Monday, 28 December 2009

TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009 PART SIX: WATCHMEN


Regret missing this one at the cinema, but an excellent Blu-ray presentation made up for the disappointment.
I'd read the graphic novel before seeing the film and thoroughly enjoyed the breadth of vision employed by both artist and writer. When the US region-free Blu-ray was announced in the form of a director's cut, I took the plunge and ordered sight unseen. Happily, the film fulfilled all my expectations and grabbed me right from the word go.
Set in an alternate timeline, WATCHMEN begins with the killing of costumed vigilante 'The Comedian', and moves into a wonderful opening credits sequence which provide character history before weaving a tale of paranoia and imminent nuclear war.

The transfer is a thing of beauty, with shadow detail particularly well rendered.
The famous 'Maximum Movie Mode' - where Zack Snyder hosts the film next to side-by-side comparisons of scenes, pages from the graphic novel and more - works very well, and the release of this edition in the UK is a real bonus in itself for import-shy fans of the film.

Now, we have another release to consider in the form of WATCHMEN ULTIMATE CUT: THE COMPLETE STORY, which loses the MMM, but adds a commentary track, the complete motion comics movie and TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER edited into the DC.
Up to now, I haven't had the cash to double-dip but not an immediate concern, as I'd bet hard cash on there being yet another 'Ultimate' release in the not-too distant future. For now, this one will do admirably.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009 PART FIVE: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE


It's testament to the power of this film that, on each viewing, I depart thinking I've seen more than I actually have.
Some 35 years on from its release, Tobe Hooper's disturbing essay in terror continues to find new audiences, and influence up-and-coming genre directors.

Second Sight's 'Seriously Ultimate Edition' should mostly delight Blu-ray afficianado's, with a transfer that retains the grain and also boasts bold, bright colours, with bags more detail in the night-time scenes I can understand and respect the opinions of those who claim this transfer looks, well, too good and goes against the legendary 'down and dirty' home video editions we all know and love. However, Hooper always intended this film should look as good as it possibly could, so full marks from me for this superior edition.

As with DAWN OF THE DEAD, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE extras do include a fair amount of material that many will be familiar with, but there are some additional interviews which help earn the 'ultimate' tag.

TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009 PART FOUR: DAWN OF THE DEAD


A nice three-discer featuring the theatrical cut in HD format, with the Argento cut and director's cut in SD. The theatrical version is a big step-up from previous home video incarnations and will surely please its legion of fans. Apparently, the other two cuts were in too poor condition to elevate them above standard def treatment, due to time and money available.

Those of us who purchased the Anchor Bay US 4 -disc SD box will be familiar with most of the additional material, though it's nice to have them on the UK set, together with some new featurettes. Look out for Nicolas Garreau's Fan of The Dead, taking us on a pilgrimige to locations used in the filming of DAWN.

Although we lose the commentary tracks that were present and correct on the European and Director's cuts via Anchor Bay, this UK Blu-ray gives solid reasons to upgrade.

TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009 PART THREE: NORTH BY NORTHWEST


Not my favourite Hitch film by a long way, but the marvellous restoration on this Blu-ray transfer compelled me to enjoy this movie like never before.
Yes, the crop-dusting plane and the chase across the stone Presidents on Mount Rushmore look spectacular, but damn near every second of this film showcases what Blu-ray should be all about.

Add to this some valuable featurettes for Hitchcock buffs, and you have one stunner of a release.Just sit back and feast your eyes on those eye-popping colours and the detail in both interior and exterior scenes.
Now, can we please have a Blu VERTIGO sometime soon?

Saturday, 26 December 2009

TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009 PART TWO: THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE


For me, this is middle-tier Argento, but still a wholly impressive work.
Here, Tony Musante - a novelist living in Rome - winesses a violent attack at an art gallery and becomes haunted by a sliver of visual information that remains just out of reach.
While the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, Argento's orchestration of suspense and atmosphere made this film a more than worthwhile declaration of intent, peppered with some great set-pieces containing an abundance of visual ingenuity; many of which have been reused in subsequent genre movies.

Blue Underground's Blu-ray release - while hardly reference material - has kept the film's grain intact to deliver a beautiful film-like transfer. Indeed, taking into account the faded Eastman film stock, it's a remarkable piece of work.
The extras from the Blue Underground SD release have been ported over to this Blu-ray,including the rather wonderful commentary track from Alan Jones and Kim Newman.
The expert duo return in January to once again take the mic for commentary duties on the SUSPIRIA Blu-ray that will be available in the UK on 18th January. Stay tuned for a review!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

MY TOP TEN BLU-RAYS OF 2009: Part One: THE DAMNED UNITED


Although I've been unable to buy many Blu-ray releases this year, I've had a great time renting various titles and remain thankful that my wife managed to win a Blu-ray player in a competition. While there remains a good many titles that I've been unable to see, I count myself very fortunate to have been able to enjoy some stunning transfers.

Over the course of the next week or so, I'll be blogging on my own top ten Blu-rays of 2009. Of course, I'll be very pleased to read everyone's selections in the comments box.

So, to kick things off, here's my opening choice.

10/ THE DAMNED UNITED.

Having been a Derby fan since 1968, the events and characters in Tom Hooper's film took me a trip down memory lane. When Brian Clough and Peter Taylor arrived at Derby County, the club was well and truly in the doldrums and no-one would have believed that just a few years later The Rams would be proudly sitting on top of the league above such famous names as Liverpool, Spurs and... Leeds United.
Derby and Leeds had a fierce rivalry between players, fans and management, so it was like a bolt from the blue when Brian Clough took the manager's job at Elland Road after all he had said about the Yorkshire club. Cloughie's infamous stint at Leeds is well chronicled here, along with his clashes with Derby chairman Sam Longson who quickly became the most hated man in the city for the part he played in Clough and Taylor's departure.

Hooper's film is a pleasure to sit through, for its grasp of the events, mood and motivation of an amazing period in English football. Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall are both excellent as the dream team in this winning partnership - Taylor brilliant at identifying the players needed, with BC getting them to play - and Jim Broadbent (Longson) and Colm Meaney (possibly 'Man Of The Match' for his portrayal of Don Revie)both excel. That Clough didn't succeed at Leeds boils down to two things: the absence of Peter Taylor, and the fact that the Leeds players were determined his tenure would be short and fruitless.

This Blu-ray release treats us to a beautiful transfer, together with a quartet of featurettes and some deleted scenes. My thanks to all concerned for bringing this absorbing tale back to life.

Monday, 21 December 2009

GREAT SITE FOR BLU-RAY BUFFS

Those of you with a yen for the latest Blu-ray releases will do no better than to addthe excellent SHINY DISCS in your favourites.
Here, Ian Smith has devised a wonderful Blu-ray release carousel, which shows off the latest releases to great effect.

Ian promises detailed reviews of individual titles AND weekly video podcasts from around the end of March 2010. Ian is a gifted reviewer, so make sure you bookmark his site. Just click HERE

Sunday, 20 December 2009

AWAYDAYS


Rule #8 If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.


November 1979. Margaret Thatcher had been elected several months earlier, and already the gloomy outlook was already edging towards pitch black.
So, what's a boy to do in times like these? We had our music, which spewed out a ton of exciting bands and we also had our great national game. Football. For me, this particular obsession-bordering-on-religion kicked in around 1968, and led to me travelling the length and breadth of the country, following my local team. It was pretty much the same for the disaffected youth in Pat Holden's AWAYDAYS.

Based on Kevin Sampson's cult novel, AWAYDAYS drags us into the organised - often disorganised - world of football violence, focusing on 'The Pack': a small gang of Merseyside youths who actively seek confrontation with firms from other parts of the country.
Opening with a graveside family gathering, AWAYDAYS quickly moves into flashback mode, going back some three months earlier to a fight at a match, where onlookers include teenage Carty (Nick Bell) and his father. Carty is determined to become a member of this 'elite' club, and sees his chance after bumping into Pack member Elvis (Liam Boyle) at a gig.
Despite Elvis' warning that 'The Pack' are way out of his league, Carty elects to get himself noticed by participating in some savage fighting; an act that leads to a serious beating from a rival mob.
Although Carty is initially welcomed with open arms by the Pack leader, jealousy soon rears its ugly head, with potentially fatal repercussions.

With a plethora of violent scenes - including the cowardly use of stanley knives - AWAYDAYS packs pretty much the amount of punch one would expect from a film centering on football violence, though it's far from being a mindless hooligan flick.
Here, you'll find a film that captures the bleakness of '70s Britain where friendships buckle and break under the strain of everyday life and death. Check out the scene where Carty first enters Elvis' pad and is confronted by a noose hanging from the ceiling: "An everyday reminder of the absurdity of life and the absolute certainty of death. Heavy stuff, and yet an accurate depiction of the despair felt by many who turned their backs on a harsh political regime and simply waited for Saturday to come around.
While many will find AWAYDAYS to be a thoroughly depressing affair, those who engaged in terrace warfare will recognise a series of snapshots capturing how things were, and the two lead actors benefit from Holden's unjudgemental direction to deliver performances laced with anger and an understandable sense of unease.

While football violence has seen a decline for the last several years, firms still exist and attempt to evade the authorities crackdown by organising fights via mobile phones.
Just like the characters in this film, they don't appreciate bright lights in dark places.

MUSIC FROM THE NOUGHTIES: KAISER CHIEFS

Friday, 20 November 2009

COMING SOON: SUSPIRIA BLU-RAY


It was just the same when SD DVD hit the racks. Fans of Horror cinema asking just where the hell are our favourites? Argento, Fulci, Bava, Hammer.... and now we have the same situation with Blu-ray.
Well, I've recently added most special editions of DAWN OF THE DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE to my small Blu collection, joining such gems as Blue Underground's simply fab BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN.
Of course, there are still many gaps to fill but we're beginning to move in the right direction, with Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Larraz's VAMPYRES and Kumel's stately DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS all set to go Blu next year.

For many, the best news of all concerns the UK Blu-ray release of Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA. Thanks to Nouveaux Pictures and Cine- Excess, this classic slice of Italian Horror will see light of day 18th January, and we're promised a brand new high definition transfer, digitally remastered from HD. Advance word-of-mouth includes such comments as "a stunning makeover for one of the greatest horror films ever made", and "Suspiria has never looked better. It has never sounded as good, either".

Special Features include: "Fear At 400 Degrees: The Cine-Excess Of Suspiria" documentary featuring director Dario Agento and composer Claudio Simonetti; audio commentary by leading Dario Argento experts Alan Jones and Kim Newman; "Suspiria Perspectives" featuring Claudio Simonetti, Norman J. Warren and Patricia McCormack.

Sounds a great package, and I for one am greatly looking forward to listening to Jones and Newman, who treated fans to one of THE great commentary tracks for the BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE release.

I'm currently unsure as to whether this release will be region-locked, so stay tuned for further details on here and on Twitter.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

LEST WE FORGET




"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:


Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.


At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Friday, 6 November 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS X 2

Head over to RADIATOR HEAVEN for a great write-up on Criterion's WINGS OF DESIRE DVD .just click HERE

You can also check out the new ITALIAN FILM REVIEW from Nigel who did some great stuff on I SPIT ON YOUR TASTE. You'll find it HERE

Monday, 2 November 2009

ATTENTION EUROCRIME BUFFS!


My friend and fellow blogger Nigel has exciting news of a new project, which centres on Eurocrime. This exciting subgenre gave birth to many terrific movies, and the aim is to make a feature-length documentary featuring interviews with top actors and directors, plus a bevy of clips.

Please click on this LINK to read more about this venture.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

HALLOWEEN ALL-NIGHTER

An advert in the local paper caught my eye, concerning the listings at our nearest cinema. Tonight, the fab Cinema Delux in Derby will play host to a special Halloween all-nighter comprising of the six SAW films.If the prospect of sitting through every film is a little too daunting, there is an option to bag a ticket for the midnight screening of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Now, if I had the fortitude to sit through six genre movies on this most special of nights, I can think of a slightly more varied selection than the continuing adventures of Jigsaw.
Ok, here goes.

CASTLE OF BLOOD .You can read my review HERE

KILL, BABY..KILL! Up there with LISA AND THE DEVIL as my favourite Bava film. Read my review HERE

SESSION 9.
This may seem an odd choice to some, but Brad Anderson's chiller has all the trappings and moody content of an accomplished genre flick.
Set in the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, Peter Mullen leads a group of men who are charged with removing asbestos within a one week time frame.
As the men set to work, the eerie asylum affects the men in different ways, leading to a truly haunting finale. If you have yet to see this film, check out the trailer below and do your utmost to catch what is a remarkable study in terror.



THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE.
Another old favourite that used to regularly haunt UK late-night TV. You can read my review HERE

THE HAUNTING.
Great book, great film. My thoughts on this superior spooker can be found HERE

INFERNO.
Although I've long held the opinion that DEEP RED represents Dario Argento's finest hour, INFERNO is certainly my favourite in the Argento canon.. I've seen this wonderfully stylish film at the cinema, on video, Laserdisc and DVD and eargerly await a Blu-ray release. Enjoy the trailer below and remember that golden age where Argento unleashed the forces of darkness right inside your door.



Of course, there are so many films vying for a place in this top six: HORROR HOTEL; NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; BLACK SABBATH; THE BEYOND; SUSPIRIA... the list goes on.
I'll be pleased if you can find time to compile your own choices in the comments.
Whatever you're doing and wherever you are, have a Happy Halloween.

Friday, 30 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

As it's Halloween tomorrow, I thought I'd despense with the usual punk-orientated music video and instead give you a few clips and some valuable commentary on one of the finest ghost stories on film. Hope you enjoy the following video in praise of THE STONE TAPE. You can read my review HERE



The DVD is currently out of print in the UK, so ebay may be a good bet for those who wish to track down a copy.
Look out for video of London's National Film Theatre amongst the clips; a great venue where I caught many screenings.

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE


Two gun-toting girls on the run burn the body of their former partner in crime and following an attempted rape and Fulci-esque premature burial, end up at a suitably spooky chateau. It's here they meet the last vampire on earth (Gaste) and his small band of wannabes, who seek to perpetuate a dying race by adding a couple of virgins to the waiting list.

For most of the opening hour, Requiem For A Vampire is bereft of any meaningful dialogue, instead using a succession of dreamlike encounters and imagery as a prelude to a final act that's thought provoking and genuinely moving. The two female leads (Castel and Dargent) are perfect for their respective roles, conveying the tragic elements of this story in the grand tradition of the silent movies of years gone by. Credit to them and Gaste that when the dialogue kicks in, later in the film, their contributions become even more impressive as moods, motivations, and beliefs are changed - for better or worse. I suppose it's possible to dilute the positives on offer here by focusing on apparent directorial misjudgements: there are times when Rollin trades his customary brand of stylish eroticism for a combination of Benny Hill meets Killer's Moon - wildly out of place, given the overall tone of this film. It's also irritating when eerie night-time scenes are suddenly disrupted by constantly changing the timeline from dusk to dawn and back again. Budgetary constraints associated with this type of production, or simply haphazard direction with scant regard for continuity? I prefer to view this as a continuation of Requiem's general theme, where the characters' convictions change like, well, night moves into day. Nothing is as it seems in the dream life of Rollin, though there's no mistaking the raw emotion on display when Dargent is whipped by her best friend in order to reveal the whereabouts of an 'outsider' who threatens this practically extinct race. Here, the pain and angst shared by the two girls approaches the poetic horror of The Living Dead Girl which is, I believe, Rollin at his very best.

For the uninitiated, it's no easy task to lend a helping hand and point to any one Rollin film as the ideal introduction to his work. Pick a title yourself and you'll either fall in love or dismiss the film in question as the work of a hack, though the excellent Region 2 disc containing Requiem and Fascination offers a marvellous introduction to the man and his movies. This enticing double feature disc was the debut release from Allan Bryce's Darkside magazine, and includes three superb featurettes, containing over 100 mins of clips and interviews: the excellent Eurotica programme, "Virgins And Vampires"; another documentary, "Bloody Lips And Iron Crosses" and, finally, interviews with Rollin and Eurofox Brigitte Lahaie. A perfect start for would-be Rollinades, and a real treat for long-time afficianado's, too. To be fair, though, there are a couple of problems you should be aware of: firstly, Requiem is cut, though no blame can be attached to Bryce who had to adhere to BBFC requirements. In this case, the scissors were taken to the infamous 'Caged Virgins' scene; no great loss, perhaps, but completists will no doubt double up on Requiem by adding Image's uncut Region 1 disc to their collections. The other minor gripe relates to the transfer. While this is the best UK version I've laid eyes on, there are occasions when exterior scenes suffer with regard to dull colours and a slightly soft image. There are also several instances of horrible chroma noise and moire patterning. A real shame.

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: I VAMPIRI


When police find the body of a young woman floating in the river Seine, journalist Pierre Lantin (Michaelis) embarks on a personal crusade, aiming to solve the mystery of the so-called 'Vampire Murders.' The latest in a series of blood-drained corpses leads our intrepid newshound to a castle owned by the Duchess du Grand, whose neice, Gisele (Canale), adds further to a troubled history shared by the Lantin family and her own flesh and blood.

Often referred to as the first Italian horror film, I Vampiri started life as a bet between Riccardo Freda and two Italian film producers who wagered that Freda would not be able to shoot his proposed feature inside 12 days. The rest, as they say, is history. With 2 days left and only 50% of the script translated into film, Freda asked for an extension and was duly turned down. Freda walked, Mario Bava stepped in and managed to complete the film, courtesy of major script changes, the inclusion of stock footage and some truly inspired photography. The end result may occasionally reflect the rather bizarre production deal, but it's still a fascinating and visually impressive film which is strong enough to carry the weight of two great directors.

Freda's love of the macabre is well to the fore here, rubbing shoulders with Bava's already considerable talents to deliver suspense and shock in equal measure. As Bava's grand design unveils eerie candlelit tombs, hidden passageways leading to corpse-ridden rooms and, best of all, a remarkable transformation scene, the excellent cast grow in stature: Micahelis, promoted by Bava from supporting actor to major player; Canale, impossibly gorgeous as the cold-hearted beauty harbouring a dark secret; Antoine Balpetri's harrassed scientist, who is in just as much of a hurry as his director - in this case to produce results for a less-than model patient - and Paul Muller as a drug addict who exists on a supply-and-supply basis. Although Muller's character suffers from the directorial switch (the ligature marks on his neck are, literally, from another film entirely), this should not detract too much from a stylish study in terror which thoroughly deserved its promotion to DVD. While Image's disc presentation looks way too bright and washed-out in places, it generally provides a sharp, stable picture with bags of detail in those wonderfully spooky castle interiors. B+ for the transfer and the same for the film which marked the formative steps of a golden age.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE


During a video introduction on Anchor Bay's DVD, Jorge Grau expresses the hope that viewers will be scared by this blood-splattered account of ecological mayhem.

Fast approaching its 30th anniversary, The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue proves rather adept at increasing the number of beats per minute, with some fairly explicit gore and several set-pieces that are brimming with tension.

The fun really begins when the Department Of Agriculture unveils an ultra- sonic sound machine designed to drastically reduce the insect population. Luckily for us, Grau and his team of pen-pushers had other ideas, sparing us the horrors of 'Farming Today' and instead standing us lunch by using this less-than cutting-edge technology to resurrect the newly dead. Soon the titular crypt and surrounding area - actually based in the Lake District (and shot mostly in the Peak District) - are awash with zombies and it's up to George and Edna (Lovelock & Galbo) to save the day. These two central characters gain in stature as their predicament grows ever worse: Galbo being the sensitive, vulnerable half of this 'odd couple' pairing, but still offering steadfast support to the initially irritating Lovelock, whose inner strength comes to the fore as their situation intensifies.

Probably the most colourful character aside from undead down-but-not-out Guthrie - is the gloriously stupid Sergeant McCormick (Kennedy) who must have been a great inspiration to a certain self-styled ''God's Cop' during those heady days of 'Video Nasties.' Indeed, one can't help but wonder if Grau's less-than respectful portrayal of the police may well have contributed to some pretty heavy interest in suppressing video distribution of his film. Quite possibly, though a certain Gianetto de Rossi did his little bit by providing fx for some delightful 'dining' sequences that would resurface to even greater effect a few years later in Fulci's Zombie Flesheaters.

Die-hard fans of the aforementioned classic may scoff at even the tiniest comparison with Grau's movie but Manchester Morgue is well worthy of inclusion in your list of top 'Living Dead' flicks.

Watch out for: breast munching, the disembowelling of a brave, but foolhardy police constable, and the wonderfully stomach-churning scene where Lovelock and Galbo attempt to escape from a crypt full of living dead.
A Blu-ray release will soon be unveiled by our friends over at Blue Underground

Monday, 26 October 2009

A SAD DAY.


I received a phone call at work mid-afternoon today from my wife, with the sad news that her mother passed away this morning.

Phyllis had been unwell for some time, and was admitted to hospital at the end of last week. Although I only spent a few days in her company, it was enough for me to realise she was (and always will be) a very special lady.
You see, my wife and I first met on the Internet, with 4,000 miles between us.
We kept in touch every day - by keyboard, phone and webcam - for 18 months before we decided to get married.
So, I flew to America and, 2 days after meeting in person, we were married in the garden of a friend with a chainsaw whirring away in the background at a neighbouring house.
Our biggest decision would be where to settle. Susan had her mother, 2 brothers and a sister in America. My mother lived in England, but has no surviving relatives, other than myself. My father had been dead for some years, my brother and sister died when they were infants. So, Susan decided we must locate in England so my mother had help and support at hand. An enormous sacrifice for Susan and her family.
I would not have blamed her family if they had given me the cold shoulder. After all, I was whisking their daughter & sister away across the ocean to a new life. As it turned out, they all received me with warmth and affection; a truly humbling experience. Phyllis was an absolute delight, and I feel so very lucky to have been in her company; if only for a short time.

Susan and I are best friends as well as husband and wife, and are happier with every passing day. I guess we are soul mates and while we regret we couldn't have met years earlier, feel so lucky to have found each other.
Tonight, we remember Phyllis for her love, kindness and her support for our relationship.

PEKIN, Ill. -
Phyllis M. Larimore, 82, of Pekin, passed away at 8:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, at Pekin Hospital.

Phyllis was born July 7, 1927, to Carl and Madge S. Hyatt Hoffman. She married Robert L. Larimore on Oct. 19, 1967, in Missouri. He died on May 17, 1991.

Also preceding her in death were two brothers, Neal Hoffman and Richard Hoffman.

Surviving are two sons, Mike (Kristina) Cook of Pekin and Tom Cook of Shelbyville; two daughters, Valarie (David) Ripper of Pekin and Susan (Stephen) Langton in England; one sister, Vera Damarin of Pekin; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; four stepchildren; and 10 stepgrandchildren.

Phyllis was a member of St. Paul United Church of Christ.

She enjoyed crocheting. Her children and grandchildren brought her great joy.

Memorial services will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at Henderson Funeral Home. The Rev. Dwight Borden will officiate. Burial will be at a later date in Lakeside Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Paul United Church of Christ, 101 N. Eighth St., Pekin, IL 61554.

To offer online condolences, visit www.hendersonfuneralcare.com.

Friday, 23 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: THE FALL

August, 1978 saw the first vinyl release by a Manchester band named The Fall.
"Bingo-Masters Break-Out!" was just that little bit different to make me sit up and really take notice, and compel me to pay the most earnest attention to this group. With Mark E. Smith's sing/speak/shout vocal style and often incomprehensible lyrics, The Fall covered many musical bases.
Their magnificent "Live At The Witch Trials" debut album is a real landmark but, with over 50 albums (not counting compilations), it's hard to pick their finest work.

Hope you enjoy this video from 1988.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

SUPERIOR SCRIBBLERS


The bloggers Superior Scribblers award has just come to my attention.
Here are the rules:

•Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
•Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
•Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
•Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
•Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Here are my 5 choices:

Radiator Heaven

Moon In The Gutter

Sugar And Spice

Only The Cinema

Lazy Thoughts From A Boomer

Now, I'm familiar with the opening quartet of blogs (which continue to excel), but Lazy Thoughts is a new one on me. Having checked out this blog, it's crystal clear we have some quality writing which will amply reward continued visits.

Thanks very much indeed to JD over at Radiator Heaven.

Friday, 16 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

Taken from one of the finest debut albums ever, Patti Smith's 'Free Money' is, for me, the standout track on the legendary 'Horses' album.

Hope you enjoy this version recorded in 1976. I was lucky enough to see her gig at the Birmingham Odeon in 1978 and rate it as one of my all-time top 10 gigs.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN


Based on 'Let Me In' - a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist - Tomas Alfredson's splendid feature film has been attracting rave reviews all over the world since its release in 2008. With Lindqvist on board for the screenplay, Alfredson creates a troubled winter wonderland where 12-year-old Oskar makes friends with a young girl named Elie who declares "I've been 12 a long time". Suffering bullying at school on an almost daily basis, Oskar eventually confides in his new acquaintance, initially unaware that her nocturnal habits include a dependence on human blood in order to survive.

As her watchman Hakan proves himself not up to the task of supplying her essential nourishment, Elie must fend for herself while Oskar battles against the bullies and his own concerns regarding just who or what Elie really is.
Here, Oskar's pain of growing up in the real world is contrasted by the plight of a vampire child who will never change physically, with both of them forced to survive in harsh, unforgiving terrain.
While LET THE RIGHT ONE IN contains moments of feral savagery, there are many instances of sheer poetry in dialogue and imagery; a gesture here, a sentence there, all propelling this story into a fantastique world where childlike innocence mutates into something altogether different.
This really is an extraordinary work, standing proudly alongside genre greats of recent years. Indeed, for my money, it's up there with Abel Ferrara's THE ADDICTION as one of the most challenging vampire films of the last few decades, though for entirely different reasons.

On Blu-ray, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN benefits from an outstanding transfer. The snow-laden landscape looks of the purest white, while the colour ranges from vibrant to dull reflecting the narrative shifts. As much of the film takes place at night, solid blacks are important and that's just what we get. A worthwhile commentary track is included, together with 4 deleted scenes. While it's likely their addition would not have significantly improved the film, it's good to be able to watch them here.

Here's a trailer to whet the appetite of any of you yet to see this remarkable coming-of-age tale. Please, don't miss it.

Friday, 9 October 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Head on over to Radiator Heaven

JD is celebrating Halloween in style, with a series of reviews taking us us up to the 31st October.
He's already covered SILENT HILL, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Get your popcorn, pumpkins and candy and join us!

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

Recall seeing The Only Ones a few times; the first being a gig at Derby's Ajanta Theatre back in (I think) 1977. This , I'd venture to suggest, is their finest offering.
Enjoy.

AH, THE FESTIVAL SEASON


The latest issue of the essential Sight & Sound magazine arrived today, with its front cover proclaiming 'Film Festival Special'.
Inside, Nick James' editorial reminds us that Venice and Toronto have barely finished and then we're straight into The Times 53rd London Film Festival.
James' excellent piece remarks that film festivals are perhaps victims of their own success, owing to the numerical surge that sees even the older established fests duking it out for the films of real artistic merit. The London bash will screen 191 feature films and 113 shorts, but how many of those will stimulate and how many will disappoint?
Having viewed roughly half the programme, the Sight & Sound team have found 30 films to recommend which is just about the number of titles on my would-love-to-see list (although all my own choices are made sight unseen). Of course, every festival contains precious gems that surprise and delight from the most unlikely source and, tragically, many of those titles will likely never receive either theatrical or DVD releases.

I've been lucky enough to attend the festival in London for many years, always managing to book three days off work during what is invariably a very busy time of year. I'd receive the programme and simply book for as many films as possible during my three-day stay. This enforced method of selection worked well for the most part, though inevitable disappointment always reared its ugly head when I discovered the latest from Woody Allen or Claire Denis were being screened the day I started back to work.Sure, I saw some clunkers but, for the most part, was amply rewarded with a ton of memorable events.
It was at the LFF that I caught the UK premiere of David Cronenberg's CRASH; a screening made even better by an introduction and post-film Q&A by the man himself. That England's gutter press almost managed to get the screening (and the film) banned via a series of absolutely worthless articles (Daily Mail, take a bow), made this event one for the history books (the screening was in doubt right up to almost the 11th hour). THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION; a restored NOSFERATU; Ferrara's SNAKE EYES (soon to be known as DANGEROUS GAME); Ang Lee's wonderful EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN; ETERNITY AND A DAY; ALMOST FAMOUS; THE FUNERAL; I CAN'T SLEEP; AUTOFOCUS; KILLING ZOE (with one of THE most downbeat endings you'd never wish to see); REQUIEM FOR A DREAM; GOSFORD PARK; FAUST; THE LOST WORLD; SHANGHAI TRIAD; MIGHTY APHRODITE; HORESMAN ON THE ROOF; EARTH; THE MAGDALENE SISTERS; BURNING SKY (a German take on Thelma And Louise that I'd love to see again)... just a few of the movies I was lucky enough to catch in my breakneck visits that often took in ten films in a 3 day period.

Unfortunately, my wife and I are again unable to attend this year but I hope the festival isn't hit too hard by the debilitating world recession. It's a wonderful event staged in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and my festival memories include sharing some great times with some great people. The CRASH screening will stay long in my memory as it was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Auty and Ben Howard. Dan & Ben run the excellent Mondo Movie site, which includes a long-running series of podcasts. I do highly recommend you check it out .
Just click HERE

Thursday, 8 October 2009

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD IN HD

George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is set for its second Blu-ray release in the UK, this time from Network.
We're promised a brand-new transfer taken from original 35mm film elements.
Check out this Blu-ray clip posted on youtube, which bodes well for this release.



NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is slated for release on 26th October.

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE BLU-RAY


Tobe Hooper's savage, unrelenting nightmare has a chequered history here in the UK.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was refused a cinema release back in 1974, and was only granted certificates for cinema and home video in 1999. The retirement of BBFC head honcho, the late James Ferman, opened the door for many previously outlawed films: indeed, Ferman had found the whole Chain Saw experience to be so intense that he declared it was impossible to make any cuts to this film and make it available for public viewing.
So, Hooper's film simply gathered dust here, though the thriving UK fanzine community ensured those who really wanted to see the film could do so, courtesy of third-gen bootleg tapes which were always at the top of most peoples 'swap lists'.
Now, the Blu-ray format has caught up with Chain Saw in the form of the 'Seriously Ultimate Edition'. Thanks to Second Sight Films, this 16mm journey into darkness looks as good as one could hope for. Happily, this transfer retains the grain 'n' grit but also looks sharp and colourful in places, echoing Hooper's intention that his film should no longer be the victim of heavy, heavy grain Ala the early theatrical screenings.

With an impressive roster of juicy extras, TCM comes over as an even greater accomplishment, with the excellent 'The Shocking Truth' documentary giving us the low-down on exactly what went into the making of this film, and the heavy toll it took on those involved; particularly Marilyn Burns who deserved some kind of medal for her participation. With tales of The Mafia and reminiscences from the heat of on-screen battle , Dave Gregory's doc acts as a valuable record of the filming and the legend that simply refuses to lay down and die. Of course, there are cast and crew members sadly no longer with us and they are remembered in the moving 'In Memoriam' segment of the 'Flesh Wounds' featurette.

The film itself still holds up as one of the most enduring in Horror Cinema. I find it every bit as difficult to sit through as my first Chain Saw experience many years ago. It's a relentless, in-your-face production and it's testament to the power of this film that many of us still go away thinking we've seen more than was actually shown. There's only a modicum of blood spilt onscreen, but the charnel house atmosphere and endlessly imaginative set designs combine with committed performances to fashion a true genre heavyweight. With just an 80 minute running time, Hooper's film seems a lot longer, and I offer that observation as a compliment.

With Blu-ray releases for DAWN OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on the horizon, Blu-ray is starting to become a fitting home for some of our favourite movies. For the target audience, these are the sort of releases that sell Blu-ray players and it's nice to see THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE receive such reverential treatment.
Initially, this will be a HMV exclusive here in the UK, but will be more widely available early next year.

Friday, 2 October 2009

DAWN OF THE DEAD BLU-RAY


Here are the spec for the forthcoming DAWN OF THE DEAD UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.

Disc One (Blu Ray):

Theatrical Cut in High Definition
DTS HD and Stereo Audio.
Commentary 1 with George A Romero, Tom Savini and Chris Romero.
Commentary 2 with Richard P. Rubinstein
Document of the Dead - the classic documentary
Document of the Dead: The Lost Interview and Deleted Scenes
Fan of the Dead (mad French dude goes to visit the locations!)
Disc Two (DVD):

Director’s Cut of Dawn of the Dead
The Dead Will Walk Documentary (the stunning 2004 documentary)
Disc Three (DVD):

Argento Cut of Dawn of the Dead
Scream Greats (brilliant Tom Savini documentary)
Publicity Vault containing:
US and German Trailers
TV and Radio Spots
Reviews
Giallo Trailers (Macabre, Sleepless and House by the Cemetery)

DAWN will be released on 19th October, and will initially be a HMV exclusive.

Friday, 18 September 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

Ah, Anti-Nowhere League! Saw this band on many occasions, ranging from small capacity sweaty clubs to London's Lyceum. This is the one they'll be remembered for so enjoy the show as Ralph McTell's song gets a serious kicking.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

HANNIBAL TURNS BLU


Florence, Italy. Hannibal Lector, now masquerading as Dr. Fell, continues to haunt the dreams of Clarice Starling (beautifully played by Julianne Moore)and soon attracts the attention of local cop Pazzi who has an eye on the considerable reward being offered for Lector's capture.With a high maintenance wife in tow, Pazzi resolves to obtain the necessary fingerprint required to bag the cash, while deformed peadophile Mason Verger (the excellent Gary Oldman doing his best James Stewart impersonation) pulls the strings that he hopes will eventually ensnare his quarry.

For my money, HANNIBAL is easily the best of the Hopkins Lector flicks, and is pretty damn close to being Ridley Scott's best to date. Here, the beautiful city of Florence appears dark and menacing, stained by the presence of Lector who holds sway throughout the entire film, even though some 30 minutes elapse before we first set eyes on him. With a heady mixture of scholarly insight, gallows humour and a palpable sense of menace, Anthony Hopkins locks horns with his pursuers while any romantic aspect is delivered by "suggestion rather than assault".
Sad to say, HANNIBAL received pretty short shrift from many SILENCE OF THE LAMBS devotees; some of whom felt that HANNIBAL was worlds away from their expectation of a sequel, and Jodie Foster's absence may have been to big a pill to swallow for those who found a 'newcomer' too big a jump. Maybe those same people have now got a little more time for Moore as, like the film, her performance gains with age and moves like a symphony through the rich script.

The standard definition DVD - laden with extras - has long been an essential part of my collection, and another in a line of Scott on disc that really increases understanding and appreciation of the film in question. The release of HANNIBAL on Blu-ray seemed to good to turn down, so is the hi-def version a worthwhile upgrade?
This region-free Blu-ray is easily the best I've seen this film look, though the detail seems less than sharp in certain instances. Overall, it handles colours and black levels very well, enhancing Scott's painterly approach to this film.
Happily, most of the extras from the SD DVD have been ported over, though the multi-angle fish market shoot-out and title sequence design have gone missing, together with the marketing gallery and trailers. With Blu-ray boasting such impressive storage capacity, the inclusion of the aforementioned would not have hurt, so someone clearly dropped the ball on this occasion. Apart from that, HANNIBAL comes highly recommended.

Friday, 11 September 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND. PRIME TIME JAM

Lucky enough to see The Jam on many occasions, and never saw them deliver anything other than a great gig. They always used to close the show with this one, leaving us gasping for air before they came back on for the encores.
This, I believe, is very close to being their finest song and always reminds me of the hundreds of tube trains I've taken on London's famous underground network. Some of them at midnight.

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2009.

Just got word of the 2009 programme for the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival and, as usual, it's a real corker.

Over 14 days, the festival will be screening 191 features and 113 shorts with the promise of many guests and special events. I've already mentioned the opening night film previously on this blog, but it's worth highlighting again. Wes Anderson's FANTASTIC MR. FOX will open the fest, and will be presented by cast members including Meryl Streep, George Clooney and Bill Murray. The closing night film will be Sam Taylor-Wood's NOWHERE BOY, which will certainly be a must-see for all you Beatles fans out there.

There's so much to look out for during the course of 14 frantic days, but here are a selection of films I'll certainly be interested in catching up with in the very near future.

A BFI restoration of Anthony Asquith's UNDERGROUND with live musical accompaniment.
Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner, THE WHITE RIBBON
Steven Soderbergh's THE INFORMANT
Gasper Noe's ENTER THE VOID
Ang Lee's TAKING WOODSTOCK
Jane Campion's BRIGHT STAR
Harmony Korine's TRASH HUMPERS
Julien Temple's OIL CITY CONFIDENTIAL
Claire Denis' WHITE MATERIAL
Todd Solondze's LIFE DURING WARTIME
Jim Jarmusch's THE LIMITS OF CONTROL
Joel & Ethan Coen's A SERIOUS MAN
Andre Techine's THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Patrice Chereau's PERSECUTION
Atom Egoyan's CHLOE

Festival-goers can also look forward to personal appearances from: Clive Owen; Julianne Moore; Ray Winstone; Aaron Johnson; Nick Park; Catherine Breillat; Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Emma Thompson, Matthew Beard, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper; Nick Hornby; Lu Chan; Juno Temple; Alex Etel; Eliza May Bennett; Hugh Bonneville; Pauline Collins; Kwyedza Kureya; Federico León; Anurag Kashyap; Tarik Saleh; Josh Harris and James Schamus with many more still to be confirmed.

Unfortunately, we're once again unable to afford to attend any of the screenings, but hope the festival is another resounding success. Look out for further updates before and during the festival.

You can check out further details by clicking HERE
The festival beings 14th October.

Friday, 4 September 2009

SOMETHIN FOR THE WEEKEND: MAGAZINE



It's a great pleasure to include a clip from Magazine on this blog.
The band have started touring again and, according to a friend via Twitter, are on great form.
Sit back and watch and listen to this classic, and lament the fact that the late, great John McGeoch is no longer with us.
You can read my tribute to John by clicking HERE

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Check out this really nice piece on David Lynch's WILD AT HEART, over at RADIATOR HEAVEN.

Just click here

DEATH OF A GHOST HUNTER


I've always been a sucker for haunted house movies. THE STONE TAPE, THE HAUNTING,THE INNOCENTS, THE CHANGELING... golden oldies that have been joined by more recent fare such as THE OTHERS and THE ORPHANAGE. Sad to say, those good old fashioned spookers have always been a bit thin on the ground, perhaps relegated to also-ran status by populist box office hits that go for the jugular rather than subtle chills.
So, the release of a relatively recent film bearing the title DEATH OF A GHOST HUNTER immediately made me sit up and take notice.

Shot in 2007, Sean Tretter's second directorial project appeared on a UK DVD rental site with the minimum of fanfare, and it was available for free streaming as part of my rental package.
The film concerns a renowned ghost hunter named Carter Simms (Patti Tindall)who will be paid $5,000 to investigate a house that once played host to murder and suicide. Simms is contractually obliged to share house space with a cameraman and a reporter, who will attempt to bring balance and accuracy to any manifestations that may occur.
The trio are soon joined by a bible-thumping young woman, who turns out to have a vested interest in the house and its bloody history.

For most of its running time, DEATH OF A GHOST HUNTER does a more than reasonable job of detailing the science of paranormal investigation, with a clutch of believable characters staying well in tune with the script. Taking into account the nine day $10,000 shoot, the end product is a credit to all involved, though some aspects of the production fall a little bit short a little too often.
While some of the ghostly effects certainly convey the necessary chills for this genre, there are a number of instances where the supernatural imagery is anything but scary and this does impact on proceedings.
There's also a key scene early on that may render the finale less-than surprising, although the last 10 minutes are still a powerful experience, even if you got the 'twist' way ahead of time.

With nods to THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE EXORCIST and a cringe-inducing BLAIR WITCH piss take, DEATH OF A GHOST HUNTER is a mostly absorbing low-budget entry in the haunted house stakes, and its 'true story' tag did (I'll admit)compel me to search online for further details.

Tretta's film can be found to view online at http://www.lovefilm.com/welcome/beta.html and has just been released on DVD in the UK for just £2.99. Also available on Netflix.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

NOWAYSIS: BAD NEWS FOR FANS

Just learned that Noel Gallagher has quit Oasis, declaring he's unable to continue working with his brother, Liam. It remains to be seen whether this really is the end, so we'll just have to hope that things work out.
Here's a clip of classic Oasis, as a small tribute to a band who consistently delivered.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

ONE FOR YOU BEATLES FANS

Recently received an email revealing the choice of the closing night film at this year's London Film Festival.

The Closing Night Gala of The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival will be the World Premiere of Ecosse Films' Nowhere Boy, the highly anticipated debut feature from British artist Sam Taylor-Wood.

Imagine John Lennon's childhood... Liverpool 1955: a smart and troubled fifteen year-old is hungry for experience. In a family full of secrets, two incredible women clash over John. Mimi, the buttoned-up aunt who raised him and Julia, the prodigal mother. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into rock n' roll. His fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney. Just as John begins his new life, tragedy strikes. But a resilient young man finds his voice - and an icon explodes into the world.

Nowhere Boy is written by Matt Greenhalgh (Control) and stars newcomer Aaron Johnson as John Lennon, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lennon's Aunt Mimi, and Anne-Marie Duff as his mother Julia. They are joined by Thomas Brodie Sangster playing the young Paul McCartney and newcomer Sam Bell as George Harrison alongside a strong supporting cast that includes David Morrissey and David Threlfall. The film was produced by Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae for Ecosse Films and Kevin Loader, with cinematography from Seamus McGarvey.

Nowhere Boy is an Ecosse Films production in association with Film4, the UK Film Council's Premiere Fund, NorthWest Vision and Media, Lip Sync Productions and Aver Media. The script was developed with the support of the UK Film Council's Development Fund and Icon Film Distribution will release the film in the UK on 26 December 2009. HanWay Films are selling international rights and The Weinstein Company have US rights.

Sandra Hebron, the Festival's Artistic Director comments: "We're delighted to be closing our festival with the world premiere of this first feature by Sam Taylor Wood, who brings her customary sensitivity and visual flair to this story of the formative years of one of the UK's cultural icons. Less a biopic and more a love-story, Nowhere Boy is as accomplished as it is moving, and will ensure the festival ends on a high note."

On having her film invited to close the London Film Festival, Sam Taylor-Wood comments: "For the past year I have lived and breathed this film. It's been one of the most transforming experiences of my life. For Nowhere Boy to chosen to close the London Film Festival, in a city I grew up in and which continues to inspire me is truly amazing."

The full programme for The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival will be announced at the Press Launch on Wednesday 9 September. The Opening Night film is the previously announced World Premiere of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The full programme for The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival will be announced at the Press Launch on Wednesday 9 September. The Festival runs from 14-29 October 2009.

Friday, 21 August 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND



999 were one of my favourite punk bands. Remember seeing them at the Birmingham Odeon in the 70s when they were down to support The Runaways. On that particular evening, England was in the grip of rolling power cuts and Birmingham was expected to have its power cut off from 9.00pm that very evening. So, The Runaways elected to take the stage first with the aim of playing their full set, leaving 999 to run the risk of not being able to play. Happily, the blackout didn't happen and 999 delivered a real stormer of a gig.

The above video was shot at a 999 gig at London's Clarendon Hall in 1984. I think it provides a great indication of how good they were. I hope you enjoy it. Don't forget to check back next Friday for another musical clip.

Friday, 14 August 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND



A little musical something for the weekend. I'll be doing this every Friday, so don't forget to stop by. My first offering is a classic anthem from Oasis.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: BLOOD SIMPLE


It happened one night in 1983. The usual selection of pre-main feature trailers; a guy digging a grave in a field illuminated by headlights; a private investigator blowing smoke rings while spinning a tale of marital infidelity…
Three minutes worth of clips promising murder, intrigue and betrayal. This was my first introduction to the world of the Coen Bros. One week later, I was back to view BLOOD SIMPLE – their debut feature and, possibly, still their finest hour-and-36.

Here, classic film noir pitches camp in a Texas populated by self-serving characters who guarantee that, whoever comes out on top, good will not triumph! Bar owner Ray (Dan Hedeya) hires private eye Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to procure photographic evidence of his wife’s affair. Marty (John Getz), a barkeep at Ray’s saloon, becomes one of the targets in a planned double-murder (“I’ve got a job for you. It’s not strictly legal”), but things do not go according to plan as a series of twists and double crosses deliver a white-hot thriller. Abby (Frances McDormand) takes over from her husband and her illicit lover during a terrific final quarter, full of suspense, bloodletting and a tense bout of gunplay which may prompt you to do Dirty Harry-style math on the way to the most wonderful closing line of dialogue and a reprise of the wholly appropriate Four Tops classic.

For a debut feature, this a remarkably assured work, adding some nice comedic touches (Visser’s one-liners, a bungled wife-snatch that anticipates FARGO) to a storyline full of surprises. Quite simply, it’s a joy to see the cast discover information we are already privy to, and then pull the rug from under our feet as Visser moves one step forward and two steps back. Walsh is disgustingly fine as the sleaze-riddled detective, and ably supported by the intense Hedeya (just as scary then as in his memorable turn in MULLHOLLAND DRIVE, some 19 years later) and McDormand who also made her screen debut here, along with her director.

Universal’s DVD presents BLOOD SIMPLE in its original 1.85:1 ratio, with a nice clean transfer doing full justice to Barry Sonnenfeld’s photography. The presence of an audio commentary track should have served to heighten our knowledge and appreciation of this film but Kenneth Loring (of Forever Young films, apparently) had other ideas. As a send-up on commentaries, Loring is perhaps funny for around five minutes but quickly becomes tedious and remains so (“You may be getting a little bit tired of this lighter by now”). I’m sure folks who spent their hard-earned on this disc would have loved to hear the Coens talk about script development, problems encountered getting their film from story to shooting and casting choices. A pompous viewpoint? Maybe, but surely this film deserves better?

UK CINEMA ADMISSIONS UP


Despite this awful recession, UK cinema admissions reached 83.4 million in the first half of 2009; an increase of 14.8% when compared to the same period last year.
Although we're currently unable to afford to visit our local cinema, we're pleased to see that cinema-going is holding up so well and often cast an envious eye towards Derby's Quad cinema. During the course of this month, film buffs have a chance to see Von Trier's controversial ANTI CHRIST, Almodovar's BROKEN EMBRACES, Claire Denis' 35 SHOTS OF RUM, Duncan Jones' MOON, COCO BEFORE CHANEL, MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT, Coffin Joe's EMBODIMENT OF EVIL and check out the following special screenings: THIS SPORTING LIFE, BARBARELLA, VERTIGO and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.

If you live within affordable reach of a good cinema complex, you don't know how lucky you are. Please support it if you're able to.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

WATCHMEN ON BLU.



I've never been a fan of graphic novels. No real reason for this. Just something I've never took the time to get into. Happily, this situation changed a couple of months ago when I finally decided it was way past time to check out the 'Gone With The Wind Of Graphics'.
My interest was sparked by a trailer for Zack Snyder's feature film, so a quick purchase on eBay's home shopping site and a copy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' revered book was soon nestling on my lap. To say I was blown away would be an understatement! This alternate history 'lesson' - full of costumed vigilantes and extreme social and political turmoil - WATCHMEN proved to be the most engrossing page-turner I'd encountered in many a long day.
I'd been unable to catch a theatrical screening of Snyder's film, and eagerly awaited the DVD release which, in the UK, turned out to be the version seen at cinemas.News soon came through that the US would be getting Snyder's director's cut, and the Blu-ray would not be region-locked.

Running at 3 hours 6 minutes (some 24 mins longer than the theatrical cut), Watchmen is, in my eyes at least, an absolute triumph.
Here, characters are brought to life by several excellent performances, caught in an intoxicating mix of past, present and future.
Moore & Gibbons' dark world sees President Nixon serving a fourth term of office in a world where costumed crime fighters are outlawed by the Keene act and the tragic figure of Dr. Manhattan who finally abandons humanity. From the opening demise of 'The Joker' and wonderful opening credits sequence, through to the final line of dialogue, WATCHMEN had me gripped and left me regretting I'd missed those theatrical screenings.

Warner Bros Blu-ray contains 3 discs, with one disc full of extras and a digital copy of the film. Picture quality is hard to fault, with nice inky blacks, excellent shadow detail and striking skin tones, with only the blue glow of Dr. Manhattan exhibiting issues.
Snyder's Maximum Movie Mode (found on disc one) will surely be well received by fans of this film, revealing two screens in between Snyder who delivers a ton of information, backed by storyboards, comparison of scenes to comic book panels and behind the scenes info.
Fans will already be aware of the forthcoming 5 disc version, due in December. This will contain the film with TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER woven in; over 2 hours of bonus footage including Hollis Mason's TELL ALL UNDER THE HOOD; commentary by Dave Gibbons and Zack Snyder and The Complete Watchmen Motion Comics.
Put me down for one of those!

AWAYDAYS: DON'T MISS THIS STOP



Unable to get to the cinema for this one, but AWAYDAYS will be out on DVD 28th September. CONTROL meets THIS IS ENGLAND! Looks and sounds like a good 'un.

Friday, 31 July 2009

RIP SIR BOBBY ROBSON


It's extremely rare I post about anything that's not movie or music-related, but this is an exception.
I was greatly saddened to learn that Sir Bobby Robson lost his battle against cancer earlier today. Bobby had a long and distinguished career in football, playing for Fulham and West Brom before becoming a manager both here and abroad. Sir Bobby's Ipswich side won many friends for their quality of football, and I can recall some great games when his side came to Derby and when we travelled to Portman Road for matches.
In 1982 Bobby became manager of our national football team, and guided England to the 1988 World Cup semi-finals. We were a whisker away from the final until Germany won the penalty shoot-out.

It's well nigh impossible to think of a nicer, more genuine football man and life inside and outside football will be the worse for his passing.
Sir Bobby was 76. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Jeremy over at the wonderful Moon In The Gutter blog has just published his thoughts on Jess Franco's classic VENUS IN FURS.

You can read his excellent piece here

DISCO 2000. PULP

FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Given the absolutely atrocious 'Summer' weather, October doesn't seem too far around the corner and, as usual, it's going to be a very important month for UK film buffs.
Once again, The Times London Film Festival will be screening the very best in World Cinema and I've just received details of a very special opening night film.

Wednesday 14th October will see the World Premiere of Wes Anderson's FANTASTIC MR FOX, which tells the story of the best-selling children's book by British author Ronald Dahl.This will be Anderson's first animated film and features the voices of an impressive cast of actors.
Anderson, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and other members of the voice cast are likely to attend this special screening.
It's highly unlikely we'll be able to attend this year's festival, but The Last Picture Show will bring news, interviews and festival-related clips through September and October.

One member of the voice cast is our very own Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, so cast your eyes to the post above and you'll find a video of Pulp treating the Glastonbury thousands to one of their finest songs.

Monday, 27 July 2009

YOU'RE SO YOUNG AT HEART




Stephen Walker's documentary follows a group of New England senior citizens who bring rock, punk, disco and old classic standards to appreciative audiences in the US and Europe. This remarkable band of pensioners not only deliver lovable amateur interpretations of some (for them) very leftfield songs, but also become movers and shakers with some winning onstage bopping.
While Walker's direction may sometimes come over as invasion of privacy, it's hard to totally disagree with his choices as the camera captures the triumphs, despair and heartbreaking sadness that increases with age and, in the process, makes us love each and everyone of the characters.

YOUNG@HEART follows this plucky troupe during the course of a six week rehearsal period, leading up to a special concert in their hometown. With an average age of eighty, it was almost inevitable that failing health would conspire to throw an almighty spanner in the works and that's precisely what happens as a great sadness consumes the group. Indeed, it's well nigh impossible to view this without shedding a good few tears, but the end result is a wholly uplifting experience as one marvels at the courage and spirit displayed by a group of individuals who defy the usual conventions surrounding their age. Their story is all about friendship; about never giving up and continuing to do the things that they enjoy. It's about living life to the full, and is a lesson to us all.

It's hard to select standout moments in a production brimming with them: a concert for the inmates at Hampshire County Jail is one, as prisoners (visibly moved) rise to applaud following a moving version of Dylan's "Forever Young", while a spirited music video of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" had be tapping my feet and grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps the real standout - and easily the most poignant moment - comes when Fred Knittle performs a beautiful rendition of Coldplay's "Fix You", in tribute to his recently deceased friend. It's one of those rare moments that hits you hard, and reminds you of beloved ones no longer here.

YOUNG@HEART: sad, funny, and essential viewing. My heartfelt thanks and respect to everyone involved.

Friday, 24 July 2009

BACK (SORT OF)

For the first time since last time, I woke up with the urge to do a little something on this long-neglected blog of mine. On the work and home fronts, things are looking a little better than they did three months ago and we're beginning to see a glimmer of daylight ahead. Like the majority of folks, we're finding the recession extremely debilitating, with little available cash for trips to the cinema and no immediate prospect of a short break at our favourite seaside resort. So, I've busied myself by discovering the delights of the wonderful WATCHMEN graphic novel; enjoying a steady selection of Blu-ray rentals from those fab folks over at Lovefilm; helping my wife study for her forthcoming Life In The UK test, and doing my bit to ensure we continue to deliver top-notch sales figures at work.

While it will be a few months before I'm able to devote the necessary time to turn this blog into a regular posting vehicle, I do intend to post as often as time permits, in the near future. First off, is a video of prime-time Clash from youtube, featuring a certain gent from Sham 69.
Enjoy.

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON

Friday, 17 April 2009

BLOG ON HOLD FOR A WHILE

Well, it's been an interesting last few weeks to say the least. Unfortunately, my computer died on me, and we simply didn't have the cash to buy a new one. We'd already spent money on repairs last year, and the latest malfunction was a bridge too far. Luckily, we were just about able to afford a refurbed pc which isn't up to much but gets us by.
Like most folks, we're struggling badly as far as money is concerned, with most of our savings ringfenced so we can pay the money required to allow my wife to stay in the UK indefinitely. We're also in the process of studying the 'Life In The UK' test which my wife needs to pass in order to remain here: interesting to note that some of the study material contains facts which the average British citizen would struggle to answer in what really amounts to an exam.

Soooooo, a lot to contend with and a fair amount of stress thrown into the mix. Happily, work is busier than last year with our company turning in some recession-busting performances, though - for reasons I won't go into - I'm having to do a lot more work for the same money and the effort involved has impacted on my free time. I should have done this 5 or 6 weeks ago, but have now made the decision to put this blog on hold for a while. I'll most certainly be back as I do enjoy blogging, but the time and cencentration required simply aren't there at the moment. I'd like to thank those of you who have followed this blog and taken a few minutes out to leave comments. This is greatly appreciated. I hope I'll be back in the next 3 or 4 months, but could be sooner, could be a shade later than that. I'll do my very best to regularly check out my favourite blogs, and those of you who use Twitter can follow me on there as a good way of keeping in touch. My username is SteveLangton.

Thnaks for stopping by. Rest assured, I WILL be back just as soon as time permits.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

STEVEN BACH RIP


Sorry to read that Steven Bach passed away at his home in Arlington, last Wednesday. Bach was a studio exec at United Artists during the HEAVEN'S GATE debacle, and his book - "Final Cut" - is an exhaustive account of the trials and tribulations behind the making of this film. This is easily the best book on film I've read to date, and while I don't agree with Bach's opinion of this film, one can only admire his documentation of the events before, during and after.
Bach was also involved as producer on a number of plays and films, including THE PARALLAX VIEW and was involved in the promotion of classic titles such as RAGING BULL, ANNIE HALL and THE FRENCH LIEUTENANTS WOMAN.
He was also responsible for three well-received biographies (one on Marlene Dietrich), and taught film and literature during his final years.

Whether or not you're an admirer of HEAVEN'S GATE, I do urge you to read Steven's account. For my money, Cimino's movie is a misunderstood masterpiece, and "Final Cut" really does deliver a warts and all account from someone who was there.

Friday, 27 March 2009

BRIAN CLOUGH: THE LEGEND LIVES ON


"Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off 'cos they'd have worked it out for themselves"

Sky TV have the lion's share of live football, clubs charge an arm and a leg for admission to games, Man Utd splash out another £30 million on a player and once glamorous competitions like the FA Cup pale into insignificance when compared to the Champions League. Welcome to English football in 2009, where the economy is in full-blown recession and the usual suspects queue to take the piss out of the real paymasters.

On Wednesday evening, an ITV documentary took many of us back to a time where two ramshackle East Midlands clubs were transformed into champions of England. Derby County and Nottingham Forest are just 13 miles apart, and were both heading on the road to nowhere before one Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor took the reins. At Derby, the club was languishing in Division Two; bereft of hope and passion.
Clough's playing career was cut short after scoring over 250 goals, and management beckoned when he became manager at Hartlepool United. Aged 30, Clough was the youngest manager in the league and guided Hartlepool to 8th position in his first full season. In May 1967, Clough and Taylor arrived at Derby, and took them to the Second Division title in 1969. Even better was to follow, as Derby would win the First Division title in the 1971/72 season. Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd.... all those big names came to the Baseball Ground and found that their hosts were becoming a force to be reckoned with. The disaster struck, as chairmen Sam Longson fell out with Clough; an argument which led to Clough & Taylor resigning.

ITV's wonderful documentary follows Brain's story from the beginning, moving through his resignation at Derby, and those infamous 44 days as manager at Leeds which form the basis for the newly released feature THE DAMNED UNITED. Leeds - and their manager Don Revie - were Derby's main rivals. On the field encounters were ill-tempered, tense affairs, and the rivalry between the two sets of fans invariably exploded into violent confrontations, before, during and after games. Clough had always hated Leeds and dropped his calling card the first day he set foot into Leeds' training ground, telling the players they could bin all the medals they had won through cheating. The Leeds players were stunned when Revie walked out, and became intent on driving Clough out of Elland Road. Peter Taylor was managing Brighton at the time, but the pair were re-united when Clough left Leeds and went onto Nottingham Forest where the pair won two European Cups and a succession of other trophies. ITV's documentary takes a warts and all look at this remarkable man, touching on his fight against alcoholism, his row with Peter Taylor (sadly never patched up) and the crazy situation when he attended an interview for the England manager's job, unaware that Ron Greenwood was already in line.Clearly, the FA were frightened by Clough's arrogance, his outspoken views and that he was constantly surrounded by controversy. Screw the fact that he was the best manager in the country! Ex players such as Roy Mcfarland, Johnny Giles, Martin O'Neil and John McGovern all provide valuable insight regarding Clough's totally unique man management style, along with anecdotes and observations from his widow Barbara, and son Nigel who is now manager of Derby County. This is a supremely moving, vital piece of television, retelling soccer history when two men built up a couple of no-hope clubs and made them world famous. Sadly, such a feat will never happen again. Nowadays, it's about the richest takes it all.

Brian Clough passed away from stomach cancer in September 2004. He'd gone on record as saying the biggest mistake he ever made was walking out on Derby County. If Cloughie and Taylor had stayed, Derby would indeed have won the lot, and although one of Clough's signings -Dave Mackay - became manager and won the league with Derby a couple of seasons after Clough and Taylor walked, things were soon to turn extremely rotten in Denmark.

Now, whenever I hear or see Clough's name, I think of those great games I was privileged to attend: the 3-0 against Benfica, 5-0 v Spurs, 4-0 v Liverpool, Colin Todd turning defending into an art form, Kevin Hector's goals.... great memories. I am be fairly sure that Cloughie and Taylor are up there now, looking down on us and watching the games with their expert eyes running over the leagues and formulating their own teams and tactics.
Cloughie is a legend, always will be. My sincere thanks and admiration for those golden years.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

CREEP: MORE TUBE TRAIN TERROR


Following on from THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, here's an earlier film which also deals with underground carnage. This time, we're in London.

Don't Ride On Late Night Trains". Sound advice, whether or not you happen to have seen Aldo Lado's 80s sleazefest, and a wholly appropriate warning for Kate (Franka Potente) - a young German girl living and working in London.

The promise of a VIP pass to a George Clooney showbiz bash prompts Kate to make an early exit from a party where she's been kept busy fighting off the amorous attentions of co-worker Guy (Jeremy Sheffield). When the aforementioned lech turns up on an empty Charing Cross tube train, Kate is 'rescued' by the titular crature who appears to offer a rather drastic type of security for vulnerable females.

Don't you believe it? Soon, this by now terrified young woman is frantically trying to break out of a transport network that is locked and chained til a new dawn breaks, with a homeless couple (Paul Rattray and Kelly Scott) and their dog providing the only immediate aid.

Taken at face value, Creep packs in action and thrills a-plenty during its brisk 85 minute running time, though Potente's character requires generous suspension of disbelief during the more frantic set-pieces. The Creep - a deformed ex-member of the human race - immediately recalls the creature from Gary Sherman's Death Line (a major influence on this film), although the air of medical deviancy and use of surgical apparatus of evil can be traced to the more recent SESSION 9.

Despite its flaws - top-heavy on combat, - CREEP is a pleasing throwback to 70s British horror, and it's good to see such a film given appropriate cinema cetification: sure, we all hate to see a director's vision destroyed by nonsensical BBFC cuts, but let's get real with regard to '15' and '18' certificates. Creep deserved the latter, and I'm still amazed at several recent theatrical releases that were deemed suitable for younger audiences.

It's bloody, often downright nasty (witness the scene where Creep begs for mercy - a plea based on memory rather than contrition) and absolutely guaranteed to induce fear and loathing the next time you find yourself down in the tube station at midnight with a seemingly empty platform for company.

Good, unwholesome entertainment, and how refreshing to encounter a genre movie prepared to rope in national and regional issues of concern: drug abuse, the disenfranchised and the sorry state of our famous underground networks all come under the spotlight.

I do hope Boris Johnson is watching.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

ALL ABOARD THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN


DON'T RIDE ON LATE NIGHT TRAINS has long proved to be particularly sound advice, as far as Horror Cinema is concerned. DEATH LINE, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and CREEP all serve as stern warnings of the perils that may lurk beneath the streets of our capital city. My own experiences of London's famous underground system have normally been stress-free, with the tube serving as a convenient way of getting back to my hotel after an enjoyable evening out. Indeed, Paul Weller's Jam anthem - 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' - rarely entered my head during the customary route from The South Bank through to Goodge Street. One night in particular, I made this fairly short journey alone, and a lot later than usual. Upon alighting at Goodge Street, I began to walk along the platform and up to the lifts and encountered not a soul (living nor dead) until I got out onto Tottenham Court Road. 3 or 4 nerve-wracking minutes, during which my mind began to replay scenes from the aforementioned films, while Weller's lyrics reminded me of the sort of shit that goes down in the midnight hour.
Now, we have another film set below the city streets, and a fresh set of nightmares to endure.

Based on Clive Barker's 1984 short story, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is set in Los Angeles where a photographer (Leon, played by Bradley Cooper) becomes obsessed with tracking down a serial killer who is butchering late-night passengers on subway trains. Encouraged to further his career by capturing the savage heart of the city, Leon takes shots of a gang mugging a lone female and compels her assailants to flee, pointing out the presence of CCTV cameras. Next day, Leon discovers the girl has gone missing, and decides to pursue the disappearances of other tube travellers. Soon, it appears that the mysterious Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) is behind the gradual increase in missing persons, and Leon must take a perilous journey which could well terminate in death.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN made me sit up and take notice like no other film since Roth's HOSTEL(s). Here, we have old school style which reminds us of what Horror Cinema can do when a decent script is married to solid directorial values and bolstered by several winning performances. Cooper is better than good as the ambulance chasing lensman who s-l-o-w-l-y gets under the skin of what may be a centurion serial killer, while Leslie Bibb runs with the task of portraying a resourceful heroine who finds her own increasing involvement may propel her to a bloody end. Vinnie Jones? Well, he's considerably more violent here than he was on the football pitch, and makes for a beautifully drawn (almost) silent psycho, delivering deadly stares and transforming murderous intent into absolute bloody carnage.

Thanks to unforgivable studio neglect, most of us have had to catch this film on DVD. I rented the Blu-ray and can unreservedly recommend a purchase. There is heavy grain at times, but lighting and colour usually reflect the grim subject matter, with steely interior shots and standout crimson reds making this an unspectacular but complimentary transfer.
Maybe you should make this film your next stop?