Friday, 18 December 2009



Sometimes I love a plain, bold, unadorned title that states simply and exactly, in as few words as possible, exactly what the movie is. Psycho, Earthquake, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Grannies In Bondage. You know precisely what you're going to get. Titanic - it's about the Titanic. Aliens - it's about aliens. Okay, there's usually a lot more to it than that: some emotional drama, some character comedy, but on the most basic level That's What The Movie Is and anything else is just additional frippery, to make you care when the big event finally occurs. The Towering Inferno wouldn't be any good at all if it was exclusively composed of scenes of famous people burning to death: the first act is setting up the good and bad people so there's at least some attempt at depth, so there's someone you can cheer for and someone you can boo and hiss.

The trouble with the South Korean disaster flick Tidal Wave is that the first act is nearly two thirds of the running time, and the romantic entanglements drag hideously, none of which you really care about. After an opening set against the tsunami of Christmas 2004 (the point of which is that This Could Happen Again) it morphs into a fairly dull episode of Sunset Beach: mainly concerned with a hesitant will-they-won't-they dramatic romance (he's got a guilty secret) and a nerdy-guy-meets-kooky-babe comedic romance. Which is okay, but not for a full hour. Meanwhile they're planning to redevelop all the beachfront properties, the town is full of bigwigs for a cultural expo, and no-one wants to listen to the bespectacled seismologist predicting a mega-tsunami any moment. (He, of course, has estranged ex-wife problems to deal with as well.) And eventually, the massive great wave of CGI seawater arrives.

Cue: destruction, chaos, panic and screaming as buildings collapse in the best disaster movie tradition. This is obviously the best bit of the film: a major special effects set piece which frankly we've been waiting too long for, which is a shame as some of it's pretty good. There's an enjoyable extended action/comedy/effects sequence involving a cab driver trapped on a bridge that's been hit by the tsunami AND the cargo ship lodged against one of the supports. Against that there's rather a lot of syrupy self-sacrifice and tearful farewells, backed by an overly melodramatic soundtrack with lots of unresolved Are You Crying Yet? chords from the string section.

This isn't to say it's a terrible film; but the best stuff in Tidal Wave is the tidal wave itself; the rest of the movie is perfectly passable (and would be fine as a romantic comedy by itself) but takes too long and holds up the actual disaster, which is what we really wanted to see.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009


And still they come: one tiresome, tortuous, one-star experience after another. I'm frequently minded to take all modern horror flicks off my rentals list and replace them all with the best of Kurosawa, Bergman and the French New Wave. Because if this is, honestly, genuinely, truly the best they can do then it's just not good enough. If you're expecting me to pay you money for your efforts then a modicum of professional competence is the very least I'm entitled to in return.

We don't get such consideration in Necromentia; we don't even get the strictly middling pleasures its auteur genius Pearry Tao's other movie The Gene Generation provided (namely Bai Ling wandering around in outré trousers). What we do end up with is a pair of charmless losers going back and forth into Hell to reclaim the soul of a faithless woman (who frankly isn't worth the hassle), with necrophilia, Satanic tattoos, and sadomasochistic torture for money thrown in, and a giant talking pig from a TV show cajoling the so-called hero's disabled brother to commit murder and suicide. Hell itself appears to be some kind of access tunnel on the Jubilee Line, with pipes and cables along the walls, lit by flickering fluorescent tube lights and ruled by a grey-skinned demon in a gas mask.

It's grim, dark, noisy, bleak, dull and goes on for a deceptively short 80 minutes; it's no fun, it's not interesting, it doesn't make sense and it's impossible to give a hoot what happens. Despite the nods to (or rips from) Clive Barker's Hellraiser, it's quite possibly, in all seriousness, one of the worst things I've forced myself through in years and I really wish I hadn't.


Monday, 14 December 2009



A Russell Mulcahy action movie with Michael Madsen and car chases, and carrying an 18 certificate? Sounds great. Beware: Crash And Burn is monumentally lame stuff - made for home viewing with only a couple of nasty bits of violence, some discreet nudity and no swearing.

Remember Gone In 60 Seconds? Well, it's basically that film all over again, except it isn't gone in 60 seconds but hangs around like a bad smell for nearly an hour and a half. And it's fused with The Fast And The Furious, except there's precious little fury involved and everyone drives as if there are speed cameras up ahead. Deep down I think it wants to be Grand Theft Auto: The Movie, except the game's being played by someone's gran as the sedatives kick in. Our weedily uncharismatic hero Kevin shows up in LA after two years and hooks up with his old buddies in the car theft business, jacking dozens of top-grade (and not so top-grade) cars for evil Michael Madsen to export to Asia. Several wildly predictable plot points later, it all ends with various uninteresting people shooting at one another at length in the dockside warehouses.

You should usually be able to rely on Russell Mulcahy to make it look good - he started out in pop videos and made movies like Razorback, Highlander and The Shadow, and even his direct-to-video Dolph Lundgren shoot-em-ups had some visual panache about them - but this looks as if it were shot by the camera crew on Channel 5's all-night phone-in quiz broadcasts: it's flat, dull, and cheap. Well worth not renting.


Monday, 30 November 2009



This is one of those movies that wants to capture the slow-burning buildup to the Big Reveal in the last ten minutes that forces you to re-evaluate everything you've just seen, in the manner of The Sixth Sense. Passengers doesn't entirely manage it - for one thing it rather plays its hand with the tagline on the DVD artwork - but it's still a more than acceptable rental for the evening.

Ostensibly detailing what happens to a group of air crash survivors and their young grief consellor (Anne Hathaway), it gradually becomes clear that that's not what's going on at all, and the myster deepens as she develops an unethical relationship with one of the survivors even as the rest of her group start to disappear. Is there a conspiracy designed to shield the airline from blame? Was it really pilot error? And what's the significance of the dog?

My desire to not reveal more about what's really happening rather leaves me with a reduced word count, but I can say it's got a strong cast (familiar faces include Andre Braugher, Dianne Wiest and David Morse), it's beautifully shot, and it's absorbing and interesting without being exciting or thrilling. On the other hand I don't believe Anne Hathaway as a top grief counsellor - she's only 26 and looks it. I suspect it's one of those movies that you watch for a second time and all the clues are there but you just didn't notice them. It's certainly worth one watch.


Thursday, 26 November 2009



Bad movie alert again, and I'm starting to get sick of ringing it. This one's beyond bad, though: a long long way beyond merely bad. On the sliding scale of DTV timewasting toss we have bog-standard, sub-standard, sub-sub-standard, and then there's wretched, hopeless, incoherent Amateur Night gibberish. Keep going, because we're not even close yet.

Several rungs further down on the ladder, there's Kinky Killers, an incomprehensible botch of a serial killer thriller in which the ridiculously sexy patients of a ridiculously sexy psychiatrist are being murdered and dismembered in as much loving detail as the effects budget will allow. Some of them also appear to be clients of a lawyer played by none other than Charles Durning, and he looks very old and frail. The psychiatrist's boyfriend has been sleeping with at least three of the murder victims, on the shrink's instructions, which is an interesting form of therapy that the NHS probably won't run to. There are tattoos, body parts, bible quotations, and dialogue that makes no sense, and the cop on the case is Michael Pare, who probably wished he was back doing Uwe Boll films. In the last reel it suddenly veers off into silly occultist territory with two intercut sex scenes - there's a lot of nudity throughout the film - with an ending that suggests the possiblity of a sequel. Oh joy.

I don't mind a movie that's only there to provide 90 minutes of death and hot chicks, but even if that's all your movie has to offer, at least do it well. Hell, just do it competently. If this is the best you can do, though, was it really worth the bother? I don't believe it was. Originally it was called Polycarp, which is a monumentally dumb title.




It's our own fault. Because we die-hard horror fans are apparently so forgiving of movies that aren't terribly good, the genre is swamped with movies made to a lower set of standards. You wouldn't get away with a courtroom thriller that was full of plotholes, or an emotional drama with performances of the "reading aloud" variety, or a romantic comedy where there was not a whit of chemistry between the participants. You wouldn't put out a chase movie where the cars don't go above 25 mph. But people - and that's us - will seemingly accept a slasher movie that's inadequate on all fronts: logic, suspense, and plausibility (not to mention the inadequancies in acting, writing, editing, scoring, photography etc), so long as it delivers on the gore and, as a lesser priority, the sex.

A case in point is Knock Knock, a dreary plod through the campus slasher handbook without any interesting riffs on the themes of the genre, without any notable additions to (or deviations from) the themes of the genre, and indeed without more than the most rudimentary filmmaking skills. We're squarely in I Know What You Did.... territory here, as comely teens and halfwitted jocks are being violently slaughtered by a masked psychopath as revenge for past misdeeds - a dark secret that nobody even mentions for the first half of the movie but maybe it's got something to so with the football team and the handicapped janitor. Acting, even by genre standards, is first read-through standard at best, you wouldn't believe the female lead if she told you it was Thursday and you certainly don't believe she's a detective. Maybe a poledancer or a rollerblading waitress, but not a detective. The cinematography (more accurately videography?) gets the shakes every time the killer gets down to business, though that may be an attempt to disguise the ropey nature of the splatter effects. Meanwhile, one significant character is introduced early on in the movie and then disappears for more than an hour.

Yes, it has plenty of gore in it, although it's not particularly impressive, and it has plenty of college cuties willing to parade around in minimal shorts and skirts, or indeed nothing at all. One early sequence features a female student thrusting her frankly grotesquely massive chest in the face of a dimwit jock - a scene of no importance whatsoever as it's the only scene she's in. But hey, get a load of those whoppers, lads! Frankly, if all you want is boobs and bums, rent a porn film and be done with it. Knock Knock, meanwhile, is exceptionally shoddy and completely and utterly not recommended. Not even a little bit. We deserve better.


Sunday, 15 November 2009



In which Roland Emmerich continues his destruction of the human race: after trashing the planet in Independence Day, stomping on New York in Godzilla and reducing everywhere north of Acapulco to an Arctic wasteland in the Day After Tomorrow, it's now the turn of solar flares to mess with the Earths' core and cause all the continents to slip their geological moorings. We've got volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis..... and apparently the Mayans knew all about it.

For a reputed budget in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars (and, incidentally, think about that sum of money next time you're walking past Help The Aged or Oxfam) we do need more than long sequences of wholesale destruction, even if they are rendered in the most stupendously detailed CGI effects a quarter of a billion dollars can buy. 2012 does have some semblance of human activity going on as well but it's built on an increasingly implausible string of coincidences that less resemble a coherent drama and more a game of Six Degrees Of John Cusack. Cusack plays a struggling novelist who takes his kids camping in Yellowstone Park and JUST HAPPENS to meet up with boffin Chiwetel Ejiofor, who JUST HAPPENS to be one of the few who read Cusack's novel and who JUST HAPPENS to be the man who started the 2012 action plan into operation. Cusack's day job is as a limo driver for a Russian oligarch who JUST HAPPENS to have a pass on one of the Arks that the world governments are building to save as much of humanity as possible (including HM The Queen and some giraffes) and who JUST HAPPENS to have a girlfriend whose boob job JUST HAPPENED to be done by Cusack's ex-wife's new partner (Tom McCarthy) - who also JUST HAPPENS to have had flying lessons, which is really handy because they need to find ranting end-of-the-world conspiracy nutter Woody Harrelson, who Cusack JUST HAPPENED to meet up with in Yellowstone and who JUST HAPPENS to have a map of where the Arks are being built. The Russian oligarch JUST HAPPENS to have a plane to get them somewhere in China where they all JUST HAPPEN to meet up with the family of a Buddhist guy who can smuggle them onto the Ark which JUST HAPPENS to be the one with Ejiofor on it, which is mighty handy. Unlikely as that all seems, it's completely believable against the backdrop of collapsing freeways and tumbling skyscrapers from which Cusack and his entourage are constantly speeding away, either in the Russian's limo, Harrelson's Winnebago, a Bentley (briefly) or a Russian cargo plane. Meanwhile Chiwetel Ejiofor has eyes for the comely First Daughter of President Danny Glover (he stays with his people and gets an aircraft carrier dropped on his head).

It's all incredibly silly and doesn't hold water any more than the Ark does (at least until Cusack manages to get the door shut) but when it's concentrating on things blowing up or crashing or falling to pieces, or the world's major landmarks being reduced to gravel - this time it's the Sistine Chapel and Las Vegas. Emmerich doesn't do plausible or believable, though, and he doesn't do small and intimate either. He does apocalypses and this one is fairly entertaining although ludicrously overdone - the film is a whopping 158 minutes long which is even longer than Transformers 2 and just as desperately in need of serious hacking down. It's too big, too much, and too long. And too expensive: it's not worth a quarter of a billion dollars of Columbia's money but it's probably worth a tenner of yours.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009



If ever you needed proof that porn was essentially boring, here it is. Alright, it's not a porn movie as such, but despite having more boobs and bums and dangly bits than you can shake a stick (or anything else) at, Viva is mainly chronically dull stuff and drags on for a crippling two hours - about 40 minutes longer than necessary. It's nicely photographed, which is not something you can say about porno as a rule, but that's really not enough.

The essential premise is that two bored housewives in the Los Angeles suburbs experiment with sexual liberation when their dunce husbands leg it: looking for adventure, they find it in prostitution and while one happily teases a geriatric millionaire for diamonds and furs, the other adopts the name of Viva and goes all out for it. But are they happy? Viva gets involved in a swinging counterculture scene culminating in an orgy where everyone's happily parading around either in togas or completely starkers.

What Viva does have to commend it is a fantastic look: not just the wonderfully ghastly fashions and interior design, but the gaudy, overlit photography that makes it look like an early 70s film. It's gorgeous to actually sit and look at but, having gone to all that effort with the hair and makeup and atrocious shirts, having accumulated all the grotesque set decorations and all that period lounge music (some genuine, some modern but in that style): why make it so dull? The acting is so stiff and "reading aloud" it must have been a deliberate decision on the part of writer-director-star-editor-producer Anna Biller (who also did production design, costume design and played the organ on the soundtrack, and probably made the sandwiches as well). Unless the intent was to make a loving tribute to the sleazy grindhouse sex/trash films of the time with acting and attitudes to match (the comedy camp/gay Hollywood hairdresser, the Free Love hippie nudists, some of whom, to be honest, have no business taking their clothes off in public). As a drama it's just horrible and way overlong - and to make matters worse it's got a handful of terrible songs in it - but as a recreation of the garish, outlandish excesses of 1972 California it's fairly interesting, if a bit eye-scorching. It's just rather a pity about the naked people getting in the way.


Monday, 9 November 2009



Really, sequels should be actual continuations with at least some of the same characters. Aliens is a proper sequel, Mad Max 2, Friday The 13th Part 2. Sequels shouldn't be a remake of the first one with a lower budget and a B-Team cast. That's what they've done here - essentially remade the original movie without any money, no stars, ropey CG effects and without going to any more than the barest minimum of effort to get the job done. Despite the title, it's not The Cell 2; it's The Cell again.

Tessie Santiago (because they couldn't get Jennifer Lopez back, assuming they even asked) has the gift of seeing into people's minds by holding items they owned and is used by the FBI to track down serial killers. This one is known as The Cusp; his MO is to keep killing his victims over and over again and resurrecting them with CPR or cardio kits. When he's not doing that, he's keeping his victims in a chair with duct tape and a metal box on their heads, ranting at them. His latest captive happens to be the niece of the Sheriff - the Sheriff of what must be the most charmless and architecturally uninteresting town in Utah. It's as if they told the location scouts: "find me warehouses, find me train yards, find me the least exciting and distinctive industrial buildings in the state - which we're then going to shoot on DV or something so it'll look even more bland and drab". Tessie goes into the maniac's mind to find out who and where he is, but of course he's ready for her and thus begins the battle: both in their mindscapes and in the real world.

It's cheap, silly, illogical and, most crucially, it doesn't have the rich visuals of the first one. The original was directed by Tarsem Singh who does a great line in gorgeous, dreamlike imagery; this "sequel" is by Tim Iacofano, who doesn't. He works in episodic television and that's what this looks like. It's not particularly short - just shy of 90 minutes - but it stops after about 80 minutes and intercuts the end credits with lengthy sunny views of the Utah mountains and behind-the-scenes footage of how they did the car and helicopter stunts. All told, fairly poor.


Saturday, 7 November 2009



In which a mad architect with an overwhelming passion for cement entombs people alive in the walls of his graceless monoliths. And that's just the credits sequence. Now, fifteen years later, a young and foxy demolitions consultant (Mischa Barton, who I have to confess I've heard of but not seen before) shows up at a particularly ugly nine-storey monstrosity - an apartment block built, for no adequately explored reason, in the middle of a thousand acres of barren swampland - to work out the best way of blowing it up. Someone, or something, is out to stop her. The caretaker is obviously hiding something, her teenage son is clearly up to no good, the two remaining tenants are blatantly barmy. What's it got to do with Egyptian pyramids? And what's in the locked room on the top floor?

Say what you like, it's a while since a plot this loopy featured on a British soap opera. Walled In is pretty bonkers but unfortunately the madness doesn't carry and it is, ultimately, a bit dull. It's okay, and passes the time with a few nasty moments, but no more than that: maybe worth a rent, probably not worth buying unless you're a big Mischa Barton fan. (Then again, people still buy Steven Seagal movies in their thousands.)

Though it's billed as a horror film, it's really more of a psychological thriller that unfortunately doesn't make sense. I didn't mind it, but it's not particularly remarkable. It needed to be madder. (Though the DVD carries an 18 certificate, that's because of the extra features and the film itself is only a 15.)


Friday, 6 November 2009



The makers of the new SF thriller The Fourth Kind have gone to extraordinary lengths to convince us that what we're seeing is a completely accurate dramatisation of the gospel facts: verified, corroborated by sane professionals, backed up by hard incontrovertible evidence and sworn testimonies. Milla Jovovich even appears as herself in the film's trailer (and in the opening scenes of the film itself) to confirm that, yes, It's All True, Honest, Guv. All the tropes of Reality Cinema are there: not least the video camera footage and appearances from some of the real people involved. Even if it is about alien abductions, how could it possibly not be true?

Actually I suspect it's not even faintly true, not even in the same postcode as Loosely Based On Probable Events, and is simply nothing more than sub X-Files spooky alien hogwash dressed up as a docudrama. Milla Jovovich stars as Alaskan psychologist Dr Abigail Tyler, investigating a series of sleep disorders involving a mysterious owl (that isn't really an owl), and coming to terms with the unexplained death of her husband. Her use of hypnosis techniques to find out more about the disorders backfires when her patients, her family, and ultimately herself come to harm.

There is a scene in which one of Tyler's patients commits the most serious of crimes, and the act is shown via a police car video camera. If it is true then how did a movie company get hold of it? Would that even be legal? Certainly it's morally questionable at best. Discounting that means you can actually discount most of the rest of the film. What's left? A lot of split screen work between the "real" events and the film's restagings, a spooky ambient noise kind of score, VHS video footage of hypnosis sessions and plenty of waffle about the Sumerians. Yes, there are some nicely persuasive moments, but not many of them. And it takes an age to get going. If they'd played it as a straight SF/horror movie and not sought to bolster its more dubious moments with cries of "but it's real!" - a simple, unpretentious bit of scary hokum for the winter evenings - it would have worked better. As it is it's rather too full of itself.


Thursday, 5 November 2009



I'm not actually the world's biggest Terry Gilliam fan. The film of his I probably liked the most seems to be the one generally regarded as one of his weakest: The Brothers Grimm. I haven't seen Brazil for so long I couldn't be relied upon for an honest opinion, though I know I half-liked it at the time; and I wasn't that excited by either The Fisher King or Twelve Monkeys. And strangely enough, I wasn't even aware my local were screening this one until I looked online to find out next week's times. Smallest screen, one week only, finishes Thursday.

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is a strange kind of soul-collecting travelling sideshow run by the immortal Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), his teenage daughter (Lily Cole) and assistants: you go through a mirror and it places you in a fully realised world from your own imagination. Lurking around on both sides of the mirror is Tom Waits as the Devil, making wagers as to whether he or Parnassus can collect the most souls in a given time limit. It's not doing very well, until the troupe rescues amnesiac Heath Ledger from a hanging and he eventually turns the sideshow into a more successful enterprise. But he has secrets....

That they managed to get round the death of Heath Ledger halfway through by having the character played by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp on the other side of the mirror isn't actually a problem; as others have commented, it could have been conceived that way in the first place. The most striking thing about TIODP is the wildly designed imaginary worlds within the mirror, They're all done in CGI and are fantastic - perhaps they're too wildly designed as, like The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, it gets a bit much in places, and at certain points, particularly in the last third, it starts to get a tad confusing as I lost track of exactly whose imaginary world we were actually in. And it's really hard to actually care about most of the characters. Still, I rather liked the end, though I'm not entirely sure how it actually got there. But it's visually staggering, always interesting and well worth a look.


Monday, 2 November 2009



I wasn't particularly expecting anything of this. Seeing as how it was on the festival schedule for the ludicrous hour of twenty past four in the morning and the film was already on some kind of release, I was planning on taking the opportunity for a bit of a kip. But it kept me awake and, in the words of Arthur Dent, "Actually I quite liked it."

Jennifer's Body is a comedic teen horror film from the director of Aeon Flux (no, really, there was one) and showcasing the supposedly lava-hot Megan Fox (well, it takes all sorts) in a script by Diablo Cody, probably Hollywood's only ex-stripper with an Oscar for screenwriting. Fox is the titular high-school cheerleader, heartless cow and lust object whose encounter with a struggling indie band turns her into a blood-crazed demonic succubus picking off the hopelessly horny idiot boys in the school, and only her much-abused and put-upon best friend can stop her....

So I was quite surprised to find that I rather enjoyed it and didn't hate it nearly as much as I thought I was going to. I've really very little time for Megan Fox, to whose much trumpeted charms I remain mysteriously immune, and found Amanda Seyfried as her hapless friend to be much more interesting. Nice ending as well. Not a movie for the hardcore horror crowd, rather the Friday night multiplex audience, and it does fine.




Can we please, please, pretty please, have a moratorium on POV camcorder horror movies? Quite apart from the fact that they're visually ugly, it's a device that's been done to death and beyond. Even though it had been pioneered way back in 1980 by the staggering yet unforgivable Cannibal Holocaust, it was The Blair Witch Project that really brought its use to wide attention and since then there've been a lot of entries in the genre. Many of them suffer the same basic narrative flaw: if the ghosts/monsters/aliens/zombies/newsreaders are coming after you, the smart thing to do is to drop the camera and leg it. Still, there've been a few which have sought to overcome this by incorporating the shooting medium into the story itself: the underrated The Collingswood Story is shot entirely on webcams.

Now we've got Paranormal Activity, the camcorder diary of a haunting in which Micah documents the mysterious events that occur in the (frankly massive) house he shares with his "engaged to be engaged" girlfriend Katie. At first the manifestations are fairly subtle: doors move slightly, mysterious rumbling noises. A psychic proves to be of little help, and Micah's efforts to find out what's going on only seem to make matters worse as the later occurrences are louder, angrier.

Paranormal Activity is marketed as "one of the scariest movies of all time" but in all honesty I don't think it is, unless you've not seen any even faintly scary movies in the first place. Even in the POV camcorder league the scariest one is still The St Francisville Experiment. "Nightmares are guaranteed"? Well, none yet and I've never had nightmares after horror films. I suspect the film might be suffering from overhype; when it shows up on release I imagine a lot of people are going to wonder what the fuss was all about. The trailer shows an American audience responding loudly to a screening of the film: screaming, jumping and clutching one another and there was little of that going on at the ICA (then again, we're British). The movie has its effective scare moments, undoubtedly, but they're mainly in the last 30 minutes or so: it does work, in parts, but there are again times when the guy should put the damned camera down. This isn't necessarily going to terrify the hardened horror fan, but the multiplex audiences who usually frequent Sandra Bullock movies will probably find it pretty frightening. And the final shot of the film is too much of a cheapjack horror movie shock moment.


Sunday, 1 November 2009



It was always going to be tough to live up to the first two Wrong Turn entries. The formula is basically The Texas Chain Saw Massacre all over again (okay, there's no chainsaws and it's not set in Texas, so call it The West Virginia Sharp And Pointy Things Massacre) as a bunch of townies venture out into the rural backwaters where Anything Can Happen, and have a short space of time to regret their decisions before being dispatched in brutal and visually interesting ways, but the first film is actually surprisingly nasty-edged and humourless, and has a couple of Name Stars in it (the main one being Eliza Dushku in a tight vest). The second one was broader, more comedic, with lots of upfront gore and I was thoroughly entertained.

Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead doesn't manage the task beyond being an entirely functional continuation for the DVD rentals market: it does exactly what you'd expect - idiots go into the woods and get messily killed - without being overly interesting or stylish or original but dishing up the (literally) eye-popping gore highlights. It kicks off in typical goretastic fashion, with two whitewater rafting couples who set up camp and indulge in the most thoroughly gratuitous topless scene in ages before the deformed yeehawing hillbilly mutant cannibals show up and teach them the error of their ways. Sadly, most of this episode's victims are hardened badass criminals whose prison transfer bus is run off the round by the mutants - for one thing it's hard to care whether any of these despicable individuals live or die, and for another more of them are killed off by their colleagues than by the mutants.

The mutants aren't as well showcased this time around, characterisation is thin at best (it's nice how in Wrong Turn 2 the annoying female you had pegged as destined to end up in a large pie actually develops and graduates to Final Girl status) and the constant swearing from the criminals is frankly dull. No-one expects them to talk like Jeeves and Wooster but there's no need to rub our noses in it. But the blood and gore is plentiful (if sometimes CGId, which as far as I'm concerned is cheating), and they try to top Wrong Turn 2's opening Big Axe vertical bisection with a cheesewire vertical trisection - it's not as good, though. Overall it's not terrible; it's just exactly what you thought a Wrong Turn 3 was going to be like - functional, does the job, no surprises or revelations. Most of the cast are British - with lots of occasional TV on their CVs such as Hollyoaks, Casualty, The Bill, and Footballers' Wives - pretending to Americans just as Bulgaria is standing in for West Virginia.


Sunday, 25 October 2009



How difficult is to satirise the reality show? Whatever the spoofers come up with, some ratings-hungry executive has conceived something worse. This week's Have I Got News For You featured a Japanese show of the Candid Camera ilk which simulated a sniper attack erupting around a hapless stooge, to the delight of the studio audience. I've no idea what the contestants on I'm A Celebrity have to do - I don't watch it - but I'm led to believe that bits of it include eating body parts of kangaroos. (Then again, I'm led to believe that the contestants are actually famous for something or other, but let that pass.)

Live! is a mockumentary detailing a reality show in which six volunteers play Russian Roulette for real on live network television; the only difference between this and regular R.R. is that they're not allowed to spin the barrel. Following the programme's development from offhand conversational remark through to spectacular broadcast under the guiding hand of heartless genius Eva Mendes, it's quite an amusing little film even though we know that such a show could never, ever be broadcast anywhere in the civilised (or even the uncivilised) world. The format doesn't take account of all outcomes: what happens if the first shot is the killer - how do they fill the remainder of their timeslot? Or worse, given the no-spin rule, what happens if the first five are duds - do they still make the sixth guy pull the trigger knowing that it's the live bullet?

There are some effective little touches in Live!, such as the videos showcasing the contestants which veer between nice little character pieces and hideously manipulative sobfests. Sometimes, though, it doesn't really have much to say, and opts for padding about the "director" of the "documentary" instead. It's not great, but it's worth a look.


Saturday, 24 October 2009



I suppose I should be a bigger fan of British horror movies of the 70s. The 70s were, I'm increasingly convinced, a Golden Age for cinema in general; I'm British and I like my horror movies. And it's fair to say I do like them very much when they're at their best: there's little to beat Peter Cushing and Sir Christopher Lee doing their stuff in a lightning storm while surrounded by heaving bosoms and accompanied by a doom-laden orchestral score. The movies may not be actually scary more than thirty years after they were made, but they're now strangely comfortable.

The Beast Must Die is an Amicus film from 1974 and tells one story, unlike the compendiums (compendia?) they tended to specialise in. Calvin Lockhart assembles a disparate group of shady individuals for a weekend party at his country mansion, in the knowledge that one of them is a werewolf. It's an Agatha Christie movie with hair. As befits both the Agatha Christie adaptation and the British horror compendium, there's a great cast of big names either dying off early or being revealed as the killer all along - including Charles Gray, a young Michael Gambon, Anton Diffring, and the mighty Peter Cushing who gets saddled with a hilarious accent that wanders its way across half of mainland Europe (including Sweden, Germany, and maybe a bit of Ireland). Towards the end it has the Werewolf Break where the movie pauses and the dark velvet voice of Valentine Dyall asks You The Viewer if you've figured out the identity of the killer, as if it's Britain's Got Werewolves and we're supposed to ring a premium-rate phone line to cast a vote.

Sadly, much of The Beast Must Die is incredibly dull and talky and there's just not enough going on even at just 88 minutes. Maybe if they'd used this as a wraparound for a quartet of stories about the guest stars' possible past encounters with werewolves it might have held together better but as it stands it's not a success. It's always good to see these actors, but they need more to do than they have here.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009



I'll be honest - I never really got the original Battle Royale. As an exploitation movie centred around exploding heads and young women firing machine guns at each other while in school uniforms, it's kind of interesting and entertaining and disreputable fun, but the narrative reasons behind it all didn't really make a lot of sense.

Battle Royale II: Requiem, however, makes even less sense. The movie opens, in a manner which I suppose is intended to be provocative, with the blowing up of two skyscrapers in a city centre - an act courtesy of a revolutionary/terrorist youth organisation formed by the two survivors of the first film. In response, a class of misfits is brought in and forced to become a paramilitary outfit designed to storm the organisation's island stronghold. Strangely, the class includes the daughter of the teacher from the first movie, and she's actually registered online to take part in the BR programme. And after a reprise of the lecture bit from the first movie, they're fitted out with camouflage gear, exploding collars and high-powered weaponry. At which point the directors, Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku, basically restage the opening reel of Saving Private Ryan, but with teenagers.

There's a lot of violence, a lot of death (even if some of the exploding heads are done with obvious CGI), and a lot of eye-rolling overacting and philosophical musing out loud. It's kind of interesting but it does go on too long and it basically doesn't answer the central questions: if the government forces know where these people are, why don't they just carpet bomb the island and raze every building on it to the ground? Rather than send in the Japanese equivalent of the SAS in, why is it deemed a better idea to pressgang a bunch of delinquents, outcasts and weirdos into service and then escort them to a statistically certain death on a suicide mission they've no faith in?

It's fundamentally a silly idea and it's hard to take seriously a leader whose war is against grown-ups. Not capitalism, not the West, not organised religion (of whatever stripe) - but grown-ups. When he's in a tirade against the grown-ups it sounds less like a terrifying revolutionary manifesto and more like the Molesworth books gone spectacularly wrong. The film isn't a disaster: there's plenty of action, and I like the ending. But the blatant lift from Saving Private Ryan and the silliness ultimately count against it.


Thursday, 24 September 2009



Tediously in-jokey and self-referential to the limit, this lives up to its oh-so-clever pun of a title by being the stupidest piece of slasher rubbish in ages. Hack! by name and Hack! by nature, it does what it says on the DVD box by being full of hackings and being made by hacks.

A bunch of film students (who have the cumulative IQ of a Battenberg) spend a few days on a college field trip and find themselves picked off one by one. The characters are the usual stock range of generic types: the Dim Football Jock, the Shy Bespectacled Virgin, the Easy Lay With The Big Hooters, the Quietly Sensitive But Rugged Hero, the Dirty Talking Bitchy Blonde, the Wisecracking Black Dude, plus an exciting new development: the Annoying Camp Asian Guy. One, any, all or none of these might or might not be the killer. Then again, it might be the Mysterious Bearded Scotsman.

Who's doing the killing is actually fairly obvious as he/she/they is/are clearly mad as bats, and the obligatory twist makes absolutely no sense. This is actually par for the course for the DTV slasher movie and you can't really expect anything else. On a straightforward blood and screaming level, Hack! is no better or worse than the last four hundred cheap genre offerings that have cluttered up Blockbuster's shelves since the days of Betamax.

But what really sinks it, what really annoys, is the jokey self-referencing. Lines of dialogue like "This is like a scene from a ****ty horror movie" only work when they're in a really good horror movie. Wes Craven's Scream can get aware with self-deprecating knowing winks to the audience because it's a quality piece of work; Hack! can't because when the girl says "this is like a scene from a ****ty horror movie" the audience is sitting there muttering "Amen, sister: that's because this IS a scene from a ****ty horror movie." What's the name of their film studies professor? Mr Argento. Namechecking horror directors in such an obvious way is a lame injoke that's been running for decades and no-one - absolutely no-one - is going to be adding Matt Flynn to that namecheck roster any time soon. Not only do they reference Jaws with the line "we're going to need a bigger boat" but they name the boat Orca.

And all this swapping of horror film references does is to show how many movies Matt Flynn has seen. But he clearly hasn't learned anything from them because even the worst of the quoted titles (Rob Zombie's atrocious House Of 1000 Corpses) is more interesting than Hack!. Couple this with the range of cardboard morons wheeled onto screen only to be gorily despatched, and the result is a dull, stupid, utterly ordinary slasher flick, and not a fraction as clever-clever as it thinks it is.


Sunday, 20 September 2009



Every so often they produce a slab of dumb futuristic twaddle primarily conceived to showcase a hot actress in unfeasible and vaguely fetishistic costumes. It's a concept you can trace back to Jane Fonda in Barbarella and Caroline Munro in Starcrash (tragically yet to be released on British DVD). More recently, Milla Jovovich had a crack at the genre with Ultraviolet, Charlize Theron starred in Aeon Flux, and we had Kate Beckinsale in the first two Underworld films. Now it's Bai Ling's turn to don a succession of PVC shorts, shiny thighboots, skintight trousers and midriff-baring plastic tops in The Gene Generation.

In a sub-sub-sub-Blade Runner slum city built in a valley somewhere, Bai Ling is a top assassin targeting DNA hackers who mess with peoples' DNA and turn them into snakey monsters; the result of pioneering genetic manipulation technology originally designed to cure diseases but which Went Horribly Wrong twenty years previously. Ling's next door neighbour is a genetic scientist, and he's built the sole DNA transcoder thingummy but by chance, her idiot brother has nicked it and various parties are interested in acquiring it as a weapon, including the original genius Faye Dunaway (who spends most of her time standing against the wall in a cellar somewhere covered in CGI snakes).

The majority of this seems to have been done on green screen with vast computerised cityscapes that don't come close to convincing, and aren't even particularly good. CG effects have come a long way very quickly but there's no excuse for being this shabby (except for budgetary concerns). In fairness, The Gene Generation was apparently made back in 2005 but has only surfaced this month, although even in 2005 CG was massively ahead of what's on view here. It's basically nonsense and while there are occasional moments of mild interest (mainly due to Bai Ling and her strange taste in trousers), there aren't enough of them and the below-par effects work sinks the whole endeavour.


Saturday, 19 September 2009



I guess it's always dangerous making films about narcolepsy because the obvious gag is that it's contagious and the audience will catch it. Happily Parasomnia isn't dull enough to send you to sleep, but unhappily it is almost wilfully stupid.

It's directed by William Malone, who did that reasonably entertaining, flashy update of the old Vincent Price movie House on Haunted Hill a few years back and the incredibly dark and incomprehensible FearDotCom. This starts off in a clinic where they discuss patients' conditions with complete strangers, and not only do they treat drug rehab in the same building as sleep disorders, but they also keep a bona fide homicidal maniac and mesmerist chained to the ceiling in the next room to cute but narcoleptic teenager Laura. The mesmerist (going by the name Byron Volpe) is already haunting Laura's near-permanent dreamscape and is also capable of remote thought control. A passing art student falls in love with her and, upon discovering that they're going to ship her out to another facility where they can do weird and sinister experiments on her, decides to kidnap her and look after her in his apartment. Sadly she's been possessed by Volpe and starts on a gruesome killing spree....

It is spectacularly dumb but at least if nothing else it does give you a fair amount of blood and gore for your rental fee. Genre icon Jeffrey Combs turns up as a Fed, and he's always good value. But the whole thing is utter nonsense and I really didn't care for the ending. On balance it's a failure, but with the occasional splattery moment of interest.


Friday, 18 September 2009



A totally bonkers Spanish exploitation epic full of sex, violence, gore, blood and nudity - and breaking the fourth wall, fantasy sequences - Sexy Killer (subtitled You'll Die For Her) was a freebie screening for those who queued for Frightfest tickets back in July. I missed it for a variety of reasons - one of which was tiredness as I'd been in the queue overnight.

But it's now got a DVD release and I now rather wish I'd seen it at the Empire 2 instead of the flat. Because while it is all over the place, it's nonetheless pretty entertaining fun. There's a mad killer on the campus and everyone is completely unaware that it's sexy Barbara (Macarena Gomez, a great name in itself) for no reason other than.... well, no reason at all. It's just the way she is and a whole lot of people end up dead as a result. It starts off in the girls' shower room with a perv in a Scream costume wanting to see some naked girls, suddenly being attacked by someone else in a Scream costume (after a brief bit of the Marx Brothers mirror routine). This kind of grab-bag anything-goes style proceeds less in the way of a horror slasher pic than a ghoulish black comedy, until almost an hour in, when it suddenly crunches gears and turns into a traditional zombie film.

It's completely mad, obeys no rules, and doesn't make sense, and in all honesty the film's idea of sexy and mine are completely different, but it doesn't matter that much: Sexy Killer is enjoyably nonsensical entertainment, and fair fun for the evening. I don't think I necessarily want to buy the DVD and watch it again, but I quite liked it.


Thursday, 17 September 2009



I used to enjoy Steven Seagal movies. The early ones, like Hard To Kill and Above The Law, were fairly ordinary but entertaining thudfests in the Chuck Norris vein, but his 1990-91 skullcrushing double whammy of Marked For Death and Out For Justice was profoundly if thoroughly wrong-headedly enjoyable. Then, some time after Under Siege 2, he rather went off the boil and was reduced to direct-to-video cheapies that really weren't up to par. In addition, he spent a lot of time eating pies.

Recent examples of the older, tubbier Seagal have included the appallingly sweary Renegade Justice and the dull Flight Of Fury. Kill Switch is slightly better: a Memphis-set thriller which Seagal wrote himself, in which a taciturn, unconventional cop (guess who) tracks a mad killer hacking people up according to some obscure astrological gubbins. He's also getting over the death of his twin brother as a child, at the hands of another mad killer (a bit of meaningless backstory padding the running time a bit), AND coping with the presence of yet another mad killer running around butchering people because he's just a mad killer. There's also a glamorous but by-the-book FBI agent who vomits over her first crime scene, and Isaac Hayes showing up as the coroner.

The action is plentiful and satisfyingly violent, but the fight scenes go on way too long. More damagingly, they mainly consist of Seagal and his adversaries punching each other repeatedly in the head and slamming each other's head repeatedly into the wall. Whatever martial arts prowess Seagal once had, it's not on view any more. Partly this will be down to his age (although being in his 50s hasn't stopped Jackie Chan), and partly it'll be down to the intake of pasties. The fight scenes are so ludicrously overedited, however, that it looks as if Big Steve wasn't even there when they filmed them and he just turned up later to shoot some near-subliminal close-ups. And when there is a particularly spectacular stunt, they actually repeat the footage - a scene in the first reel has Seagal lobbing a miscreant out of a fourth floor window and the editor ensures he goes through the glass five or six times!

It really isn't very good but it's a shade better than the last few Seagal films I've caught, mainly due to the excessive violence the man dishes out: smashing teeth, breaking arms and legs and ribs. Only a shade better, though. The conclusion of the serial killer plot is perfunctory and the concluding scene of Seagal's new, happy life of peace and love is ridiculous. If the combat sequences had been better handled the movie as a whole might have been borderline okay.


Friday, 11 September 2009



Hurrah for Ulli Lommel, who divides his time between art-house and exploitation. I haven't actually seen any of his arty offerings but he did manage to get one title on the infamous Video Nasties list (The Bogey Man, which is not a film about someone picking their nose). The last thing I saw of his was an atrocious piece of incoherent sleaze entitled The Black Dahlia but, save for a few passing references in the ridiculous "Google the exposition" sequence, it might as well have been called Battle Of The Somme for all its relevance, being mainly concerned with a bunch of maniacs hacking people up in a warehouse for no reason at all.

But his 1981 offering Prozzie is much more interesting: a strange tale which starts in London and follows regular Lommel lead Suzanna Love who, years after witnessing her hooker mother's murder as a child, has ended up in a loveless marriage where she develops the need to dress up as a hooker and kill her clients (she doesn't actually do very much of this sort of thing, only favouring one bloke with an actual cash transaction, and it doesn't end well for him). Meeting and beginning an affair with the considerably more interesting Robert Walker Jr, everything unfortunately goes horribly wrong and her boorish husband ends up in the Thames. And then, weirdly, we follow not him, not her, but London Bridge, as it was sold to an American oilman and transported and reassembled in Arizona (oddly this happened 10 years before Prozzie was made). She's got a new life and identity, they meet up, and then it all goes horribly wrong again!

And the weird thing is I actually ended up rather liking it. It's a bit bonkers and the sudden lurch from the UK to the US is peculiar, but it has an odd charm about it and as an exploitation movie it delivers on the blood and nudity though most of it is more concerned with the relationships. Random DVD rentals can often throw up a ceaseless series of duff titles but occasionally a more interesting title will fall into the mix. Prozzie isn't great, but as a trashy bit of 80s nonsense it's not terrible either.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009



Die Zombiejager is a low-budget Swedish zombie film in which a German troupe of highly eccentric zombie hunters are assigned to the zomb-ridden city of Gothenberg, where a cackling maniac in a skull mask is plotting an apocalypse of the living dead by means of infected milk, for no immediately obvious reason other than he's a nutter. Our heroes show up and do the deed via the simple technique of firing sub-machine guns at them.

To say it isn't very good is putting it mildly: it's far too cheap, acting is minimal, and the shaky camcorder look is wearing. But if all you're after from a zombie movie is blood and the occasional bit of flesh eating, and you don't mind it being subtitled in occasionally bad English, then it just about delivers. This is just Generic Zombie Flick #431; there's no originality on display, which is odd considering the end credits acknowledgement (for inspiration) to George Romero, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Wes Craven and so on. Even more curious is that the last two names on the list are Basil Poledouris and Jerry Goldsmith - veteran (and sadly departed) score composers, who as far as I can recall never scored a zombie film; and this musical dedication is made more puzzling by the fact that the bulk of Die Zombiejager takes place against a near constant background of thudding rock songs. It's like the makers of the Emmerdale Christmas special crediting David Lean with the inspiration.

The other mystery is that I can't seem to locate the film on the BBFC's website. I'm sure it's there somewhere but it doesn't show up on a search of the distributors, director or any of the cast. Strangely, there doesn't seem to be an 18 symbol on the disc itself, or the front artwork as viewed on Amazon or Play.

In summary, then, it's not really worth the time or the money although it's mildly interesting to see how other countries and cultures tackle a concept as universal, yet predominantly based around the UK, America and Italy, as the zombie. The Greek film Evil is actually more entertaining and has a memorable final scene, whereas the Malaysian film Zombies From Banana Village (no, I'm not making it up) is endearingly ramshackle and hard to dislike, though it apparently has a bit of social commentary going on which doesn't particularly translate to UK viewers. But Die Zombiejager, despite the occasional bit of blood and gore, is just too formulaic and bog-standard to do much of anything that hasn't been done before, often and generally better.


Friday, 4 September 2009



Hurrah! They've finally taken a break from sending me Jess Franco movies. Unfortunately they've swapped him for Joe D'Amato, aka Aristide Massacessi: a Eurocack director who, bizarrely, isn't as good as Franco.

The Grim Reaper dates from 1980 and also rejoices in the scrabbletastic title of Anthropophagus (among many others). Here a group of badly dubbed young wastrels sail around the Greek islands, and wander around deserted villages at inordinate length before a mumbling cannibal sneaks up behind them and murders them. Ordinarily I'd be fine with this, but unfortunately he takes his own sweet time about it, and more damagingly he mainly operates in the dark so we don't even get the blood and guts on clear display, especially given the perfunctory DVD transfer (4:3, no extras, poor picture quality).

The high point of unforgiveable bad taste occurs when the mumbling cannibal (apparently - it's hard to see) rips an unborn child from its mother's womb and eats it. But even such an appalling act of repugnant depravity doesn't break through the tedium. It's an incredibly slow film and it's hard to care who lives or who dies. Mysteriously it got a sequel, called Absurd, which was promptly banned as a video nasty. This "original" is more of a video dull.


Thursday, 3 September 2009



Zodiac America: The Super Masters? That's a bit of a surprise because it's marketed as Zombie Rivals: The Ninja Masters and is listed on the IMDb as Zombie Vs Ninja. Either way, it does have zombies AND ninjas but, crucially, no combat between the two.

It does have some sort of revenge plot in which villains kill the kindly village ginseng seller, and his son seeks justice. He becomes an apprentice to a neighbourhood undertaker with bad teeth and falls in love with a local girl, and seeks to develop his martial arts skills by carrying coffins full of rocks around. The undertaker also keeps raising the recently deceased as zombies so our hero can fight them. Meanwhile a wandering ninja, dressed in shiny yellow with a Ninja logo on his headband (just in case we thought he was a plumber or a behavioural psychologist or something), is repeatedly attacked by other colour-coded ninja assassins for no adequately explored reason. Neither plotline appears to have any bearing on the other, leading to the feeling that you're watching two separate but equally dull movies spliced randomly together.

It's directed (pseudonymously) by Godfrey Ho, something of a specialist in the quickie ninja genre if his IMDb entry is anything to go by - it lists no less than fifty three movies with the word Ninja in the title. Leopard Fist Ninja, Ninja Death Squad, Ninja Strike Force, Bionic Ninja: they're all his and frankly he's welcome to them. It's cheap and shoddy, it doesn't make much sense, the score appears to have been cobbled together from existing music, and the dubbing is absolutely atrocious even by the standards of Shaw Brothers knock-offs. All of which I could forgive, or at least accept, were it not for the fact that the movie is eye-wateringly dull. Not even close to worth watching, under any title, even for the cheapest of laughs.


Monday, 24 August 2009



Two Sidney Hayers films have drifted my way recently: both 1970s British suspense thrillers with a gallery of familiar faces in their casts.

First up was 1970's Revenge, a neat little tale in which a pub landlord (James Booth), having just lost his daughter at the hands of a sex fiend, kidnaps the local perv (Kenneth Griffiths) with the intention of getting a confession out of him. But things don't go according to plan: Booth's wife (Joan Collins!!!!!) isn't keen on the situation, the police are sniffing around, and Griffiths might not actually be guilty after all.... As things unwind and unravel, the movie loses its way somewhat in the last third, as Collins departs the scene in frankly ludicrous circumstances, but for the first hour or so it's not too bad and builds up the suspense quite nicely.

Much better, although sleazier and more salacious, is the following year's Assault, which is that most bizarre of treasures: a British giallo. A sex fiend is operating in the woods near a girls' school and there's a healthy list of suspects all equally flagged up as the maniac: the local journalist (Freddie Jones), the handsome doctor (James Laurenson), the dominated husband of the school's headmistress (Tony Beckley), even the copper on the case (Frank Finlay). In the best giallo tradition, it also features something seen at the scene of the crime that's mirrored later in the film that provides the key clue, while Suzy Kendall, a semi-regular in giallo movies, is at the centre of it all. To be honest this isn't anywhere near the heights of the genre (the best of Argento, for example) but it's engrossing and enjoyable and nicely shot, and manages to twist audience suspicions from one character to another. The worst part is the villain's demise which is frankly silly and doesn't belong.

The 1970s (and on up to about 1983) probably stand as my favourite years of cinema and it's those years which I'm most keen on filling in the gaps, particularly in the horror, fantasy and thriller genres and especially British ones. While Revenge isn't bad at all and a more than acceptable time-passer, Assault is easily the better of the two films and I'm really glad I've managed to finally see it.


Saturday, 15 August 2009



Yet another Jess Franco movie - I now make that 25 seen out of a filmography the IMDb suggests runs to an astonishing 190 titles. Astonishing in terms of sheer bulk, and astonishing in that very few of the 25 I've seen so far have been particularly decent. Granted, there've been a couple of not-bad ones: I particularly enjoyed She Killed In Ecstasy, and the madness of Vampyros Lesbos is fairly amusing. But there's so much incompetent dross on the list: cheap and shoddy rubbish such as Dracula: Prisoner Of Frankenstein, ludicrous sleaze such as Bloody Moon, unwatchable dullness such as X312: Flight To Hell. Franco, not to put too fine a point on it, tends to be a hack.

The Devil Came From Akasava dates from 1970 and can only stand as one of Franco's better films in comparison to so many of his others. By anyone's standards it's an absolute mess. Somewhere in Africa a stone has been unearthed that has the power not just of alchemy but also of turning people into zombies. (The film itself is a little confused on this issue, so I yield to the wisdom of the reviewers on IMDb.) Following the disappearance of the scientist who found the stone, Scotland Yard and the Secret Service send in a couple of agents, including the late Soledad Miranda going undercover as an erotic dancer. There's plenty of nudity (mainly from Miranda) some feeble violence, Franco himself in an extended uncredited role as an Italian secret agent, his usual over-reliance on the zoom lens, and a score that is mainly trippy pop with an abundance of sitars and bears no relation to what's happening on screen. Action sequences are indifferently staged, and the whole thing makes no sense at all. And it's all in German as well.

It's obviously terrible. I'm minded to give it a second star for the charming Soledad Miranda, and for not actually being as cripplingly dull as Franco too frequently tends to be.


Friday, 14 August 2009

100 FEET


This entry is quite short because really the less you know about it the more effective it is, and I'm really not a big fan of spoiling movies any more than strictly necessary. Sometimes it's impossible to really discuss without revealing important plot information, but in this case I think it's best to leave as little as possible.

In this instance all I'm going to say is that I rather liked 100 Feet, the latest Eric Red thriller. Adopting the electronic tag idea last seen in the functional Disturbia and bolting on a supernatural revenge angle, it has Famke Janssen under house arrest, on probation for her abusive husband's murder, and having minimal contact with the outside world except for deliveries. But she's not alone in the house....

It's generally pretty entertaining with some nice scare moments, and if it does go a bit over the top in the final reels when the supernatural elements stop sneaking about in the background and spectacularly reveal themselves, I'm not about to complain. It's a crowd-pleasing horror film and not a tract about human guilt and spiritual redemption; it made me jump a few times and the effects when they arrive are, well, effective. Worth a rental.


Thursday, 13 August 2009



Carol Thatcher is a complete sexual pushover who's pretty much anyone's at the drop of a five pound note. Not that Carol Thatcher, obviously - I'm talking about the amusingly named petrol pump attendant heroine of Pete Walker's 1970 sex comedy Cool It Carol, who legs it away from small-town drudgery to the bright lights of London, along with halfwitted butcher Robin Askwith, and embarks on an endless series of sexual shenanigans en route to becoming the biggest prostitute and sex star the world has ever seen - before she decides she's had enough of dropping her knickers for whoever's in the room, he decides he's had enough of arranging porno and hooker gigs for her, and they both elect to slink back to their small-town origins.

Back in 1970 it had a big shiny X certificate; time and social change have allowed it to drop to a fairly weedy 15. It's another movie that's more interesting for its portrait of Britain and London in 1970, and for the attitudes and behaviour of its characters that wouldn't be countenanced today. Askwith's laddish idiot thinks nothing of living off his girlfriend's income as a prostitute, and the perfectly nice and pleasant Carol (Janet Lynn in her first and biggest role of a short career) thinks nothing of basically doing it with absolutely anyone. In all honesty it's not a film to like but it is eye-opening in places. Though it obviously doesn't come anywhere near hardcore, there are still vast amounts of casual nudity and debauchery, and for some reason Stubby Kaye is in it as well. Very strange.

Though I prefer Pete Walker's horror movies (particularly Frightmare and House Of Mortal Sin), it's still worth catching a few movies of this ilk from time to time and I'm sure Walker's other entries in the genre will show up on DVD sooner or later. On balance, Cool It Carol isn't great, or even particularly good, but it is mildly interesting.


Wednesday, 29 July 2009



Of course I've seen The Blues Brothers before. But never projected. The last time I caught it, it was on a 4:3 pan-and-scan rental VHS tape, many years ago. So kudos to Universal for including it on their digital reissue schedule, following on from the wonderful Spartacus a few months ago and with Scarface, The Thing and Animal House to come soon.

And why I like it I've no idea, because it's a musical and that's not a genre I can usually watch on a full stomach, though that generally applies more to big splashy song and dance epics like Oliver and Showboat. Maybe it's that the R+B music appeals to me more than blowsy Broadway showtunes. Maybe it's the gallery of guest stars from both the music and film worlds (Carrie Fisher, John Lee Hooker, Steven Spielberg, Henry Gibson, Aretha Franklin, Charles Napier). Or Dan Aykroyd's deadpan performance. Certainly the funniest scene is where Jake and Elwood misbehave outrageously in a snooty restaurant - a scene I had completely forgotten since my last viewing. And it is thrilling to find, particularly in the wake of countless rapid-fire over-edited action movies such as Quantum of Solace, car chases made by people who know how to put car chases together without leaving the audience baffled as to which car is actually doing the chasing.

My one worry is that people just aren't going to bother going out to see these films on a cinema screen when they could - if they really wanted - just get them on DVD, as they're very cheaply available. Unfortunately, if nobody bothers to support them, these retro screenings aren't going to happen any more as the studios aren't going to bother doing them and the films will in time be forgotten. Why should cinemas bother to book a one day reissue of a semi-classic like The Blues Brothers when they can get more people through the door with another four screenings of the worthless Bruno - a film that actually deserves to rot in obscurity and the sooner the better? Great films deserve to be seen and re-released regardless of their age, and surely the willingness to experience more than this week's bland and homogenised studio sludge, no matter how shiny, should be encouraged? What classic movies are we making now that should be rediscovered in thirty years time? What cinematic legacy is being left for future generations? The numbers for Spartacus were apparently not high, but that's a three hour film from 1960. Scarface is also three hours long but has a bit more of a cult status, so it might get some decent sized audiences.

Meanwhile, The Blues Brothers is still great and it's a particular shame that it's only on for one day. These retro screenings should be seized upon while they're still there, whether you've seen the movie before or not. Terrific fun.


Sunday, 26 July 2009



Are the 1980s supposed to be The Decade That Taste Forgot? I like the eighties. Even though they weren't set then, some of my favourite movies come from that time - Blade Runner, Aliens. Though I've never been a big pop music fan, I've tipped my musical toe in the 1980s water and recently started discovering some songs of the era, and my current favourite "Clouds Across The Moon" dates from 1985. The eighties was when I started watching unhealthy amounts of films, so it's probably the decade that resonates with me more than others.

The Informers is set in 1984, a period of casual sex and drugs without apparent consequences, and is an ensemble piece stranding various characters and events together that intersect at various points in the manner of Short Cuts. A movie producer (Billy Bob Thornton) moving back with his wife (Kim Basinger) but knocking off a TV newsreader (Winona Ryder) on the side; a drugged-out rock star sleeping with underage groupies; teens in numerous sexual permutations....inevitably, of course, the spectre of AIDS is on the horizon. The one story that doesn't seem to fit has Mickey Rourke as a kidnapper; it's only tenuously connected to the rest of the film and could be dropped entirely.

It's hard to care about any of the characters in this movie, because they are all amoral, selfish, fundamentally unlikeable individuals, but they look fabulous: the 80s hair and dress and decor all look and feel right. It gains points for summoning up the period so well, but I just wish they'd given us a character or two actually worth caring about.


Monday, 20 July 2009



It's nice, once in a while, to catch a film without knowing anything about it beyond "50s romantic thriller" or "Bolivian vampire comedy". This is one of the rarely trumpeted advantages of online rental - you can be surprised in a way that doesn't really happen at the cinema, as the trailers, posters, merchandising and the endless promotional juggernaut mean that actually going to see the movie feels like an afterthought as you feel you've already seen it.

Apparently The Nines did get a cinema release in the UK but I completely missed it; it certainly didn't come to any of my locals. Ryan Reynolds is an actor off a CSI-style TV show who is placed under house arrest after a drugs'n'booze bender and gradually becomes aware that Things Are Not What They Seem - principally the prevalence of the number nine (at this point I thought, obviously, of the Jim Carrey film The Number 23, but this is mercifully unconnected) and something called Knowing. His neighbour (Hope Davis) and his PR manager/minder (Melissa McCarthy) seem to want to convince him that he's not who he thinks he is. And then the world ends.

And then it's a reality TV show following the production of a new pilot show by writer Ryan Reynolds (not the same character): a mystery called Knowing which seems very much in the vein of Lost, and which is being produced by Hope Davis and starring Melissa McCarthy. But things aren't going very well and strange things start happening: he thinks his house is haunted (it's the same house Ryan Reynolds I was living in earlier), and the number nine keeps cropping up.... And then it's the Knowing pilot itself starring Reynolds (again, not either of the first two characters but now, apparently, a completely fictional person in a TV show) and Davis and McCarthy. What does it all mean? Who is he really? Who are Davis and McCarthy? What's it all about? Actually, the solution given is pretty interesting and I didn't see it coming, though I'm not entirely sure how it all works with regard to its crossing over of different realities. And I'm glad I hadn't read much on the web about the film in advance; it's a case where seeing it as cold as possible yields the best results. I don't think it's a great film, but it's certainly worth a look.


Friday, 17 July 2009



A massively entertaining, visually rich (thanks to greenscreen) and occasionally crunchily violent martial arts comedy/action/thriller, and flipping between period and contemporary timelines, The Myth has the typically inventive and perfectly timed combat scenes that you'd expect from the mighty Jackie Chan. He was 51 when he shot this film (four years ago) and while it may be a cliche that he's got the energy, speed, reflexes, physical flexibility and stamina of a man half his age, it's damn well true. Cut it to a third of his age and it still holds true.

Two thousand years ago, Jackie Chan is an Imperial General assigned to protect a princess (destined to be a concubine for the aged Emperor) from rebels. And in the present, he's an archaeologist drawn into a quest for a mysterious artefact that has anti-gravitational properties, so it's a bit like Indiana Jones And The Floaty Thing with a reincarnation subtext. But damnit it's fun. The numerous combat sequences are mostly as brilliantly choreographed as you'd expect and, although the movie could stand to lose one or two of them as it runs a scratch over two hours, it never bores. One set-piece fight in particular, on a conveyor belt in a glue factory easily wipes the floor with anything Hollywood's put out in the last five years.

Okay, so maybe it could drop ten minutes or so, and maybe the ending is a bit lame. And maybe it's a bit too reliant on CG which in places doesn't really work. But when Chan does his stuff, it's dazzling. So I don't care that much: I'll forgive the minor flaws.


Friday, 10 July 2009



Asian horror. First we started with The Ring, which was excellent: genuinely creepy. And then, in an "if-you-like-that-you'll-like-this" kind of style, they gave us The Grudge. Which we again lapped up (though I personally wasn't keen on it) and begged for more, so lo and behold they gave us The Eye. And eventually they said "Well, rather than doing this one movie at a time, here's 548 other Asian horror movies - knock yourselves out." That's where it all went wrong, of course. We soon realised that we'd already had most of the best ones, and of the 548 others a few were still pretty good (I really liked the original Shutter), several were absolutely unspeakable and the bulk of them were pretty ordinary with little to commend them. Nevertheless, the bandwagon (and its attendant bandwagon of dumbo American remakes) was off and rolling. That's how we end up with The Wig, in which we really seem to be running out of household objects to be infused with a supernatural curse. What's next? Soup Spoon? Umbrella? Bogroll Holder?

The Wig is, fairly obviously, about a cursed wig: bought for a terminal leukemia sufferer by her sister, the curse's originator starts to inexorably possess her. People start dying, there are dream sequences, none of it makes much sense: the usual Asian horror movie nonsense. On this occasion there's little in the way of spectacle beyond a car pile-up in a tunnel, which is quite effective but it's the only scene that really works. The rest of it is, frankly, a bit on the dull side.

The other effect of having a film about a wig, of course, is that it allows the makers to drag out the now too-familiar Asian horror trope about hair. Ringu and Ju-On (the original Ring and Grudge films) both had female ghosts with long, lank black hair that covered their faces and did look really creepy. But that was around ten years ago and since then every other Asian horror movie since has been obliged to include the spooky girl with the long lank black hair. It's not that scary any more.




There are things I don't like in movies. Defecation, sexual violence, animal cruelty, Mark Wahlberg. There are specific things I have to look away from: with me it's spiders. But in general there's not much that's going to have me yelling "Stop that! Stop it now!" at the screen. It did this time. (This was at home so no cinema audiences were annoyed in the viewing of this film.)

Savage Grace tells the true and tragic story of the heir (Eddie Redmayne) to the Bakelite plastics empire up to the murder of his mother (played by Julianne Moore) in 1972. He's very (as in too) close to his mother and once his father (Stephen Dillane) has walked away with a Spanish floozie half his age, there's really only one way this can go. Now I don't really know the ins and outs of the historical truth, but on the evidence of this movie the relationship between son and mother is not just bordering on Creepy but launching fullscale incursions into Wrong.

I could barely stomach the scene with mother and son in bed together with their mutual bisexual lover between them but I really wasn't prepared for the whole Oedipal thing in the last act where they Go The Whole Hog. Discreetly filmed from behind the sofa it may be, and fully clothed it may be, but she's your mum! Urghhh. Urghhhh. Please. Stop that now.

It probably doesn't help that Savage Grace is cold and leisurely, and you don't care about any of the characters - even though they were real people. But it's the incest that really turned me away from it.


Still, if you're in the mood:

Sunday, 5 July 2009



It is 2034. Mankind is all but extinct after a global virus, and the few survivors have retreated underground and somehow built a massive city called Subtropolis. A team have been sent up to the surface to try and make it habitable but they've disappeared; another team is duly sent in on a search and rescue mission. This second batch is made up of the usual sweary military hardnuts and a Ralf Little lookalike. Once up on the surface they find themselves in what looks like an abandoned college campus. Oh, and it's full of zombies.

There's a slimy giant bug movie coming up later this year called Infestation, and it looks like fun. But this Infestation is actually a British zombie flick with the same name, made on a budget of £5000 if you believe the IMDb (and £2.50 if you believe the evidence of your own eyes) and going by the appalling picture quality it looks like it was shot on someone's mobile phone: it's that cheap-looking. That's down to having such a low budget but surely if you can't afford to make a decent zombie movie, that's no reason to go out a make a rubbish one. Infestation is incredibly dull and noisy; the music (credited to something called Emissary, which I guess is some kind of group) isn't any good either, and much of the dialogue is of that wannabe tough talk variety that just sounds silly even if delivered by a Seagal or a Willis (or if wet, a Lundgren). When uttered by someone who looks as if he should be offering you fries with that (or a Big Issue), it's just insulting. Much of the movie is suffused in a dull green light, whether it's an underground corridor or an abandoned college campus full of zombies (though giving everything a green hue does obviously make the zombies look a bit green). And when the CG effects sequences look as if they came off a very early Atari machine, surely it's time for the makers to wonder whether it's actually good enough to put out and charge real money for?


I wouldn't advise it, but if you must:



Bah. My sleep patterns are all disrupted by my staying up all Friday night in Leicester Square, in the "sleepy queue" for FrightFest tickets (more on that later, as that Scots woman off Newsnight is wont to say) so I'm writing on here at a ridiculous time on a Sunday morning.

It's a depressing time for the movies right now: all the major studios are putting out the big summer blockbusters and there's basically one dumn effects-driven behemoth after another until the kiddies go back to school. We've already had Ice Age 3, Transformers 2 and Terminator 4 (which so far is the only one I've liked - overblown and senseless, but that's probably what I was in the mood for); coming up are G-Force (guinea pig secret agents in 3D which I refuse to see), Land of the Lost (Will Ferrell vs dinosaurs, might be tolerable), GI Joe (elite spy team action movie, almost certainly very noisy) and Harry Potter 6 (whatever).

So it's theoretically encouraging that Universal take this opportunity to release Public Enemies, an $80-million period gangster drama with two A-list stars and helmed by an A-plus-list director. However, when even the combination of Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Michael Mann, composer Elliot Goldenthal, and cinematographer Dante Spinotti leads to thoughts of "how much longer is this going to take?", something is wrong.

There's a sense that this really wants to be another Heat: an epic battle of wills between two men from opposite sides of the law. I loved Heat, and frankly this movie is not another Heat. In that film, nobody was under any illusions that the Robert de Niro character was anything but a thief, a ruthless killer, The Bad Guy, and despite his faults, the Al Pacino character was The Good Guy who would bring him down. However, the Bad Guy in Public Enemies is John Dillinger, who in addition to being a thief and a ruthless killer, is also some kind of celebrated folk hero for whom there's a level of public admiration. This kind of thing muddies the film's waters. I've no time for thieves and killers and it puzzles me why some people look up to them. They can be colourful, witty and charismatic in James Bond movies, Dr Who, Batman and so forth; meanwhile on Planet Reality they're the obnoxious little brats who nicked my car. (It's interesting that Public Enemies has come out in the week our beloved Justice Minister has put the kibosh on cult folk hero thieving bastard Ronald Biggs' parole requests. Ronnie, if you'd stayed in prison you'd have been let out a decade ago, you dumbass.)

So I don't get the mythic appeal for the Johnny Depp character, since it's a true story and he was a real thief and killer, and thus I don't care when the Feds finally shoot him (does that count as a plot spoiler or fact of history?). But I don't get the appeal for the Christian Bale character either (incidentally he's one of the few recent cinematic heroes named Melvin; the only other one I can think of is The Toxic Avenger). We have absolutely no information about him at all and he is ultimately just a bloke in a suit barking orders at other blokes in suits. In Heat, we had loads of information about the Al Pacino character: his obsessive nature, his shaky marriage, his relationship with his stepdaughter. We have nothing to work with at all. We can't really blame Bale: he hasn't got anything to work with either.

But the biggest problem with Public Enemies is, surprisingly, the look of the film. Heat was beautifully shot on 35mm film by Dante Spinotti. Collateral was shot digitally, but the digital camera gave a completely different look to night-time Los Angeles. Miami Vice was also shot digitally (I only saw it on DVD so I'm not sure what it looked like on the cinema screen). Public Enemies, however, is a period piece, a costume piece, and the decision to shoot on digital really does detract from the setting. It looks like television. It looks like video. And video looks cheap. Video gives a sense of immediacy, but immediacy is no use when you're working with a historical setting; it's like filming Jane Eyre on a Sony Handycam. It's like performing Beethoven's 5th symphony on a Casio keyboard. Lesbian Vampire Killers, a British Hammer pastiche with sitcom stars, was also shot digitally, on a Red camera, but crucially it looked like it was shot on 35mm film: you wouldn't know it was digital. There is something badly wrong when a piece of fluff like Lesbian Vampire Killers is more cinematic than the new Michael Mann film. Just as you really need a symphony orchestra to get a satisfactory performance of Beethoven's' 5th, this really needed 35mm film stock rather than a hard drive. This doesn't look like it was shot by the same man as Heat and Manhunter; it looks like it was shot by the bloke who does the DFS commercials. It's more disappointing than anything else.


You can share the disappointment:

Friday, 3 July 2009



Hurrah! It's another movie in 3D! But although I really like the new 3D polarisation process (rather than the old red/green that didn't work on objects or characters that were actually red or green and turned everything to a kind of dogmess brown) I'm not going to go and see everything. I passed on the handful of music concert films we've had: The Jonas Brothers, U2, even Hannah Montana, but obviously I'll go to horror movies in 3D (Scar, My Bloody Valentine) and there are more on the way - another Final Destination, a remake of Piranha. And I've tried a few "digimation" movies - computer animation of either the motion-capture or Pixar varieties, and generally enjoyed them.

But now there's Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, and I'm afraid it's damping my enthusiasm for the 3D process. Ultimately, whether it's in two or three dimensions is secondary to whether it's actually a decent movie or not and I really don't think this is up to par. It's certainly not up to the level of the first two movies - I don't see all the CG cartoons, but I do catch a few of them and both Ice Age and Ice Age 2 were more or less acceptable. This isn't. I don't think the characters are there, it isn't funny enough and despite all the slam-bang and scary monsters it isn't really exciting enough either.

I'm also slightly puzzled as to who it's aimed at, because while the first two were generally agreeable knockabout full of cute cartoon animals aimed at children, this seems on one level to be full of genuinely adult material. It's about pregnancy and childbirth. It's about midlife crisis. It's about parenting. It's about Moby Dick. It's also about terrifying big-ass flesh-eating monsters. But it's got a U so it should be fun for the kiddies, right? Even Jurassic Park only got away with a PG after a poster warning advising of its intensity.

I deliberately aimed for a one o'clock showing because I didn't want the place to be full of screaming schoolkids making a damned nuisance of themselves. Unfortunately this didn't exclude pre-schoolers and babes in arms who were placed on the row in front, just too far away to yell or throw things at and too young to realise what was going on (and certainly too young to understand the pregnancy and parenting stuff). The older of the two children - aged about four - wasn't even wearing the 3D glasses! As a result he whined endlessly but the mum was too busy trying (and failing) to shush the baby and she patently didn't give a hoot about anyone else disturbed by their noise. Really, just because it's a U doesn't mean it's somewhere to take the tiny tots if you can't even try and exercise some form of control over them. It's not a creche.

And on a similar subject: just because it's a heatwave doesn't entitle blokes to go around the cinema with their shirts off. Possibly, if you're sculpted like a Greek god with a physique that could turn Peter Stringfellow, you might get away with it. But when it's a middle-aged gut like a bowling ball in a plastic bag, please don't.


Amazon stock this:

Monday, 29 June 2009



I don't much care for Herschell Gordon Lewis. Years ago I saw the UK video version of Two Thousand Maniacs, so heavily shorn of all its graphic gore effects that it emerged as Two Thousand Mildly Annoyed People, and I'd be surprised if watching it again with the splatter and dismemberment restored would be a significantly better experience. (The film also has the most annoying damned theme song in the history of absolutely everything: The South's gonna rise again, yee-haa - repeat to fade).

But I discovered that HG Lewis' 1972 offering, The Gore Gore Girls, is legitimately available online for free and, it being a slow afternoon, gave it a try. Really, why not make an exceedingly slow afternoon of it? Strippers and go-go dancers are being sadistically murdered by a masked killer and the police are stumped until one Abraham Gentry, world-famous detective and utter ponce, steps in at the behest of the newspapers. Who could it be? Could it be the traumatised war veteran who can only cope with life by pounding his fists into fruit? Could it be the humourless old bag from the Local Women's Lib movement? Could it be the missing kid who's fallen in love with one of the strippers? While Gentry ponces about interviewing the various suspects, more bodies are piling up, butchered in hideous ways bordering on the gratuitously repulsive, even by the standards of the senseless gore movie. Eyes are gouged out (and pushed back), faces dunked into boiling chip pans, nipples chopped off, buttocks beaten with a meat tenderiser. The Gore Gore Girls is, of course, absolutely terrible. No-one's capable of acting; the actor Frank Kress playing the detective/ponce has never been heard of since and the girls are there for the sole purpose of getting them out and shaking them up and down every few minutes. It's indifferently photographed, and the amateur gore effects go on for far too long.

Thousands have figured this out before, but I only saw it the other day: thinking about it afterwards, I suddenly realised that The Gore Gore Girls is not just a cheap piece of tacky drive-in sleaze, but a giallo. Masked killer, multiple suspects, unofficial investigation, twisted motives, buckets of blood - it's an Italian murder mystery, a Bava or an Argento. It's an Argento film made by a hopeless idiot, it has none of the flavour, flair, visual magic or pace of even a bad Argento film, but it's the kind of thing he could have taken as a very rough idea and made something passable with. As it is it could have been made by Argento's dog, for all the suspense and excitement it manages to generate.

Bizarrely, the IMDb recommends Argento's own Mother Of Tears in the "if you liked that, you'll like this" section. Mother Of Tears is an out of control mess with some good stuff sandwiched between the awful dialogue and unfathomable craziness, but it's still leagues about HG Lewis' hack job.


For what it's worth, Amazon stock this thing:

Sunday, 28 June 2009



It's really difficult to review this without resorting to uncharitable and ungentlemanly comments, but I'll try. Hardcore is a softcore British smutcom from 1977, apparently detailing the life and countless loves of sex symbol Fiona Richmond (played by sex symbol Fiona Richmond) in a series of flashbacks which play out like a checklist of Dirty Raincoat fantasies: schoolgirl molested by the chemistry teacher (Richmond was over 30 when she filmed this and – ungallantry ahoy – it shows), lesbian tryst on a yacht, bonking a railway ticket inspector, action on a blue movie set, and so on. Frankly it's just a rather grubby parade of boobs and pubes aimed pretty squarely at the typical adult movie audience of the time. It couldn't be more explicit and actually live up to the promise of the title because the censors wouldn't let them so it ends up as coy and suggestive.

Much of the dubious pleasure of watching this kind of movie is spotting the familiar British sitcom stars and character actors. This one is slightly unusual in that it doesn't have a semi-regular from the Carry On films or anyone from Dad's Army. But it does include Graham Crowden, Ronald Fraser and Victor Spinetti (camping it up as a features editor at Men Only magazine, and all his scenes have a middle-aged bloke in the background groping the breasts of prospective models). Graham Stark shows up in the last reel as a French policeman complete with Clouseau accent, which is hardly surprising as he was in most of the Pink Panther films anyway.

The weirdest thing is that while watching it, I was reminded of none other than Catherine Tate! In fact, if some enterprising producers are thinking of doing The Real Fiona Richmond Story (as opposed to this sexed-up bumfest) she'd be ideal casting. She can also look scary and she doesn't do comedy very well. (I think Tate is at her best when she's working from someone else's scripts, as in Doctor Who, and the problem with her comedy shows is that she wrote them.)

So the comedy is pretty non-existent and the sex (or what bits of it they were allowed by law to show) is dull. And – ungallantry ahoy #2 – I don't get Fiona Richmond in the way I'm supposed to: as a sex goddess. I get Mary Millington but I don't get Richmond. (If it's any consolation, I don't really get Marilyn Monroe in that way either.) To be brutally honest I think Richmond is a bit scary-looking. And there's also the fact that she can't act. I know that in this kind of movie that's the last thing on anybody's mind – if you want acting, go get Meryl Streep but she's not going to do that lesbians-on-a-yacht scene. It's mainly absolutely terrible and even the occasional appearance of a sitcom star doesn't help. For me the biggest thrill (of any kind) was a three-second shot of a TV set broadcasting an old movie called Sweet Virgin in the background while Fiona and Number 72 are fumbling about on the vicarage floor. And that old clip woke me up basically because it had Lalla Ward in it: one of my favourite Doctor Who assistants during the Tom Baker years. Now, how rubbish does a movie have to be when the best bit is an unrelated clip from a completely different movie?


Should you really want to, you can get it from Amazon: