Children Of The Corn

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I can’t be specific on dates, but Children Of The Corn was one of the first horror movies I remember discovering. Like I mentioned in my Creepshow 2 review, posters can have a powerful effect on a growing, inquisitive, impressionable mind. Over time I somehow gained information about the story and the movie and began to form my own version of it in my head, but I didn’t get to see it until years later. There’s a danger of being let down after consciously or subconsciously hyping a movie, but where Children Of The Corn is concerned, the mystery and tone conveyed in the opening portions of the movie aligned with the picture I’d created in my mind. Watching again years later, it’s clear that there are better King adaptations and it that it has plenty of shortcomings. I still feel that it captures the essence of the unknown which juvenile and growing horror fans find so alluring, even if it doesn’t have enough bite to hold an adult audience in its thrall.

Adapted from King’s 1978 Night Shift short, Children Of The Corn is the first of (somehow) ten movies in a series which I can only assume grows increasingly <corny> as it progresses. King wrote the original screenplay, but as was normal for the time another writer would come in to usurp the script and focus more on violence than drama. The original story is a simple one – a bickering couple are driving through the US heartland, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, only to become lost and encounter a savage backwater. The key difference here being that the savages are a bunch of kids, creepy religious zealot kids who follow an unseen God known as ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’. The movie keeps the basics in check, albeit offering less in the way of marital distress and more in the way of heroic dads and wholesome family dynamics.

We open in pleasingly creepy fashion, as Isaac – moon-faced pre-teen leader of the group sends the crazed Malachi and friends on a poison and murder spree through their hometown, Gatlin. It’s a simple farming town, and the crops have been failing, which Isaac takes to mean their God is not pleased. And we all know how to appease an angry, malevolent God. Cut to a few years later and a ‘just about to be famous for Terminator’ Linda Hamilton (Vicky) and boyfriend Peter Horton (But) heading up river to start a new life. Driving through endless miles of nothing, their subdued fears about the future are disturbed by the sudden appearance of a child bouncing under the wheels of their car. After initially thinking they hit and killed him, they come to understand that he was already dead. The boy was trying to escape Isaac and his murderous ways, but ended up being sacrificed to the God of Buick. Should they leave him and go on their way? Should they drop the body off in a local town? Should they take him to a big city hospital, or the Police Station in local Gatlin? This being a horror movie, the pair make the wrong choice and quickly find themselves in a world of pitchforks and pasty teens.

The film isn’t as shlocky as some early King adaptations, surprising perhaps given the subject matter. Likewise, it isn’t anywhere near the level of his biggest films of the period – Carrie or The Shining. To its credit, it isn’t all silly surface scares – that sense of the unknown and of being lost permeates the atmosphere in the opening scenes and its an atmosphere which works for me personally having been a child with a heightened fear of being lost or left behind in a new place. Outside of personal feelings, the film is an obvious parable for religious fundamentalism and the dangers of allowing any cult to take power. I like this angle, as ham-fisted as it may be delivered here, and I’m sure a more dedicated experienced director and writer combo could do something stronger with the material viewed in this way. There are of course numerous departures from the source material, fleshing out the cult and delivering a less downbeat ending for example. It’s well enough shot, using the open and wide landscape to decent effect, and by and large the cast serve their purpose – all the more impressive given that many of them are kids. Hamilton doesn’t get to show off her later chops, but is more than the withering lead lady of the piece you might expect from such a film, and gets just as much screen time and action as Horton. They work well as a couple and spend much of the film apart dealing with various factions within Gatlin, again equipping themselves admirably.

Is it top tier King? No, but that’s generally reserved for his more classy material or when a classy director gets a hold of his work. But it’s serviceable enough for most viewers to get something out of it, and good enough that many King and horror fans might rank it as a second tier adaptation. In any case, in this strange time of locked doors and empty streets we find ourselves in it’s worth a watch to remind ourselves what the outdoors look like – and that what’s out there may want us for lunch.

Let us know what you think of Children Of The Corn in the comments!

Best Stuntwork – 1977

My Nominations: Star Wars. Stunts. Grand Theft Auto. Smokey And The Bandit. The Spy Who Loved Me. Viva Knievel!

Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a clean sweep for Star Wars. While that film does indeed include some great stunts, it’s more of a Special Effects vehicle and would feel false given the other films which use a great array of practical stunts this year. Like I alluded to in previous years, the stuntman was at his commercial peak here, with a number of movies released each year featuring the world or actors portraying stuntmen. Mark Lester’s Stunts (the clue’s in the title) is one such movie, a film starring Robert Forster as a Stuntman investigating the suspicious death of his brother – also a stuntman. It’s more of a mystery, but Lester cranks up the tension and allows for a number of cool stunts – it was one of those movies which always seemed to turn up when I was younger. In a similar vein, Viva Knievel takes an interesting look at the lives and gambles of the people who put their bodies on the line for our entertainment and stars probably the most famous stunt guy of them all (the clue’s in the title). The stunts here are still exhilarating as always but maybe less interesting due to a lack of variety.

Taking things on a more varied route is Grand Theft Auto (clue’s in – you get the idea). It’s a bit of a farce and a not-quite-satire on the media as a young couple steal a car and head for Vegas followed by a increasing number of chasers in different vehicles who want to win a reward for apprehending them. Lots of car action though. Keeping it on four wheels is of course Smokey And The Bandit – which features Burt Reynolds zipping about in a TransAm and jumping over rivers. It’s maybe the most authentic of the bunch given the second most famous stuntman ever Hal Needham was the director. It remains one of the most famous car chase movies, for good reason. Finally, we have 007 and The Spy Who Loved Me featuring more car antics – underwater, over bending roads, and one of the most ambitious one man stunts seen till that point, in the intro, as Bond skies away from a bunch of gun toting villains only to leap off a cliff edge and parachute to safety.

My Winner: The Spy Who Loved Me

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Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2003!

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We veer ever closer towards the tail-end of the Nineties with another batch of ill-advised films which either were not made for me, or which were made precisely for me but fell far from giving me the happies. It’s a nice balance of mainstream films and offbeat foreign films which fewer readers will be aware of.

Open Water

Open Water is one of those horror movies for people who don’t like horror movies. It’s also complete shit. I’m always on the look out for a good shark movie. I say ‘good’, but what I really mean is ‘a movie where a bunch of idiots are eaten’. Open Water takes a more realistic approach – it’s supposed to be more drama, more tragedy than horror, but the problem, or one of the problems is, that in a shitty shark movie at least we know they shitty characters are going to be picked off one by one. Here we have to watch them bob up and down for 90 minutes contemplating nothing before we fade to black. Every so often there’s a splash in the water, or a fin passes by. I get what they tried to do with this, to make us feel up and close the terror of being lost in the ocean and surrounded by sharks. But I felt nothing close to fear, or empathy, or caring for any of it. It failed to draw me in, and mostly I kept thinking how cool it would be to be in a film like this, to be out there in the ocean, swimming, and arsing about with sharks.

Calendar Girls

Every year or so Britain comes up with a piece of shit comedy which breaks through to the mainstream. Every one of them is terrible. This one exists and dies entirely on its premise – a bunch of old women get their baps out. If that’s your cup of tea, enjoy.

Dreamcatcher

Stephen King’s works don’t always translate well to film. Even some of the more simple stories don’t even work. When you have shit weasels, aliens, and King’s fondness for magic handicapped folks you have your work cut out to make anything out of it. I love King, and I’ll watch any of his adaptations. This is the worst of the bunch. Not Graveyard Shift, not any of the Children Of The Corn Movies, not Golden Years – this. Everybody involved drops several rungs in my ladder of estimation – Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Olyphant, Jane – some of whom are King regulars. But Damien Lewis… I don’t know what movie he thought he was in but if this had been the first thing he’s been in I guarantee it would be his only credit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse performance in my life. The curious thing is, while the book is definitely a remake of IT in all but name (Pennywise even shows up at one point) you can see someone talented making a decent flick or mini-series out of it. It wouldn’t be amazing, but it might be entertaining enough for the low bar I’d set. This slithers far below that far and right up its own ass.

In The Cut

The movie which was billed as bringing back Meg Ryan, or finally showing what a powerhouse dramatic performer she could be. Really? Really? I’m sure can be fine, with the right material, but has she ever really been good? In anything? I’ll give her The Doors, in which she had little to do, and as ‘the woman’ in Top Gun, Inner Space, Armed And Dangerous, she’s adequate. Most known for terrible romantic comedies, this was a step out of the shadows for her, into something darker. And once again, she’s fine. It could have been anyone. The film is just another proceedural thriller with a slight saucy edge, but it’s more Indecent Behaviour than Basic Instinct. It’s hardly surprising with the overrated Jane Campion at the helm. Mark Ruffalo shows up too!

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Or, The Avengers prequel. Or, the film so bad it ended Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery’s careers. Or, the film so bad Alan Moore refuses to acknowledge its existence. Or, the film so bad it belongs in an abandoned banshee’s naval. Or, the film so bad its mother ignores its phone calls. Or…. you get the idea.

Lost In Translation

I think this may have been the movie which prompted me to admit to myself that I didn’t really like Bill Murray. I still like plenty of his movies, and I still like him in them, but his shtick wears very thin very quickly for me. I feel about Lost In Translation the way people feel about The Godfather III. It’s well made, looks swell, it has a bunch of famous faces, but it’s as far from a pleasurable viewing experience as you can get without having someone talk to their mates on the phone throughout. It’s another example of me not getting the swelling of praise it received – it’s an anti-romantic comedy, except that it is a romantic comedy through and through, and as far as dramas go nothing of import or relevance happens. I get that’s half the point, but what I don’t get is why nobody else was left so uncaring by the end of it. It’s insulting, borderline racist, and like many comedies of this type I don’t think it garnered a single grin on my behalf. For stuff like this to work its magic on me, I have to like, or at least tolerate the people involved. I don’t. Why should I care about entitled, soulless harpies? I don’t care about them or about any of it, and for that reason it’s one more forgettable movie which could as easily have been made by a nobody rather than the child of a somebody, and starring people you’ve never heard of.

Love Actually

We didn’t just get one dodgy Brit Rom-Com this year – we got two! And shock of shocks, they’re both drivel. Perhaps the worst slight this film caused the public at large is that it’s going to continue to be shoved down our throats every Christmas. There are boundless amounts of fantastic British comedy just waiting to be discovered worldwide, but it’s shite like this which we are fraudulently known for.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

El Mariachi was great. Desperado is fantastic. This final part in the trilogy is depressingly poor. Rodriguez films follow a very simple pattern – the less money he has, the better the movie is. This should have been a no brainer, continuing the adventures of Banderas and Hayak, but it brings in a host of new characters who take the focus away from the characters we actually give a shit about, and they drop much of the action and wit which made the first two kinetic delights. The film is worth it for one thing only – the Mexican or Mexican’t line – and that’s not even that funny.

Save The Green Planet!

Another film I was dearly looking forward to after loving Shin Ha-kyun in Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, this film is worth watching just because it’s almost impossible to describe. Right up my alley in terms of all encompassing weirdness, it does take a darker turn towards the end but unfortunately by that point I’d mostly tuned out. It’s another case of me getting hyped up and ultimately being disappointed. I still like it and revisit it, and it still makes me laugh and cringe – it’s really good, unique, but I’ve no idea how I could recommend it to or how to sell it. Just the sheer amount of wonderful stuff coming from South Korea at this time meant that this one didn’t measure up when I thought it would.

Battle Royale 2

If we’re going to talk about hype and disappointment, then BR2 has to top my list. Considering the first film remains my favourite movie of the last twenty years, its sequel had a lot to live up to, When visionary director Kinji Fukasaku died mid-filming, my doubts began to creep in. I was already skeptical about a sequel in the first place but given my love for the first one, surely the second couldn’t truly be bad. It’s not. It’s not bad at all. But it is more bloated, less action packed, not as funny, more of a dig at American politics and culture than Japanese, and it dispenses with much of the heart and innocence of the first. Crucially, it shoves the heroes of the first movie into the background and instead we get a more faceless batch of kids and adults, topped off by Riki Takeuchi – never one for subtlety but here dialed up to fifty seven. It’s not afraid to court controversy – it’s opening scene depicting the annihilation of ‘twin towers’ if you will, and placing the viewer alongside the terrorists, and ending with our protagonists fleeing to Afghanistan… it’s trying to say something potent but doesn’t really know how. The tension is certainly lacking and its best moments are when the people we actually paid to see show up. I just wish they had have gone in a completely different direction with the story.

Let us know in the comments your take on the movies above, and which films of 2003 would make your list!

Best Visual Effects – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

The Academy had persisted through the middle of the 70s with Special Achievement Awards, but by the time 1977 rolled around it became clear that more and more films were pushing the bar where Visual Effects were concerned and a dedicated category was needed like any other category. Having said that, it would still be a while before The Academy fully relented and gave a complete batch of nominees. Here, we have two of the seminal effects movies of the decade vying for the win. Both are great, but the win has to go to Star Wars. It just blew open the door for everything which came after and pioneered so much that it’s one of the most obvious wins of all time.

My Winner: Star Wars

My Nominations: Star Wars. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. A Bridge Too Far. Hausu. Pete’s Dragon. Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger. The Spy Who Loved Me.

I tryto spice things up by adding a few other notable entries – Pete’s Dragon is not a movie I enjoy but it did do some pioneering work in the merging of animation with live action. A Bridge Too Far is a war epic coming a few years too late, but still manages to bring plenty of effects to the table to extend the realism of the piece. The Spy Who Loved Me has all manner of amusing visual gags, while Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger continues Harryhausen’s amazing run with Cavemen, a Saber-Toothed Tiger, baboons, monsters, and plenty of nifty transformations.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2003!

As always, the not quites: Big Fish is that increasingly rare Tim Burton film where he seems to be free of studio influence to do whatever he wants and tell a sweet, offbeat story. Freddy Vs Jason takes one great horror franchise, and one pretty crap franchise, and smashes them together in a funny, bloody fan’s dream. House Of 1000 Corpses is probably Rob Zombie’s best movie to date, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to recapture what makes it so fun again. Dogville is Lars Von Trier doing what he does best – pissing people off, experimenting with Cinema, and creating something unique. It’s bizarrely engaging and while it shouldn’t work, it really really does. The Last Samurai dropped at jsut the right time, as my love for Japanese cinema was at its peak. Ignoring all the White Guy Saviour stuff, and all of the wonderful hair, it’s a gorgeous movie and features a couple of great performances in Cruise and Watanabe. School Of Rock is quotable, fun, and reminds me of a lot of my the favourite movies of my youth – Bill And Ted, Kindergarten Cop, Wayne’s World etc. Jack Black is at his best, and it’s one of those movies you get sucked into watching every time it’s on.

10: The Dreamers (UK/US/France/Italy) Bernardo Bertolucci

Bertolucci should be enough to grab any movie fan’s attention, but through in Michael Pitt and Eva Green, and this seemed like it was made just for me. Naturally there’s a lot of nudity and sex here which may put some off and likewise invite a lot of idiots to watch it for the wrong reasons. There’s a lot of callbacks – to classic New Wave Cinema, to cultural shifts in the 60s, to Bertolucci’s life and career, but in essence it’s a captivating story with a great central trio.

9: Underworld (US/UK/Hungary/Germany) Len Wiseman

As Buffy was ending I needed a new sexy vampire heroine. Kate Beckinsale steps in, all leathered up and guns firing to save the world from a deadly vampire/Lycan war. It’s all very silly and serious, it’s all very stylish, but in terms of post-Matrix action movies it’s one of the best.

8: Kill Bill Vol 1 (US) Quentin Tarantino

This was the first Tarantino movie I ever saw on the big screen, and it felt like a big event. It had been half a decade since his previous film and it was a packed screening. Most of those there didn’t seem to ‘get’ the movie, but I enjoyed every second, spotting a myriad of Easter Eggs and enjoying the onslaught of violence and visuals. It might be his most straightforward, enjoyable movie.

7: A Mighty Wind (US) Christopher Guest

It honestly took me a while to come around to This Is Spinal Tap. I’d always liked it, but it took me longer to love it than most. A Mighty Wind I loved immediately – perhaps because I was more used to the format, perhaps because it wasn’t lampooning anything I cared about. There are some great songs and performances here from Guest regulars, and it’s an easy going movie which continues to unwrap subtle jokes with each viewing – sometimes a visual gag, sometimes a single line or word of dialogue you missed before, or sometimes an actor’s reaction. All of Guest’s movies are gold.

6: The Curse of The Black Pearl (US) Gore Verbinski

Is there a better example of a Theme Park attraction being turned into a movie than this? Depp should have received his Oscar, and it’s the closest we’ve come to a rip-roaring Indiana Jones style romp since The Mummy. It’s funny, rattling along like raft cutting through the waves, and everyone involved seems to be having the times of their lives. It’s such a shame the sequels are trash.

5: Zatoichi (Japan) Takeshi Kitano

Kitano had been steadily pumping out underrated film after underrated film – an amazing accomplishment for the quirky funny man best known in the west for Takeshi’s Castle. While many of his films dealt with common themes – masculinity, violence, inner turmoil, they were typically set in a modern, Yakuza setting. With Zatoichi he goes back to the legend of the blind Samurai to make the best film version of the character, starring as the title character himself. He does things with sound and editing in this film I’d never seen before, and uses the story to showcase those common themes with a keener eye for detail while not letting up on humour and action. Like many Asian movies of this era, it’s a travesty this saw zero interest by The Academy.

5. Oldboy (SK) Chan Wook Park

Each of the remaining films on my list are covered in more detail in my favourite films of the 2000s post. Check it. Suffice it to say, this is essential viewing.

4: A Tale Of Two Sisters (SK) Kim Jee Woon

Gorgeous. Haunting. Should have had a Best Actress Oscar nod.

3: Ju On (Japan) Takashi Shimizu

Wonderfully creepy J-Horror classic

2: The Return Of The King (NZ/US) Peter Jackson

The excellent climax to maybe Cinema’s greatest trilogy.

1: X2 (US) Bryan Singer

Probably the greatest comic book sequel of all time.

Let us know in the comments which films of 2003 make your list!

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Greetings, Glancers! So, I’ve been dreading this one. Based on the title alone, and the album cover, and the song I know from it, and the other information I have on the album – namely that it’s very dance heavy – all adds up to make me wary of it. I don’t generally do dance music, unless it’s clever or exceptional. Most dance music to me has always been repetitive, brain dead garbage. I have not interest in listening to music for dancing or moving in any way, shape, or form. I want emotion from music or creativity or quality or technical ability, and I almost never get that from dance music. The only confession I would ever give on the dancefloor would be that I despise everyone around me. Having said that, Madonna has been successful before in merging music you can dance to with feeling and quality. If anyone can do it, she can.

Hung Up: This is the one I know – I remember ridiculing it quite a bit when it came out and annoying some of my Madonna superfan friends by proclaiming that she hadn’t been relevant since Ray Of Light. Come to think of it, I don’t really see those friends anymore. Was it something I said? To give it its due credit, that main refrain is stupidly catchy – the vocals and the musical piece both standalone and work together. It’s just that it was so overplayed at the time that I can’t separate my feelings about it and the idiots who played it constantly from how good or bad it actually is. On the plus side it feels like Blondie and it isn’t completely dumb – it isn’t hampered by novelty studio sounds which would date it or piss me off. The verses aren’t bad, same goes for the bridge. If I was only hearing this song for the first time I would probably have a better opinion of it, but it still has that stench of over-saturation around it.

Get Together: This begins pretty much from where the last one let off, and expands itself in an encouraging way. It’s clearly in the realms of dance but not so far gone to keep me at a distance. Once the verse comes through I remember hearing this. I don’t recall where I heard this, presumably at some clubs or on radios. I don’t even remember if I knew this was Madonna at the time. It didn’t have that much of an impact on me. I like it well enough – I wouldn’t go out of my way to put it on, but I wouldn’t turn it off the second I heard it. I wouldn’t call this a nice surprise per say, given that I’ve heard it before, but I had forgotten all about it, so it’s a nice reminder.

Sorry: Again this merges with the previous track, opening with a swell of strings and some French words. Then the underswelling of dance stuff begins to grow and again I remember this one. I’m not sure how I forgot this one as it was pretty huge too. You still hear it now. It’s another stupidly catchy chorus, and the verses aren’t bad either. Maybe enough time has passed now that this and the last song aren’t as annoying to me now as they were then – unlike the opener. It’s another good song, and not the sort of thing I usually listen to. A very consistent album so far, in terms of quality and sound and theme. The middle could have had 30 seconds shaved off as it begins to become too repetitive, though I get this is meant to be an album to dance and lose yourself to so you have to allow for some repetition.

Future Lovers: It goes without saying that this merges with the last. That helps with the consistency and making the whole thing feel like a journey or one big orgiastic trip. I can see people getting off their tits and putting the whole record on in a single take like the hippies would have done with DSOTM. The Blondie feel is there too. I was worrying this was all going to be spoken, but it’s just an extended intro for 90 seconds. It feels pretty familiar, but I don’t think I would have ever heard this. Decent enough melodies and there’s a cyclical nature to it all which aids in the trance-like tone of the whole. The most experimental track so far, but also the one which would benefit most from being cut a little.

I Love New York: You know the drill. This one has the feeling of rocking out onto the dancefloor, or maybe walking out of the club and heading down the street with all the smells and sights and sounds of city night in the air. Who knows. When I listen to stuff I get transported to imagined places. The lyrics are a little crappy. It’s an ode to New York, but the words are very juvenile – basic rhyming for kids. It’s not great and I’m probably enjoying it more because it’s shiny and new to me. Inconsequential, but fine.

Let It Will Be: You should by now that I love a string section in pop/rock music. That’s how this one starts. When it comes to dance music, I prefer the lower, darker, pulsating stuff over shouty, high-paced stuff. This ticks both those boxes, while also producing a tidy, repetitive melody. Madonna is singing about fame again, though I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics first time around. As I’m such a big lyrics guy, I should probably watch the lyrics videos when I’m listening for these posts. This is a better than average album track – it doesn’t go far enough in terms of melody or emotion to knock it into the upper echelons of her music, but it’s still better than I was expecting when I saw this album was up next in my journey.

Forbidden Love: Another point about me and dance music – I really only appreciate that type of music if it’s something I can enjoy listening to on its own merits – not in a club, not as a means to throw yourself around in some strange mating ritual. Dance music made only to make you dance is useless to me. Again, this song and album is more or less striking the balance. I could see myself, or at least my younger self dancing to this, and I can enjoy listening to it too. The consistency strikes once more – the tone, energy, feeling, melody, atmosphere staying true from song to song. I could do without the effects on the vocals, but it’s not as bad as some. It’s great that Madonna is still able to concoct melodies which speak to me after all this time.

Jump: A nice countdown from the last track into this. You know I don’t like spoken parts in songs, and Madonna’s lower tone vocals usually don’t work for me. They’re fine here. Actually, I may have heard this before, it sounds familiar, unless it’s similar to an older song. Pretty sure I have heard that chorus before, maybe it was used in some movie or TV show. The lyrics seem to be about sisterhood/family and not being afraid to take chances – basic inspirational stuff. Another ‘almost good song’, like B minus territory for me.

How High: Digital sounds and beats and synth voices. A growing beat. Robots on the march. Interesting vocal choices. I assume she’s singing about herself and the sacrifices made in the pursuit and achieving of fame. Then it all goes a bit existential. Melodies are okay for simple pop, but they’re bolstered by all of the studio trickery going on around them. More like a C grade song. She mentions how people bitch about her – that’s always going to be one price of fame, but I’d wager many more people love her than hate her. I bitch about her too, but only when she’s rubbish. She’s made a career out of being awesome, so why should she give a shit.

Isaac: Looks like a long one. Oh no. I’ve never liked that Asian/Arabic/Hebrew type of singing. I’m not sure why, it’s always felt, well, like crap to me. The beat builds and the verse starts so lets hope that Asian stuff doesn’t come back. Verses are good. Oh no, the crap is back for the chorus. I assume this is meant to add some sort of mysticism or oriental feel to the song, but it loses me. It sounds like a guy forcing out a particularly cumbersome turd while a wasp enters his eye socket. Everything else in the song is good – not great, not up to the standards of her experiments on Ray Of Light, but at least approaching that quality. For a six minute song, there isn’t much to it.

Push: There are the remnants of the oriental stuff here in terms of the drum and the rhythm – there’s that consistency again. It’s among the slower songs on the album. The music is very clipped – it surges in and withdraws like a suction cup. The vocal refrain goes on and on and over and over and the song barely changes over it’s four minutes. There’s a better song here, or at least parts of this could have been used to create a better song, with all the rest abandoned.

Like It Or Not: Lets hope we can close with a banger. It’s off to a good start with a swell of strings and some, dare I say it, Iron Maiden-esque riff melody. Then the beat drops and I wonder why the hell they would do that. The music and melody surrounding the beat do their best to make me ignore how silly the drum sound is. It’s all quite slow paced. There are still parts I like – the building of the pre-chorus and some of the guitar and string pieces. The chorus melody is almost something I like – not something I dislike, adding up to another high C grade song.

Overall another pleasant surprise from Madonna. I was not expecting to like this at all but the fantastic first half of the album made me look like a fool. The second half steadily withdraws into more mediocre territory as she tries to experiment – I appreciate the attempts, but they didn’t succeed where I’m concerned. I think a lot of people will like the second half as much as the first, but it wasn’t for me. Even with the album being of two halves, it is still consistent. While the songs get weaker in the back end they still commit to the same tone and atmosphere making this clearly a concept album, or more accurately an album designed to be played in a single sitting. Like the best albums of that kind, many of the individual songs are also good enough to stand on their own too. I’ve no idea where she goes from here. Let us know in the comments what you think of Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Get Together. Sorry. Future Lovers.

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2004!

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This year was a whopper for seeing films which either pissed me off or let me down. SO much so that I have a few dishonourable mentions to get through first. Troy was the latest in the mini battle-epic trend which erupted in the wake of LOTR. It’s not a bad film by any means, but given that the books the movie is based on are the single greatest pieces of written art in history… it kind of deserved better. If you’re going to adapt The Illiad in a single film then you’re not going to get much better than this, but that’s precisely the problem – that book deserves a trilogy, connected to a trilogy for The Aeneid and The Odyssey. Do it like LOTR did things, and you’ll have some of the best movies ever made. The Notebook is one of those Nicholas Sparks things – you know, soppy romances for soppy humans – someone always has a rare disease, the characters are always cardboard cut outs – you know the deal. It’s the same as all the others. King Arthur is the movie I confuse Robin Hood with. Any of the Robin Hood’s actually. I think Keira Knightly was in this one. A classic story with an engaging mythology and room for plenty and ripe for a fitting adventure story boiled down to a Cockney night out.

Sideways takes a bunch of irritating twats you’d be praised for stabbing in real life, played by performers I don’t care about made by a Director who is yet to have made a single thing I’ve liked. Actually, Nebraska was fine. Casshern is a movie I used to make people watch just because how damn cool it looked back in the day. There wasn’t really anything like it. But it’s completely incomprehensible. It would be, presumably, like showing someone the sixth Harry Potter movie when they haven’t seen any of the others, or read the books, or speak English. I’m not sure whether it should be on my favourites list or this one. Alfie is a badly cast, ill-advised remake. The first worked because of 60s culture. The Noughties were a cultural void and London hasn’t been relevant in decades – moving the action to New York they should have just cast a native. Jude Law… Jude Law has looked human in precisely two movies, and ironically in one of those he was a vampire. The Wisdom Of Crocodiles and The Talented Mr Ripley. Every other movie who sort of looks like an emaciated squirrel. Izo was a Takashi Miike film I looked forward to – the synopsis of which (which may be the greatest of all time) is simply that a lethal killer goes back in time for the express purpose of killing, well, everyone. That’s the film. Like Casshern, I’m not sure if it should be on this list or on my actual favourites – it has a ridiculous cast, but there is almost no plot, the violence is over the top yet after a while it loses whatever made it amusing in the first place, it’s epic but way too long – all in all I was disappointed. Now lets move onto the top ten.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

This is the one which most people who watch movies, fancy themselves a critic, or pass by my blog will shout about. It has pedigree from top to bottom in the cast and the crew. The performances are really the only thing going for it in my mind, with people being ‘shocked’ Carrey could do serious stuff even though he already had. But it’s just another one of those manic pixie dream girl movies, with Kate Winslet not being best suited to such ideals. Michael Gondry’s visual style and general movies are not things I’m a big fan of and it all comes across as too cutesy and twee, no matter how much soap-lite tragedy is plastered all over it. Add in a Charlie Kaufman script, whose stuff always sounds more interesting to me than it ever ends up being, and who almost never makes me care about any of the characters and we have a film with a good idea which doesn’t scratch any of my itches. It’s Total Recall, but without the violence and with only two breasts.

The Chronicles Of Riddick

I saw Pitch Black on release night and loved it. As a big Farscape fan at the time, it was cool to see Claudia Black on the big screen, and as a sci-fi horror dude it was great seeing a new voice hitting the scene. It seemed like a cult hit in the waiting and felt like it would make the careers of several of those involved. While it didn’t quite turn out that way, it still led to a couple of belated sequels. This first sequel, is a turd. The first film was simplicity tied up in a complex world. Alien feels complex when it is simply a story of cat and mouse – Pitch Black works so well because it played the same trick. The Chronicles Of Riddick adds layer upon layer of new faces, mythology, and useless plot, and in the end it feels less like a film, more like a visual glossary for study purposes.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Back when the first Resident Evil was released, I was a fan of the games. RE 2 was my favourite and while the first movie was ultimately a let down and only related to the games in the most surface way, I was still keen to see more. That has always been my history with the movie series to be honest – thinking that maybe they’ll get it right with the next one. Apocalypse is the worst of the bunch, largely due to the terrible, truly awful, direction by Alexander Witt. It’s an ugly, ugly film, the action is distorted to be unrecognizable, and the story – not that it matters much – descends so far into convoluted guff that the series never recovered. At least the later films had fun buying into how ridiculous it all was. Uwe Boll wishes he made a film this bad.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

As if the first one was bad enough, shit enabling, fake plastic people trip-trapping from one quirky mishap to the next, we knew there would have to be a sequel. It’s more of the same really, but even more predictable. More worthless characters, terrible dialogue straight from the quill of a Carrie Bradshaw fan-fiction wannabee, and poncey hair whose sole purpose seems to be to encourage terror attacks on London.

Closer

Billed as a return to form for Mike Nichols, it certainly seemed that way when he brought together a decent cast and garnered positive reviews. When I first heard about it I was more interested in the Natalie Portman pole-dancing stuff. Alas, when I got around to seeing it there was little of the spark of Nichols’ earlier work. Instead we got a cold, grey, depressing look at relationships in the 21st Century where no-one is ever happy and everyone wants to be somebody else, but fails to say anything insightful about such a state of existence. The only notable point worth bringing up with regards to the script is the amount of swearing as it seeks to rival motherfucking Goodfellas, but the characters are faux-articulate walking lungs, mindlessly wandering through life just like a used condom traverses a swamp.

Blade Trinity

Also known as Blade: Ryan Reynolds Is A Twat.

9 Songs

There were some positive movements in British music in the early Noughties. None of those are used in this turd. Modern Britain’s answer to, well Confessions Of A Window Cleaner, it’s a series of kind of explicit sex scenes between two of the least screen-friendly performers you’d want to see getting their kit off and having their respective parts sucked. It’s empty and vapid and without merit as a narrative, the music is shit, and you can’t even wank to it because everyone is so ugly.

Ab-Normal Beauty

Ever since first catching Bangkok Dangerous and proclaiming it as one of the greatest films of all time, I’ve tried to catch everything the Pang Brothers have made – together or on their own. That has led me to crap like this – another good idea let down by too much plot, too many misguided attempts at artistry, and by making little sense. This one is about a conflicted, complex woman who becomes obsessed with death after seeing and photographing a car crash. It makes the list because not a lot happens, it’s difficult to find any point to it all, and it’s such a letdown when we know what the brothers are capable of.

Survive Style + 5

Did I get this free on Amazon? I think I did, otherwise I’d be horrified that I paid for it. In fact I’ve probably reviewed here on the blog. I know a lot of the Japanese stuff I watch is incomprehensible without actually being Japanese (I’m speaking from a cultural standpoint), but this is on another level – as well as simply being crap. Going back to it, it has its moments – the great Tadanobu Asano features in one segment, his is probably the most interesting one as he repeatedly kills his wife only for her to keep coming back. The stories loosely intertwine but it’s messy and manic, and beyond scratching that itch for some offbeat Japanese weirdness, it doesn’t offer much.

Let us know in the comments which movies would make your list!

Best Original Score – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. The Spy Who Loved Me. Julia. Mohammed Messenger Of God. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. A Little Night Music. Pete’s Dragon. The Slipper And The Rose.

Well well well, John Welliams (Williams) was on a bit of a roll this year, with two nominations and one win – both scores of course being indisputable classics which are still listened to by thousands of people today. Lets not kid ourselves – Star Wars is winning this every day of the week. From the main theme, to Leia’s theme, to the Cantina theme, it’s littered with classics and is obviously one of the best and most famous movie scores ever. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is mostly known for the famous ‘do di do duh doo’ communication melody, but elsewhere the score has many other great pieces ranging from tense buildups and wailing melodies of foreboding.

The Spy Who Loved Me remains one of the most critically acclaimed Bond entries, netting three Oscar nominations. Marvin Hamlisch took over from John Barry and ironically got the first nomination of the series (Skyfall would pick up the second decades on) – his score patriotic, quintessentially Bond yet self mocking. Julia is one of George Delerue’s most suitably poignant efforts while Mohammed Messenger Of God (or The Message) isn’t a film you can see being made or becoming so successful today – Maurice Jarre’s blends East and West quietly. On to the other category and A Little Night Music picked up the official win – you already know how I feel about musicals. Pete’s Dragon is there too, never a favourite film of mine but the music is okay, and finally The Slipper And The Rose is a bizarre British live action musical of Cinderella with some decent songs and tunes.

My Winner: Star Wars

My Nominations: Star Wars. The Spy Who Loved Me. Julia. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Black Sunday. A Bridge Too Far. The Deep. Eraserhead. Hausu. Martin. Saturday Night Fever.

Does anything else stand a chance against Star Wars this year? Well, John Williams didn’t only make two scores this year – he ain’t no slacker – he also made Black Sunday – another string heavy piece which actually has a lot in common with his two official nominations though not as bombastic. A Bridge Too Far is yet another classic war epic with a massive cast  – you know I love those, and while John Addison’s score is not as memorable as others it does still have a great lead theme. The Deep isn’t a great film, but for some reason certain scenes have always stayed with me, usually those involving eels (Louis Gossett Jr never seems to have much luck with aquatic wildlife). The music is good though, reminiscent of Jaws of course, but going its own way too. I’d love it if Eraserhead had received a nomination here (or anywhere) so I’m adding it, for it’s washing, industrial, hissing noise.

The soundtrack to Hausu is great because it was completed before the film had actually been made, yet it manages to be as buck nuts as the film itself, sounding like a children’s TV show and a cheesy rock based musical. The soundtrack of Martin is one of the most beautiful, haunting, and underrated in horror, while we can’t have a discussion about soundtracks without mentioning one of the biggest selling albums ever – Saturday Night Fever – a soundtrack brimming with disco classics. If we’re going to include that, then we must also include Smokey And The Bandit – as much as I’m not a fan of disco, I hate country music more, yet both these soundtracks are great. Susperia remains Argento’s most famous film and probably Goblin’s most acclaimed score – reminding me of Rosemary’s Baby but with hissing and arcane whisperings and chants in place of the lullaby ‘la las’. It’s one of the few soundtracks I can put on and listen to the whole way through, a rip-roaring ride of devilish funk, rock, synth, screams, and more. It would be my winner if not for Star Wars. I think that’s quite enough soundtracks for one year.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know in the comments which Score of 1977 you would choose!