Birdy

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Man, Nic Cage looks really young here. No wait, Nic Cage looks really old here – what is he supposed to be, sixteen? But he looks like he’s in his twenties. Same with Matthew Modine. It’s all the more strange given the kids they’re playing with are a good two feet shorter and clearly much younger. ‘Nam man, it made weirdos of us all.

Birdy is a film I’d known about since I was first obsessed with the Manic Street Preachers. When you get obsessed with a band (I’m sure this still happens today with current artists but in a much different way), from an era gone by you have to do a lot of work to learn as much about them as possible. It’s not enough to simply buy the albums and learn the songs and know every single lyric. It’s not even enough to see them live and buy the shirt and tell your friends. No, you need to chase down every TV and Radio and magazine interview or quote they ever gave. Before Tweets and Blogs we had fanzines and paper. It’s there that I learned that the Manics were as much consumers of pop culture as they were detractors of it. It’s like the old saying about a rock star teaching you more than school ever did; the Manics certainly opened my mind to stuff I’d never thought about, music I’d never cared about, and movies and books I’d never heard of.

Birdy was one such movie. When you become a Manics obsessive, most people tend to become a Richey fanatic. As the band’s lead lyricist and a central part of their creative vision, he was as seductive and humble and intelligent a mouthpiece as a rock band could ever have. Most interviews he gave (as well as the rest of the band) were a treasure trove of quips and quotes and the media loved him as they knew he would be good for a soundbite – controversial or otherwise. Richey and the band understood this as well as any professional businessman, the difference being that what Richey said came from a place of honesty and understanding. Throw in the tragedy of his mental and physical state along with the mystery of his disappearance and you have a rock and roll, human story as alluring as it is heartbreaking.

It’s no surprise then to those fans who get around to checking out some of the well publicized ‘Richey’s Favourites’ lists discover that many of his most treasured works of fiction deal directly with subject matter he was obsessed with, or dealt with, or displayed, or despised. From Concentration Camp survivors texts, to stories concerned with violence and war, from the collapse of the human spirit and the chaos of a broken mind, to authors who killed themselves or vanished entirely. Humanity’s darkest innards are where Richey rent his most tortured lyrics from, inspired in part by the master works he knew inside out. It’s easy to draw a line between the works he coveted, the works he made, and the life he led.

Birdy is a 1984 movie based off the William Wharton novel of the same name. Both concern the lasting friendship between two men – their adolescence, their harrowing war experiences, and their struggle to adjust back home. When describe like that it sounds like any number of other Vietnam movies – if I can set this one apart from the others I would say that this one has a little more in the way of heart, hope, and comedy. In the book, the War in question is WWII, but in the movie it is Vietnam – a small change, but an important one nonetheless – each war is both the same and different from the next. Nic Cage stars as Al – a typical teenager in a rundown area of Philly, while Matthew Modine is the title character – a bird obsessed, socially naive kid who Al befriends. The film jumps liberally between different time-frames – the mishaps and adventures of the mismatched youths and how their home-life and charms somehow brought and kept them together, to some point after their return from war when Al is facially disfigured and Birdy is mute and unresponsive in an Army psych ward. Interspersed later in the movie are very brief scenes of what happened in Vietnam, relaying how the relate to both events from their youth and of their current state.

I was surprised by the lack of war scenes when I first watched Birdy. That’s another key difference between it and the more famous ‘nam movies. Directed Alan Parker, known more for his musicals, prefers to focus on the friendship and the internal struggles instead of the visceral reality of what happened on the battlefield. It’s a coming of age film as much as it is a portrayal of war horror, and it feels honest and authentic in both to the extent that it gave me some nostalgia for a time in which I didn’t exist. That’s not accurate – it’s the friendship I was nostalgic for, not the time, and it strikes a similar balance to something like Stand By Me. While Cage and Modine are good, and while their friendship is something I enjoyed watching, it lacks some of the fun and camaraderie of Stand By Me, probably because the latter focused on four central characters and on a different point in their lives.

While Birdy is a fairly unique character, the film is smart enough to send a more universal message – one which it is difficult to write about without avoiding the trite metaphors about birds and freedom and cages. At points in our lives we do feel trapped and we do yearn for freedom and flight and friendship – it doesn’t matter that not all of us have experience war or abuse or social scapegoating or growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. Birdy shows us what it was like for these characters and shows enough of the characters that we recognize certain traits within ourselves. Whether we deal with hardship by tackling it face on, by indulging in obsession, by ignoring it, or by falling into fantasy – hardships are going to hit us, and Birdy tackles the subject by showing each of these responses and how friendship is one of our greatest defenses.

Peter Gabriel crafted a thoughtful score for the movie – I haven’t listened to a lot of the man’s music beyond the obvious, but his score for Birdy (which is mostly instrumental) aptly conveys both heart and panic, fear and hope. From pounding drum interludes to inspirational synths, the music can be in your face and drift quietly on the outer reaches. Parker’s film uses ‘Skycam’ heavily to simulate bird flight as well as Birdy’s imaginings and some of the flashbacks. It seems a little silly today but it works well enough for 1984 and probably raised a few eyebrows from a stylistic perspective. The important thing is that the technology serves both character and plot and isn’t just there to show off.

I went into Birdy expecting a heavier drama than what I got, based on my own assumptions of what Richey liked. A war movie about a bird obsessed man on the fringes of society, scarred and left to a careless world? How could that not be a dark and gritty story? I forget than Richey was also defiant and human and hopeful, and in the end that is more what Birdy is about.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Birdy!

Bait

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Why do we do it? Or more specifically, why do I do it? You can count the number of good, truly good shark movies on one hand and yet I watch as many of the bad ones as I can, knowing full well they are going to be bad. Is it my inherent love for the mysterious creatures? Is it because most shark movies are horror movies and an excuse to watch annoying people get chomped to pieces? Is it the hope that maybe one day someone will make another truly good one? I think it’s all of those things – I’ve always loved sharks and horror movies, and I always hope that another good one will appear. Reading the synopsis of shark movies, and knowing the companies and money involved before hand is a valid way of anticipating if the film will be good, but as I’ve said, that won’t put me off; it may not be good, but it could still be entertaining.

Bait has the following synopsis:

‘A freak tsunami traps a group of people in a submerged grocery store. As they try to escape, they are hunted by white sharks that are hungry for meat’

Aren’t most tsunamis freak events? Also, that kind of makes it sound as if the grocery store was already submerged. I assume they mean Great White Sharks too, and the fact that they’re hungry for meat goes without saying. If I was trapped in a grocery store, you’d better believe I’d be looting it to the bone. And I wouldn’t be starting with the meat, no, I’d be filling my face with sweets and crisps first – all that top shelf stuff (matron). Plus, that synopsis makes me think of two other movies I’d like to see – one set in a world where all shops are underwater, like The Jetsons but with water instead of space. So.. Spongebob, I guess. Secondly, a movie about a freakshow tsunami – a giant supafly wave which does funky dances and wears an afro.

All in all, I don’t mind the idea for this – it has potential, merging survival horror with loose disaster movie and siege movie tropes. I imagine John Carpenter having a go at this – it’s basically Assault On Precinct 13 but with sharks instead of gangstas and crap instead of goodness. Honestly, it’s not all that bad. In terms of being a cheap B movie, it’s perfectly watchable and gives enough attention to its characters that we have a passing interest in their fates, if not care. The acting is a notch above what you would expect from these things, with famous faces like Sharni Vinson and Julian McMahon providing the ‘oh, I know that guy’ moments. The film also spends time building up to the main scenario, introducing various characters and conflicts before releasing the sharks. It begins with a tragic event as lifeguard Josh watches his friend Rory be killed by a shark during a rescue. Rory was brother to Tina, Tina was engaged to Josh. Flashforward a year and Josh and Tina have split up, with Josh now working in a supermarket. Tina shows up with her new boyfriend – uh oh. Worse, a couple of criminals show up too in a botched armed robbery – oh no. Worse still, a tsunami drops, trapping the staff, shoppers, and criminals together – oopsy. Then to spice things up further, some sharks have been washed in by the tsunami, and I have a feeling they like the taste of young pretty flesh.

At times it feels like there are too many characters, each with their own crap. There are security guards, criminals, managers, shoplifters, couples galore, dogs, and some are revealed to be intertwined and some are revealed to be dicks. There are a couple of ‘twists’ though I pissed off my wife by calling them out long before they were revealed, as I always do. I won’t spoil them here, but they seemed fairly obvious even to me. There was a great moment where it looked like the dog was killed, only for a later cop-out. Hey, I love dogs but I love it just as much when people who moan about dogs being killed in movies (which almost never happens) are frightened that the dogs will be hurt. The dog here especially is more than deserving of being gobbled. But as mentioned, there is a lot going on, characters trying to resolve their differences all while working together (or not) to try to survive and escape. Certain characters are split off from the main group, some have selfish motives, others are fish fodder.

The gore and kills are as you would expect – a lot of improbable shark action and even more improbable attempts to hunt and kill the sharks. The CG isn’t great but it’s still a level or twelve above Sharknado – you’ll get a laugh out of it but can still suspend your disbelieve enough to not let it get in the way of the story. The film is actually known as Bait 3D – so you know you’re going to get some of those scenes to make the 3D stand out. Naturally I watched in 2D, so these scenes added to the ridicule. In terms of pacing and action, the film rattles along nicely and while it hits all of the expected notes, it does so in a fun way. I was never bored even though I’ve seen it all before. It’s much better than the ‘so bad it’s good’ shark movies, but still a way behind Jaws and… Jaws 2. Thanks to an interesting premise, a decent cast of recognizable faces, and actual attention to building story and character (somewhat), Bait is a film for anyone who enjoys shark movies or animal attack movies in general.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bait!

Aftermath

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The big man is back, this time he’s gunning for revenge against the bad guy who murdered his family…. except it’s not the 80s anymore and this isn’t an action movie. Aftermath takes the true life story of a mid air collision between two airplanes, and one man’s quest for justice in the (insert title). Those looking for scenes of Arnie gunning down hordes of terrorists and quipping one-liners will be disappointed, but for more dedicated Arnie fans like me who are just happy that he’s still working, this is a unique oddity in his filmography.

Since stepping down as The Governator, Arnie has been expanded his dramatic chops more. He still throws down in old school Action flicks such as Sabotage and The Last Stand, he has made smaller films in quieter dramas such as Maggie or notable cameos like in Killing Gunther. Aftermath sees him star as an unassuming builder looking forward to the arrival of his wife and pregnant daughter, only to receive the news that they have tied in an air traffic accident. The film isn’t only his story, his is paralleled (just like the intersecting paths of the airplanes, get it?) by the air traffic controller who is ostensibly blamed for the incident. The film follows both characters, one racked with guilt, the other fueled by a need to hear someone apologize for what has happened, both suffering from different losses in different ways.

The film is well acted though strangely uneventful. There is a quietness to the emotional content which never wallows in grief or in breakdown, instead showing the simple void of shock and misunderstanding which surrounds loss. It is almost played like a TV drama – in terms of music, direction, writing, there is nothing out of the ordinary beyond the big name cast. It seems like a strange choice for Schwarzenegger as this was never going to be a money maker or raise his profile in any way, so we can only assume it was the story and character he was interested in. Just one side note – while the film ended essentially how you expect it to once its big shock is out of the way (I didn’t think the film would take the turn that it did), it did leave me wishing that one side character got his comeuppance. It’s immature and fruitless, but when dickish characters get away with their dickish behaviour in movies or TV, it pisses me off because I know that’s what tends to happen in real life. We like seeing these scumbags getting tossed off buildings or arrested etc because its escapism. There is a textbook smarmy lawyer in the film (played by good old Terry from Dawn Of The Dead) who refuses to look at a photograph of Arnie’s family, instead smirking with his Gordon Gecko hair and sitting smug in the knowledge that Arnie will never succeed in court. It would have been nice to see Arnie ram his fist into this guy’s stomach and break his Goddamn spine, but alas. The main issue with this is, there’s no way this character is a real person – for such a sensitive event, no firm in the world is going to send such a repugnant asshole – every firm in the world would be bending over backwards to make you feel good and freaking the hell out that they could lose.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Aftermath!

Dark Tide

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Well. Well, that was a piece of shit, wasn’t it? I’m not usually interested in criticizing a film when it’s bad or ripping it to shreds for comedy purposes, but when I’ve already stated that I watch a lot of bad, deliberately bad shark movies, and a lot of low budget, made for TV shark movies with the worst CG this side of me and Microsoft Paint, to say this is worse than those should be everything you need to know.

Halle Berry stars as Kate, a shark whisperer who likes to free dive with Great Whites. Fair enough. I don’t think she’s necessarily miscast and I usually like her, but she has no business being in this film beyond being as a vanity project for her and her husband and co-star Olivier Martinez. Note – I had no idea they were married or together or anything until my wife told me. Note – Olivier Martinez has never been good in anything. Ever. Some other people are in it – doesn’t matter. They are married in the movie and are making self-involved ‘movies’ about swimming with sharks, which involves jumping into the ocean and tugging on their fins. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong. Yes, Quarrel is gobbled by a shark and we flash-forward 12 months to see that Kate is… continuing like nothing ever happened. She doesn’t make the movies anymore and she doesn’t see her husband, but she’s still out on the water, now giving tours which isn’t bringing in much money. Her husband appears on the scene again with an offer to take some billionaire out on a special tour so he can swim with the sharks like she used to. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong…

This movie cost $25 million. Here are some things which could have been done with $25 million instead of making this movie:

Donate to Shark Preservation charities

Donate to me

Go to Space with you and all your friends

Buy your own island (and shoot your own shitty movies there)

Hire a hundred teachers

Buy 25 MRI machines

But 10 CAT machines

Give a hell of a lot of starving people a hell of a lot of food and water

Give a hell of a lot of homeless people a hell of a lot of shelter

I don’t know… a bunch of monkeys to play with.

Yet they decided to go ahead and make Dark Tide. I honestly have no idea why or how this was released in its current state. Filmed in 2010 it flapped around until a limited release in 2012 – clearly no-one (rightly) had any clue what to do with it and decided just to chuck it out there and maybe get a few bucks back on their investment. It is a completely incoherent mess. Halle Berry’s character, we assume is supposed to be traumatized by the death of her friend, yet spends the whole movie smiling and joking like she’s parading down a red carpet. She has spent a year away from swimming with sharks, but dives on in with zero hesitation or post traumatic stress. The wife of the guy who was killed at the start – far from blaming the sheer stupidity of her husband and Berry’s character, she just shrugs it off like ‘meh, he lived his life like he wanted – being eaten’. Berry is meant to be estranged from her husband, has removed his number from her phone, and hasn’t seen him in a year, yet spends the entire film flirting with and fondling him like they’re horny teens on their first date; even though he’s a complete dick the entire time. Later she finally comes to her senses and decides that no, they’re not going to take their clearly falling to pieces ship into the most shark invested part of the world and let some asshole swim outside a cage with sharks, only for the husband to slap her around about, to which SHE apologizes for, and then goes ahead and takes them to dive with the sharks.

Oh, we’re not finished folks. There’s a scene – a completely irrelevant scene early in the movie which… I have not idea why it exists. It sets up a bunch of shady characters who seem to be going poaching? They’re in a dodgy van, they go to a stretch of water, then go diving for oysters, or abalone, or doubloons or something. Right, so these are bad guys and they’re going to show up later and attack Berry’s boat or Berry will have to save them from being eaten. Nope, we see them swim around the water for a minute and then… nothing? They are never seen again, there is no mention of them again, they aren’t attacked? No idea. The dead guy’s wife is apparently psychic, calling the coastguard to tell them that she ‘knows something has gone wrong’ on Berry’s boat and to get a search party out there. It’s okay, she isn’t seen again either. There’s a 10 minute stretch where Berry takes a random family out on a trip – so these guys are going to get attacked and eaten? Nope, she just takes them out, comes back, and then takes out the next group who do get attacked. It’s almost like they filmed the first family and decided they weren’t interesting enough to spend the rest of the film with, but we’ve filmed the scenes so we may as well keep them in the movie.

Oh yeah, the boat keeps breaking – in the character’s own words beyond repair – then is suddenly fixed and working in the next scene. This happens more than once. Every character without fail has zero motivation for anything that happens or anything they do, everybody apparently hates everyone else yet spend most of their time joking and giggling. Berry’s character can hold her breath… forever? She’s down in that water as day turns to night, comes up for a quick puff, and then heads down again for a few hours. There’s a storm coming and their boat is already broken but why the hell shouldn’t they keep going for an hour and a half into the storm and further from shore to get to the sharks. Hell, it’s not like they could go home and come back the next day. They go out to an area which has literally hundreds of seals swimming around after telling us that sharks can’t resists seals. Then they get on the boat and say there are no sharks around so they tie a carboard seal to the back of the boat, drive forward a few yards, and lo and behold a shark attacks the fake seal? Eh? Why would it go for thi, and not one of the other thousand or so real seals around it? But wait – actually, it was a real seal the shark attacked because they put the cardboard on back on the boat, intact. So the fake one is used to attract sharks in an area full of real seals and make them attack the real ones? But wait – the footage of the shark attacking the seal is actually a fairly famous real-life clip of a shark attack that they edited into the movie. Believe me, I’m only scratching the surface here? Not a single moment passes in this movie without something entirely implausible, nonsensical, ridiculous, or pointless happening, completely without explanation.

As I said, it’s not like me to go harping on about a film’s shortcomings as I know how much effort and collaboration, and work goes into making a film to the extent that it’s almost a miracle anything ever gets made. But seriously, how did this ever see the light of day? Director John Stockwell seems to have a fetish for bikini clad women or deep blue seas, having also unleashed Blue Crush, Into The Blue, and the as yet to be imagined Blue Smurfs Have A Blue Old Time Playing The Blues In Blue Blue Sea (Part Blue). The film has a couple of things going for it – good underwater photography in places, and the use of actual sharks. Why bother choosing this over something on the Discovery Channel then? For the chumps being chomped of course, but unfortunately we only get that once in the opening five minutes, and briefly in the final ten. Everything else in between is completely bewildering. Anyway, I’ve watched quite a few shark movies recently but this is the first I just had to write about and publish immediately (having watched it last night). More shark movie reviews to come, and as not great as those movies were, I’d easily recommend those over this.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Dark Tide, especially if you’re one of those weirdos who actually enjoyed it.

Troy: The Odyssey

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‘Forgive me for what you are about to see’ speaks the wise Odysseus, King Of Ithaca, master of the epithet, and nary a wiser more prophetic line didst the Homeric hero spake. I’m always torn when I see film adaptations of the greatest work of literature ever written. On one hand, it’s my favourite story of all time – one which has influenced me personally more than any other book – so I’m always going to watch, plus it’s great seeing others attempting to bring the story to the screen. On the other hand, it’s simply too large, too dense a story, with too many characters, places, and requirements for special effects to adequately bring to screen without hundreds of millions of dollars. Throw in the fact that, while it’s a standalone story, you can’t really do it justice without also telling the story of the Illiad too – the history and build up to The Trojan War, Odysseus and his life in Ithaca before the war, the final stages of the war itself and The Fall Of Troy, all before Odysseus sets off on his journey home. In other words, it’s simply too big a story and world to fit into a low budget, 110 minute movie. Props for trying though.

I’ve said it before – I dream of a world where some company with all of the necessary funding, tools, and resources, and dedication and desire, creates the definitive version of The Trojan Trilogy. I used to think this had to be a big screen adaptation, an extended Universe comprising of multiple films for The Illiad, The Odyssey, And The Aeneid, crossing over where necessary. The more I think of it now, and given the fact that we’re in The Golden Age Of Television, it’s the small screen which seems more suited. Look at long-running big budget shows such as Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, even Vikings. They create a visionary world with multiple locations and massive cast telling an sprawling ongoing story. That’s what The Trilogy of books demands, and that’s what is always missing from The Odyssey in particular. Not only is there War; not only are there multiple monsters and creatures to deal with in the visual effects department; not only is there a huge cast of characters who warrant attention – it’s the sheer length of time involved in the story too. In order for the viewer to truly grasp the scope of Odysseus’ journey, we need to see him age – we need to understand the losses he suffers, the mental and physical torture he endures, but we need to see the same for those around him and for Penelope and Telemachus. A series filmed over and progressing through multiple seasons and years would give a much better impression and understanding of that passage of time, and the emotional impact for the audience when they see Odysseus finally make it home after a few years of watching, would be greatly heightened.

Recently The BBC attempted their own version of The Illiad, called Troy: Fall Of A City. While many idiots online vented because they cast a dark skinned actor in the crucial role of Achilles, my main concern with it was that they focused too much on the love triangle between Paris, Helen, and Menelaus, which of course triggers the whole mess. There’s also too much soap opera intrigue and sorry attempt at GOT pandering, and not enough focus on the supernatural/God elements, but it was a faithful attempt at telling the larger story. Unfortunately, it was a ratings mess and will likely discourage anyone else from attempting such an adaptation. I still think though – you get the right people involved, the right script, and have the right dedication, and you’ll have a hit on your hands.

Which finally leads us back to this 2017 film adaptation of The Odyssey. I’m fine with taking liberties from the source material. Homer of course was merely adapting from all the stories he had heard throughout his life, but while I feel his adaptation is the best version of the stories we have, we should try to be as faithful to his adaptation as we can. In a single sub 2 hour movie, we have to take many liberties. The story still follows Odysseus as he leaves Ithaca, fights in Troy and unleashes his wooden horse ploy, and finally attempts his journey home. Unlike in Homer’s version where he leaves with multiple ships and hundreds of men in tow, here he seems to leave in a ship barely large enough to stretch out in and with less than five crew. One of his crew is a Trojan Princess/warrior/priestess/witch called Circe who has nothing to do with the actual Circe from Homer’s Odyssey. She curses Odysseus, and for some reason they are followed home by a Kraken. Presumably these fabrications were added because some people may have heard the names ‘Kraken’ and ‘Circe’ from Clash Of The Titans, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and GOT. Rather than Homer’s sprawling journey, here Odysseus merely lands on an island (called by The Sirens) where the meet an amalgamation of the Homeric Circe, Calypso, and Sirens who bewitch the crew into forgetting their lives. After a few scenes they escape, but must make it through ‘the paths of the dead’ (in lieu of the actual Underworld) where they meet both a Minotaur and a Cyclops before escaping and making it back to Ithaca.

It’s not so much the removal of stuff from the story which bothers me, rather than the inclusion. Why add this fake Circe? Why create ‘the paths of the dead’ which seems to be little more than three corridors which takes all of five minutes to traverse? Why throw in a Kraken? At least we jump back and forth to see how Penelope is getting on with her suitors. Within a few minutes you know that the film is going to be… limited. The acting is mostly static or laughable, the dialogue is that same stilted nonsense almost any adaptation of this sort of story does – why can’t you get a decent writer in there – look at how people in GOT talk – do something like that! The battle and fight scenes are comical and badly directed, with people who don’t really know how to swing a sword performing as some of the most famous warriors in history and maybe two extras lurking in the background to give (no) sense of depth. I could go in depth with criticism of the performances – the bullish, hilariously over the top Agamemnon and the ‘why does she keep raising her eyebrows’ Calypso. What would be the point? The lead performers – Dylan Vox (a predominant porn actor) as Odysseus, Lara Heller as Circe, and Kelly B Jones as Penelope are better, and are watchable, but are little more than mannequins to hang a series of tropes and bad dialogue on. Actually, looking at the cast I see Paris and Helen listed but I don’t remember them being there at all. Oh yeah, Priam has a magic sword too.

So… it’s not great. Is it worth watching, for fans of the story, for fans of this semi-fantasy, semi-action genre? Not really. It’s a cheap knock-off with not a lot to recommend it, but as a Homer super fan it’s still something that interested me. I’m always keen to see a director’s take on the story in the hope that one day we’ll get a good one. As it stands, that Armand Assante version is still the best, and while I got a few chuckles out of this and kept watching to see what other changes to the story the crew would bring, it’s not something I can see many going out of their way to see.

Attack Of The Adult Babies

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As an ardent fan of all things fucked up, I often get questioned by the more straight-laced members of my social circle – ‘what the hell is wrong with me’. I mean, if you have to ask, you’re never gonna get it – right? The truth is, I don’t know. None of us can truly know and people much smarter than me have tried to answer – what drives us to watching horror, or the bizarre, and beyond? What drives people to make art and entertainment based in these worlds, with these ideas? We don’t know, but we are a community, and for better or worse we can smell our own. It’s interesting then that Emmerdale’s Paddy – Dominic Brunt – is a proponent of these creations as he doesn’t seem like ‘one of us’. Of course I’m conflating his character in the TV soap with the real person I know little about. It appears he is one of us; since branching out as a director he has created a number of commendable and interesting films which are likely to never be seen by anyone who isn’t like me – they are low budget, they are weird, and while I can’t honestly say if they’re any good, I enjoy them and will gladly tell other like me to give them a shot. Anyone else? Stay far away.

The film poses a vital question we’ve all pondered upon once or twice – what if the power of the world’s elite was being provided by an immortal God of Feces? What if the way to ultimate wealth, power, and influence was to drink this God’s milk, shit, then feed the shit back to the God and have the God shit giant gold nuggets? That’s what we’re dealing with in Attack Of The Adult Babies, as a family of four infiltrates the country mansion of an elite gathering to retrieve some information – forced at gunpoint by a couple of bumbling criminals. We learn that not all is what it seems within the family, or within the mansion, and what at first seems like some bizarre old white dude’s sex fetish cult becomes even more strange. I think I remember Eurotrash exploring real people who get their kicks by dressing as babies and having sexy nurses ‘look after them’, so the idea is grounded in some fucked up sense of reality. People, eh? Bunch of freaks the lot of us.

The film has a lot of comparisons with former notable works of depravity – The Human Centipede, Salo, Guest House Paradiso, and strives to be a more lurid version of Animal Farm or a British version of Society. There’s no guesswork with the satire but the film seems more concerned with using the satire to allow for lots of gore and loads of, well, shit. Which is perfectly fine for me of course – the film doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest and it’s much worse when your attempts at mixing satire with exploitation are done in a po-faced, drenched in vanity way. Brunt merges slapstick humour with toilet humour, literally, gore gags, knowing nods, and every so often the jokes land. Like some of the aforementioned films it all becomes so ridiculous that you’re swept along with it, providing you haven’t turned it off.

Stay around and you’ll find a few familiar faces among the mostly amateur or little known performers – Roger Stiles from Coronation Street as the dad, Uncle Peter from Reeves And Mortimer, Faith Dingle from Emmerdale, and Martin from The Human Centipede Part II. With this being a mostly low budget affair, even though British audiences will recognise some of the cast, we do still have to deal with some dodgy acting, some terrible accents, and an overall cheap feel. Thankfully most of the special effects, ranging from practical blood spurts to puppetry and claymation, all get the full attention they deserve – it’s clear this is where the money went. While still cheap, it’s all tactile and done with love and reverence in a way that makes the glossy big budget films feel sterile. You can stride through any number of holes in the plot and asking why there isn’t any security inside or in the grounds of the central mansion (given these are supposed to be the most important people in the country) is futile. I imagine The Daily Mail would have a field day if they got in with their cameras. Actually, The Daily Mail would probably cover it up or blame those loony liberal lefties of being behind it all. Likewise, no-one in the film seems to know how to defend themselves, standing and apparently willing to receive a blade to the eye or a bullet up the ass, and everybody apparently loves to show off their bubbling, gushing wounds before they die.

The film will succeed or fail depending on your love of the different types and tropes of exploitation. We have a number of funny, over the top kills, but then we have an overly long intermission scene which feels too much like a nod to Tarantino. The soundtrack is decent enough and while much of the dialogue ranges from pleasingly puerile to predictable and character names fall into the old trap of naming characters after real life notorious figures or famous fictional characters, it does feature one of the best lines of the year – taken in its context of course -‘missed both me legs’. There are actually some nice shots – near the climax as one battered protagonist stumbles from one end of a room to another and slumps on the floor, followed by a group of axe wielding adult babies is of particular note.

It all leads to a bloody climax a la Braindead, but with added shit.   If you’re a fan of Guest House Paradiso’s vomit-filled climax, then you’ll probably enjoy the closing minutes of Attack Of The Adult Babies – though it’s not the mouth expelling fluid here. It’s even funnier because of the stiff upper lip, super posh high society delivery of the lines, cheesy as many of them are. Just when you think that’s the end, we have time for some trippy stuff which is a bit silly and the film may have been better served without it. Just when you think that’s the end, we get some claymation and a final few minutes which goes all out buck nuts with giant shit Gods, rewinding film, and an alien spacecraft heading towards Earth. In other words, Brunt is having a whale of a time and the rest of us are welcome to join in.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Attack Of The Adult Babies – or am I the only one who has taken the plunge?

Rear Window

*Originally written in 2003

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Hitchcock takes all the ingenuity of previous films like Rope and Lifeboat, and translates them to Rear Window, one of his true masterpieces. Taking place in one apartment where the viewer is forced to see what Jimmy Stewart’s character sees, we are the voyeuristic witness to all the goings-ons of his neighbours. Frequently we look into their homes and become a passive viewer of their lives, wondering why they do what they do, what they will do next, and whether anyone can see us. Not only is it a technological treat, it is a pinnacle of tension and suspense, complemented by the twisting plot, excellent dialogue, and marvelous performances from all.

Stewart plays LB Jefferies, or Jeff, a well traveled photographer who hates the idea of settling down, of being trapped in the same place for any length of time. Ironically he has broken his leg, and is forced to stay in a wheelchair, in his apartment for a few months. Through his boredom, and his window, he watches his neighbours and the daily actions, giving them nicknames because of their behaviour. There is Miss Torso, an amorous young dancer, the newly-weds who like to keep themselves to themselves, Miss Lonely Hearts who spends her days planning how to catch the attention of men, and spends her nights failing. There is a tormented pianist whose music fills the air, and couple and their annoying dog. Lastly there is Lars Thorwald and his wife who are often arguing. Lisa (Grace Kelly) is Jeff’s girlfriend, a socialite who wants the opposite of Jeff – marriage, new dresses, and a place in high society. Their nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) also visits to add some humour and spark. Jeff becomes suspicious when Thorwald’s wife disappears, and at night he sees Thorwald acting strangely; taking small packages wrapped in paper from his flat, going back and forwards. Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife, and with Stella and Lisa begins to try to prove what they believe to a detective friend. They search for a body, for evidence that Miss Thorwald is alive etc, and soon we too are captivated, wondering if she is dead, or if it is all just a mistake.

The last 20 minutes of Rear Window must rank among the most suspenseful in movie history, and its influence can still be seen today, even in modern horror movies such as Ringu. The voyeuristic qualities are impressive and effective, and we are truly brought into the room with Stewart. There is excitement, comedy, romance, mystery, all the trademarks of Hitchcock, all flawlessly shown. Kelly is beautiful and feisty, her entrance memorable, her character strong, and in the end we see that although she will succumb slightly to Jeff’s needs, she will remain independent. Stewart is wonderful, giving yet another landmark performance conveying paranoia, annoyance and helplessness like few other actors can. Burr is frightening as Thorwald, and Ritter is extremely good as Thelma, adding much needed relief from the tension with tongue in cheek humour. Each of the neighbours is distinct and we come to understand them. Full of cynicism about people, love, romance and relationships, though not harsh, Rear Window is one of the great films of the 50s, and is still highly watchable and entertaining today.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Rear Window!

It’s All About Love

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You know, a lot of the time when I watch a movie I jot down physical or mental notes to use in my subsequent review, or so I remember what I thought and felt – many times I don’t write a review for months or years after watching the thing. As I was writing my notes and as the disjointed narrative sprawled out, I thought that hey, why don’t I just make my unfiltered jotted down notes the review. I’m no William Burroughs, but I’ve used this cut-up approach to reviews or discussions or pieces of work before – when the subject matter called for it. Plus, I’m lazy and can’t be bothered turning the words below into sentences and a format. So here it is – a pile of thoughts I had when I was watching It’s All About Love.

Thought it was a random romance, only recorded it because of Claire Danes. Then Joaquin Phoenix appears on screen and I wonder if the machine has recorded the wrong movie. Then it opens like some jaunty Coen brothers crime romp with unusual conversations, stilted vague dialogue, and a dead guy at the bottom of an escalator that everyone just ignores and steps over. Weird accents. Then Sean Penn appears, also with a weird accent. Then there’s a dead guy in a bin. What the hell is going on? Is this some parallel future? Background news reports of some deadly disease but no-one seems to care. People are randomly talking about flying. I’ll admit to being mesmerised. Always something going on in the background. Creepy kids singing soundtrack. Dimly lit Doppelgangers. Bridging Perfect Blue and Black Swan, by way of Mulholland Drive. Seems the world is failing because no-one loves anyone, though a lot of these people appear to love each other. Or is it obsession? I wonder what Wikipedia says. Claire Danes cried when she saw it – because it was bad, not because it was good. I’m not crying, but I’m still watching. There are bad guys and hinted at subplots. Now it’s Blade Runner. Seriously, why are they doing all these accents? Sean Penn is still on a plane. I have a feeling this isn’t going anywhere. There aren’t enough Claire Danes sex scenes in the world. Uh oh, everyone is getting killed. Why would you keep moving when the sniper is clearly only going to shoot you when you do. She’s still somehow alive. Now we’re going into a snowy wilderness. Is the whole world freezing? Everyone is having fun, then suddenly everyone is dead. Sean Penn is still on a plane.

What did you think of It’s All About Love? Let us know in the comments!

Cam

The first thing my wife said when watching this was ‘there’s a lot of tits in this for being rated 15’. I was thinking the same thing, although I hadn’t noticed the Netflix age rating until she brought it up. Yes, there are quite a lot of tits in Cam, which only seems right given the subject matter. It’s just sleazy and voyeuristic enough without bordering on outright porn in its very lightweight depiction and discussion of the latest sell your sexuality craze.

Viewers in the UK will likely be aware of TV channels such as Babestation. I’m sure they have similar stuff in the US and around the world – late night channels which are little more than women in various states of undress, gyrating around and mimicking sex acts for the viewer. Viewers are encouraged to call in and get one on one time with the girls but if you don’t want to fork over the cash, you can simply watch, presumably with one hand down your gunks. In other words, it’s dumb, exploitative, and ugly; in other words, it’s great. Similar websites exist for the same purposes, if simple porn isn’t interactive enough for you. Admittedly, it’s not a rabbit hole I’ve ever been down but there are plenty of non-porn or softcore versions all over the web that it’s easy to stumble upon – Twitch girl gamers with huge cleavage, girls and guys simply eating or reading in front of the camera for your likes and cash – every possible fetish is catered for and it is a massive business that will seem bewildering to most but is only becoming more commonplace. Taken further – basically every YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram page is set up in the same way, for likes, for attention, for money, clicks, and affirmation. Hell, even this blog. But believe me, the people in this movie look a lot better with their tits out than I do.

So what’s it all about – a scathing satire of this modern societal behaviour? A deep dive into the psyche of the individual and the populace who drive this shift in morality? No, I can’t say that any of those critiques hold true although in the opening moments I assumed this was the way the movie was going to go, wrapped in a story of identity theft and horror. We follow our main protagonist Alice – your typical view of a Millennial who seems to exist almost entirely online. She is a Cam girl, and has her eyes set upon a top 50 spot in her website of choice. There is a funny moment later on when we see just how many accounts there are – in the tens of thousands – which gives a giggle concerning the prevalence of the phenomena. It seems like in order to reach the hallowed Top 50, you need to perform more and more extreme acts – show more skin, a little bit of S&M, dressing up to satisfy your flighty viewers’ whims. Alice is shown to be manipulating it all for her own gains – she is paid in tokens which translate to hard cash – and doesn’t balk at spending five grand on a new sofa. She’s doing alright, but starts to get more fame and attention due to her stunts regarding violence. One event in particular seems to get her a lot of notice and as she laps up her new found infamy her online and offline life begin to merge and collapse.

There’s another Alice out there – breaking Alice’s own rules of things she will never do. This Alice has her face, her voice, but is willing to do those things Alice will not – and she starts to take Alice’s viewers away. Soon Alice is blocked from her account. Soon she begins seeing her online fans on the street, in her local stores. Soon she is the one being manipulated and she becomes the viewer, logging in and forcing the new Alice, paying the new Alice into certain acts in the hope of finding out what the hell is going on. It’s an interesting place to start for a story, but one which deserves a better pay off. It’s listed as a horror movie, but it’s absolutely more of a thriller – there is little horror to be found and any thrills and drama come out of mystery rather than fear or tension. It’s all a bit silly though it does appear to take itself seriously. The writers and director have a good grasp of the material, from the perspective of people who exist in this world, and while Alice herself is an interesting enough character played with spark by Madeline Brewer, the surrounding characters are mostly surface and irrelevant, and any deeper meaning beyond ‘wouldn’t this be spooky if it happened to you’ is never unwrapped. We do get some moments between Alice and tech people, between Alice and the Police, and between Alice and other Cam girls which uncover some of the trials and dangers and pressure the people living in this world must go through, but these came across as basic laughs more than outright satire.

The film is around 90 minutes long so it doesn’t wear out its welcome at any point. I know my wife had mostly given up caring by the end while I was still interested enough to see how it all panned out and if there would be any late twists. Once it becomes a procedural drama with Alice putting on her Detective cap and investigating any potential leads, the film loses a little of its spark. I was happy to learn about the people in front of and behind the camera ensuring this business continues to exist and evolve – it’s absolutely an interesting world and I’d like to have learned more about the people behind the curtain or the people pulling the strings. I’m torn between thinking the film doesn’t go far (or at all) enough with its horror, or whether it should have removed any horror elements completely. I think the latter would have made a better film, but the former would have become a very silly horror albeit set in a unique world. It’s a shame then that we don’t delve more into the exploitative aspects, the satire, and the realism as such an existence is ripe for peeling back and peering inside.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Cam!

My Soul To Take

The late, great, Wes Craven ended his career with the final part of his Scream series, and this badly received film which I had avoided for some time. Having now seen it, it is difficult to not agree with the critics who savaged it for being muddled and formulaic – but is it really that bad?

Honestly, no. It’s not good, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is well enough acted and like many of Craven’s middling or lesser films it suffers from wasted opportunities. With any Craven film you go in with certain hopes and expectations, so when those are not met the frustration and disappointment is heightened. A director making this as their first film would still be criticized, but may be encouraged to improve, but Craven as an experienced and successful horror maestro should have known and done better.

The story begins around sixteen years in the past as a deranged conflicted man murders his wife in front of their daughter before being shot by the police. As he is being taken to hospital, he somehow wakes, causes the ambulance to crash, and escapes. We flash forward sixteen years and learn that the killer has become something of a local boogeyman – the local kids meeting on the eve of his disappearance each year to perform a ritual to prevent his return. The main players were all born on this date and are known as the Riverton Seven. I’m not sure how likely it is for seven kids to be born on the same day in a small town, and I’m not sure why the killer, now known as The Ripper decides to hunt them down instead of anyone else, but that’s the gist of the plot. We meet Bug, the quiet outsider of the group who is continuously picked on, his smart ass friend Alex, jock Brandon, ring-leader Fang, as well as a pretty one, a blind one, a religious one, and a creative one. As you would expect, they begin to get picked off.

This raises further questions – Bug is our protagonist and throughout the movie he is accused of and mocked for being in and out of institutions – none of this is explored. Each time someone is killed, he begins to exhibit their traits and mimics their voices and behaviour, making it look as if he is the killer. Again, none of this is really dealt with or explained, or leads anywhere beyond trying to make the audience suspect him. The film throws curve-balls later to point us in the direction of the other survivors until the final muddled minutes. Nothing is ever surprising and the twists mostly miss the mark. You’re likely wondering why you should watch this. As mentioned, most of the cast are good and a few of the faces will be familiar in earlier roles. The kills are gore-lite but effective enough for someone just getting into horror. There are funny moment, both intentional and otherwise, and every so often you’re reminded of Craven’s better works. The idea of a killer possibly leaping from body to body is one that is not often explored in cinema, with Fallen remaining the best example – there is potential here for something better but whether it was a case of too many ideas or a bad script, or nobody knowing what they wanted, the end product doesn’t work. It’s difficult to recommend this now to anyone beyond Craven fans and horror fans in general. There are much better films out there in the genre, films which do better with similar ideas, and much better films by Craven, but as one of the final works by one of the legends of the genre it should nevertheless be required viewing.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of My Soul To Take!