John Carpenter’s Batman – An Unpublished Screenplay

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JOHN CARPENTER’S BATMAN

Cast:

Bruce Wayne/The Batman: Kurt Russell

The Joker: Also Kurt Russell

Alfred/Robin: Donald Pleasance

Vicki Vale: Jamie Lee Curtis

Tina Twotitz – A Giggling Wench: Adrienne Barbeau

Commissioner Gordon: Carey Grant

OPEN ON:

A throbbing synth soundtrack fades in, lurching, setting a tone of foreboding. There is a sweeping shot of a city at night: Gotham City. The following words light up the night sky in a neon blue: John Carpenter’s Batman

EXT: GOTHAM CITY. A BUSY STREET – NIGHT

DADDY WAYNE

What a riveting performance of Snow White that was. That Widow Twanky was a real character. Ha ha ha! I love Christmas, I do.

MUMMY WAYNE

Look out – he’s behind you!

DADDY WAYNE

Oh no he isn’t! Yes, dear, get into the festive spirit!

MUMMY WAYNE

No, I really mean it, look out!

JACK NAPIER

Gimme all yer money, punk, or I’ll fill ya full of lead.

MUMMY WAYNE

You’d better do as he says, he has an ill-favoured look about him.

DADDY WAYNE

Uh… yes… here you go, sir. We are but poor folk, and have few wares.

NAPIER

Yes, hand it over, yes, that’s it. Now, time for a joke – you like jokes don’t you?

MUMMY WAYNE

Not really.

DADDY WAYNE

Why yes, I am partial to the odd jest.

NAPIER

Good, good. I like an appreciative audience. What did the couple say to the gunman?

THE WAYNES (together)

We don’t know, what did the couple say to the gunman?

NAPIER shoots them both in the face twelve times.

NAPIER

Nothing! Because they were dead! Heh, I should be a joke-guy.

NAPIER runs away before the sound of the GUNSHOTS alerts the AUTHORITIES, but in his escape, he is crushed by a MARAUDING ELEPHANT.

NAPIER

My…… face… my beautiful face…..

INT. WAYNE MANOR – DAY

ALFRED

Don’t fret, sonny. Your parents luvved ya, and ol’ Alfred is here to look after ya. You’re the richest boy in the world. Perhaps we could talk about a pay rise for ol’ Alfr-

BRUCE

You are correct, my loyal slave. Now, my first order – I command you to build a huge indoor playpark in the subterranean caves beneath my home, complete with slides, ballpits, but no clowns. I hate clowns!

ALFRED

Yes sir, but there are lots of bats down there. Rats too.

BRUCE

Bats, you say?

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE. 10 YEARS LATER – DAY

ARCHBISHOP

I now pronounce thee, King and Queen.

RABBLE

All hail the King!

KING FLUBBER

Thank you all for coming on this gracious day. And special thanks to our new friend, Bruce Wayne – Billionaire playboy, and mysterious bachelor!

BRUCE WAYNE

No worries. I must say, this palace is rather small for my tastes, but it’s the perfect venue for such a lovely wedding.

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Now, the Royal photos!

VICKI VALE

Say Cheese!

BRUCE WAYNE

Hey, baby.

VICKI VALE

You wish.

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Let us retire to the Ballroom!

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE BALLROOM -DAY

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Now, the Royal entertainment!

A group of delightful clowns enter and begin capering about, throwing pies, and generally creating a nuisance. One Clown approaches the throne.

THE JOKER

Your Royal Highnesses, may I ask you a not so serious question? Have you ever danced with the devil on a Tuesday Morn?

ROYAL SCUM

Eh…. no. What does that even mean?

THE JOKER

It means, you’re all about to DIE!

The clowns are really baddies! They pull out all manner of comedy-related weapons – giant over-sized hammers, knives made out of guns, guns made out of knives, guns which shoot knives, and guns made out of knives which shoot knives made out of wives.

TINA TWOTITZ

OOOOOH…. KAAAYYYY, guys and gals, I want you all to hand over your loot, and I want all the celebrity football players to pull down their pants!

THE JOKER

WTF, that’s not part of the plan?

TINA TWOTIZ

Aww, come on boss, lemme have some fun.

VICKI VALE

Does that lady have…. two tits?

BRUCE WAYNE

Uh, excuse me for a moment, I have to go behind this curtain.

WAYNE goes behind a curtain, and after some fumbling, Batman emerges!

BATMAN

Hands up, baddies, The Batman is here!

EVERYONE

Hurrah!

THE JOKER

Curses! Why must this caped crusader always interrupt my doings?

BATMAN starts beating everyone up, including the KING and QUEEN, but THE JOKER, TINA, and some assorted FIENDS escape by painting a black tunnel on the wall, through which only they can traverse.

BATMAN

I have a feeling that’s the last we’ll be seeing of those scoundrels.

ROBIN

I am here! Baddies beware! Ouch, my pelvis!

BATMAN

Alfred, please take off that ridiculous outfit.

INT. THE OFFICES OF THE DAILY SHITE – DAY.

VICKI VALE

I’m telling you, sir. If you’ll just look at my shots of The Joker, you can tell that he’s really Jack Napier – all he’s done is smear lipstick on his chin and slick his hair back.

DONALD TRUMP

Fake news! I am the chief editor of this newspaper and I’m telling you that The Joker is NOT my good friend and lover Jack Napier, ugh, I mean, The Joker is NOT really that criminal who mysteriously vanished and is in no way being financed by a rich tycoon to further his own tyrannical plans. Now, it is my yum yums time, fetch my baboon!

JIMMY OLSEN enters, leading a baboon on a leash. Its mammary glands are engorged and dripping.

TRUMP

Ahhh, yum yums!

TRUMP begins to suckle from one teat, while fondling the other.

INT(EXT?) THE BATCAVE – NIGHT

ALFRED

Sir, I wish you wouldn’t sit down here brooding so much. It’s unhealthy. At least put some boxer shorts on.

BRUCE WAYNE

I can’t, Alfred. I just can’t.

ALFRED

Fine. What is bothering you this time?

BRUCE WAYNE

I just can’t help shake the feeling that THE JOKER is going to strike again. And something that Vicki women said to me – that THE JOKER killed my parents – makes me think he was somehow connected to the unsolved murder of my parents. DAMN IT! I just can’t work it out!

ALFRED

Perhaps a drive in the BATMOBILE will help clear your mind, sir?

INT. THE BATMOBILE – NIGHT

BATMAN

Cruising along in my Batmobile, looking for fun, or some baddies to kill.

(For the purposes of humourous rhyming, he pronounces ‘kill’ as ‘keel’). Screams and laughter are heard OS.

BATMAN

Hmm, sounds like there is trouble afoot. Leave that woman alone and come quietly, or there will be… trouble.

BADDIES

No way man, no way man! The Joker runs this city, and he says we can do whatever we want!

BATMAN

Take me to him. Now.

BADDIES

No way, man!

BATMAN punches one baddy so hard that his head explodes.

OTHER BADDIE

Dude, gross!

BATMAN

Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.

BADDIE

Okay, man, okay. He lives at 621 Cowan Avenue.

BATMAN

BATMOBILE – set co-ordinates for 621 Cowan Avenue.

BATMOBILE

Yes, Michael.

INT. THE JOKER’S HIDEOUT – AN ABANDONED FUNHOUSE – NIGHT

THE JOKER

He is coming. I can…. sense it.

BOB

I am here sir, I have news.

THE JOKER

My power is growing. I knew you were coming. What is your news? Wait, let me guess….. he is coming. I can… sense it.

BOB

How did you do that? The Batman has just arrived in his dreaded Batcar. What should we do?

THE JOKER

Sniff this.

BOB sniffs a flower on The Joker’s shirt, but it squirts acid all over his face. BOB’S face melts in a grisly eight minute scene until only a skull is left.

THE JOKER

Now, tell the others to get ready!

TINA TWOTITZ

I think he’s dead.

BATMAN

And now you are dead too! Both of you!

THE JOKER

Curses!

BATMAN and THE JOKER have a ridiculous fight all over The Funhouse, through rooms with funny mirrors, and revolving doors and such. For some reason, VICKI VALE is also there.

TINA TWOTITZ

Ah ha! You’re that reporter! I loved your story about the economic struggles faced by students in the North of England due to the recent recession.

VICKI VALE

Not as much as you’ll like this!

VICKI kicks her down some stairs and TWOTITZ lands on her breasts so hard that she bounces out of a window and onto a spiked fence.

TINA TWOTITZ

Gee, that was some sharp wit.

SHE DIES.

EXT. THE FUNHOUSE ROOF – NIGHT

THE JOKER

Heh heee heee! Look, TRUMP has contacted the National Guard and his army of impotent incels to eliminate us both for fear that one or both of us will reveal his involvement in bank-rolling my murderous antics. Either we work together to get out of this, or we both perish.

BATMAN

Fine. You take the left, I’ll cover the right, but mark my words, when this is over, you and me will – GET – IT – ON!

THE JOKER

Don’t threaten me with a good time!

A large firefight ensues, with Hero and Villain teaming up to defeat a greater evil. Eventually, they fight off the hordes of GUN NUTS.

JOKER

Phew, that was close.

BATMAN

Indeed. And now I must place you under arrest, or something.

JOKER

Nah, not today.

The Joker leaps off the building, using the combined power of his massive clown trousers and the steam rising from the corpses of all the dead GUN NUTS to float away through the city.

BATMAN

We will meet again, my arch nemesis. We will meet again.

INT: THE OFFICE OF THE DAILY SHITE – DAY

TRUMP

Mmmm, yum yums. So delicious. So nice.

COMMISSIONER GORDON

Put down that Baboon, you’re under arrest for the murder of many people, and also for whatever it is you are doing to that poor forsaken beast.

TRUMP

Wha? Fake news, fake news!

COMMISSIONER GORDON

You’re not going to lie your way out of it this time. You have that thing’s breast in your mouth, and you are covered in blood, and you’re wearing a T-shirt which reads ‘I DID IT’, and you’re watching a video of yourself throwing grenades into a Mexican village. How much more proof do we need?

TRUMP

Fake news! Benghazi! Killery! Ugh…. fake news!

EXT: THE TOP OF THE POLICE HEADQUARTERS – NIGHT

COMMISSIONER GORDON

Thanks to you, we were able to lock away Trump for eight thousand years.

BATMAN

All in a day’s work.

VICKI VALE

And now I have a promotion and a snazzy new office, and free access to yum yums whenever I desire.

BATMAN

And yet, the city is not safe. Somewhere out there, a painted loon is plotting his next evil move. Oh, wait, there he is!

BATMAN spots THE JOKER walking on the ground below, and drops a brick on his head, killing him instantly.

BATMAN

I guess you could say ‘The Joke’s on him’.

GORDON

I don’t get it.

THE END

Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema – My Journey

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Greetings, Glancers! I wasn’t originally going to write this post. In fact, the last time I made any changes to my first Foreign Cinema Intro post was January 2018 and that was followed up with my run through of each Country alphabetically. I haven’t posted those yet, and I haven’t finished writing them. The point is, that when I envisioned the series as a whole, this specific post wasn’t part of it. While reading the initial post back though, I felt like something was missing among all the begging and moaning – my journey. Maybe you don’t care about this, maybe you do. I thought I’d write it anyway as it may be helpful if you decide to begin watching foreign films or if you’re one of those strange people who simply wants to know more about me. I’ll keep it brief, as I did cover the basics in how I first started watching non-Hollywood fare in my first post. The other thing which is lacking is in my upcoming A-Z posts – I didn’t feel there was enough of a stepping stone between the Intro and those posts, so maybe this will help.

It was Bruce Lee. I don’t remember why or how I started watching his movies, but I was around six years old. From there I would watch any film I could get my hands on which had ‘Dragon’ or ‘Fists’ or ‘Ninja’ in the title or which featured box art with a guy wielding a sword or performing a fly kick off or onto a helicopter. What could be more simple? I don’t even think I understood the concept of ‘foreign’ back then – all I knew was that I liked these films and that I wanted to be able to kick the crap out of people too. By the time I understood that people could be actors and that actors appeared in different films, my favourite actors were foreign – Arnie and Bruce Lee. It made no difference to me that they may have spoken a different language or been dubbed or had a weird accent or were made in Hong Kong or LA. To a kid from Northern Ireland whose day usually began watching my dad checking under our car for bombs before letting us go to school, everything was foreign. This may be one of the biggest leaps for US viewers. You guys have everything you could ever want on your doorstep and centuries of breeding and culture to make you believe you are the best at everything. We’ve existed centuries longer and we’ve come to understand truths which you have avoided or not yet been faced with. But to me, everything was foreign and everything was mine no matter when or where or how it was made.

Later, once I began talking about movies with friends I would branch out to other martial arts and action stars – typically also foreign – Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Dolph, and into the older Hong Kong staples. Then I started to get into horror movies, thanks to Salem’s Lot and my love of gruesome myths and legends. Those myths and legends? Foreign. Horror was a different matter entirely and while I was generally allowed to watch movies where guys killed each other by jumping on their spines or beheading them with swords, horror movies were more off limits. While perusing the video store I would inevitably be drawn to the horror alcove to stare at the box art for Freddy movies, Fright Night, zombies, killers in masks, pictures of hands coming out of the ground, hands grabbing throats or clutching knives, houses perched ominously on hills with weird lights and shadows coming from within. While my first horror experiences were Hollywood based, I knew that the really scary stuff – the banned stuff – came from overseas. Once I began to understand what movies were and started to make lists – of things I had seen in magazines, on shelves, by recommendations, or advertised on TV or Radio by the few people who actually talked about these things, I began seeking them out. Not because they were foreign, but because they were supposed to be good. They were meant to be ‘must-sees’.

Eventually, in my teen years as your typical jaded youngster disillusioned by the populist stuff, I would fall a little more in line with the ‘seeking things out because no-one else knew about them’ cliche. I never fully embraced this as I’ve always been a single-minded person not swayed by the opinions of, well, anyone. Which makes this post ironic as I try to convince others to watch things, but we’ll ignore that. The point is that while I watched some films that I knew none of my peers had heard of, I soon saw no benefit or got no pleasure from the process. I wanted to watch movies I knew I would like and I wanted others to know about them. Cue many unwarranted one-way discussions on ‘this guy from New Zealand called Peter Jackson’ or ‘if you hate that America doesn’t make movies like Die Hard anymore, then check out Hard-Boiled’ and ‘you think that’s bloody/scary/weird, try Suspiria/Ring/Hausu’. I wasn’t bragging or trying to score points – I wanted my friends to see the movies I had seen and get the same kicks out of them that I did. I still want those kicks today, and I always will, and I want people to know that it isn’t all Marvel/DC/Disney/Blumhouse/insert favourite US studio.

So what do you like? My favourite countries for movies outside of the US have always been Hong Kong and Japan. While I appreciate that some people are simply never going to want to watch a Kurosawa movie, or a martial arts movie, both of those industries have a lot to offer. I loved J-Horror while it lasted, before it choked on its own tropes. Hong Kong action remains breathless and you can get everything from war epics to balletic gunplay to treetop sword-fights and jaw-dropping stunts. In recent years, the South Korean, Indonesian, and Thai markets have been stepping up their game when it comes to action and horror. Japan meanwhile continues to make both the weird and wonderful – experiences I guarantee you won’t get anywhere else on the planet, but also the most perfect character driven dramas of the moment.

As I’ll mention more in my A-Z posts, Australia is a great starting point. They have a rich and varied history, although the output is much smaller than the US and UK. Everyone loves Fury Road, right? Go back and watch the early Mad Max movies and the copycats. Elsewhere, France had a wave of horror movies which we are currently seeing either the tail-end of or the beginnings of what comes next. These are not for the faint of heart, but if you’re a horror fan you’ll find something to love. My history with French Cinema is more closely aligned to looking at critic’s lists of best films and best directors, although on a personal level it has been my love of certain performers or directors which has drawn me in more – I have a thing for pretty ladies so Virginie Ledoyan, Audrey Tautou, Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Eva Green have all led me down some interesting paths. I also have a thing for cool anti-heroes and action movies, which France is full of. Italy was always more distant than France for me, until I discovered Dario Argento, Mario and Lamberto Bava, and Spaghetti Westerns, and with Spain I was taken more by the sexy stuff before learning more about the whole Franco/anti-Franco influence.

What I would recommend, before embarking on your journey, is to look at your favourite movies as they stand currently. You will have something directed by someone who worked outside of the US before making it in Hollywood. If not, I guarantee there will be an actor who fits that criteria. Go watch their non-Hollywood movies. In doing so, you might find another actor or director you like, and you can go watch those too. Suddenly, your world has opened up. Read my upcoming posts in which I’ll talk about my limited experiences of each country and I’ll talk a little about what I consider to be gateway films – films which are from the particular country, but also universal enough that the majority of film fans should get something out of them. I’ll list some of the most well-known performers and directors in the hope that you say ‘oh, I’ve heard of that guy/I liked that one thing they did/maybe I should give one of their other movies a try’.

Well, that was more of a P.S post than I intended, but I am typing this on the fly. My simple hope is for anyone reading this who is skeptical about foreign cinema to watch a single foreign movie – just one. Give one a chance. If one person comments to say that they’re going to try a foreign movie, I’ll be happy. If only one person comments to say that they did take the plunge, watched, and loved one, I’ll be ecstatic.

It’s over to you – let me know in the comments if you’re willing to give it a go and how you got on.

Best Actor – 1976

Official Nominations: Peter Finch. Robert De Niro. Giancarlo Giannini. William Holden. Sylvester Stallone.

This year finally broke free from the Jack and Al love fest, with neither actor getting a nomination (Pacino didn’t appear in anything this year). Peter Finch picked up the win for Network, ironically a film you could see a more aged Jack or Al play pretty well. Finch died before receiving the win. It’s a strong performance and a worthy winner, but there’s a better choice here. Giancarlo Giannini isn’t a name many will be familiar with, nor is the film he was nominated for – Seven Beauties. It’s bold and shocking and funny, and is notable for being one of the most successful foreign movies in terms of Oscars – five nominations including the first for a female director. Giannini is great in the role of protector, scoundrel, scumbag, survivor.

William Holden shines alongside Finch in Network, a friend who is disgusted by and becomes embroiled in the hysteria surrounding Finch’s angry man shtick. Sylvester Stallone is Rocky – need I say more? Finally, De Niro is Travis Bickle – again, need I say more?

My Winner: Robert De Niro

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My Nominations: Robert De Niro. Peter Finch. Robert De Niro. Giancarlo Giannini. Sylvester Stallone. David Bowie. Gregory Peck.

Most of the official nominees make my list, and only two join them. David Bowie makes his first major mark on the movie work with his performance as The Man Who Fell To Earth – who better to act as a Spaceman in a man’s skin? Gregory Peck works, kind of against cast, in Richard Donner’s classic chiller The Omen as the man who wants a son and ends up adopting one called Damien. Bringing his trademark earnest class to proceedings, he is one of many reasons why the film is such a success and why it endures – his pain at the end truly visible thanks to his guilt over avoiding the obvious for so long – and losing.

My Winner: Robert De Niro

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1976!

The Lowest Rated Movies I Like – Rotten Tomatoes Edition

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Spicing Up My Post With A Completely Inappropriate Picture

Greetings, Glancers! If you missed it last time, I walked through the Top 100 Highest Rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes and found a few films I either disliked or disagreed with their inclusion. It wasn’t very exciting, and this is going to be the even less interesting follow up. I’m looking at the dregs now, the films that are so bad they’re baaad, but wondering if among these there are films I love, or at the very least, enjoy. I’m using Rotten Tomatoes again, and if their Top Rated films are anything to go by, I can only assume that their Low Rated list will be mostly populist fare, not films which are little known or so low-budget and Indie and bad that only twelve people will ever see them. I rambled on a bit too much last time, so lets just jump straight in now.

There is a list of films rated with 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. I assume that means that out of all the critic and audience reviews there isn’t a single positive one. I’m probably assuming incorrectly, but if you think I’m going to spend time and effort actually looking into this you are sorely mistaken. Oh. Oh dear. Going by year, the first entry I see comes in at 1987, and it’s a film I enjoy. In fact, it’s a film I love. In fact, it’s a film I include on my Top 150 favoutite films of all time. It’s Police Academy 4. This is strange, not because I think it’s an amazing film (I don’t, but I love it thiiiiiiissss muuuuuuucccch) but because it is far from the worst film in the series. Part 5 is a watchable rehash of ideas, Part 6 falls too far from the formula and loses more favourite characters, while Part 7 is genuinely awful – that’s coming from me as a huge fan of the series. But Part 4 has some great stuff – most of the original cast is there, we get some new and recurring fan favourites, and it has some of my favourite moments from the franchise. I can’t believe that not a single person gave a favourable review on this, but did on later entries.

1988 sees the next entry, and it’s Mac And Me! I mentioned this last time as a film I enjoyed more than ET. It’s true. I know, okay, I know that ET is the vastly, vastly better film, but I like Mac And Me more. He’s such a little freak. 1991 takes me to another surprise – Highlander Part 2. I’m genuinely surprised this is rated as 0%. I know it’s not a patch on the first, but do people actually hate this and consider it one of the worst movies ever? I mean, I’m not such a huge fan of it to keep up with audience reviews of it, but a quick Google search tells me that apparently it is frequently called one of the worse films ever. I must go back and watch it now to see why. I remember it being messy, and trying to be too clever for its own good to the point that it became stupid, but I also remember liking it. There are other films here I saw and didn’t dislike – Redline, Derailed, One Missed Call, but I don’t remember them in as much detail so can’t comment further.

Lets see what else we have slightly further up the scale. With a score of under 60%, The Mummy by Stephen Sommers is seen in RT terms as an average movie. I assumed most critics were more positive and I would go so far as calling it the definitive version of the story. Sure, it’s just an Indiana Jones movie without Harrison Ford, but it’s good family fun, fast moving, and with a decent balance between thrills, laughs, action, and scares. Similarly, Die Hard With A Vengeance is a rip-roaring time, bypassing the droll sequel and getting it right with a blend of action and comedy which no recent action movies have emulated – it has a meagre 52% rating. Return To Oz is one of my favourite movies of all time, yet it sits with an inexplicable 53%. I can only assume this is due to a critical bias towards The Wizard Of Oz rather than seeing the film on its own merits – as a twisted, dark, fantasy which teaches kids that the world actually isn’t all that nice of a place. With great make-up, effects, and some fantastic performances, it deserves better than 53%.

Super, at 49%, is a film which was dismissed upon release and has since faded into oblivion. For me, it’s better than any MCU or DCU movie I’ve seen (yet), and more inventive, funny, and interesting than almost any recent comic book blockbuster you can name. Hot Rod has 39%… it’s not great, but I enjoyed it. High Tension has… wtf… only 40%, reminding us that most critics just don’t get horror and are idiots. Equally mysterious is Equilibrium’s 38% – sure most people see it as a Matrix knock-off, but it’s vastly superior in my eyes than whatever the hell The Matrix sequels were supposed to be. Drop Dead Fred has a painful 9% rating…. I get it’s not high art, and while I don’t know the countries of origin of the critics who gave such bad scores, I would take a stab at guessing most were American and therefore ‘didn’t get it’. Any time Rik Mayall appears in a film it is a blessing from the Gods, and this is probably his best movie role. Show this to any kid – they’ll love it.

Lets go through some of my favourite movies by year lists and see how some of those fare – I’m only picking those movies which I imagine critics didn’t love. The Watcher In The Woods is my 7th favourite movie of 1980, but RT gives it a 45%. The further into the 80s we go and the more Arnie movies we’ll see – traditionally Arnie movies got hammered by critics upon release only to be reevaluated as classics decades later. We already know that the Police Academy series never did well with critics – even the generally agreed upon best of the bunch (Part 1) gets only 54%. Brewster’s Millions is one of my favourites of 1985 but has a poor 36%, while The Hitcher from 1986 barely scrapes a Fresh Rating with 60%. Going further a field, my beloved Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, which is long overdue for a critical reevaluation, has a miserly 33%.

Once again, feel free to draw your own conclusions from any of this and check how your favourite movies stack up against the almighty critical consensus. Chances are they won’t, but that’s okay. Just keep liking what you like, because if you don’t the people in power will just keep rolling out the same five films each year with ever more beautiful effects, performers, and movies will become pointless. What a time to be alive.

Blood Father

Mel Gibson, eh? He’s a bit of a lad. An action hero with genuine acting chops, a hit with the ladies, a writer, a director, and a man with any number of successes and awards to his name. Then it all went a bit wrong. Since then, Gibson’s career has been on an upwards trajectory again. Sure, the kids don’t really know him and he hasn’t donned a cape or CG suit to go arsing about with the rest of the Marvel cowboys but he has been at it from the 70s and not a decade has passed without him contributing to a masterpiece of some sort. Gibson returned to acting acclaim with the little seen Jodie Foster film The Beaver followed by a strong of commendable action flicks, all culminating in Hacksaw Ridge – a successful return to directing. Blood Father was released in the same year and is another violent and grim outing for the star and isn’t without a certain sly sense of humour and style.

The film opens by following a junkie girl buying a bunch of ammunition at a gun store – her boyfriend is part of a Latino gang and they are heading to wipe out a family they believe stole from them. Lydia is offered a gun and forced to stand watch, interacting with a couple of kids at the property until her boyfriend Jonah asks her to prove her loyalty and love by killing one of the tenants. Refusing, the accidentally shoots him and flees. Meanwhile, her ex con father John is living in a remote desert trailer park, keeping out of trouble and giving the locals tattoos. They have been estranged for a number of years, but when Lydia calls him he heads to pick her up, thus beginning a rekindling of their relationship as they flee across the country from cops, gangbangers, and bikers. Plot-wise there is nothing you haven’t seen before and on the surface it’s a straightforward action thriller. The quality is raised by having a terrific cast – Gibson as John lends a grizzled class and backstreet philosophy to the character, and William H Macy, Diego Luna, and Michael Parks lend credibility. Erin Moriarty gives another full-blooded performance as Lydia, a sly and messed up kid with an almost hopeless future and a worse past. Rounding out the group is Jean Francois Richet, a director known for handling action and tension well, but not someone who has directed regularly enough to become a household name.

Where Blood Father excels beyond expectations is in the little character moments – Gibson has a rapport with Moriarty and you get the sense that these characters exist in a tangible world with their frayed relationships and encounters. Gibson whips out his chopper (ahem) and travels the little known dusty trails of the US in search of ways to protect his daughter – turning both to ex convict pals still in prison and nazi-loving bikers. The characters are aware of the irony in turning to these groups for help, and the tongue in cheek delivery and tone downplays the hopelessness of it all, keeping things fun and fast moving. The action is never prolonged and follows a recent trend of rapid-fire set-pieces which get the point across with minimal fuss. From a trailer park shootout to a desert bike chase to the valley set climax, action is seen to be quick and bloody rather than stylized or glorified. Action fans may be disappointed that there isn’t enough of this, but the character pay-off makes up for any lack of action in my eyes.

Blood Father isn’t going to change anyone’s world or set a new precedent in the genre, but it is a reminder that Gibson is one of the industry’s greatest manic screen presences and can handle swathes of dialogue as well as a pistol or bike and it remains an entertaining romp with more style and class than most straight to DVD and a nice diversion from the billion dollar efforts which we can’t escape from on the big screen.

Come And See

Trawl any list of ‘Best WWII Movies’ and you’ll find everything from Award Winning masterpieces like Schindler’s List and The Pianist, to old school epics such as The Bridge Over The River Kwai and The Great Escape, and even notable modern movies including Dunkirk, Son Of Saul, and Black Book. Come And See is not one you often see included (if it is, it’s probably number 1), despite its near universal acclaim and almost every review calling it one of the best War movies ever. On the surface, it seems the primary reason is that it is a Russian movie which received little exposure in the West but in today’s world of instant easy access you can find the uncut film for free on YouTube. While the film shares similarities with many of the films above, it should be viewed as a standalone, because I’m not sure there is really anything like it out there.

In Come And See, we follow a young boy in Belarus during the Nazi invasion. The film opens with him and another child playing at war on a desolate endless beach. Flyora finds a rifle buried in the sand, and this discovery seems to be the final key in his decision to join the local partisan resistance group. His family do not want him to leave but when the army comes knocking at his door, he joins them on the march and soon finds himself task with menial jobs. He isn’t impressed, but he isn’t great at the work. The partisans decide to leave him behind and he heads home depressed, meeting a young nurse on the way. This kicks off a chain of events leading to increasingly grim encounters and discoveries as the we witness the true horrors of war through the eyes and mind of a child whose limited faculties are shell shocked beyond salvation.

There is an episodic quality to Come And See which made it feel to me like a series of shorts. This does little to temper the unrelenting nightmare of what is shown but to me it mimics the newsreel ending – these are snapshots of moments of war. They are simultaneously irrelevant and all important – moments that could be happening to anyone because they were happening to everyone, moments of increasing savagery with survival dependent on increasing reliance on the whims of fate. There is also an initially perplexing dreamlike quality, with long shots which seem to dwell on nothing only for some semblance of an answer to come a few scenes later. There is an ambiguous beauty with the destruction of the countryside acting as a metaphor and twin to the destruction of the self. Cliches are turned inside out and war is shown with no hint of glory – it is nothing more than pointless ugly death, hysterical, monstrous, and beyond understanding. There is a scene where Flyora forces himself through a muddy marsh, struggling to keep afloat as the stink drags him down – your typical movie would see the protagonist coming out the other side stronger and metaphorically ready to stare down any challenge with renewed hope. This is not your typical movie, and there is no hope to be found.

And yet, I had my problems with it. The film contains far too many close up facial shots and moments of uncomfortable laughter or grimacing which tread the line between unintentionally humourous and unwatchable, to plain annoying, to recalling Lynch. These tend to go hand in hand with unconvincing performances leaving the viewer unsure if the acting is too real or merely atrocious. As a seasoned viewer of foreign cinema I have encountered my fair share of films with similar moments and actors, but an audience too used to the gloss and budget of Hollywood will likely switch off. By the end, these early moments do feel more intentional and you will be more forgiving, and they contribute to the hallucinatory quality. Special mention must go to the editing and sound departments, as they too work off each other to make this clanging, scattershot din, with ringing sounds to echo the post-explosion numbness and off screen mumbles, laughs, and screams enforcing an all-encompassing maelstrom. Much of the violence happens off-screen or just in the background, with characters regrettably looking over their shoulders like Orpheus to catch a horror which will forever haunt them, or with the aftermath of events being stumbled upon by chance.

Come And See is not an easy watch. At times it made me wish I was watching Son Of Saul instead, and at others I couldn’t look away. While I’m not sure a cleaner look, a bigger budget, or more professional performers would have made the film better, I think those improvements would help the film reach a wider and more accommodating audience. Taken as it is, it remains as stark and harrowing a depiction of human evil as you’ll ever find, merging real life events with sequences and stylistic choices which disorient and serve to make you more than a mere observer, but feel and taste the disgust and revulsion we all should feel. I can’t say that it is one of my favourite war films, but it’s certainly unique, people more knowledgeable than me have proclaimed it a masterpiece, and given that it’s easily available to watch online it should be considered a must see.

What did you think of Come And See? Let us know in the comments!

Dumplin’

Watching this, it definitely felt like a Young Adult adaptation. It wasn’t until after I finished watching that I checked online and saw that yes, it was in fact based on a YA book. That’s not always a bad thing, and for the purposes of this review it’s little more than a lazy way to frame this introduction, so joke’s on you.

Dumplin’  is the coming of age story of a teenage girl who lost her father at an early age (I think… it wasn’t really mentioned much) and was mostly raised by her Dolly Parton obsessed aunt. Her mother, a former local beauty queen was too busy organizing beauty pageants to look after her, beyond so embarrassingly calling her Dumplin. She is apparently comfortable with being overweight, is in school, has a fast-food job, and has a ludicrously pretty, equally Dolly obsessed best friend. When her Aunt dies, she looks through a box of her old things and finds that in her youth had wanted to entire a local pageant but chickened out. To honour her memory, Dumplin’ decides to enter one of the shows, but unexpectedly her best friend and a couple of outcasts join her in her journey.

Knowing now that the film was directed by Anne Fletcher – a dancer and choreographer – it makes more sense that it included numerous dance scenes, a lot of music, and lacked a unique style. The film is highly comparable to both Ladybird and Little Miss Sunshine, but while those films had a vision framed by the director, Dumplin’ eschews this in favour of clever casting and a Netflix style. Jennifer Aniston is the mum, who really only shows up in the second half of the movie, while Danielle Macdonald and Odeya Rush are Willowdean ‘Dumplin’ and best friend Ellen. If you ever wanted to see Michael from Lost dancing in drag or Bex Taylor-Klaus wearing unnecessary, hilarious, and ridiculous prosthetic teeth, then this is the film for you. The film takes some slightly odd steps – while Willowdean’s falling out with Ellen is the exact conflict you get in every one of these films, it leads to Willowdean doubting herself and going in a mini cycle of destruction which the film completely fails to sell or give the character any reason to do so. One minute everything is wonderful, and the next she’s in crisis mode for zero reason. The performances are all fine – Aniston doesn’t do a great job with the accent while love interest Bo looks about twenty years older than Willowdean.

There are many reasons why I shouldn’t like this – it’s kind of a romantic comedy, it is filled with Country music (a genre I abhor), and it is set in the world of beauty pageants – something so foreign to anyone outside of the USA that every single one of us thinks it must be a joke. It is a joke though, right? You… you don’t genuinely take these things seriously, right? In Northern Ireland, a talent line up is where you stand facing a wall while a man in a balaclava decides which one of you to knee-cap (shoot in the leg) first, while a beauty pageant is watching the sixteen year olds fall out of the pubs at 1.30 am in Belfast before vomiting onto a rat. Yet somehow I did like it. Well, I watched it at least. It hits precisely every note you expect it to, it ends exactly as you know it will, and it is as by the numbers as any film you’ll ever see. I think the only cliche missed is that no-one in the group of pageant girls is ‘the bad one’ who tries to ruin Willowdean’s plans – everyone is so sweet and kind and helpful, making her aforementioned lapse into self-doubt all the more bewildering. Yet the charming cast carries it through and the occasional gentle laugh stops it from being a generic Hallmark movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it more than Ladybird, but it’s essentially the same film – even multiple cast members appear in both – and I probably enjoyed it just as much.

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

The VVitch

Few horror films of recent years have seen the acclaim that The VVitch has received. Maybe only The Babadook has reached those heights, and of course The Conjuring movies from a moneys perspective. It’s often a crutch when a genre film receives such adoration – fans expect greatness, it’s hyped as the greatest thing since Regan turned her head 360, and many are left disappointed. We know these things, so it’s always prudent to ignore hype, good or bad publicity where possible, and watch the film on its own terms. I dream of living in a fascist state where we are forced to consume entertainment on Day 1 with no spoilers. Or like things used to be in the good old days, dagnammit. Speaking of the good old days….

The film is set in the grimy, desolate wilderness of New England in the 1600s. A Puritan family is expelled from their village for some religious reason, and is forced to squeeze out an existence on the outskirts of a nearby mammoth forest. One day, their newborn baby seemingly vanishes during a game of peekaboo with daughter Thomasin, kicking off a series of unnatural events which causes the already fractured family to suspect one another of witchcraft and fall apart. As far as plot goes, there isn’t a lot on the surface, but the rites of passage, fear, and sexual tension bubbling underneath barely scrapes the surface of everything else going in.

The debut by Robert Eggars is one of the most startling in recent years, showing an assurance and skill most directors never achieve. Eggers wrote the story too, so his familiarity with the characters and with tone already places him at an advantage for telling the tale, but he makes the whole experience so visionary and cinematic too. While the Witch itself only appears in a few scenes, her presence is ever-felt – in the wind, in prayers, in shadows, in the characters’ whispers, and via the woods themselves as a metaphor. Eggers shoots with a looming distance – these small, inconsequential people on the verge of massive and ancient unknowns, giving their existence over to one God while a more malevolent opposite stalks them with efficient glee. The film is shot in near darkness and like Kubrick before him, he went for an authentic approach with respect to lighting, using only candles and the stars. Likewise, costume and soundtrack are sparse, and the casting sees British stalwart Ralph Ineson playing the frustrated patriarch over Anna Taylor-Joy in her breakthrough performance. The performances are worn and ruined wonderfully, the casting picking English talent with distinct features and voices who have an authentic air of having ‘been through some shit’. While the score is sparse, it is also punctuated by a sound design filled with air and the burden of silence and space.

Horror fans looking for blood and guts or obvious scares may be disappointed, but those of us who also enjoy a story expertly directed and descending towards the enraptured layers of hell will adore this. Anyone who has lived outside of suburbia or who has walked through the countryside at night will understand the inbred fear of darkness and the unknown when the sun lays its head – modern technology and knowledge has taught us that there is little to fear, but hundreds of years ago when light was your only protection and a Bible verse your only armour, isolation and darkness and weather were all-pervading issues of concern to overcome. Throw in a murderous supernatural enemy and things go from bleak to apocalyptic. Eggers harnesses these fears and this atmosphere perfectly, creating a film experience unlike anything else in recent memory.

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 2000s – Stats Roundup

Greetings, Glancers! So, older readers of my Oscars posts may recall that I tried to give some stats at the end of the year. It became too difficult to gather metrics and I become too lazy, and lo the posts migrated to the Hades Of Blogs like so many before. The same will likely happen to these summary posts – where I give some ‘interesting’ stats on my favourite films of each decade. It doesn’t mean anything, you won’t gain any insight or pleasure from reading them, and they will be painful to write. Why do it? Well shucks, I’ve always had a thing for hurting myself. ‘Enjoy’!

Note – I wrote this before realizing I’d missed Pan’s Labyrinth, and I’m too lazy to update the figures now. Yay!

Number Of Best Picture Nominees: (Out of a possible fifty) Six

Number Of Best Picture Winners:  (Out of a possible ten) Three

Number Of Movies In The Top Ten Grossing of The Year: (Out of a possible one hundred) Eleven

Number Of Movies Which Were The Top Grosser: (Out of a possible ten) Two

The number of films nominated for Best Picture this year, and the number or Top Grossing films, are way down this year. If anything, the Noughties was the decade I just stopped caring what The Academy was picking (and my interest in the first place was fairly low anyway) and by the end of the decade I wasn’t really going to the Cinema on a regular basis anymore. The number of sequels and of comic book and animated movies earning big bucks increased, while on the flip side I started to watch and enjoy less of those movies. The Academy was playing it too safe, picking your standard dramas, one off hits, or gimmick films and avoiding actual quality, daring, film-making. Making the Academy numbers look marginally worse is the fact that in 2009 they finally increased the numbers of nominees from five to ten – that year I still only picked one of the nominees. I assume this trend will continue into the next decade, though the number of films I’ve seen from 2010 onwards is much lower. This will likely be the last Stats post I do until I get caught up with more movies from 2010 onwards.

Movies By Country In My Top 10:

USA: Fifty Eight

UK: Fifteen

Japan: Eleven

France: Thirteen

Germany: Eight

Poland: Two

Brazil: One

Italy: Three

New Zealand: Two

Hungary: One

Spain: Two

China: Three

Hong Kong: Five

Singapore: One

South Korea: Seven

Mexico: One

Czech Republic: One

Taiwan: One

Denmark: Two

Liberia: One

Sweden: Two

Canada: Three

Thailand: One

Norway: One

Australia: One

The USA dominates again although the numbers are drastically decreased from previous decades.

Movies By Director:

Quentin Tarantino: xxxxx

 

Jean Pierre Jeunet: xxx

Chan Wook Park: xxx

 

Takashi Shimizu: xx

Zhang Yimou: xx

Peter Jackson: xx

Robert Rodriguez: xx

Frank Darabont: xx

Christopher Nolan: xx

Sam Raimi: xx

Takashi Miike: xx

Christopher Guest: xx

Lars Von Trier: xx

Kim Jee Woon: xx

 

Shusuke Kaneko: x

Disney: x

David Lynch: x

Luc Besson: x

Zach Snyder: x

David Slade: x

Oren Peli: x

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo: x

Kong Su Chang: x

Martin Scorsese: x

Christopher Smith: x

Kevin Lima: x

Jaume Balaguero: x

Paco Plaza: x

Pierre Morel: x

John hoo Bong: x

Jean-Stephane Sauvaire: x

Bruce McDonald: x

Matt Reeves: x

Sylvester Stallone: x

Wilson Yip: x

Tomas Alfredson: x

Yojiro Takita: x

Pascal Laugier: x

Sion Sono: x

Tommy Wirkola: x

Satoshi Kon: x

Frank Miller: x

George Lucas: x

Judd Apatow: x

Mike Judge: x

Edgar Wright: x

Stephen Sommers: x

Bill Paxton: x

Larry Clark: x

Alfonso Cuaron: x

Alexandre Aja: x

Roman Polanski: x

James Wan: x

The Pang Brothers: x

Jaume Collet Serra: x

Andrew Lau: x

Alan Mak: x

George A Romero: x

Hideo Nakata: x

Fernando Meirelles: x

Bernardo Bertolucci: x

Len Wiseman: x

Mel Gibson: x

Kurt Wimmer: x

Yoji Yamada: x

Danny Boyle: x

Eli Roth: x

Shane Black: x

Ridley Scott: x

Tim Burton: x

Cameron Crowe: x

Karyn Kusama: x

Michael Dougherty: x

Gore Verbinski: x

Larry Charles: x

Martin Campbell: x

Craig Brewer: x

Neil Marshall: x

Takeshi Kitano: x

Brad Anderson: x

Kinji Fukasaku: x

James Wong: x

Ang Lee: x

Bryan Singer: x

David Twohy: x

M Night Shyamalan: x

One hundred films, 86 directors. Tarantino is the clear front runner, which surprises me more than you. I’m by no means a Tarantino super-fan and Reservoir Dogs is still my favourite of his, but it looks like this was a great decade for him. Disney had a bit of a shocker – the mainstay of my lists each decade only grabbing a single vote here. Elsewhere it’s foreign films which garner the most multiple votes with my only two triple votes being outside of the US and six or seven of my double votes being beyond Hollywood. Those getting single votes range from newbs and a wide array of past masters who have received multiple votes over multiple decades.

As always, check out my individual year posts and let me know what your favourites are in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2008

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

First, so close, so sad: Son Of Rambow. Wall-E. Ponyo. The Informers.

10: Johnny Mad Dog (France/Liberia) Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

9: Pontypool (Canada) Bruce McDonald

8: Cloverfield (US) Matt Reeves

7: Rambo (US/Thailand) Sylvester Stallone

6: Ip Man (HK) Wilson Yip

5: Let The Right One In (Sweden) Tomas Alfredson

4: Departures (Japan) Yojiro Takita

3: Martyrs (France) Pascal Laugier

2: The Dark Knight (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

1: Love Exposure (Japan) Sion Sono

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (The Top Grosser)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None