Friday, 22 September 2017

nostalgia is always dangerous

The Apple (1980)
Chosen by me as part of Musical theme week.

Everything about this is just fabulous
What makes a good Bad Movie?
This idea gets looked at a lot in my favourite movie podcast - The Flophouse.
What makes a movie enjoyable even when terrible?
A big part of it can be the communal sharing. Groups of people will get together to watch The Room and wallow together in it's weirdness. I regularly go to an interactive film screening club - Fortune and Glory, which often screens ostensibly awful movies like Super Mario Bros for everyone to enjoy/endure. Watching some of these movies on your own can just highlight how dull they are. With friends around you joke and talk over the boring parts, we've had a couple of those films reviewed on here like The Killer Shrews and sat at my home, alone, they just weren't weren't that fun.
So I think the biggest thing a bad movie needs to be good is a singular vision, a sincere belief in the story it's telling. All too often they try for a cynical nod and a wink at the audience letting us know they know how crap they are. This moribund post modernism results in dreck like Sharknado, a selection of camp non-sensical bits that would play well as youtube videos but show no real craft or passion put together as a whole.

The Apple may be my favourite bad movie of all time.
And it is certainly pretty bad.
The lead has exactly zero charisma.
The villain cannot sing or dance in the slightest.
It has a baffling religious text layered over a baffling version of the future (well 1994) layered over a fairly dull story about the music biz.
And it's just about the best thing ever.

As if to hide how played out the actual story is (The Phantom of the Paradise toyed with the Faustian bargain and music industry far more interestingly) everything is FUTURE. All the cars have plastic fins and bubbles, looking like the car Homer designs in the episode of the Simpsons where he finds his long lost brother.

But what raises this film from a funny but cliche version of future tech is that you see a couple of prams being pushed along by mothers that also have silver fins and plastic bubbles. Because obviously that is how babies should be transported in the FUTURE.
Vladek Sheybal, of From Russia With Love plays the devil like record boss and can't quite pull off a Christopher Walken in Puss in Boots but has a damn good try.
His major song is performed in what looks like an airport lobby with a couple of signs added in to suggest it's a record label headquarters and is just delightfully weird. A company of 'Ballet' dancers in silver (naturally it's the FUTURE) sparkly costumes parade around whilst he sings, well talks with a very, very slight tonal cadence about show-bizness (it's the FUTURE so you can definitely hear the Z).
For wirdness this is only matched by the dream(?) sequence musical number where the two leads are dressed up as Adam and Eve and an Apple (hey it's the title of the movie!) is offered.
Although the seduction number, which is somehow even less subtle than Grease 2's Reproduction song is amazing and simply has the singer say how much she wants to come all over the male lead. Or wants all his come. I dont know that I've ever been so confused and aroused at the same time.

I dont know that i've even scratched the surface of how strange this movie is (I didnt even tell you about Miriam Margoyles playing a broad Jewish stereotype who is introduced being told by a policeman to wear an identifying sticker or how Joss Acklund plays a hippie commune leader who turns out to be God) and how delightful I found it all.

I've never really been into the whole "I love it because of how bad it is" but if all bad movies were this offbeat, this idiosyncratic then sign me up,

Two feet... They're not as easy as I thought they'd be, Master.

Puss in Boots (1988)
Chosen by me from netflix because Christopher Walken is awesome. 

There was some recent moaning about the two leads in LaLa Land not being good song and dance people. I like that movie a lot (and may cover it here soon) and actually really like that Gosling is not the best at, you know, the musical bits (I think Emma Stone is perfectly good). Romance and Cigarettes is another musical I really like with less than talented performers (also, as it happens, featuring the Walkmeister). There's something about throwing yourself so fully into a thing that you dont mind how bad you look that appeals to me. It's endearing.
I dont sing or dance. At all. I can't even sing happy birthday to people. It's an issue and I hate it about myself. Once I went to a club with some friends (a very rare occurrence) and one of them, that I just assumed would be good at dancing, was just terrible. But it didnt matter, he had fun, people respond to that. I have a perpetual rod rammed so far up my backside you can see it if I yawn. 
Christopher Walken is my friend at the club.
It doesn't matter that his singing is pretty awful, that his dancing is not much better. He is having an absolute blast and it almost carries the movie.
Unfortunately it's let down by a couple of things - no-one else is all that great either (Jason Connery has a dubbed singing voice - Nick Curtis - and it's still bad, why bother getting someone else to do it then?) except the astonishingly beautiful Carmela Marner and that the songs are generally pretty dull.
One, a double duet split over two locations is pretty witty though not especially interesting tune wise and anytime Walken throws himself into a song you can't help but be pulled along with it.
I'm not too knowledgeable with the Puss in Boots story, so dont know how this differs, but just as I was finding it iffy using deception to get someone to marry you, Connery comes clean to Marner and she is instrumental in pushing him forwards with his lies to get what she wants (even if that thing is just a man) which whilst not exactly a strong feminist stance is at least giving her some agency. 
And she gets the funniest bit of business in the film, when she fake feints and tries to shoo Connery away in the confusion.
A bit too bland and a shade too long to be a lost classic children's film but fun in parts and worth seeing for Walken's sheer delight in playing a musical cat.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Kingsman is crumpets!

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Chosen by me because I like to go to the cinema a lot.

The first Kingsman movie was trash. But it was trash that almost transcended into something interesting. It's confused mix of nihilism and ultra conservatism didnt quite work as a critique of the status quo loving Bond movies but it did create an indelible image of a bunch of rich privileged arseholes' heads popping off in colourful ways.
This sequel doesn't even come close to matching anything that gleefully bizarre.
All of the action sequences are shot in a strangely heightened manner that makes everything seem as if it is separate instances of computer game cut scenes with the editing in-between being hard to follow with a human eye. This flattens out the fights into dull poses that work in a trailer but play badly in full context.
Julianne Moore is fine as the antagonist but her character is one of those jokes that works better on paper than fully realised and undermines the film as she is too dull a threat, her plot making absolutely no sense and she steals a bit from a far superior billionaire Super-villain. 

There is almost a riposte to the interchangeability of women in the Bond series with our hero here still going out with the Princess from the first movie (perhaps as apologia for the horrendous way she was used as a punchline slash reward at that films conclusion) but other than that this film really wants to put the Man into Kingsman and women are used as side dressing, killed off, humiliated and discarded as the mess of a plot deems necessary. Julianne Moore isnt even deemed interesting enough to be the final villain.
Pretty much a big waste of a talented cast.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

there is no salvation without suffering

Contratiempo/The Invisible Guest (2016)
Chosen by Jen on a facebook post looking for suggestions

The sort of twisty turny nonsense in the mold of Presumed Innocent or Gone Girl and I will be discussing some plot beats so be aware the two of you that might read this and want to watch the film.

It hints at being a locked room mystery in the vein of Jonathan Creek but also wants to be a peculiarly specific legal drama (the film though ridden with flashbacks is technically set within one room with just the accused and a witness preparation expert).
It really needed a little extra oomph, a sense of Gone Girl's style or over-the-top silliness to get past being just another slightly dull blue and grey thriller but it does at least one clever thing that almost makes it all worthwhile.
One twist (easily spotted if you've seen a the Magic convention episode of the detective show Psych)
leads interestingly into another, more pointed one that plays with the audience perception of what a film noir is and how femmes fatales operate. 
That second (major one, there's lots of small twist bumps along the way) one is unfortunately let down a little by two things. One: it cant help but try to be too clever and tips it's hand in some of the first bits of dialogue (if someone says "you are not more clever than me" in a movie like this you should probably pay attention). 
And two: a terrible fake nose and wig (although that said, I didnt clock to this until the reveal of the Psych twist, so either it was shot more coyly earlier or I wasn't paying attention).
Still, it's perfectly watchable and if it had a bit more confidence in itself and it's audience (constantly showing you things that just happened like 20 minutes ago as if this were four teevee episodes strung together) could be a minor classic of the unreliable narrator form. 
Unfortunately the most interesting aspect, examining male privilege and how woman are positioned in stories like this is diffused by the nature of the beast - it has to be a mystery with sudden reveals and no real time to explore them before the next reveal.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Are you a punctual and reliable person?

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)
Chosen by me whilst at my parents by turning on the teevee 
and finding the first movie that had jut started.

Almost, almost really really good. 
It strips out any sense of extraneous character stuff. Providing a bare bones narrative that is literally just an excuse for the next fight to happen.
And despite being incredibly cheap (there's essentially two locations) manages to be shot well and is an efficient tale with just enough weirdo personality to keep it interesting.
It never quite plays the way you think it will, the 'ultimate rematch' as the cover has it is a good, brutal take down with an amazingly silly over the top death but is given no weight dramatically, as neither Lundgren nor Van Damme appear to have the history given to them in the first film, which plays into the films odd tone as these are just pawns built to kill and nothing more.
Not quite a hidden classic but a solid and fun B movie better than it had any need to be. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

I like your pipe

Big Ass Spider (2013)
Chosen by me as I was staying at my parents and flicked through the channels 
till I found a film that had just started.

Though as flatly directed and cheap as any of those interminable syfy channel movies with various creatures in the title this is a little more fun and a little more clever (not that that would take much).
The pacing is pretty strong, just as it looks like it will take the route of so many lazy, cheap z grade films before it by sticking to some generic looking basements and sewers it opens out into the parks and streets of LA and chomps down on a regulation genre cameo (in this case Troma mascot Lloyd Kaufman).
The sense of fun is palpable in the rather mixed bag of performances, Grunberg and Kramer can't quite make the forced relationship stuff work (he's a creep, she...just ignores that I guess) but Grunberg and Boyar are a great double act and Ray Wise as ever classes up the joint.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

What the hell is F.U.B.A.R?

Tango and Cash (1989)
Chosen by me because I was staying at my parents and just put on whatever movie was about to start. Also, loved this when I was younger and my favourite podcast The Flophouse covered it for their 100th episode here (and are super smart and funny in a way im not so go and listen to it)

The original Odd Couple!
One dresses in Armani, the other in slobby clothes. They're miss matched buddy cops. Except they are both exactly the same.
The kind of movie that keeps repeating the main characters names over and over and over again as if a magic chant, that two cops get front page coverage, that has people having sex in a car park during a car chase with no real set up or payoff  just to get some tits in the film, steam is everywhere (it's the 80s), nothing makes sense and has the usual bullshit casual homophobia. Although it's also pretty homoerotic and seems more interested in men's bodies than women's (despite having tits earlier in the film, when they go to a strip club there's no actual nudity). 
It's pretty much an ode to police brutality, in a supposedly eloquent speech Stallone, defending himself from a set-up murder charge, admits in court to the sin of being too aggressive, the police department has some kind of experimental weapons lab with a Q figure.
It's all very silly, things smash (why shoot at someone, when you can shoot at someone through a mirror on a door), things explode, quips are made (not exactly high quality but sold with conviction) and it's the most 80s thing ever made. 

It's full of interesting faces like Michael J. Pollard, Brion James, Eddie Bunker and Robert Z'Dar and uzis. 
Lots of uzis.
It's about as stupid as you can get but mostly fun.