The Trouble With Deadpool

The Trouble With Deadpool

Herein lie SPOILERS!!!

I had seen this poster for Deadpool and thought ‘That looks a cheeky and irreverent superhero movie! I must investigate…’

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I then watched a trailer to realise to my absolute horror that the man under the mask was played by of all people Ryan Reynolds. I instantly dismissed the movie because of this fact (well wouldn’t you?!). I then started to see the other posters for the movie and how clever they were. The art of the movie poster is at an all time low but this film had countless brilliant designs. Someone at the studio had actually used their brain (oh my). They had even designed posters that lambasted the generic and bland movie posters that we’re all used to seeing today-

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I love the idea of some sappy couple seeing the above artwork and deciding to give this romcom a whirl.

I then saw a review on TV in which the reviewer said that he laughed constantly throughout the film. The lead character was meant to be extremely potty-mouthed. In fact he was described as a sort of Roger’s Profanisaurus on two legs. That pretty much sold me to this movie.

But when I started watching the film I quickly started to think ‘What the fuck am I doing here?!’ This is a movie written specifically for the demographic who read comic books, live on the internet, never leave their bedrooms and possibly have Asperger’s Syndrome. Its also about as full-on dirty as an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

The character of Deadpool has not just one wisecrack for every action in the movie but ten. And hes going to use them all! This becomes tiresome really, really quickly. Especially as every wisecrack is aimed the geeky demographic this film exploits so fully. Other elements of the film are also aimed at this same group of viewers. The kind of people who think that its great for a film to play ‘Shoop’ by Salt N Pepa as if its both cool and funny. The kind of people who think that the opening credits are really funny because they don’t show the actors names but the character types instead (for example ‘moody teenager’, ‘gratuitous cameo’). The kind of people who think that the fact that Deadpool is a big fan of tragic 80s pop group Wham! is brilliant beyond belief. The kind of people I fucking hate.

Deadpool seems to overdo everything that it thinks is zany and quirky. Why break the fourth wall once when you can do it time and time again? Except this isn’t fine. If you’re gonna do this in a movie then do it once, do it quickly and then get back to the film in question. The same goes for being self-referential. Yes we know this is a movie, that it has Ryan Reynolds in it who has been in People magazine and that its based on Marvel comics. Now please don’t have Deadpool mention this to us time and time again. Oops, too late.

Strip away the clever marketing and all of the other gimmicks and you have a very conventional movie that relies on a tried and tested formula- hero (even though he says he isn’t one) seeks revenge on his aggressor. We learn through flashbacks what happened to him. There is a final showdown between him and his aggressor. He wins and even gets his girl back even though he is disfigured.

I feel like I’m focussing on only the negative points of this movie. I found that I could sit through it even though some sequences were buttockclenchingly irritating. The love story between Wade and his gal was touching especially as they were both outsiders (this gives hope to the nerds in the audience -they might actually find love themselves beyond a box of Kleenex.) And the fight scenes, when they weren’t being irritating (the numbers on the bullets idea wore thin real fast) were very entertaining.

Deadpool isn’t as brilliant or innovative as it thinks it is. But the studio couldn’t give two hoots about this. Deadpool is breaking all box office records know to man, there are sequels to be made and endless cross-over possibilities with other Marvel superhero movies to be milked for all they’re worth. Of course there will be fanboys who will hate what I’ve just written. But I don’t care.

Its great that this hoodie wearing demographic will now have something to quote other than Bazinga. Its also great that clever marketing and the art of the movie poster seems to have been resurrected again. But don’t tell me that Deadpool is the last word in movie innovation. Thats a joke too far.

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Shudder

Shudder

How come I didn’t get the memo about Shudder?!

I was looking for the Giallo movie Bay of Blood to watch on Netflix but it wasn’t there anymore. I looked online and discovered the horror movie streaming site Shudder.

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This site is amazing- its like Netflix for horror fans. Plenty of new films, old classics and loads of Giallo.

I honestly can’t recommend this site enough. Oh and if you’re going to join look out for reviews written by Meathook Cinema.

OK- infomercial over 🙂

Fuck the MPAA

Fuck the MPAA

I’ve just watched This Movie Is Not Yet Rated. What a brilliant documentary this is. An examination of the MPAA- an organisation wherein the raters aren’t identified, the criteria for classifying a movie aren’t clear and where studio films receive feedback but independent films don’t. Corrupt, fascist, archaic.

And I thought us Brits had it bad with the BBFC.

Great interviews with the likes of John Waters and Trey Parker show what its like to be on the receiving end of receiving the dreaded NC-17. This rating is the kiss of death as it means no marketing for your movie, no theaters will show it and the largest video stores won’t stock it. The film then compares similar scenes from movies made by big studios that received an R rating and those made by independent studios that received an NC-17. Unbelievable.

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The maker of this film hires a private investigator to expose the members of the not just the MPAA but also their appeal committee. All are rightfully named and shamed.

I thought it would be unconstitutional to deny a filmmaker their freedom of speech. I was wrong.

Coming Soon To a Cinema Near You

Coming Soon To a Cinema Near You

My love of horror films started when I was young. As I wasn’t old enough to see these films at my local cinema I took to gazing endlessly at the posters and lobby cards for them outside my local Odeon as I basked in their depictions of fear, terror and sadism. I was lucky enough to be born in 1975 and so I grew up when many classics of the genre were released at the cinema and then found their way onto the new medium of home video.

Any time after 9pm TV spots (short trailers for films made specifically for television) would be shown- and they certainly didn’t disappoint! I still remember watching the TV spot for The Shining when I was 5 years old. All of the most frightening and disturbing elements of the film distilled into 30 secs. I didn’t sleep for several nights after this.

It was a very twisted trip down memory lane when I discovered this on YouTube-

Its great to see that TV spots were also made for the many horror double bills that were shown. The posters for these provided even more sleepless nights for me.

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I first saw the poster for this double bill when I was about 4. Its still traumatises me today. Both classic films
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One of the best film posters for one of the best double bills ever
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And hows this for a brilliant pairing? 

The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002)

The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002)

I first saw Leigh Bowery in the late 80s. I was at the cinema when a commercial for Pepe Jeans was played featuring Leigh. This advert which only lasted about 2 minutes left such an indelible impression.

I first saw the documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery about five years ago and again was gobsmacked. This is amazingly made with a multitude of interviews with collaborators, family and friends. The breadth of the source material of footage and audio featuring Bowery is breathtaking- this project was obviously a labour of love and the director Charles Atlas throws himself into the making of this documentary with gusto and passion. And it shows.

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Polaroid of Leigh Bowery, Taboo, London 1986

Who was Leigh Bowery? He is hard to categorise. Artist, fashion designer, pop star, musician, nightclub proprietor/superstar… But most importantly he was Leigh Bowery the personality. He defies all labels. And this is one of the most brilliant things about him and the multitude of ways that the documentary conveys this.

The film shows how Leigh became recognised firstly by his outlandish patronage of carefully chosen nightclubs. Because of this the film becomes so much more. It depicts the underground gay clubbing scene of the 80s in London- a world that spawned the New Romantics (in an interview we hear Leigh say that he always preferred this movement to any other) and was built around the idea of transforming oneself into a legendary entity and the whole ritual of ‘getting ready’ to go out (brilliantly articulated by Michael Bracewell in the film) and all that that entails. From a dingy bedsit in the suburbs arty loners could metamorphosise into larger than life characters and create new personae for their chosen nocturnal wonderlands in the neon soaked big city.

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‘We could be heroes…’

London in the 70s and 80s was unparalleled for this- after glam rock and punk, the New Romantic scene had exploded in a mushroom cloud of Elnett and Boots No 5 make up. And that was just the boys. It attracted brilliant creations such as Marilyn, Philip Sallon and Steve Strange.

Whilst this scene and its main stalwarts were brilliant and revolutionary for their time, Leigh was so much more. He was a one man subculture who was still several hundred years ahead of his time. He liked to subvert- gender, the body, sexuality. This documentary depicts this amazingly. Leigh liked to use his body as a canvas and this film is like a catwalk for him to show the world the diversity of his alien visions.

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Leigh’s personality and quirks are also evident through the wide range of sources and interviews used for the film- his love of embarrassing people, his love of cottaging (also a key part of 80s gay life), his love of getting a reaction from people but through using his brain rather than just using shock tactics for the sake of it.

There is also a feeling that whatever he turned his hand to he mastered brilliantly. His pop groups Raw Sewage and Minty have to be heard (and seen) to be believed. Here is his genius cover version of Run DMC’s Walk This Way-

And heres how it came about-

Another amazing thing about this film is the music used on the soundtrack- its just as avant garde and original as Bowery. Its a shame that a soundtrack was never released.

In these times of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its imitation of all that was genius that has gone before I can’t help but cherish Bowery’s work and this film even more. He was authentic and that authenticity is even more astounding when watered down versions by more mediocre and conventional drag artistes are foisted upon us. Imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. Its just really shit.

I’ve now seen this documentary several times and think of it as a film I could watch at any time and thoroughly enjoy. I honestly think this is one of the best examples of the genre and one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I urge others to discover this gem and experience the genius of Bowery for themselves. And here it is-

 

The Balance of Power- Scum (1977 and 1979)

The Balance of Power- Scum (1977 and 1979)

Its amazing when a TV programme or a film conveys a message that is so powerful that it faces strong and vicious opposition from the higher echelons of the day who seek to suppress it.

Play For Today was a BBC1 drama anthology series which ran from 1970 until 1984. Alan Clarke directed an episode about life in a borstal- now known as young offenders centres. The programme was the first time the general public had seen inside one such institution and the disturbing events therein that unfolded in this episode. The programme fully depicted the brutality, racism and dehumanisation of its charges not to mention it’s warders. This was hardly a glowing commendation for the borstal system. However the programme makers shot this drama with no interference whatsoever from the powers that be in the Beeb.

That was until just before the programme was due to be shown. There were suddenly rumblings from up above and a diktat received by the programme makers that cuts needed to be made to the drama prior to it being televised. Producer Margaret Matheson states the appropriate cuts were made and whilst they weren’t happy doing this they were still proud of the programme in its trimmed state. It was still powerful and still hit its mark artistically.

But then the programme was pulled from broadcast. Matheson said that Scum was even listed in The Radio Times which shows how close to broadcast it was when it was pulled. Matheson also said that there was a change in personnel with Bryan Cowgill, the controller of BBC1 being replaced by Bill Cotton. Scum’s writer Roy Minton would later refer to the tv play version of Scum as The Billy Cotton Banned Show (Cotton’s father used to host The Billy Cotton Band Show years before).

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The Play For Today title sequence for Scum

A screening of the TV play had been organised in Soho for the day after it was due to be televised but this was before the BBC had pulled the plug. However this viewing still went ahead. In fact because the work had been banned by the BBC this screening was extremely well attended and seen as an opportunity to see something forbidden and risque. Afterwards various members of the audience had approached the programme makers to express how great it was and that such an important work should be seen by as many people as possible. There was a clause in force that if the BBC didn’t show a piece of work within a certain amount of time the rights lapsed out of the BBC’s control and so when this happened it was decided that a film of Scum would be made instead. The film would be almost the same as the TV play including many of the cast and crew except that the scenes that were cut would be now left intact. More importantly, one person who was at this screening would end up producing the film version of this TV drama, Clive Parsons.

So, what had frightened the executives at the Beeb so much that they decided to shelf the play from being shown?

The plot of both the TV play and the film of Scum concerns a young prisoner, Carlin being transferred to the borstal that the programme is based in. The ‘Daddy’ (the toughest prisoner who is in charge of the other prisoners) of the borstal is named Pongo Banks and is shown to be in cahoots with the screws (wardens) of the borstal and is depicted to be a bully as he actively terrorises and bullies anyone who he sees as weaker or different. The Daddy working in tandem with the system makes the Bostal experience an even more dehumanising one for the majority of the inmates and also the few decent screws working at the institution.

Carlin was the Daddy at his previous institution and has been transferred because he beat up two officers in retaliation. Thus he arrives at this borstal already with a reputation with both the screws and Pongo and his gang both desperate to prove that they are in control on their turf and to prove that they are more powerful than he is and that he should know his place. Carlin is forced to share a dorm with Pongo and his acolytes and is given a beating by all three after lights out.

However Carlin then takes over. This scene of Carlin taking control from both Pongo and pals and the bent screws who they were working with has now gone down in cinema history. Its almost operatic in power.

The line ‘I’m The Daddy!’ has now entered the popular vernacular in the same way ‘You talkin’ to me?’ has.

The power has now been taken away from the bent officers- and they’re not happy about it. With a prison or borstal in which the bent screws and bent Daddy work in tandem, brutality can prosper unchallenged so much easier. With a fairer head inmate in control who also has a healthy disregard for authority the officers and system in general will get a much harder time with a ‘Them vs us’ mentality now replacing the old regime.

Another challenger to authority and the system is the character of Archer. He decided early on that he was to learn the rules and regulations inside out and give the officers and prison department as hard a time as possible- even if it meant he serves his full sentence. He becomes vegetarian, refuses to wear leather boots and converts to Islam to rile the Christian Governor. One particular scene involves him trying to illustrate to an officer that some of them are just as institutionalised as some of the inmates. Unfortunately this goes badly wrong-

Archer is a thorn in the side for the authorities. He becomes a close friend and supporter of Carlin from Day 1. Carlin is courted by the housemaster (the borstal system seems to be run along the lines of a public school- which is ironic) as they see that he has taken control of the inmates. To reap the rewards of his new status, Carlin seems to go along with this to get the best for himself- he asks for a single cell and gets it only because of his Daddy status. But theres a feeling that Carlin is only going along with this to make his stay much easier whilst making sure that the other inmates have a more humane stay also rather than running the borstal in conjunction with the screws.

Theres a feeling that if the authorities step out of line with Carlin he will intervene and give them what for. And indeed this happens- in brutal style. A prisoner named Davis is raped in the borstal greenhouse and then commits suicide by slitting his wrists in his cell. These two events were also willfully ignored by the guards on duty- one officer watches the rape with sadistic glee and only intervenes when the borstal gardener is seen to be approaching.

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He then lets the rapists go free and admonishes the victim. When the victim is in his cell he rings the bell and complains of nightmares to the officer who responds. This officer then ignores any more calls for help from Davis who then ends his life.

This sees the prisoners take part in a riot instigated by Carlin over the treatment of Davis. Carlin and the inmates have taken away the reins of power from the officers and prison authorities over this tragic event and are letting it be known that they have gone too far. They take over the dining room and destroy everything inside it.

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The next scene is one of Carlin, Archer and another inmate, Meakin being dragged bleeding and barely conscious into solitary confinement. The prisoners exerted their power and now its been reasserted by the authorities in the way it knows best- through violence and brutality.

This power struggle is a staple of the prison genre but in this case life seems to imitate art. Just as Carlin and crew are intent on engaging in a power struggle for control with their captors and their superiors the programme makers had to endure the same. Authority in the guise of The BBC and Billy Cotton had spoken and expected that to be the final word on the matter.

Whilst the film version was almost identical to the Play For Today version there was one scene that was omitted. This scene saw Carlin ask a fellow prisoner to be ‘his missus’- a practice in which inmates would have a male sexual partner but only for their stay in detention. These inmates are also known as ‘gate gays’ in prison/borstal circles. This scene was left out of the film version of Scum and it could be argued that Carlin would be less of a role model to certain audience members because of it. Writer Roy Minton says that he felt it was a massive flaw of the film that the scene was left out as it shows a vulnerability to Carlin’s character. He also states that it was the actor depicting Carlin, Ray Winstone who persuaded Alan Clarke to omit the scene from the film.

However, as the film was a runaway success at the box office its power to upset members of the establishment was never diminished. The film was televised for the first time on the 10th June 1983 on the new ‘radical’ TV channel Channel 4. Its transmission upset no one except for one person: Mary Whitehouse.

Whitehouse was a campaigner who detested what she saw as the increasing wave of sex and violence within the media. She wanted a promotion of traditional Christian values in the arts especially within film (and video) and television. As you can tell she didn’t exactly like social change.

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Mary Whitehouse (second from right) and friends picketing something they don’t want the public to see

She found out that when Channel 4 televised the film version of Scum, a copy of the film hadn’t been sent to every member of the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority- a regulatory board) to see if it was suitable for broadcast. Rather the decision was handed to the board’s Director General. However in this case the Director General was also one of the founders of a prisoners trust and stated that he thought Scum was ‘a serious dramatic work based on tensions and violence that are a feature of a closed prison society’. He thought Scum was a serious work that needed to be seen by a wider audience. Whitehouse won the first private case against Channel 4 but lost on appeal when the case reached The House of Lords.

The previous year in 1982 The Criminal Justice Act eradicated borstals and replaced them with youth custody centres- this system was hoped to be less brutal or inhumane as the borstal system. Was this because of Scum? It may well have been.

Both the TV play and film versions of Scum are examples of gritty and uncompromising art that certainly pulled no punches. They are now available uncut on DVD and serve as a reminder to audiences of today that the not too distant past was tough on many levels and that serious lessons could be learnt from these times. Scum was such an important piece of work that social reform of the system it portrayed followed not long after its release. And all this from a TV play/film that the powers that be didn’t want audiences to see.

There are still many people who would love to see the brutal borstal system brought back and that a ‘short sharp shock’ is what the youth of today deserve. There was even a reality TV show centred around this idea. There are also members of the public whose first impulse on seeing something they don’t understand or approve of is to say ‘this should be banned’. The spirit of Mary Whitehouse certainly lives on. Be careful what you wish for.