to impress. The plot is lifted almost entirely form the ‘Starsky and Hutch’ movie but at least you don’t have Vince Vaughn as the baddie. Here the budget is clearly limited so you have to make do with the guy who got shit on his nose at the end of ‘The Inbetweeners’ movie. To be fair he is backed up by a guy channeling Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ but he’s even worse and exudes the menace of a declawed kitten made out of cotton wool.

Our heroes set out on a quest to gain some drug money but soon get distracted by an exotic girlfriend who was better in ‘Westworld’ and a cute child who offered nothing, not even the intended softening of Pena’s character. The limited plot drags along with the investigation following no logical path and offering no laughs or thrills. At one point they do travel to Iceland for five minutes which seemed totally pointless and probably used up the script polishing budget as well.

The two leads were poor and didn’t gel at all. They were set out to be bad boys but you didn’t care about them at all and have nothing invested in their schemes. The direction was OK but I couldn’t help but think the director was out of his comfort zone and relied on tired old tropes rather than doing anything original. When Paul Reiser showed up as the police chief and demanded our heroes’ badges and to leave the prime suspect alone someone must have called ‘foul’.

The action sequences amounted to some low speed car crashes and a bin through a window so you can tell this isn’t exactly ‘Die Hard’. They also have the familiar trip to the strip joint where all the strippers were fully dressed. This looked like they were trying to secure a lower certificate but when they went back again it was all topless - had they went on Prudish Tuesday the first time around?

The locations were great and it did bring back memories as I too had traveled in that Albuquerque cable car. It wasn’t enough however; the film was dull and predictable and the Frankenstein’s monster of every buddy cop film that you’ve ever seen...

Best Bit : Let's check out the strip joint again...
‘W’ Rating 10/23

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

No.256 : Words and Pictures

Words and Pictures at the IMDb

Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as rival teachers trying to prove which of words (language) or pictures (art) is best. If that sounds a bit of a pointless endeavour you’ll not be surprised to learn that the film is too.

Owen plays Jack, that tired old cliché of a character of the great writer who hasn’t written anything worthwhile in years who takes a teaching job to finance his creeping alcoholism. Binoche plays a totally different character, a great painter who hasn’t painted anything worthwhile for years due to her creeping arthritis who takes on a teaching job.

The pair teach at a school for precocious teenagers who can’t act. Clive’s lessons are like something out of ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ with the kids all admiring and fancying him in equal measure despite his contempt for the job and his fat and unshaven appearance. Binoche limps when she remembers to do so and has a stick, but a steely determination to help her pupils - they’re the original odd couple!

Owen takes a shine to Juliette and soon engages her in his tiresome ‘how many syllables’ game to which she rightly tells him to piss off. Owen isn’t discouraged however and tries to woo the stuffy artist while juggling with a career crisis and a distant son who is embarrassed about pissed old Dad.

During one of Owen’s unstructured classes a debate arises over the phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ to which he argues that words can supply the details and emotion that a picture cannot. When Binoche’s art class hear of this they are outraged; surely a good picture can convey a lot more than pages of a book? This not very interesting argument captivates the school and a big showdown is planned for the end of the term/film.

Meanwhile Owen is up for dismissal for being pissed all the time and for not offering the school any published works to raise their profile. He wisely chooses to steal his son’s best poem for himself and sets off to get drunk to celebrate. Elsewhere Binoche is trying out new ways to make a mess by dropping paint onto canvas using different methods.

For reasons not clear Owen manages to get Binoche into bed before spoiling it all by getting drunk and wrecking her new ‘masterpiece’ a big red and blue splodge that frankly looked better once Clive had his way with it.

With his career and relationships all pissed against a wall Clive decides to try Alcoholics Anonymous and start afresh with Binoche and his son. But will it be too little too late and with the ‘Words and Pictures’ showdown coming up can he win the day for words? C’mon words!

The premise of this film was a bit like the Hugh Grant vehicle ‘Music and Lyrics’ and when I say Grant’s film was more enjoyable you’ll understand what a clunker ‘Words and Pictures’ is.

The main issue is the central relationship which has no spark whatsoever. Binoche, lovely as she is, cannot act while speaking English and Clive Owen didn’t seem to believe in either his wooing or his madcap fervour for words over pictures. You are probably thinking ‘can’t we have both?’ - well don’t as that will spoil the ending!

Some of the arguments were quite interesting but they were articulated by some of the worst teen actors you will ever see and they look like winners of an essay writing contest reading their work on screen. There is a lamentable subplot about an Asian girl with self worth issues but that was ghastly and predictably resolved. Don’t even ask about Owen’s woes with his prissy son - awful!

So what we have is a no rom, rom-com with no com either. You’d think in a high school there would be some chemistry - I blame the cuts.

Words and pictures? If they are presented like this I’ll have neither please!

Best Bit _ Owen does some redecorating.
‘W’ Rating 7/23

Friday, 30 October 2015

No.255 : Which Way Is Up?

Which Way is Up? at the IMDb

Richard Pryor takes on three roles in this 1977 comedy which is about as un-PC as you can imagine. Not only would it never be made today, being caught with a copy would probably see you get time in jail!

Still we are a broad church here at the ‘W’ Movie Quest so let’s see we if we can be offended.

The film opens in the run down shack that Pryor shares with his wife and extended family. He wakes up all horny but his wife isn’t in the mood. No problem as he tries to pry her legs apart in a scene that could be used in a ‘rape within marriage is still rape’ information film. The wife is saved when a young boy wanders in looking for his breakfast. Meanwhile elsewhere in the house Pryor’s father is getting some noisy sex in - luckily for Pryor he plays both roles!

Pryor plays Leroy Jones, a hapless everyman who works in the fields of California picking oranges. Their work is interrupted when a union march passes and when they ask for someone to volunteer to lead the orange pickers - Pryor lands the role when he falls off his ladder into the union leader’s arms. This doesn’t go well with the white farmers who run Pryor off for trying to unionise the workers - some of the language they use is just plain racist!

Our hero heads to the city and his brief foray into workers’ rights holds him in good stead with the local co-operative who give him a job as a painter. Pryor dispels any racial stereotypes by immediately slacking off the job and chasing a leggy lady who is impressed with his union credentials. After some downright stalking she gives in and lets Pryor into her bed - on one condition; he never sleeps with another woman, even his wife. This lady has class!

He sets up home with the lady and gets a couple of promotions when he interrupts an assassination attempt. Is ‘The Man’ seeing something in Pryor and will the man with the shiny ring be as menacing as is being implied?

Despite a couple of laughs this film fell flat after an hour and totally lost it’s way. It follows the same path as ‘The Jerk’ which followed it two years later, with an idiot rising up the ranks due to happenstance. I thought it was going to have Pryor make a difference and have some say in workers’ rights but the last section was nothing but him trying to have sex with the wife of the man who had sex with his long abandoned wife. Again the rival lover was played by Pryor in a thinner moustache - the man has range! - so the message seemed to be that all the woman, even the pastor’s wife, can't get enough of our man!

The language and slurs - both racial and sexual - certainly dated the film and while no one took offense it would cause ‘Points of View’ to explode if it were shown today - and rightly so. The good people at Blogger would shut me down if I repeated even half what was yelled throughout the film and although I did laugh, it was only in an ironic and uncomfortable way.

The film ends with a sort of lesson with Richard’s rise up the career ranks costing him on a personal and emotional level so much so he didn’t know which way up was any more. That said if he kept his dick in his shorts he’d be a lot happier regardless of what ‘The Man’ had planned.

I did laugh without reservation or justification at the thin coffin laid on for the man who was run over by a steamroller. Everything else is condemned outright!

Best Bit : Piano lessons at church
‘W’ Rating 14/23

Saturday, 24 October 2015

No.254 : Walter

Walter at the IMDb

No it isn’t a repeat - we’re not the BBC here at the W movie quest you know! This film is a totally different proposition from the ‘Walter’ we reviewed back in Blog 177 Blog 177  - there are no bum wiping for one, so that’s a good start.

This film was released in 2015 and opens with a familiar feeling voice over giving us a bit of insight and back-story to hurry things along. Walter, or Wally to his friends, is a bit of a misfit who has multiple wake up alarms and a job as a ticket ripper at the local multi-plex. We witness his fastidious rituals as he gets ready for the day and meet his over attentive mother who is constantly nagging him to eat more scrambled egg.

As Walter walks to his bus we learn that he thinks he is the son of God and it is his role to judge people to determine if they are going to heaven or hell. He wisely keeps this talent to himself especially with his colleagues who include the lovely Kendall who Walter fancies and Vince, a by-the-numbers asshole.

Walter seems happy in his ordered life but things take a turn when he is confronted by Greg, a ghost whom only Walter can see. Greg is in limbo and demands to be judged so that he can move on. Walter is disturbed as he can’t sense Greg and this causes him to delve into his own past to try and rationalise his life. He seeks therapy from William H. Macy, in a throwaway ‘one day on set’ performance and gets involved in the impending marriage of Neve Campbell who has some role in Walter past. Can he find peace and salvation and stop being so annoying?

This was an OK film but one that borrows heavily from others and won’t last long in the memory. The interactions with the ‘ghost’, especially the long shots showing there was no one there, were very reminiscent of the superior ‘Ghost Town’ and none of the characters had anything close to the personalities of Gervais and Kinnear. To be fair the ghost aspect was almost a subplot as the main focus was on the relationship of Walter and Jim.

Jim was a fireman whom may have been Walter’s father but was certainly there for his formative years. As the film progresses we learn that Jim died in hospital and may have known nurse Neve a bit more that is ethical. His death and possible infidelity left Walter and his mother emotionally scarred so that both developed extreme personalities. Walter took on a ‘Son of ‘God’ fixation whilst Mom cooked a lot of eggs. As you’d expect a bit of redemption is on the menu but I wasn’t convinced of the journey that supposedly shook the pair of them from their long term ruts.

The film’s main issue is that Walter, played by Andrew J. West isn’t likable and as the film nears its conclusion you don’t feel like you are rooting for him. You could argue that his difficult character was the main point and focus of the film, but similarly is a O.C.D. ridden socially awkward misfit your idea of a night’s entertainment? Mine neither.

The film was well put together with a lot of nice directorial touches but the predictable indie soundtrack and good looking people inevitably finding happiness seemed a bit flat and negating.

If I had to judge, and I do, I’d say ‘Send it to hell!’.

Best Bit : American Beauty homage/rip off
‘W’ Rating 14/23

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

No.253 : Waterfront

Waterfront at the IMDb

Here’s a bit of an oddity - a 1944 American film that barely scrapes past an hour and is essentially a propaganda film. Still, we’re a broad church at the ‘W’ Movie Blog so let’s have a look.

The film opens as a man is being wrestled down at the docks after dark. No, not like that. Some passing drunks alert the cops but the man denies he’s been molested despite the drunks’ protestations. It turns out he’s the local optician and after getting in a predictable ‘they should get their eyes tested’ line he’s sent on his way.

It quickly transpires however that he was indeed robbed and the reason he couldn’t tell the policeman is that he’s a Nazi spy and all that was taken was his code book. Soon he’s joined by Marlow (John Carradine) who is also a Nazi agent keen to get his orders deciphered - a task rendered impossible by the loss of the code book. The two plan to shake down some local suspects but not before Carradine has scored himself some lodgings a guest house, having threatened the landlady’s family with a concentration camp back in the homeland.

The landlady’s daughter is stepping out with a young insurance agent who is near a life changing deal and he works for a German American who runs the insurance company - keeping up? Carradine doesn’t believe that the code book theft was a random robbery and he’s proven correct when the thief makes contact seeking $5000 for its return. The remainder of the film is taken up with cross and double cross as the code book remains elusive. Will it be recovered and will the nest of spies be rounded up?

As an oddity this film was OK but it lacked any credibility or tension. There was never any doubt that the spies were going to get caught and the method to make it so was somewhat drawn out and convoluted. There was plenty to aid the war effort not least the German American writing a confession to the FBI so that others wouldn’t make the same mistakes he did.

Carradine was always watchable but as a spy he was rubbish - no one notice the foreign chap with the large floppy hat down the docks then? Did his excessive tips not draw attention or his subtle plan of buying editions of every newspaper before throwing them away in frustration in front of the news vendor seem unusual?

He was quite brutal with three enemies dispatched in the same way - his Mauser raised (note : don’t use a German gun for your murders!) and fired while the victim died off camera - ‘Reservoir Dogs’ this was not.

Despite being just over an hour the film managed to tack on an unnecessary romantic subplot which added nothing apart from some wholesome values for the folks back home.

I wouldn’t go and seek this one out but if it shows up on TCM or somewhere, it will pass an hour without too many demands being made of you.

Best Bit : Why are you hanging about the docks?
‘W’ Rating 12/23

Sunday, 18 October 2015

No.252 : Wendigo

Wendigo at the IMDb

A strange horror/monster/ghost story mash up now in this 2001 chiller. Patricia Clarkson stars along with the youngest out of ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ as well as an English actor I didn’t recognise but he was in the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake.

The film opens with the three family members heading for a weekend in the mountains. Gawd knows why as it’s freezing and the area is populated by hillbillies but maybe the Paisley Glynhill was fully booked. They don’t get far in their Volvo before a stag appears in the road and comes worst off in the collision. The deer was being stalked by some hunters and they aren’t happy that the antlers were damaged in the collision. The Dad manages to talk them off but we see that arch hillbilly,Otis, remains unimpressed.

At the lodge they find a window broken and a bullet embedded in the wall. Rather than run for the hills they settle down for the night where the Boy is troubled by visions of a hillbilly home invasion. The couple also get it on on the sofa unaware that they are being watched by Otis. So far so predictable but the titular Wendigo has yet to show up.

The next day in town they are buying curry ingredients so that Dad can continue with his racist impressions. The boy is confronted in the thrift store by a supposedly enigmatic Native American who gives him a small statue of a Wendigo and spouts off some mystical gubbins. When he shows it to his Mum the man is gone and the assistant makes them pay $4 for the model - the oldest scam in the book! As they set off the mysterious Indian appears again - no doubt off to spend his share of the four bucks.

Next day the father and son go sledging and Dad falls from the sled mid run. The boy heads back to him but is scared off by some snow flurries and what looks like a monster made out of twigs. After passing out he’s revived by Mum who is worried for the husband whom they eventually find in their driveway having crawled home. It turns out he’s been shot - possibly accidentally by stumbling into a rifle range but more likely deliberately by Otis who thinks their house is rightfully his.

The family make a desperate dash to the hospital while the police seek Otis - will the Wendigo show up again to save the day?

I quite enjoyed this film despite it’s thin plot and far fetched premise. There’s not a lot going on apart from the standard strangers vs. locals squabble with a tree/deer monster thrown in to add a bit of value.

From the off the boy character is a bit strange and I think they are trying for a bit a ‘The Shining’ vibe from him. He’s meant to be a bit complex and introverted, and perhaps more in tune with nature than most but he just comes across as a bit dull and slow. Clarkson does better as the Mum although a lot of her scenes involve her running about a bit upset.

The hillbillies were more fun but a bit stereotypical as was the Sheriff who failed to convince - he deserves a hammering for that performance!

The Wendigo itself was ill-defined despite the wise old Indian in the thrift shop banging on about its powers. It was funny to see its P.O.V. shot when chasing the boy as it consisted of only a few twigs stuck around the camera lens. Towards the end it turned into a two legged ferocious deer which was confirmed by the Indian saying it could shape shift - my guess was that the costume shop was late in its delivery.

There wasn’t a lot or horror or scares here but it was a decent effort with some nice snow covered locations and a scenario that stayed just the right side of outrageously silly.

Best Bit : Twig man’s gonna get you!
‘W’ Rating 17/23