Video World- A Blast From The Past

Video World- A Blast From The Past

It’s funny what crops up on the internet.

When video started to become popular there were also brilliant magazines that catered for the video industry and video fans alike. The majority of the column inches and pages were devoted to horror, action and exploitation with a few pages at the back devoted to porn. I think this is why my Dad always took an opportunity to flick through/perv over these video magazines when I bought them. They usually featured a Page 3 stunner on the front cover but my newsagent never once thought not to sell these mags to me even though they looked identical to top shelf filth like Razzle or Fiesta. Even my Dad didn’t care about me buying these magazines. Maybe he thought that his youngest son might be *normal* rather than homosexual which I know he worried about. Sorry Dad.

Anyway, someone online scanned pages from Video Review which came out in the early 80’s. I remember this periodcal along with Video World. The memories (and mammories) come flooding back. What a giddy exciting time the 80’s were for horror fans and gorehounds.

Review- Jojo Rabbit (2019) *****

Review- Jojo Rabbit (2019) *****

Jojo is a proud Hitler Youth member. He decides to go on a weekend for fellow brainwashed enthusiasts. However, after a (very funny) accident with a grenade he finds himself hospitalised. At home recovering he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. He confides this to his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (!)

This film is actually a comedy! An off the wall, zany and irreverant comedy that works beautifully. It was a massive gamble to make such a film in such oversensitive and ‘woke’ times. And it was Disney of all studios that made Jojo Rabbit! Should such a terrible period from history be depicted in such a chirpy and comical way? Should Hitler be portrayed as such a goofball within the film? YES! Whether it’s Mel Brooks (who said he loved JoJo Rabbit) with The Producers and it’s musical Springtime For Hitler or Joan Rivers making her controversial joke about the Holocaust on Fashion Police, humour reaches the parts that more earnest and serious pieces of ‘art’ can’t. It forces you to laugh at whatever is the target of the joke is and then analyse why you laughed at something that you normally wouldn’t see as comical.

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Whilst most critics have lauded the film, there are peripheral pundits who have either said that the filmmakers have gone too far (How dare they make a comedy starring Adolf Hitler?!) or that they didn’t go far enough (How dare they make a film about Nazi Germany and not show the full horror of what happened?!). The Guardian hated the film which is another reason for audiences go and see this gem of a film.

But, understandably, everything depicted in the film isn’t just for laughs. There are plenty of gut-wrenching moments when the full horror is brought home to the characters and audience alike. These poignant sequences aren’t milked for all their worth and this makes them all the more powerful and genuine. There were a couple of pivotal scenes which made me fight back tears. These scenes were played out for what they were without the whole film descending into a tissue-soaking cry-a-thon which would have cheapened and devalued the movie’s content.

The film also looks beautiful with set designs and a colour palate that makes Jojo Rabbit a feast for the eyes. This film is beautifully constructed. Jojo’s room, the house in which he resides, the cubby hole that houses Elsa and the surrounding environs are all aesthetically pleasing and a joy to behold.

 

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Also, check out the framing. Every scene feels just as quirky, off-kilter and as warped as the narrative. Watch out for the scene on the giant steps and the later scene with it’s emphasis on a character’s shoes and how this motif is used later on in the film in an extremely heartbreaking but dignified and tasteful way.

The soundtrack is also fantastic with The Beatles’ German language version of I Wanna Hold Your Hand (‘Komm, gib mir deine Hand’)  and Bowie’s Helden leading the way. In fact, these two rather obscure (to English eyes anyway) versions of well known songs normally heard in their Mother Tongue depict the whole feel of the film- off kilter, eschew and very original.

There are uniformly amazing performances by the likes of Roman Griffin Davis playing Jojo, Scarlett Johannsen as his mother, Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa the Jewish hideaway and Sam Rockwell (great to see him taking more risks with his choice of roles after starring in the ultra-woke and unbearable Three Billboards). Also, look out for Stephen Merchant as a very sinister Nazi inspector. He reminded me of The Demon Headmaster. But it’s director and screenwriter Taika Waititi who plays Adolf Hitler who steals the show. Every scene that hes in is comedy gold as he depicts Hitler as a kind of bro/dude best friend to Jojo. His lines and mannerisms are laugh out loud hysterical.

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4 parts humour, 1 part sentiment, this film has a power that will seep into your brain during it’s running time and stay with you long after the film is over. In fact my first thought on leaving the cinema was that I wanted to see it again.

I feel privileged to have seen one of the best films of 2020 on Jan the 1st of this year. A cracking start to a new decade of movies.

5 out of 5 stars

 

My Film of the Year is…

My Film of the Year is…

…Cats! OK, just kidding.

2019 has been a great year for films and trying to pick my favourite movie has been very hard.

Whether it was the utterly engrossing Shockingly Wicked, Evil and Vile and it’s captivating central performance by Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, the dark heart of Joker which held up a mirror to the divided world it was made in whilst possessing a very warped sense of humour (the cockney midget not being able to reach the door handle being one such example), the assured brilliance of Scorsese’s The Irishman with it’s themes of ageing and taking stock of one’s life (as much as a psychopath can take stock, that is) and the fantastic vision that provided the backdrop for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (at last, Bruce Lee and Charles Manson in the same movie!), it’s been a cineaste’s dream of a year.

But my film of the year must go to Blue Story- a film depicting gang warfare and knife/gun crime in present day London that was very controversial from the get go because rival gangs went to see it armed with machetes at one screening in Birmingham. After fights broke out in the foyer the film was pulled from several cinema chains.

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However, the Vue cinema chain reinstated it’s screenings as they saw the importance of such a film being shown and because the film’s director questioned whether there was a racist agenda behind his film being pulled from distribution.

And thank God he did. Blue Story is such a brilliant work. Exploring the power of group identity and it’s lethal role in the lives of the disillusioned young men depicted, machismo, misplaced pride and how these qualities can turn best friends into sworn enemies, with plenty of others unwittingly becoming collateral damage. These themes feel relevant to any era but tragically so in the UK at the moment. But this isn’t the sole purpose why I have chosen this as my favourite film of the year. It’s the brilliance of the film on every level that has made it my Number 1 film experience of 2019.

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The film also makes human the kind of people who would be mere impersonal names of fatalities in the news and this is where it’s power lies. We get to see the lead characters as what they are- teenage boys making their way in the world with it’s ups and downs and also with some very touching moments of comedy. They feel achingly real which makes what is to come all the more tragic.

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In fact, the role of the rapper who bridges each of the film’s major episodes with his recap of what we’ve just seen and what is to come feels like a modernised version of the Greek chorus found in Greek tragedy and was an inspired touch.

I see that this was actually made by BBC Films. Lets hope this is shown on the BBC so that as many people can see such a brilliant piece of work.

 

Review- The Irishman (2019)

Review- The Irishman (2019)

‘I heard you paint houses’

Martin Scorsese’s latest film centres around Frank Sheeran who we first see in a care home for the elderly reminiscing about his life. He recalls his time in World War 2 and then after this lovingly remembers the scam he had when he is working as a meat truck delivery worker (he regularly siphons off some of the contents and sells it to local mafiosi) when he crosses paths with mobster Russell Bufalino who he is then reintroduced to some time later. This proves to be a turning point for his life. It’s through Bufalino that he is introduced to Jimmy Hoffa, teamster and celebrity. This marks another turning point for his life and the film’s narrative.

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CGI- the new Botox. The shocking WW2 flashback scene

I had to smile when I saw some of the major players from Scorsese’s canon of masterpieces reunited in this film. It was more than awesome to see De Niro with Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel again.

But there are also new actors who more than hold their own. Al Pacino is predictably brilliant and it’s great to see such a legendary actor under the direction of such a masterful director. Stephen Graham shows that he’s just as brilliant in a Hollywood film as he is within the quality TV productions that he’s starred in here in the UK.

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There has been much made of Anna Paquin only speaking six words in a three and a half hour film. When you see the film you’ll see why. Her looks and mannerisms throughout the film convey much more than lines and lines of dialogue as her role is akin to some kind of silent but all seeing sense of conscience or moral judge regarding her father’s dastardly deeds that she knows are happening even if he tries to disguise them to convey himself as a honest working man. Instead of basking in fake outrage (are we really getting to a point where numbers of words uttered by male and female characters will be tallied up and compared when it comes to movies?! Are we really getting that ridiculous?) how about thinking what an amazing actress she is that she can turn in such a genuinely awe-inspiring performance by just using her facial expressions alone and what is implied rather than said out loud. Y’know, by using her acting skills and stuff! There should be a mention here regarding how brilliant Lucy Gallina is as Peggy between the ages of 7 and 11.

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A woman of few words- because she doesn’t need many. Anna Paquin’s terrific performance

This movie is a sprawling epic that spans 1945 to 1990. The narrative shoots forward and backwards through time so effortlessly and effectively that it reminded me of Once Upon A Time In America (thankfully theres no panpipe music in this movie though). With this kind of timeframe being used it’s been widely reported that Scorsese used CGI to make the leading characters look younger in some scenes. Whilst this can be noticed in the first couple of scenes in which this device is used, it blends into the movie as a whole and is quickly forgotten about as the viewer gets used to it. It also becomes unnoticeable because the film is so captivating for the viewer.

There was a point early on in this film that felt very familiar. There is a bar setting with an old 60’s hit playing over the soundtrack whilst a plethora of mobster types are doing their thing. I thought to myself ‘Oh God, I hope this doesn’t turn into a GoodFellas clone.’ I remembered the good but not great Casino feeling like ‘GoodFellas Go To Vegas’. But The Irishman doesn’t play out like this. It’s a film that quickly veers into new territory plot wise whilst exploring themes such as age, reflection, mortality (on many levels) and how choosing to live such a thoroughly deplorable life whilst hiding under a veneer of respectability can impact the loved ones of the people who have chosen to take the dark path.

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I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen yet it was a very uncomfortable experience. The movie is 3 and a half hours long and whilst it’s an amazing ride it’s a painful experience in a cinema seat. My aching posterior was so bad through the second half of the running time that I felt that I was wriggling around more than an eel. But the length of the film was probably intentional for Scorsese as this was made for Netflix- home of the ‘binge watch’ to be watched in the comfort of your home on the comfort of your sofa.

One more touch that I loved about the movie were the captions that accompanied each new secondary character as it stated his name and how/when he died.

This movie might end up in the Guinness Book of Records also as I don’t think I’ve heard the word ‘c*cksucker’ used so much in one movie before. This is a great accolade in my book.

The Irishman is a cracking movie. Fans of Scorsese will love this, as will fans of intelligent and innovative filmmaking. There will be several raised eyebrows as to the level of poignancy that the film holds. Which again makes me think of Once Upon A Time In America in that the audience is made to feel sympathy towards a character who the film has shown to have committed some heinous acts.

4/5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

Review- Doctor Sleep (2019)

Review- Doctor Sleep (2019)

I read Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining and thoroughly enjoyed it when it was first published. I was eager to see the film adaptation and if it was as satisfying as the book.

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It’s always a brave move to write a sequel to a well known book that is now considered to be a classic within it’s field. The film is seen as a true classic in the horror genre and is regularly in the Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time polls if not occupying the top spot in a number of instances. So, making a sequel to a film with such a lofty reputation was a brave move.

The film starts in Florida in 1980 after the events of the first film and Danny is still haunted and having his life affected negatively by the spectres he saw from The Overlook Hotel which are now haunting and harming him wherever he is. Dick Halloran reappears to Danny to teach him a valuable life less on how to mentally deal with this. I noticed that some of the darker details Dick talked about in the book aren’t here. Maybe the film wouldn’t have been a 15 certificate if they had been.

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Taking the plot up again in 1980 is a brave move. It works wonderfully as the plot points that are raised are crucial to the plot. All actors who are filling the shoes of people who have become iconic since the first film’s release do a great job. But it’s Carl Lumbly (yes, Petrie from Cagney and Lacey!) who is a true revelation here. He is Scatman Crothers reincarnated! It’s a performance that is eerily accurate and absolutely amazing to watch. Thankfully, Dick appears throughout the film to give Danny advice in the way as if he were Danny’s conscience or inner voice.

The film then comes forward to 2011. Danny is an alcoholic. An episode of how chaotic his life is is shown through an incident in bar were he gets drunk, gets into a fight with a fellow bar patron, beats him up and then hooks up with a woman. How chaotic his life is at this point is shown the morning after. We see him waking up next to a woman who has vomited in the bed they slept in, the memories of them doing coke the night before come flooding back and Danny running out on her (after maybe taking money from her to pay her back for her using his money to buy the coke with). Danny is then shown sleeping rough.

Danny then makes his way to New Hampshire. Its here that he meets Billy who he instantly feels a bond with. Billy in return sees Danny as having problems and sets out to help Danny address some of his demons- namely, his alcoholism as this is something that Billy has had to face also. Danny starts to go to the Alcoholic Anonymous group with Billy.

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Whilst this is going on we get introduced to a new group of characters known as The True Knot, a cult led by Rose The Hat. They are a cult whose immortality depends on them feeding off and capturing the ‘steam’ given off by children who also possess the shining when they are tortured and killed. Yes, Doctor Sleep is extremely dark. The sequence when the baseball player who is only 10 is murdered made for difficult viewing. But I’m glad that the film dealt with issues that were this dark rather than feeling like a lightweight and whimsical quick cash-in.

Danny starts working at an old people’s home. The resident cat there will instinctively spend time with the resident who is next to die. Danny sees this and so uses his shining to make the resident’s departure as painless as possible. He is using his shining again and as a force of good after years of forcing himself to repress and not use his gift.

Eight years pass. Danny is shown to have been regularly attending the AA meetings and appears to be conquering his addiction.

A young girl starts to communicate with Danny using her shining which is shown to be the most powerful example of the power that Danny (and later Rose) has ever experienced. She’s only a child but is shown to have shining stronger and more potent than any adult. Abra tells Danny about the 10 year old baseball player who she has visions of being killed. Unfortunately, Rose psychically ‘feels’ that Abra is watching this murder through her own powers of shining/second sight and this alerts her to Abra’s existence. Members of the cult haven’t been exposed to any really strong ‘steam’ for quite some time and cult members have shown to be starting to suffer because of this (we see what happens to members of the cult when this happens during the film as the oldest True Knot member expires into a cloud of steam himself). This makes Abra a target for the group.

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And that’s where I’m going to leave the synopsis. To give any more details away is to ruin the film for everyone!

This is a great sequel. References to the past film are subtly placed here and there (one prime example- the overhead shots of cars driving along in the same style as those used by Kubrick in the opening scenes of the original) but they feel relevant and not tacky. If some fans feel that the references are too sparse they should rest assured. The references start to become more frequent as the film progresses. The final act of the movie then takes part at the Overlook Hotel! It would be impossible not to have past references come in thick and fast at this point. And they do and it feels like old friends coming out to play again rather than a desperate attempt to milk some more bucks from a trusted horror classic. Everything that happens at the hotel feels like it’s being used in a plot that rightly calls for their use in progressing the story towards it’s conclusion.

Danny walking through The Overlook and seeing all of the old sites again sent shivers down my spine. There was even a scene that firstly made my jaw drop wide open and then almost reduced me to tears. I’m certainly not going to give it away but it’s astounding in it’s potency and power.

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There is plenty going on in the film as you can tell from the plotline. On top of all of this there’s even an implied bromance between Danny and Billy which is as intriguing as it’s subtle. Intelligent filmmaking is at play here. I predict that the kind of film analysis that was applied to the original film will also be generated from the material that lies within this film.

Doctor Sleep is also visually stunning and feels genuinely innovative in some scenes. In fact at some points I thought of the hypnosis scenes from Get Out.

Doctor Sleep is a film about addressing the past and confronting demons so that they can be laid to rest and people can progress forward. It’s also a film about closure and making peace with your past, the relationships therein and the wounds that until then never seemed to heal.

Doctor Sleep is a brilliant film and throughly deserves to be the sequel to such a revered and loved horror classic. And if Ewan McGregor doesn’t get a tip of the hat from The Academy then theres something VERY wrong happening.

Which makes me think. This years could have nominations for Joaquin Phoenix for The Joker, Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrence. This years Oscars might be good for a change. Carl Lumbly definitely deserves to win plaudits for his extraordinary performance.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Tentacles (1977)

Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Tentacles (1977)

I loved it when big name stars decided to degrade themselves by starring in Italian exploitation pics in the 70’s solely for a big paycheck. This Italian Jaws rip-off stars Henry Fonda, John Huston and Shelley Winters.

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The original quad UK cinema poster

A seaside resort (a long way from Amity though) has become the feeding supply of a giant octopus. John Huston’s news reporter and a marine biologist cast the blame on Fonda’s construction company Trojan who have been building an underwater tunnel and using extremely high radio signals in the process. This has royally p*ssed off Mr Octopus which has taken to attacking divers and anyone else unlucky enough to cross his underwater path and thus becoming Octo-fodder.

Like most other high(er) budget Euro horrors from this period this is camp, slicker than your average Jaws clone and an efficient popcorn rollercoaster ride of a movie. It does what it says on the tin, the cast ham it up for all it’s worth and it’s good fun while it lasts. OK, so theres nothing to have Mr Spielberg looking over his shoulder here but it never leaves you thinking ‘Thats 90 minutes I’ll never get back!’

3 out of 5 stars

 

Day 30- 31 Days of Halloween- The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)

Day 30- 31 Days of Halloween- The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)

Layabout crazy cat Jerry (played by the director Ray Dennis Steckler under the hilarious pseudonym Cash Flagg), his girlfriend Angela and his friend Harold go to the seaside to visit a carnival there. After getting their fortunes told they see the fortune tellers sister Carmelita who is a stripper. Jerry is seen by Angela to be staring a bit too intently at Carmelita and so leaves in a huff with Harold. With them gone Jerry decides to go and watch Carmelita’s strip show (the carnival has it’s own nightclub that holds such entertainment. The name of this establishment is, wait for it, The Hungry Mouth which rivals only The Flaming Cave Lounge from John Waters’ Female Trouble in terms of a brilliant name for an establishment of that kind).

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Jerry is then lured to Carmelita’s dressing room where he is hypnotised. This then turns Jerry into a ruthless killer of which afterwards he has no memory of. He had in fact killed two characters whilst he was in his murderous trance-like state. He also tries to throttle Angela to death the next day.

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Hypnosis!

Carmelita’s plot is then revealed. She has been throwing acid into people’s faces which turns them into zombies (!) and then keeping them captive.

But Jerry then decides to confront Carmelita as he keeps having flashbacks and knows that something isn’t quite right ever since he visited Carmelita at the carnival. This all builds to a very eventful climax.

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Carmelita uses the same foundation as Donatella Versace

This is pure Drive-In B movie goodness. Theres so much to like here. The hypnosis scenes, the hallucinatory dream sequence Jerry has, the zombies, the song and dance sequences at the nightclub (one of the girls can be seen chewing gum as she performs her dance moves. Now that’s attention to detail and classy to boot!).

The film also has a colour palate which can make your eyes water. I had several acid flashbacks whilst watching this gem.

I first found out about this film from reading the cult film bible Incredibly Strange films from Re:Search publishing at the tender age of 14. This book treats Steckler as some kind of god in much the same way more pedestrian film fans look up to John Ford. And they’re right. Steckler is an Orson Welles for the perverse.

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And John Waters is a huge fan.

4 out of 5 stars