My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 42

Sometimes I think of my blog as a means of chronicling my failures, and this week’s post is no different. The fact that I refer to it as “This week’s post” rather than being more specific says it all as to my output lately. It seems I’ve lost my review-writing mojo recently. Whenever I sit down at the keyboard my mind dries up like a sponge in a kiln. I’ve had half a review of Carrie written for French Toast Sunday for weeks, and I’m about a month late for a review of John Wick for Blueprint: Review, not to mention the 12 other films I’ve watched and not reviewed yet.

It doesn’t help how busy I’ve been recently, and how little has gone to plan weekend and evening-wise. Take this past weekend, for example. Yesterday’s scheduled Lambcast was a John Carpenter Director Retrospective. The intention was for myself and my guests to discuss nine of Carpenter’s bigger films, all of which were ones I’d either never seen, wasn’t very familiar with or really wanted to re-watch, so I’d planned to watch them all, which is what most of the rest of this post will cover. Tuesday to Thursday saw me watching one a night, subjecting Aisha to a bunch of films she had negative interest in seeing. On Friday she was supposed to go out for a work meal, meaning I’d have a full evening into which I could cram three of the films she’d want to watch the least (I’d anticipated The Fog, Prince of Darkness and They Live), leaving me three to watch, one Saturday morning, one Saturday evening and a final film on Sunday morning. Alas, whilst Aisha was walking Murphy before I got home from work (she’s blessed with an early finish on Fridays) Murphy ran off, following a runner who refused to stop despite this unfamiliar dog jumping up at him. Coming across a road on the runner’s presumed route Aisha was understandably distraught at the notion that our little fluff-ball might have come a cropper with a car, but fortunately another kind dog-owner had wrangled Murphy onto her lead, called Aisha’s number on his tag and waited for her to arrive. Bless this woman and all she ever does. The whole experience rather put Aisha off an evening out, so we stayed in and watched Big Trouble in Little China instead.

This little kerfuffle obviously put a dash into my Carpenter-viewing schedule, so I attempted to make up for it on Saturday, knocking off two films early in the morning. Problems arose when real life crept in. We were due to have our guest bedroom re-plastered this week. It was supposed to be done late in the week, so Saturday afternoon we prepped the room, removing the furniture, wall-fixings and stripping the wallpaper from the walls and ceiling. Why is there wallpaper on the ceiling? Because the previous inhabitants were lunatics, clearly. Moving the furniture was fine – though the house is now so cluttered that navigating our bedroom now feels like I’m playing a game of minesweeper with my feet – but when I came to detach the radiator the valve nut was painted shut so much that the nut didn’t turn, the downpipe bent and began leaking water. The emergency plumber stopped the leak but didn’t fix the pipe and later it started leaking again with no signs of stopping. a few buckets of water later and it subsided, after we ran out of dry towels, and the next morning we fixed it after a trip to Wickes (all praise Wickes, the church of DIY), but after that ordeal we didn’t get a lot of films watched on Saturday night. Sunday proved just as fruitless, with me just about cramming In the Mouth of Madness in a couple of instalments between radiator fixing and wallpaper stripping before the podcast recording at 5pm. The plasterer got in touch, moving the proposed date  I just about finished stripping the ceiling in time, hastily pieced an intro together and logged onto Skype, only for two of the guests not to show up (with valid reasons, so I won’t name and shame). The only present guest, Aaron from The Code is Zeek, and I decided the best course of action would be to reschedule, so all the rushing was for nought, but at least it gives me a chance to watch the two Carpenter films I hadn’t re-watched yet (They Live and Halloween). It also meant Aisha didn’t have to finish the wallpaper stripping alone, I could help out with dinner and take Murphy for a walk and have more of a relaxing evening after the weekend of stress, so there’s a silver lining to the cloud. Also, I got to phone my Dad (whom I’d called to help out with the leaky radiator, as he is something of a DIY guru, but who was in Wales watching a football match at the time) and say that I’d fixed a problem without his assistance, and that made me really rather happy.

Oh, while I’m at it, I’m going to go ahead and call the time of death for HitchcOctober 2015. Apologies, but it’s not happening this year. I’m too far behind on other things as it is, but next year. There’s always next year. Here’s what I watched this week:
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Top 10… Movies With All-Male Casts

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I’m off on a stag do this weekend – paint-balling, followed by drinking, in case you were wondering, although personally I think those should be the other way around – and in fact this is the first stag do I’ve ever been on, so I’m a little apprehensive as to what’s going to go down amidst a group of guys I know next to nothing about, seeing as the only one I really know is the groom. This concern comes from all the bachelor parties I’ve seen in films, and how none of them have ever really worked out all that well. The obvious list I jumped to was top 10 bachelor parties in films, but alas I couldn’t think of 10 (in descending order: The Hangover 2, American Pie: The Wedding, The Hangover, Bachelor Party, Very Bad Things, Clerks 2, Sideways), so I switched it out for something similar, celebrating the films that, just like the traditional stag do, don’t allow women in them. I had to take a few liberties here – you’ll see what I mean – but I think they’re acceptable. In fact, this list contains several of my all-time favourite films, two of which I have posters of in my lounge, which may say something about my opinions of women in cinema… Oh, and before you check, no, there isn’t any gay porn on here.
Honourable Mention: Outpost
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Zombies! Nazi zombies! Ridiculous Nazi zombies! The premise for this film is, well, kinda dumb – a rich dude hires a group of mercenaries to take him to an underground bunker, where they discover the Nazis performed some tests in WW2 to create an unkillable soldier, and wouldn’t you know it, whilst they’re their they manage to resurrect them – and the film itself plays out little better. The only ‘names’ amongst the cast are Michael Smiley (Spaced, Kill List) and Ray Stevenson (Thor, Punisher: War Zone) and the director, Steve Barker, has made nothing else of note save a crap-looking sequel, but despite the unlikable characters (particularly Robert Blake’s greasy Prior) and evidently low budget, this still has its moments. Can’t help thinking Nazi zombies have a great deal more to offer than this though. I really wanted Con Air to take this position, or Armageddon, but they have fairly prominent female roles, dammit. Continue reading

Top 10… Remakes

More and more it seems there’s no original ideas in mainstream Hollywood, but it turns out that this has always been the case, and it just seems more prevalent now because there’s so many more films released each week, and less original stories to go around, so therefore there’s more rehashed versions of films gone by available to us on a weekly basis. 2012 saw three remakes in the Box Office Top 20 (The Amazing Spider-Man, Snow White and the Huntsman, Les Miserables), and this is far from new, hell, even The Wizard of Oz was a remake back in 1939 of three silent films that came before it (and a book, but everything’s a remake of a book these days). The thing is though… I don’t mind. I have no problem with modern film makers updating older films to introduce them to a wider audience – there have been several instances where a remake has inspired me to go back and see the original, and I’ve discovered a classic that I otherwise may have never found (Scarface springs to mind).

So what inspired this list? Well, The Film Vituperatum‘s movie of the week is The Adventures of Robin Hood, which whilst I haven’t seen it yet and therefore haven’t got around to reviewing, I am more than familiar with the story, mainly due to the various adaptations of it. If I had to guess, I’d say the story of Robin Hood is probably one of the top three most adapted tales in history, after A Christmas Carol and Alice in Wonderland, but my list of top 10 Robin Hood adaptations would see Kevin Costner taking third place behind John Cleese in Time Bandits and an animated fox, at which point the list would end because I haven’t seen any others, so instead I’m going to celebrate the greatest remakes that I’ve ever seen, regardless of whether I’ve watched the originals or not. Oh, and The Wizard of Oz didn’t make the list, because I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen it all the way through. The list also doesn’t include any English-language remakes of originally foreign works, because that would be another list entirely, and one I’ll save for another day – perhaps when Ringu is selected for movie of the week?

The Thing

Arguably surpassing Howard Hawk’s 50s sci-fi classic the Thing from Another World (a feat unlikely to be achieved by the imminent Mary Elizabeth Winstead starring prequel, confusingly also named ‘The Thing’), John Carpenter’s Thing deserves its place on the list for Rob Bottin’s effects work, occasionally assisted by the legend that is Stan Winston.
Defiantly demanding that the titular creature – a life form able to imitate any living thing it comes across – not just be a man in a suit, we are treated to all manner of beasties, from an arm-munching human torso to spider-legged scuttling heads with eyeballs on stalks, as well as the nightmare inducing stages in their transformations. In a post CGI era these effects still hold ground with today’s effects houses, showing at times animatronic models can be better and more memorable than a bunch of pixels.
Carpenter has always been a master of cranking up tension through the roof, and the secluded Antarctic research base here provides the perfect scenario, with its all-male inhabitants already at each other’s throats from cabin fever. Usually with these kind of monster attacks a small group thrillers it can be easy to see who at least a few of the early victims will be, but here the equal screen time, characterisation and importance to the plot, as well as a few well-placed red herrings, mean that anyone trying to second guess the script will pursue a fruitless endeavour.
Ennio Morricone’s atmospheric score and some sharp dialogue add to the sense of claustrophobia and breakdown of relationships, and there’s an interesting spoiler if you speak Norwegian, when the basic plot is outlined at the initial meeting of some researchers at the beginning of the film.
Choose film 10/10