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

Friday, 16 October 2015

No.251 : Wer

Wer at the IMDb

I went into this film knowing nothing about it which turned out to be a good choice as there were plenty of surprises and wrong foots to keep me entertained. In retrospect the title is a bit of a clue but if you want to avoid spoilers read this after you’ve seen the film and we can compare notes.

The opening of the film isn’t too promising as it looks like it’s going to be another of those crappy found footage offerings. We see a young family of three enjoying a camp out in the French countryside. Happily two of them are grabbed by an unseen menace meaning we get to the film proper with the shaky camcorder consigned to the bin.

The narrative is driven along by the usual cavalcade of rolling news clips and we learn that a French local has been arrested for the crime. This hairy brute of a man seems a fair choice as he’s most hirsute  and doesn’t say much. The case however attracts the attention of an American lady lawyer who looks to defend the suspect and get to the bottom of the killings which now number three as Mom didn’t make it.

She butts heads with the French detective in charge of the case and conducts her own investigations which suggest that the authorities may have a vested interest in chasing the suspect off his land which is a prime location for a proposed nuclear waste dump, that the locals seem strangely keen on.

Things look good for the suspect when tests show he may have a crippling disease that would preclude him from any late night murdering and dismembering frenzies. He also looks to be off the hook when a fragging great grizzly bear is found in the countryside despite them being extinct in Europe for a century. The strobe test goes ahead however to determine if our man has the rare disease - huge mistake. He breaks his bounds and kills a load of people before escaping.

The lady lawyer, who is now starting to doubt her early protestations of our man’s innocence, resolves to try and track him down. Meanwhile her assistant has a worrying wound that’s growing by the day…

I really liked this film and am surprised that it isn’t better known. It’s largely shot in a manner similar to ‘Rec’ with a lot a steady cam work and running about in an almost drama documentary style. The pace is relentless and I like how it flipped from a straightforward detective story to a full on monster picture about half way through.

The violence was extreme with jaws pulled off and body parts scattered with abandon throughout. Some of the dialogue was subtitled which was fine for me but I know some people dislike it. I think the French setting was appropriate however with legends and ‘the old ways’ seeming more believable - unlike the bear which seemed totally out of place and was left unexplained.

There were a few too many cheap scares or my liking with all sorts of stuff jumping out like birds, bats and even a pig to give you an unearned jump.

They danced about the werewolf legend for almost all the film with diseases and reactions to the moon being full used in place of calling a wolfman a wolfman. This was OK and added to the film’s modern take on an aged and clichéd genre.

If you like a lot of gruesome violence and dislike the French this could well be the film for you as the body count must be in the dozens. I liked its reinvention of the genre and its fast paced and inventive script. Definitely one to look out for.

Best Bit : Jaw Dropping!
‘W’ Rating 19/23

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

No.250 : We Still Kill the Old Way

We Still Kill the Old Way at the IMDb

 Here’s some fun in the shape of a British set ‘em up and knock ‘em down revenge thriller. It’s knowingly rubbish and peppered with a lot of ‘I thought they were dead?’ type stars, but it’s good fun and no doubt a bit of wish fulfillment for the Daily Mail set who long for the days when criminals looked after the community - Gawd bless ‘em!

The film opens with two drivers heading to different destinations. A beardy Ian ‘The Saint’ Ogilvy is in Spain while some yoofs are on their way to rob someone’s flat. Ogilvy is a retired East End criminal and living the good life in Spain. Meanwhile Aaron and his ‘E2’ crew are terrorizing Ogilvy’s old manor - noising up pensioners and single mums alike.

Aaron also shows his charms with the ladies by bedding a posh girl before taking photos of her and robbing her house. She’s not easily put off however and when Aaron suggests a second date down a dark alley she eagerly accepts. Huge mistake! - Aaaron’s plan is to ‘introduce’ her to his crew. What he doesn’t bank on however is that Steven Berkoff is dining nearby and takes on the feral rabble to save the girl. He gets killed for his trouble but we learn that he’s Ogilvy’s brother and soon the Saint is back in town and looking for revenge.

He gets together his old crew including James Cosmo off those bank adverts and DI Burnside off ‘The Bill’. What follows is a predictable hunting down of the bad guys by the slightly less bad guys until order is restored and the streets are safe for honest folk once again.

I quite liked this film but the pay off didn’t live up to the build up. Ogilvy was good as the O.C.D. Ritchie although I’m not sure he really caught the menace needed for a lethal old school gangster. He was likable and charismatic though, and it was hard not to take to his character. His henchmen weren’t as good, although they did have less to do. He was backed up by Lysette Anthony, who was almost unrecognisable, playing the woman from the neighbourhood who missed the good old days of knife fights and protection rackets. Her part was bolstered by her technology skills which enabled Ogilvy to track his quarry.

All the while the police investigation rumbled on with Alison Doody (off ‘Taffin’) playing the D.C. who respected the old school methods, especially those employed by Ogilvy, when her daughter turns out to be the one being abused by the baddies. The feral yoof were a bit too shouty to be menacing and did that side on gun grip that is so annoying. I guess they were painted this way to show their ineptitude against our ‘heroes’.

I was hoping for more once the battle lines were drawn but there were too few killings and the muddled shoot out at the hospital was somewhat disappointing. The final scene suggested a sequel could be in the offing and I certainly would be up for another slice of this ‘New Tricks’ for Bad Slags.

Best Bit : “Detective Constable? You should take out the ‘Detective’ and the ‘able’.
‘W’ Rating 15/23

Monday, 12 October 2015

No.249 : We Are Still Here

We Are Still Here at the IMDb

It’s winter 1979 and a middle age couple are heading towards their new Massachusetts home. We learn that they have recently lost their only son and the house, that they have bought cheaply, represents a new start. We know from the off that the house is a bit creepy and very beige, but the early signs of trouble are the usual false starts like a ball bouncing down the stairs and a broken photo frame.

They are soon greeted by a pair of neighbours with the man, Dave, strangely saying the house has not had fresh souls for 30 years while his wife presses a note into the woman’s hand telling her to get out of the house - she was unaware that her curtains were that bad.

They get around to unpacking and doing up the house but the sense of unease continues until an electrician, brought in to investigate a over hot basement, gets fried for his trouble. The suggested terror motif is quickly dispatched as he is confronted and Cajun cooked by some smoky figures with bright eyes. The couple aren’t put off - possibly because they got out of paying the electrician’s bill - but invite over a couple of relatives and their son and his girlfriend to visit.

The couple who are written off as ‘hippies’ have experience of the supernatural and the hope is that they can cleanse the house of the evil spirits and presumably the Kentucky fried electrician in the basement. The two couples head off to the local restaurant where they are made about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool by the locals who know the secrets of the house, I'll be bound! Meanwhile the son and his girlfriend let themselves into the empty house and pay for pilfering the Scotch by being carved up by the evil house dwellers. This pair are effectively fodder as the monsters tidy up after themselves and these atrocities are left unknown to our heroes who assume they’ve just been stood up. Nice that the monsters were keen to keep their security deposit intact!

The hippy couple start their efforts to clear the house of the unwelcome visitors but they are about as effective as a fart against a tornado. Whilst the man hippy is eating his sock and poking himself in the eye the townsfolk decide to take matters into their own hands - if our heroes escape the evil in the house will descend on the town, so they head over to help the cinder people - huge mistake. Who will survive? And why didn’t they just burn the house down years ago rather than let it kill a bunch of folk every 30 years?

I liked this haunted house horror despite it’s threadbare plot and OTT violence. The 1970’s setting was well realised with the leads sporting no end of stylish turtle necks and double knits. The actors did a decent job as looking shocked a lot and no one was scared of getting their hands dirty, as more claret was spilled than in a winery explosion.

The premise was a bit weak with the burned bodies of a wronged family showing up every 30 years in need of a fresh family to feast on. There was no reason offered for this timescale or what they were after - nourishment? revenge? A straight to DVD horror? Who knows?

The twin baddies of the monsters and the compliant townsfolk were well done, although it was more for laughs at the end when the locals showed up to help and ended up as the main course themselves. The crackling and smoking family of basement dwellers were well done and exuded some real menace.

The ending was pretty satisfying and I liked the end credits sequence that featured a lot of local newspapers recounting the horrors that had occurred over the life of the house.

I don’t think this film was particularly scary but there were plenty of gruesome kills and a nice air of unease throughout. Definitely one to check out.

Best Bit : ‘We’ll help…aaarrrrghh!’
‘W’ rating 19/23

Friday, 9 October 2015

No.248 : We Are Monster

We Are Monster at the IMDb

Uplifting family fun now as we enjoy a knockabout British romp set in a young offenders institution. Actually, scratch that - this is one of the nastiest and most depressing films you’ll ever see. It could be claimed to be a drama documentary profiling a shocking case of murder and institutional ineptitude but it’s just a horrible watch that offers nothing in the way or answers or, God forbid, entertainment.

The film opens at its inevitable conclusion with a blood soaked youth being bundled out of his cell as he stands over his bloodied victim. There is no explanation but we are then shuttled back a few weeks so that we can understand how we got here. To be honest they could have covered the ground in two minutes - mental racist kills Asian cell mate. Still if they’d went that way we wouldn’t have had the full 90 minutes of nihilistic fun and racial slurs.

The subject of the film, which is ‘based on a true story’, is Robert a self tattooed racist who has been in the system for years. He is in for threatening a call centre worker and seems off balance from the start. Before long he starts talking with himself - literally as his nasty persona takes form as himself whom only he can see. This leads to lots of scene where he is egging himself on to greater and greater feats of nastiness whilst the P.O.V.s of other prisoners show him to be talking to an empty seat.

The prison officers, who include Clem Fandango, aren’t much use and aren’t shy of a bit of casual racism themselves. They put Robert in a cell with Asian youth Zahid who is in for stealing razor blades - before long he’s going to wish he went with a beard! Zahid tried to be friendly but backs off when Robert gets more aggressive and introverted. Zahid is due to be released in a few days so resolves to keep his head down.

Robert meanwhile starts to delve into his past and tries to rationalise his situation. The film does the same with an abusive childhood and faults in the system the reason for Robert’s mental state. Some of these scenes were well done with his brown underpants wearing father beating him up as a child for wetting the bed. The film isn’t too apologist for Robert’s ultimate act but you do get the sense that they are showing him to be a victim too.

As the film moves towards its inevitable climax we are left to wonder what could have been done differently and what have we learned. Should we have watched that Adam Sandler comedy instead? Maybe!

This is an impossible film to like with its endless racist rants and unsubtle swipes at authority and society. They was an effort to explain Robert’s actions but that veered away from his own responsibility and while he was broken by the system he’s still a murdering scumbag with no redeeming features.

The film was hung on the central performance of Leeshon Alexander as Robert and he did OK with a difficult dual role. As ‘normal’ Robert he was too starey and manic and as his alter ego he was annoying and shouty. He did have difficult material to work with though, as he was spouting a lot of garbage that even the KKK would see as a tad extreme.

The closing captions of the film lay all the blame at the authorities’ door, and of course there were shortcomings, but to make apologies for the central scumbag didn’t sit right and you have to wonder about the point of the whole enterprise. The film’s vibe was hateful throughout and all I came away with was a grubby feeling for having watched the whole grim spectacle.

Best Bit - No I can’t hear you Clem Fandango
‘W’ Rating - 8/23

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

No.247 : War Pigs

War Pigs at the IMDb

It’s very easy to slag off a straight to DVD film starring a bunch of Z-list actors…so let’s do that then!

The film is a bit of an ‘Inglorious Basterds’ rip off with a rag tag group of WW2 soldiers sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Here the similarities end however as instead of Brad Pitt and Chrisoph Waltz you get a blink and you’ll miss him appearance from Mickey Rourke and Luke Goss out of ‘Bros’ in the lead. What they didn’t spend on acting talent they also didn’t spend on sets or locations with sunny America standing in for what should be a mud splattered and freezing Europe.

The film opens with Captain Luke leading his troops on a patrol. Bad judgement or intelligence leads him into a nest of Germans and everyone gets killed apart from our hero. He is carpeted by his C/O, a ridiculous looking Mickey Rourke, whose ‘eccentric Major’ doesn’t disguise the fact that he must be the only officer on the Western Front with extensive plastic surgery and a cowboy hat. He delivers his lines in his celebrated slurry fashion and tells Luke that he’s up for a court martial unless he can lead a mission into enemy territory.

Luke may be torn up at the loss of his men, or because he’s read the rest of the script, but he agrees to the mission with the promise that his court martial will go away if he makes it back. We get the idea that Mickey may have another agenda and is being all enigmatic so imagine the disappointment at the end when we learn he totally doesn’t and is just (badly) acting that way.

Luke heads off to meet his new unit the notorious ‘War Pigs’. These are the toughest troops in the army and earned their name by, er, getting down in the dirt. Again I thought this was going to be a big reveal near the end but that’s really how they came by their name. The troops are meant to be your usual bunch of misfits but they all came across as really dull. Except maybe for Dolph Lundgren who shows up as a French Foreign Legion solider who is assigned to the unit for reasons unknown.

After a long padding sequence where the guys are put through extensive training (don’t they know there’s a war on?!) they get their orders - to investigate reports of a giant German artillery gun 10 miles behind enemy lines. That doesn’t seem very far especially at this stage of the war and given they have pissed away weeks in training, but never mind, this climax will be great!

The War Pigs show their greatness by mostly getting captured right away and it’s down to Luke to save the captured troops, find the gun and squeeze out a tear before the all too welcome end credits.

I quite enjoyed this terrible film, as a guilty pleasure you understand. It failed on almost every level with no characters to speak of, very little peril and dialogue that will make you cringe. Luke is a horrible actor and didn’t convince one iota as the troubled captain. He seems a nice enough bloke but saying ‘Soldier’ in every sentence doesn’t convey authority nor did he seem believable as an action hero taking down three Jerries in a fist fight.

He was better than Rourke however, who gets a laughable front and centre slot on the poster for his five minute’s work. His Frankenstein face and white cowboy hat made him look ridiculous and he conveyed all the menace of Sylvester Stallone’s mother.

The baddies were very poor too, with the one who was charged with the predictable old Gestapo torturer role as scary as a My Little Pony. The big threat of the super gun (it’s only a model) was nothing of the kind and dispatched with such ease you wonder why they didn’t issue our guys with pea-shooters instead.

The climax, which included a seemingly heroic death for Lundgren reversed, suggested a sequel could be possible - dear God no! I’d rather fight the Germans myself!

Best Bit - Luke goes Mano-a-mano-a-mano-a-mano.
‘W’ Rating 6/23

Sunday, 4 October 2015

No.246 : W.M.D

W.M.D. at the IMDb

You won’t of heard of this film, and I bet it doesn’t grace the C.V.s of its principals, but it’s out there and I sat through the whole 80 crappy minutes of it.

The film opens with a trio of soldiers walking is a desert which is supposed to be Iraq but looks suspiciously like California. One of them steps on a mine and after five minutes of chat they engineer a way to free him without the device going off. This scene has nothing to do with the rest of the film so it must have been shot to bump up the film’s run time or to show why our men may be damaged having served in a war zone. Or maybe they found an extra $5 in the budget and fancied a day out?

Anyway the film proper opens at a Baghdad military base on Thanksgiving, where the President is coming to visit. He isn’t named but he is dressed up like George W. Bush and references are made to his father also being President so if it’s not him it’s a pretty unoriginal new character!

The President makes a few glib jokes before a soldier pulls a gun and takes the President hostage. Unfortunately the fat and bomber jacket wearing ‘Secret Service Agents’ aren’t really on the ball and soon the President and four soldiers are holed up in the kitchen where the majority of the film takes place. The five are soon joined by a lady reporter and a cameraman and so begins a drawn out conversation where the rights and wrongs of the Gulf War are explored. If that sounds a bit dry, then that’s because it is.

The leader of the kidnappers, Garrison, is large and overbearing. As well as a loud, annoying and devoid of acting skills. He also has a semi-reluctant lady soldier with him as well as a dull one and a shouty random one. Like ‘The Rock’, from where much of the film is lifted, a rescue operation goes on whilst the President is interrogated and tortured by the soldiers who want answers for the motivations behind going to war and why their friends have been killed.

Will the President be saved and what sin will the media put on the events?

I really disliked this film and it was hard to see it through. It’s agenda was clear from the start and it was almost like liberal wish fulfillment with a Bush clone being made to atone for his sins. He gets his face fried, shoes thrown at him and is water boarded and you could almost hear the long haired liberals high fiving each other off camera. Take that Republicans!

The film closed with the tired old staple of various news outlets spinning the story as a Muslim atrocity while the stock ticker on screen shows share prices rising. It wasn’t subtle and definitely not objective. It was also very low budget, poorly acted and had no redeeming features whatsoever. One to avoid!

Best Bit : ‘How do you like your face cooked?’
‘W’ Rating - 2/23

Friday, 2 October 2015

No.245 : What Richard Did

What Richard Did at the IMDb

 If you regard knowing ‘What Richard Did’ as a spoiler, walk away now as it would be hard to discuss the film without mentioning the pivotal event. You’d probably guess anyway - it’s hardly going be that he cheated at Scrabble or something.

This is an Irish film from 2012 with an unknown cast and an almost drama-documentary approach to the storytelling. The characters all chat over each other and there is very little in the way of music, something that draws you in and makes you feel like an onlooker to actual events.

The titular Richard is a young Irish rugby player. He has rich parents who own a beach house and he is the leader of his group of pals. They all look up to him and we see him carrying out good deeds such as taking a youngster under his wing and helping a girl on the verge of being date raped. These philanthropic traits are however seen in a different light later on when his skills at lying as used for less worthy goals and he is also seen to have weaknesses of his own.

The first half hour of the film is taken up with Richard and his friends heading to the beach house having bought a cargo of beer. You wonder what the point of it all is, as it trundles along with meandering scenes and largely pointless dialogue. It does well at setting the tension levels however as you are keen to know what it is that he did and when he’s going to do it - it’s Itchy and Scratchy heading to the fireworks  factory all over again!

Although handsome, fit and a friend to all we gradually get the idea that Richard maybe isn’t all he’s cracked up to with throwaway comments about people’s accents and bulimics suggesting he may be more of a dick than we initially thought. Things come to a head when he jealously sits at a party watching his new girlfriend chat to friends including a former boyfriend, and team mate of Richard, Conor.

After brooding outside the party for a while Richard confronts Conor and the two fight. After Conor gets a beating from Richard with the aid of his rugby mates, Richard gives him a final kick to the head before heading home. The next morning they learn that Conor has died of his injuries and the remainder of the film deals with the fallout. Will Richard come clean to the police or will he try to escape the consequences of his actions?

I enjoyed this moral drama and, although slightly ambiguous in its ending, I’m sure that the seeds peppered throughout the film pointed towards Richard’s character flaws dictating his final response. Although hanging on one event and decision the 85 minute film didn’t seem padded with a lot of effort put into the character development that ensured the subsequent revelations were well earned.

There were lots of scenes that ended abruptly or seemed to have little relevance but the compound effect of these was to make you feel like a voyeur peeping into the lives of others. The acting was top notch and Jack Reynor did a good job as Richard, making him likable but objectionable all at once.

At the end I don’t think there was much in the way of ambiguity and you could level accusations against the film of not having much to say. It is however an intense character piece and a great example of someone being built up and then slowly dismantled by his flaws.

‘W’ Rating 17/23
Best bit : Going for the 3 points!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

No.244 : Watchers

Watchers at the IMDb

 If you are in the market for an 80’s monster film with big hair and a super intelligent dog then ‘Watchers’ may just be what you are looking for. It’s based on a book by Dean Koontz (at least I think that’s how he spells his name) and I’m guessing it is pretty far removed from the source material as no one does much watching nor are any of the protagonists called ‘watchers’. Still I watched it (worse luck) so let’s see what we saw.

The film stars a mulleted Corey Haim who has a BMX and a hot girlfriend. They get all kissy face in a barn but before you know it she’s been kidnapped and a large monster is on the prowl. We learn from Secret Service Agent Michael Ironside (hair loss at critical levels) that an experiment has escaped from a local lab and it is on a killing spree. It doesn’t like eyes or mirrors so you have to wonder if it is having a bad hair day itself. In fact it is looking for its fellow escapee, a super smart dog. Ironside also warns that there were three experiments at the lab!

The super smart dog shows up at Corey’s house and he christens it ‘Fur face’. The dog understands English and is soon fetching hot dogs, playing Scrabble and writing computer messages with a pencil in it’s mouth. Obviously these things are impossible with paws so fortunately its handiwork happens off camera. While Corey is bonding with the dog, partly by sleeping in the nude with it under his covers, the monster is on the rampage. Various bit parts get chomped and have their eyes removed in scenes a bit too graphic for a film with a smart dog and BMX interest.

Ironside realises that Corey is his best chance to catch up with the monster and dog and soon gets as brutal as the monster - are his ties to the lab more than he is letting on or did he just find the wig shop closed? As everyone converges on a remote shack the scene is set for a titanic battle where the real monster will be unmasked and the fires will be terrifying - well there is a lot of hairspray about.

This was a right old pile of crap but it was funny and dated enough to keep me watching. Not in an ironic way where I laughed at the hairstyles and bad acting…Ok in  exactly that way.

The feeble plot doesn’t have enough to sustain a 90 minute film so subplots and disposable characters are thrown in such as Jason Priestley’s BMX gang who are dispatched in merciless fashion by the monster who clearly had enough of their terribleness - at least Piggy almost made it. The monster itself was a slow reveal with hairy arms and the odd toothy yell all we were treated to. They should maybe have kept it ambiguous as the 'terrifying creature' turned out to be the same costume as the one from‘Bigfoot and the Hendersons’.

The acting, admittedly with terrible material, was shocking with Michael Ironside doing his best to be a hard as nails baddie whilst trying to stop dazzling us all with his bald head and spouting his menace free dialogue. At one point his partner says “This is pretty ridiculous, don’t you think?” Sir, you are correct!

Best Bit : Michael’s big reveal
‘W’ Rating 11/23

Sunday, 27 September 2015

No.243 : World War Dead : The Rise of the Fallen

World War Dead : The Rise of the Fallen at the IMDb

Towards the end of this British ‘found footage’ horror one of the soon to be scoffed characters does an earnest piece to camera. “This is the craziest shit I’ve ever experienced” he says. Well, he’s half right - it certainly was shit!

Of course, with a title like this one you can’t expect much and it certainly delivers nothing at all, except for a series of predictable jerky encounters with some out of focus and anachronistic solder zombies.

Still I’m getting ahead of myself - let’s do the plot - that should cover a sentence! The film opens with some captions and stock footage about the Battle of the Somme - neat way to pad the already skinny 75 minute run time. We learn that a distinguished documentary film maker (who seemingly works out of a Transit van with a bunch of amateurs) has gone missing and what follows is cut from footage that was later found. So far so very predictable.

The characters have none to speak of and they all bitch about each other and argue pointlessly to either build up the tension or to disguise the fact that there is no script and that the zombie extras have only been paid for 20 minutes. The shoot is interrupted when mysterious figures appear in the background and a ‘French’ passer-by advises that it is ‘tres dangerous’ to be in the area.

There are plenty of false starts before the expert starts pulling on a chain that was next to a lake. This reveals a skeleton which belongs to a soldier from an African regiment who practiced bringing the dead back to life. He has a handy amulet in his stomach which the expert pockets, oblivious to its deadly powers! In no time flat the crew is besieged by resurrected soldiers from the Somme battlefield who strangely seem to be wearing World War 2 uniforms. They also have a taste for flesh which is unexplained apart from that’s what zombies do, I guess.

Some of the cast get chomped and another lot find an abandoned, but curiously well stocked, bunker and plot their salvation. Some handy 100 year old dynamite may help their fight and if they can rebury the skeleton (which wasn’t buried in the first place), maybe the dead will rest again. Can’t fault logic like that!

This was a shocker of a film and in no way is that a compliment. For starters I’ll bet the whole thing was filmed in England with one stuck on number plate and a dreadful ‘local’ the only nods to the actual location of the Somme battlefield. To be fair there is no way rubbish like this would get permission to film there, and if that’s the case you have to wonder about the inclusion of old footage of real and dead soldiers from the time. Regular readers will know PC isn’t my thing but real dead soldiers being used to set the scene for this tosh was plain disrespectful.

The acting was ghastly, as was the script which I don’t doubt was improvised throughout. The jerky cameras were vomit inducing and the added crackles and interference offered only annoyance, not authenticity. Very little was done in the was of explaining the zombies’ motivation or the fact that after 100 years the only decay they exhibited was that pasty face make up that students do at Halloween.

The only scares were of the usual ‘jump out’ variety allied to a screech on the soundtrack which wore thin the first time, never mind the fifth.

OK it’s hokey garbage with no pretense at great art or even competent movie making, but this was an embarrassment to all concerned not to mention an affront to common decency in general.

Best Bit - Head gets pulled off
‘W’ Rating 3/23

Thursday, 24 September 2015

No.242 : We Are What We Are (2013)

We Are What We Are (2013) at the IMDb

 Back in Blog 234 we had a look at the Mexican original of ‘We Are What We Are’ and, as threatened, we now turn to the 2013 American remake. There is a certain snobbery in movie reviewers to side with the subtitles but for my money the American version is far superior to its predecessor.

The action, as you’d expect, has been transplanted to America with our heroes now a reclusive farming family in the backwoods of a small town. The film opens much as the original but this time the person barfing blood is a woman rather than a man. Can't nail its 'not a total remake’ colours to the mast any plainer than that! The town is in the throes of a large storm and flood and the biblical flood metaphor prevails throughout as it uncovers secrets and possibly washes away sins - I’m not totally clued up due to spotty Sunday school attendance.

Anyway word soon gets back to the family that Mom isn’t making it home with the groceries and it’s up to dad, his two daughters and young son to keep the family traditions alive. In some ways it is a shame that this is a remake as you know they are cannibals from the start, but if you saw this film fresh it keeps their secret and dieting habits a mystery for much of the film.

While the family is coming to terms with their situation Mom is on the mortuary slab and some unsettling findings are coming to light. There is nothing as oblique as the first film’s finger in the stomach but the doctor finds evidence of a disease that is associated with eating human brains. The Doc also has his own crosses to bear as his own daughter is one of the many people from the area who have gone missing over time.

Back at the homestead Dad has to become provider despite his own worrying hand tremors. His two pretty daughters are a bit more practical and this comes in handy when Dad brings in some road kill for them to prepare. They are reluctant to get involved in the family traditions despite reading up in them in an old journal which dissolves into flashback for those of us interested in the history of people eating.

Meanwhile the flood has washed away some ground and exposed some bones that look both human and cooked. The Doctor enlists the help of the deputy after the sheriff brushes him off and soon the clues regarding the cannibals’ capers start to mount up. Will the long tradition end and will the phrase ‘having Dad over for dinner’ take a new meaning?

I enjoyed this film a lot more than its Mexican counterpart. It was more interesting with better developed characters and a real sense of unease and horror. They did away with the wacky elements and that made it a lot more scary - a gang of cannibals with a sense of purpose and entitlement is plenty to carry a film without distractions.

There was a pervading sense of decay with the Mom needlessly drowning in a ditch  a fitting opening to all of the nihilistic treats to follow. Some of the metaphor such as the flooding and the graveyard scene were a bit broad but overall it did well not to be sensational but creepy and unsettling instead.

I think it was a bit confusing to have the Doctor and the Dad look so similar as it was often double take time, but it was well acted right up to the last five minutes where it went a bit over the top. The violence was horrific but used sparingly and I think the horror from this film will remain through its general vibe rather than the spade whackings and neck bitings.

It was 20 minutes longer than its predecessor but the time was well used to created an affecting and disturbing piece of work which will put you off home made stew for the foreseeable future.

‘W’ Score 18/23
Best Bit : Stiff in the Cemetery

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

No.241 : When Trumpets Fade

When Trumpets Fade at the IMDb

‘TV Movie’ is often a solid pointer to the quality you can expect from a film but this HBO production was impressive in terms of its cast, scale and effects.

The film is book-ended with scenes of soldiers carrying an injured comrade from the battle field. In between the horrors of the Hurtgen Forest campaign are explored through the eyes of Manning, played by Ron Eldard - he was the nice one in ‘Drop Dead Fred’.

Manning is a lowly private who cares only for surviving the war. His platoon has been decimated and he is carrying his fallen comrade Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) on his back. We know it’s a pointless gesture as Donovan has what looks like a pink jellyfish stuck on the side of his head and soon Manning has to make a terrible choice.

Back at base his commanders recognize his battlefield skills - basically staying alive - and promote him to Sergeant in charge of a group of new recruits. Manning drills them mercilessly hoping to keep both them and himself alive. Things come to a head when he is charged with capturing a bridge with the promise of a medical discharge if he’s successful. Will he win his discharge at any cost and will a battlefield promise hold any weight anyway?

I wasn’t expecting much from this 90 minute TV movie but it delivered on almost all fronts. There were a lot of familiar clichés and some sections were virtual retreads of the episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ that covered the same engagement. Of course if you have a flamethrower it has to explode and there were a couple of inventive scenes such as the walk through the mine field which kept things interesting.

The cast was excellent although some big named players such as Timothy Olyphant were in virtual ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ roles. It was also a waste to have Bobby Carnivale in the cast and have him as an officer’s assistant rather than some murderous gung-go maverick that we know he does so well.

Ron Eldard was OK in the lead but I wasn’t totally buying his fragile mental state and his self preservation bit was incongruous with his actions when helping out his platoon. I guess he’s a mixed up character but it’s hard to pull for someone when you don’t know where their motivations lie.

For a TV film there is a fuck load of swearing and some of the deaths and dismemberments were up there on the ‘Private Ryan’ scale of gory. The battle scenes were well executed with a well drilled cast of dozens doing well in a fantastically realised battlefield full of debris and body parts.

I don’t think the film had an awful lot new to say about the horrors of war, and as a character study it was lacking too, but overall this was an enjoyable spectacle and well worth a look.

Best Bit : Bridge Offensive
‘W’ Rating 17/23

Saturday, 19 September 2015

No.240 : When Calls the Heart

When Calls the Heart at the IMDb

 You might think that it is hard to still come up with quality entries for the ‘W’ movie Blog after a torturous trail of 239 and counting but don’t believe it - it’s been a slog since we hit double figures! That is not to say that today’s film was scraping the barrel somewhat, more like scraped through the barrel and burrowed down 10 miles through to the Earth’s core!

‘When Calls the Heart’ is a Hallmark film so you can guarantee from the off there will be no sex or violence. Let’s watch it anyway! The annoying daughter who can’t act off the ‘Taken’ films stars in this as an annoying daughter who can’t act - the girl’s got range!

The film is set in olden days America where not an inch of flesh is shown and all the people of colour are on the staff. They try for  high end look but it’s more ‘Downton Shabby’ than ‘Abbey’. Everyone affects a high pitch posh voice which is annoying, as it is fake. Our heroine, Elizabeth, is a newly qualified teacher and looking onward to getting her first job. Her parents are keen for her to go to a prestigious college with Cherie Lunghi doing her best upper class twit bit as Mom.

Elizabeth is offered a top job but the sleazy recruiting agent, Mr Higgins, implies that he expects some favours for granting the post. Dirty bastard, although given the credentials of the film he’s probably just after some laundry being done. Elizabeth is distraught when her refusal to put out leads her to be offered a post in the Wild West. She is torn at first but soon finds her Aunt’s diary which details her own career as a Wild West school teacher.

The remainder of the film jumps back and forth with the diary extracts acted out by ‘Taken’ daughter wearing a blonde wig while her present day travails have her in a black wig; like I say the girl has range! The film plods on as blonde Elizabeth tries to teach the kids and weakly fend off the advances of Stephen ‘Arrow' Amell, while black hair Elizabeth endures the hazardous journey west with her Mountie protector. Things get near to a conclusion on both fronts when it’s revealed the movie is a precursor to a TV series where all the plot threads will go to die - well I’m not watching that so I’ll just assume they all die of the plague!

You can’t really find fault with a film like this as it was clear from the off what sort of gentle peril we will encounter. Things were perhaps best illustrated when black haired Elizabeth’s stagecoach gets held up by the most polite and respectful road agents you could imagine. None of them said ‘motherfucker’ and they didn’t even try to touch the hem of her ankle length dress - ‘Deadwood’ this was not.

You could see some old ladies lapping this up with barely registering scares such as a wolf ‘attack’ followed by a three mouse home invasion. On the romance front it was hard to pick between the past and present candidates both of whom were more wooden than the old homestead.

Knowing now that it was destined to be a serial it was apparent that little mysteries were being seeded throughout such as the fate of the Aunt and why her diary was hidden in the safe. I’m thinking illegal abortions but given the films trajectory it’s more likely she missed ten minutes of church.

The acting was uniformly dreadful with the fish out of water elements, when our girl had to rough it, the worst - putting mashed potato on your face and telling tales of bed wetting are hardly the stuff of legend.

You may see worse gentle and harmless fayre but I doubt it!

‘W’ Rating 5/23
Best Bit : “I piss the bed too”

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

No.239 : What Now

What Now at the IMDb

The other night I watched ‘Deep Impact’ and it was funny to see how the fledgling internet was shown with the marvels of search engines a wonder to all. That film was from 1997 and has dated poorly, but not as poorly as ‘What Now’ will have in the next 20 minutes - and it was made in 2015!

I suppose the producers would say that it captures the zeitgeist of the moment but when a film is hung entirely on online dating apps you can tells it’s not going to get a place in the National Archives. To be honest, it has dated already with Ashley Madison talked about as a going concern. Someone also references Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ so there’s another zinger for the folks in 2525!

The film concerns five LA single blokes who are trying for love online. They mostly work in a strip joint so you think there would be the odd woman there but they are ore interested in the ‘swipe right’ kind of ladies. They are presented as a mixed bag of personalities and types but they come across as assholes to a man.

The lead is DJ who works as the strip joint DJ - imaginative naming there. He’s in his 30s and keen for love but for some reason for a guy in the music and stripping businesses he’s a bit shy. He confides in his friends who are all similarly unattached and unsuccessful with the women. After a night of swiping hundreds of ladies they get no matches and decide something has to change.

Sadly the film has no ambition to rehabilitate its characters so one shaves his head and they take new profile pics before broadening their search beyond Hollywood and hey presto - dates! They all take the first girl available with predictably mixed results. One gets an S&M loving MILF while another gets one who is clearly mental as she’s a vegan and spots him as a jock.

Meanwhile a group of girls are also on the dating hunt and rating our men. Can love be found and will our men’s’ shallow approach pay dividends or will they need to see woman beyond a 2-D image to find true love and happiness?

This was a gawd awful mess of a film but I have to confess its terribleness was strangely compelling and I stayed through to the end to see what facile fates our heroes were granted. The old standard of the macho man inadvertently dating a transsexual was rolled out along with many other dating nightmares no doubt designed to get the hen nights cackling at the men’s inadequacy.

To be fair there are plenty of nightmare woman too from the socially responsible nightmare to the moody goth ; but they are all caricatures except for the lovely girl who balks at our hero’s strip show job but we hope to see back to give us all a hope of dating redemption!

The acting is terrible and you get the impression the whole affair was done with favours and cameos from the director’s softball team. One chap ‘Richard’ has the worst English accent you’ll ever hear and the rest have all the charming small talk and chemistry of an SS guard. For some reason Ice-T  shows up as himself and you can only imagine he walked onto the wrong set and earned a credit as a result.

It’s certainly not a film to track down, or even one to watch if you have put off the ironing for a couple of days, but if you are semi conscious and it shows up late night I wouldn’t say you have to turn it off. Fainter praise than that I don’t have.

Best Bit : The worst (at acting) English rock group ever.
‘W’ Rating : 7/23

Friday, 4 September 2015

No.238 : When the Lights Went Out

When the Lights Went Out at the IMDb

Paranormal activity in 1970’s Yorkshire now in this British frightener.

The film opens with  a husband and wife traveling to their new home with their teenage daughter. It’s 1974 and times are tough, although some affluent neighbours do have satellite dishes! The family is struggling financially but hope to have a fresh start in their new council semi.

Unfortunately for them they have moved into a home occupied by a cliché obsessed poltergeist who goes through the usual routine of slamming doors and moving stuff about. The 13 year old daughter is more attuned to goings on and soon sees a spooky figure in the TV - maybe it was ‘Top of the Pops’? The initially skeptical family soon start to believe when they each have an encounter with the spirit, although to be fair it does do a good job of stripping wall paper.

The torn faced daughter confides in her lovely teacher Martin Compston who does some research and takes the class to an old monastery where the girl has a vision of a monk being hanged. There is also a fortunate museum exhibition with lax security which leads the girl to believe her poltergeist pal is the ghost of a 13 year old landowner’s daughter who was killed by a mad monk. She steals the girl’s pendant from the museum as it’s bound to come in handy or she can swap it for some Spangles at the very least.

The case starts to get some coverage from the press and soon the marriage is under stress due to all the nocturnal fumblings that take place when the husband is away - that old excuse again! As the frequency and potency of the attacks increase can a seance or even the Catholic church save the day?

This was an OK, by the numbers, low budget haunted house tale. It was no ‘The House that Bled to Death’ but it went pretty much as you’d expect and had a decent finale that looks like it soaked up 95% of the budget.

The 1970’s were fairly realised but it was a mistake to throw in lots of ‘funny’ lines about avocado bath suites and ugly curtains just so that we in the present day can have a cheap snigger. It was incongruous and took you straight out of any sense of buying into the film’s reality. There were also a plethora of 70’s toys scattered about for the nostalgia effect only including a fully loaded Buckaroo that went off in the night - who ever left their Buckaroo piled high overnight?!

The plot was slight and although less than 90 minutes the film needed some padding to make it to feature length. The solving of the mystery was somewhat pat and the good versus evil battle at the end hadn’t been fully fleshed out for it to make sense. The special effects were quite good although a bit off kilter compared to the rest of the film - we went from muddy 70’s sepia to Industrial Light and Magic for the last couple of minutes.

All in all this was a decent effort but if they wanted something really scare from the 1970’s they should just have recreated the Radio 1 road show.

Best Bit : Uh-oh Slinky attack!
‘W’ Scot 13/23

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

No.237 : What We Did On Our Holiday

What We Did On Our Holiday at the IMDb

 If you like films about bickering couples (and who doesn’t?) this may well be the one for you.

Tenth Doctor David Tennant takes his family on a journey through time and space - well, it happens over a couple of days and they go to Scotland - where marital and family differences are all played out around the celebrations of his father’s (Billy Connolly’s) birthday.

Tennant is married to Rosamund Pike and rather than thank the Good Lord he spends all his time fighting with her - to be fair e never really got over Billie Piper. The pair live in London with their three stage school kids and have a daunting trip ahead of them to the Scottish Highlands where his brother (Ben Miller) and father live.

Ben is a total asshole who bullies his son and values his money over everything else. Bet he learns a lesson soon! He also has the worst Scottish accent you can imagine and it must have been that Alexander Armstrong was busy that weekend.

The family gather and we start to learn some home truths including some infidelity and that Billy has cancer. The innocent kids give away a lot of the family secrets to which wise old Billy dispenses increasingly annoying homilies, as he tries to protect them from the fractious family difficulties.

As the day of the day of the big birthaday party arrives an event occurs that leads all of the family to reevaluate their values and relationships. Yes, I’m afraid it’s that dull!

This was a largely inoffensive film but one that became increasingly annoying as it progressed. The characters were all thinly drawn and I didn’t really care why they were bickering never mind hope that they could become reconciled. The kids all did their best but there were a lot of fluffed lines and the wisdom of their innocence quickly became a real niggle.

The pivotal scene after an hour was as mawkish as it was unlikely - some of the impromptu building work carried out would have stumped Brunel!

It was a good cast with a lot of familiar faces popping up for five minutes but they were largely underused with shouting and yelling taking centre stage over any attempts at wit or charm.

The film was written and directed by Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton of ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’ fame and it’s a shame they produced such an anodyne and forgetful comedy rather than take a few chances, as we’d expect from them. It’s definitely not one to hate but just a twee and forgettable bit of fluff with nothing really to say and no laughs offered either.

Best Bit : No Osprey? Let’s paint one on the film!
‘W’ Rating 10/23

Monday, 31 August 2015

No.236 : When Night is Falling

When Night Is Falling at the IMDb

Softcore lesbian action now - well it can’t all be Werewolves and Winters! This is a strange film to categorise - there is something there for those seeking mild titillation but it is also a love story and maybe a bit of wish fulfilment for those with their preferences nailed inside the closet.

The film sets its cards of the table from the start with two naked ladies cavorting underwater to some dreamy music as the titles roll. We don’t know who they are but it is probably just letting everyone know early doors what to expect and to double bolt the door  in case of unexpected visitors.

Our heroine, Camille, teaches myths at a buttoned down seminary college. She wears bland and unsexy clothing and even drives a grey Volvo - they may be trying to suggest she’s not much of a risk taker! She has a partner, who had the fish tank blown up on him in the first ‘Mission Impossible’ film, and the two hope to wed soon. He is out of town on business a lot but they hope to secure a job together at the college where they can work closely together teaching wholesome values to all the students.

Hopefully Camille is better at teaching than looking after her dog as it escapes from her home and is later found dead in an alley. She is suitably upset but bungs its body in the fridge and heads off to the laundrette. At this point she is so stuffy she wears a buttoned up cardigan to do her laundry, but still manages to catch the eye of Petra who gives her arm a suggestive rub when she hears of the dog’s demise. Camille is aghast and runs home, but we suspect she was a bit tempted to know her touchy friend a bit better.

Later on she discovers that she has switched laundry bags with Petra, but luckily she has her card so that they can exchange their smalls - oldest excuse in the book! Before the undie exchange can take place however, Camille and her partner Martin have an important interview with the stuffy college elders. Strangely Camille dresses from Petra’s laundry bag and chooses a top which has her knockers practically hanging out. It’s therefore surprising that the interview goes badly!

Camille then goes to exchange her clothes with Petra and discovers that she works in one of those S&M circuses that we’re always hearing about. Petra again tries it on but a weakening Camille says no once again. A clearly torn Camille must choose between her safe but dull partner and a life with a travelling circus with a hot and sexy lady lover. What will she do? Check the poster if you need a hint…

I quite liked this film and not for the reasons you are no doubt imagining. If you were looking for sexy thrills this tame effort with lipstick lesbians would hardly get you motoring, but it was quite touching and almost innocent in it’s attitudes towards lesbian love, which they make out as forbidden fruit rather than an accepted state of being. Still it was made in 1995.

The look of the film is strange; it looks like one of those Hallmark films with a fuzzy focus and a single camera - cheap in other words. They did try to mix it up however with a hang-gliding class shoehorned in for no other reason to run that old ‘I’m never doing it’ before a sharp cut to them soaring in the sky routine. I think even my talents at missing metaphor failed here as her taking a chance at one thing, which she enjoyed, may have been a foreshadowing to something else?

I did feel sorry for the boyfriend who had no chance when the sexy Petra came on the scene. He was given a gentle landing with the promise of some romance in the pipeline for himself, but over all he was reduced to being a peeping Tom squinting into a circus wagon - we’ve all been there!

The agenda was clear from the start and whilst no one was jeering the fledgling lovers all the stuffed shirts who represented society were suitably outraged. If the film was trying for controversy it failed however, as you ended up thinking ‘good for them’ rather than society was doomed.

The sex scenes were few and not too graphic and although 27 year old Camille’s change in allegiance wasn’t believable it was better than the ‘dead’ dog and the circus ringmaster who had all the showmanship of John Major.

Overall a fun and heart-warming distraction which rose above its budget limitations to produce something worthwhile and memorable.

Best Bit : Oh I’ve hurt my knee - better take all your clothes off…

‘W’ Rating 16/23

Friday, 28 August 2015

No.235 : Wild Target

Wild Target at the IMDb

Some people say British comedies are all the same predictable rubbish and feature the same old faces. Well if it’s ‘Wild Target’ they are commenting upon it’d be had to argue with them!

Bill Nighy plays a hit man with mother and emotional issues. He’s had a long and successful career as an assassin, which he puts down to meticulous planning and not getting emotionally involved. We can see he’s hurting as he learns French from a tape and has dinner on his own, but surely nothing can break his granite like façade?

Meanwhile free spirited Emily Blunt is organising an art scam. She has hooked poor sucker Rory Kinnear to paint her an exact copy of an old master which she will then sell to Rupert Everett having shown him the original (Rory works at the National Gallery) before switching to the fake. The plan goes well and she makes £900k but the scheme falls apart when the paint is discovered to still be wet - art forgery mistake number one, you’d think!

Anyway Rupert hires Bill to kill Emily and after following her about town for a day Bill starts to take a shine to the thieving harlot. He is however about to shoot her when a rival hit man, Rab C Nesbitt, shows up and Bill has to decide to take the contract or the girl. Things are further complicated when Ron Weasley shows up and Bill, Ron and Emily have to escape together.

The remainder of the film is more or less padding as the three unlikely bedfellows get to know each other and themselves before evil hit man, Tim from the Office, tracks them down for a final showdown.

I don’t think I cracked a smile once during this alleged comedy. I normally quite like Bill Nighy but his character here was such a cliché it was hard to care. The meticulous hit man undone by a target plot is a lot older than Bill and frankly he is getting on a bit for his romance with Emily to be believable or even seemly. She is meant to come across as a free spirited rock chick but only manages ‘shallow thieving bint who gets lots of folk killed’.

Ron’s part is pretty superfluous and although he’s meant to be the son Bill never had he’s more like the guy who can’t act who’ll bring in the Harry Potter audience. Things should have been improved by adding Tim from ‘The Office’ to the mix but he lacked the menace his character was supposed to exclude and his comedy dentures were a mistake.

The climax, which has the most blatant foreshadowing I can remember (“be careful with that gun it explodes when fired”), was terrible but at least welcome as it signalled the film was nearly done.

I wasn’t bothered by the film’s shaky moral compass, only by it’s dearth of laughs and predictable plot.

Best Bit : Bill listens to his radio set
‘W’ Score : 9/23

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

No.234 : We Are What We Are (2010)

We Are What We Are at the IMDb

 I don’t normally add release dates to my titles but this Mexican film was remade in America in 2013 and we may have a look at that later, but I doubt it unless it is rated a lot higher than this frankly dull and unappetising feature.

The film concerns a family of cannibals living in plain sight in a modern Mexican city. It opens with an older man staggering through the streets, pausing only to throw up some dark fluids and to ogle some swimsuits mannequins. He’s warned off by the store owner before he keels over and dies - he won’t be shopping there again! As soon as he hits the deck a clean up crew is on the scene to remove his body and his vomit before fashionable consumers pass the spot as if nothing had happened.

This shows right away that the city is somewhat removed from what we would see as normal and I’m sure it’s also making some point about consumerism that I’m too slow to fully comprehend. The action then moves to a small market where two brothers run a watch repair stall. Their customer service is somewhat lacking when an unhappy customer gets a bunch of fives for compensation and their day is further spoiled when they are informed that the man we saw dying earlier was in fact their father.

They head home to tell their mother and sister of the news and a family crisis meeting is held. Dad was the chief provider for the family and mum is concerned that the two boys may not be up to the job of replacing him. It’s not immediately clear what they are up to but matters are soon resolved when we witness the father’s autopsy which includes a finger, complete with nail varnish, being removed from his stomach. Clearly not one to chew his food!

The family are cannibals and they need a body on a regular basis to both eat and to complete their rituals. Meanwhile the wacky autopsy experts hand their findings and the finger to the equally offbeat police who are less than interested. What follows is a quest for food and a somewhat haphazard police investigation which leads to an inevitable conclusion with plenty of gore along the way.

I expected more of this film given it was deemed worthy of a remake and its interesting premise. I think my problem was that I just didn’t care about the family nor was I totally grossed out by their antics. There were a few kills but most of the nasty stuff happened off camera or behind a large plastic sheet. We never really got to the heart of their motivation and they seemed more or less normal which wasn’t unsettling at all.

The whole film has a skewed from reality vibe but that just took it further from the realms of horror for me and into a fantasy world where nothing really mattered. The two brothers were OK but a bit too brooding and lacking in character for me. For cannibals they were fussy eaters with prostitutes and homosexuals both off the menu despite their easily available flesh. I’m sure this was a commentary on society in general with the cannibals more caring than the world at large but that was kind of undone with some of their generally shabby behaviour.

Something may have been lost in the Spanish translation but or me this was just a bunch of weirdoes hitting people with spades and chomping down on fake flesh with little or no point to the whole enterprise. I wasn’t shocked or horrified - just a bit bored and in an 80 minute film about cannibals that’s pretty poor going.

Best Bit - Off to the dancing’!
‘W’ Rating 12/23

Sunday, 23 August 2015

No.233 : Wing Commander

Wing Commander at the IMDb

 Films based on video games are invariably great so this should be a lot of fun…

Oh well, let’s have a look anyway. This 1999 film is based on a video game series I haven’t played but it has a pretty strong cast and has some decent special effects so hopefully it won’t be a total waste of time.

The film is set in ‘Earth Year 2654’ and opens with JFK’s speech about the benefits of space exploration before giving us a potted history of the future leading up to the ‘present day’ where mankind is engaged in a war with the Kolrathi, strange cat like beings who have shinier spaceships than us. An initial skirmish goes badly when the bad guys knock out one of our ships and steal a navigation computer that will allow them to find Earth.

The field command, lead by David ‘Poirot’ Suchet and David Warner (for once not a baddie) have to get some intel to a remote station and the only vessel capable of getting there ahead of the aliens is the lowly ‘Dilligent’ crewed by Fred out of the Scooby Doo films and strangely Shaggy as well. This pre-dated Scooby by a couple of years so someone must have thought they had chemistry together or maybe there was just a lazy casting agent with some Tip-pex.

Anyway our men get the orders delivered and join up as pilots in Saffron Burrow’s fighter squad. She’s the ‘Wing Commander’ of the title which is strange as she isn’t the focus of the film and isn’t in it too much, but a franchise is a franchise I guess! There are a few bits of conflict, mainly about Fred’s ancestry and Shaggy’s recklessness but the remainder of the film is a cat and mouse chase with the bad guys as our heroes try and save Earth whilst trotting out as many sci-fi clichés as possible.

This is a really poor film that demands a lot of the viewer who is willing to stay the course. It is hard to be invested in any of the characters who are all thinly drawn with arcs so dismal that they look a lot like straight lines. The hero Fred faces challenges as he has a ‘Pilgrim’ mother - this is an untrusted alien race and his heritage allows lots of prejudice and conflict - bit like Misters Worf and Spock really. That’s a bit unfair given Worf came later but it’s just such a familiar sci-fi trope that it is hard to get interested. He even has an ancient amulet - a bit like Lone Star off ‘Spaceballs’!

The action scenes are reasonably well done with 3-D space well rendered and the dangers quite real. The problem is that one battle lurches into another and it’s hard to keep the energy and indeed interest up. I started to lose track of what wormhole was what and where we were in relation to the eventual victory, which was never in doubt. There really just was nothing to get invested in and despite some noble sacrifices and heartbreaking losses it showed its video game roots with immediate respawns of near identical characters taking up the slack.

It wasn’t downright terrible but it just lumbered along and given the bad guys would have been laughed off a 1970’s ‘Dr Who’ episode for being unconvincing it’s no surprise that the inevitable victory was tinged with so much ‘so what?’.

It’s a shame a good cast wasn’t better utilised and I got the feeling several of them had ten minutes on set to secure their pay cheques and places on the credits to make it look a more worth endeavour than it actually was. Forgettable cookie cutter stuff.

Best Bit : First space battle was good - fourth replay less so.
‘W’ Score 8/23

Friday, 21 August 2015

No.232 : When the Game Stands Tall

When the Game Stands Tall at the IMDb

 High school American football now, as the record breaking high school team De La Salle’s 151 game record gets the Hollywood treatment. Clearly winning 151 games in a row isn’t interesting enough as the film gets the dreaded ‘Inspired by a true story’ tag which effectively means loads of it might be made up - and according to Wikipedia it is.

Still, it isn’t billed as a documentary so let’s see if it stands up on its own two feet as a compelling sports drama.

Jesus Christ himself, Jim Caviezel stars as coach Bob Ladouceur who has lead the school to 12 straight school championships. As well as football coach he’s also scripture teacher and is married to Laura Dern, which is nice. The film opens with the Championship winning game and the pressure on the teams to maintain ‘The Streak’.  Predictable problems soon arise when star players are distracted by lucrative college offers and pushy parents tries to push their own kids into the team.

Bob has is own issues when he has a heart attack and is also tempted by offers to coach elsewhere. He also has a son on the team who isn’t that good and who takes the huff with his bedridden Dad when told that Pop may not be able to coach sports whilst he’s still warming a hospital bed.

The close season is a busy time as a player gets gunned down at a party and the new roster of players aren’t as keen on sharing their thoughts and holding hands, which helped the previous lot so well. Trouble is also brewing in the league as rival teams accuse Bob of tempting all the best players and basically cheating to keep his streak alive.

They may have a point as Bob retaliates by playing a higher ranked team and immediately loses the streak. After a second loss things threaten to go pear shaped especially as Kurgan out of ’Highlander’s son is closing in on a touchdown record that would make his old man happy and potentially enhance the boy’s future.

Things do improve and a mini streak sees the team to the championship game but can they win and will the lessons they have learned make them better people?

I was really disappointed in this film which had the potential to be good but ended up a cliché ridden mess. As soon as they left the path of truth and introduced extra dramatic elements all was lost for me. Facts were discarded and others made up which made all the achievements and sacrifices pointless.

The sub-plot of the Kurgan pressurising his son towards the touchdown record for his own aggrandisement was so well worn and hackneyed that you knew how it would play out. Every time the dad was on screen he was jabbering on about ‘the record’ and given the message that the team is more important you won’t need two guesses to see how that one plays out.

Caviezel is OK in the lead but he lacked the inspirational qualities the role demanded. His scenes with his wet son were a bit cringey and he had no spark at all with the lovely Laura Dern, who was criminally underused.

There were long periods with no on field action at all, with large swathes of the film taken up with the familiar territory of young black athletes being tempted by cars and the like and a chance to escape their tough existence.

There was nothing new in this film and given it deviated so far from the source material it failed as a biography or as a true story either. A pointless exercise all round.

Best Bit : Need a time out for that one.

‘W’ Score 6/23