About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: The Skin I Live In


Antonio Banderas stars as a surgeon who has come up with a new artificial skin for use in transgenesis skin grafts. Unbeknownst to the outside world, he has a young woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) locked-up in his basement to conduct illegal experiments on. The only other person who knows about this is housekeeper Marisa Paredes, but her jewel robber son (Roberto Alamo) is about to come into this bizarre situation, after his latest heist. From here, secrets are unveiled, involving Banderas’ dead wife Gal, their young daughter Norma, and a young creep named Vicente, who attempted to rape Norma.

 

Aside from his tedious first film “Pepi, Luci, and Bom” and the more recent “Volver”, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar (whose films also include “High Heels”, “Talk to Her”, and “Dark Habits”) has yet to make a boring film that I’ve seen. However, his films tend to be extremely uneven and I always end up admiring the raunchy excess of parts of the film rather than actually liking them overall. “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” helped make a dubious man out of me (and pretty much introduced me to foreign-language cinema), but I can’t exactly say it or “Kika” were exactly great films. Meanwhile, his more recent efforts like the silly “Volver” have shied away from his earlier naughtiness, perhaps too much so. “All About My Mother” was probably the most well-made of his films up to that point, but pretty much everyone liked that one. With this 2011 film, it would appear that Spain’s ‘bad boy’ of cinema has managed to combine the raunchiness of his early work with the more mature side of his filmmaking, and in my view, he has given us his best film to date. Being that it’s essentially “Frankenstein”, Almodovar-style, it’s probably one of his more accessible ‘exploitation’ films too. I wouldn’t say it gets back to the bathtub toy raunchiness of “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” (which, remember, also starred Banderas), but it’s a much better film than that was.

 

It’s interesting that Almodovar is a gay man, because in this film more than any previous Almodovar film, he’s celebrating the female form. This is one seriously pervy, boobtastic film. The decor in Banderas’ house appears to include giant Titian-like paintings, for starters. The wonderfully bodacious Elena Anaya bares her boobs in the opening ten minutes and spends most of the rest of the film in a synthetic body suit fitted with giant boobs. This is great stuff (almost Jess Franco-esque at times), even before you get to Banderas’ voyeuristic big-screen TV/peephole deal. You just knew this is what a Pedro Almodovar version of the Frankenstein/monster relationship would be like (though it’s based on a novel by Thierry Jonquet). Only the inimitable Pedro Almodovar would work in a ‘vaginoplasty’ into what is essentially a very nutty variant of “Bride of Frankenstein” (It’s a shame we don’t really get the ‘money shot’, though. He kinda makes up for it with those ‘dilators’, however. Hilariously wrong). The great thing is, he’s a bonafide filmmaker, not just an exploiter or reveller in trash. This is by far his most attractive-looking film, with Almodovar (who co-writes with brother Agustin Almodovar) well assisted by cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine and production designer Antxon Gomez.

 

It is however, a much more extreme film than “All About My Mother” and “Volver”. I mean, Almodovar gets away with one moment of sexual assault by having one person in a synthetic skin suit and the other in a tiger costume (tail included), but he gives us a scene after that which isn’t as easy to laugh off. So, whilst the fact that Almodovar is working within a “Frankenstein”-like plot framework which might make the film more accessible than say “Dark Habits”, it’s still pretty confronting and typically bizarre. But how can you not enjoy a film that gives Marisa Paredes lines like ‘I’ve got insanity in my entrails!’? It’s a pretty insane film and one has to wonder how Almodovar can get away with such extreme and bizarre content in the eyes of critics, when others cannot. He certainly has more filmmaking talent than many, so perhaps that helps.

 

He’s rounded up a good cast here too, but surprisingly, and underplaying Antonio Banderas (reuniting with director Almodovar for the first time in decades) plays a role that doesn’t play to his strengths of masculine charisma and charm. He’s good and extremely intense, just in a less charismatic manner than one usually expects from Banderas and his usual uber-machismo. It’s curious casting which actually sees him get upstaged by co-star Elena Anaya. Anaya had a memorable lead role in “Room in Rome”, and if you haven’t seen that film, you need to. It’s basically two chicks in a hotel together, mostly naked and mostly fucking each other. For two hours. Brilliant film. Anyway, here she’s absolutely gorgeous and sexy, her body truly is a wonderment to behold (Her breasts and arse particularly. Hey, Almodovar singles them out, why shouldn’t I?). Best of all, she can act. I’m not sure why she isn’t more internationally famous, because she really seems to have it all. There’s also an interesting role for Marisa Paredes, although it’s not a very large part. Special mention must also go to Alberto Iglesias, whose fantastic score goes off into some very strange places at times.

 

The film ends on a rather strange and underwhelming moment, but otherwise this is a strange and memorable film. One of the best films of 2011, certainly, but not for everyone, perhaps.

 

Rating: B

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: The Philadelphia Experiment


Sailors Michael Paré and Bobby DiCicco take part in a US Navy experiment in invisibility (i.e. Make ships undetectable to foreign radar), but something goes screwy and they have to abandon ship as the ship is contaminated with radiation. Somehow, this results in the pair of 1940s sailors ending up being transported to 1984. Now in a future America that is somewhat foreign and scary to them, in addition to the fact that they just frigging travelled through time, the duo find themselves trying to get back home, enlisting the aid of a random woman (Nancy Allen) to help them flee authorities who are after them. Eric Christmas plays the elderly version of the scientist behind the experiment...and he’s still trying to perfect it!

 

Well, here’s a fun little B-movie I was quite pleasantly surprised by. Directed by Stewart Raffill (the notorious “Mac and Me”, which I kinda liked as an 8 year-old idiot), this 1984 sci-fi movie is a perfectly enjoyable time travel yarn, only slightly sullied by some frankly scheizenhausen FX work, even for 1984. I mean, they look like something out of an 80s-era David Bowie music video (No, not ‘Dancing in the Street’ with Mick Jagger. Let’s all forget that was ever made, OK?), and are apparently the result of budget cuts. Also, even if time travel were possible, I’m pretty sure the film’s ending is completely impossible. It’s based on a story by the film’s EP, John Carpenter (“Halloween”, “Big Trouble in Little China”), who might’ve handled the FX scenes a bit better. Apparently little of Carpenter’s story ended up on screen and he wasn’t terribly happy with the film (Well, he called it an ‘awful film’, so I guess I was being euphemistic). Still, it’s an irresistible movie in many ways, especially if you like “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits”.

 

The fish out of water elements, that normally annoy the crap out of me in films about time travel or aliens, are handled rather well here, too, probably because only 40 years have passed in the story. Nancy Allen’s character is your clichéd modern woman roped into helping the crazy-talking guy from the past, but she’s actually really good in the role. Michael Paré is one of cinema’s laziest actors, but he has always had a “Rebel Without a Cause” meets “The Punisher” vibe about him that works in playing a displaced sailor from the 40s. It’s not his best work (that would be “Streets of Fire”), but it’s among his most likeable roles, certainly. It’s his typical lack of emotion that’s the problem. He suffers a bit from Mark Wahlberg syndrome, though at least Paré has movie star charisma. Hilarious in-joke, however, when Paré recognises Ronald Reagan...as an actor!

 

I feel sorry for co-star Bobby DiCicco, his is a rather thankless task here, but he’s fine enough. He never quite made it through the 90s, it seems (a role in “Ghoulies IV” from 1994 tells it all, really), while at least Paré still slums it in B-movies quite prolifically (including a TV movie remake of this very film), DiCicco apparently retired to work for a limousine company according to what I’ve read online (and the interwebs are never wrong, right?). Eric Christmas is a disappointing, and presumably cut-rate casting choice for the chief scientist role. A hundred other more high-profile or talented actors could’ve filled the part, such as Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence, Aubrey Morris, Freddie Jones, Patrick Macnee, or even Kevin McCarthy. Look for a young Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson!) in a medium size role as a scientist (apparently his first film role), and an even younger Glenn Morshower (that guy who always plays military brass or Secret Service guys, like on “24”) as a mechanic.

 

Are there logic loopholes here? Yup, you betcha, but most time travel stories don’t get the science right anyway, forgetting about the ‘butterfly effect’. I mean, if you go back in time, you’ll likely change things so that you never actually went back in time at all. Or in this case, went forward. Take out the dodgy FX and you’ve got a perfectly enjoyable sci-fi yarn with an irresistible premise. Nothing you can’t get on TV these days, but so what? It deserves to be more well-known, and I bet it’s the FX and 80s-era casting that have caused it to fade somewhat into obscurity.

 

John Carpenter’s script, based on a book by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore (whose connection to fact is dubious, to be charitable and the film further fictionalises it), was then re-written by William Gray (“The Changeling”, “Black Moon Rising”) and Michael Janover (Jerry Lewis’ “Hardly Working”), the latter of whom came up with the time travel element. There is also a story credit for Don Jakoby (the overrated “Arachnophobia”) and Wallace Bennett, but Carpenter (presumably disgruntled) merely has an EP credit.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Marnie


Businessman Sean Connery falls in love with his employee of the title (Tippi Hedren), finds out she’s an habitual thief with deep psychological problems, and tries to cure her. Diane Baker plays Connery’s protective sister-in-law, Louise Latham is Marnie’s stern and unfeeling mother. A young Bruce Dern can be seen in a key flashback, and yes, that’s a very young Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki on “Y&R”) in a brief part.


This 1964 Alfred Hitchcock (“Strangers on a Train”, “Vertigo”, “The 39 Steps”, and “Spellbound” being among his best) near-miss is one of his more thematically complex films, for sure. Unfortunately the intriguing title role is left in the truly incapable hands of miscast Hedren, who single-handedly drops the film down a peg. Connery is excellent and charismatic (in my view he’s an especially underrated actor, just watch him in this, “The Hill”, “The Untouchables” or the little-seen “The Offence”), and Baker shows so much more talent in her support role than Hedren that one can only wonder what she would have done in the lead. Baker was always an underrated talent.


It’s more than watchable, if a bit more serious than usual for Hitch, but Hedren is a big black hole at the centre and the film never quite gets around her. Like I said, a near miss from The Master. The screenplay is by Jay Presson Allen (“Cabaret”, “Funny Lady”), from a Winston Graham (“The Walking Stick”) novel. Probably best left to Hitchcock completists and film buffs, but it’s far from his worst.


Rating: C+

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Iron Sky


In 2018 the US, run by a Palin-esque President (Stephanie Paul) launch a moon expedition, but the shuttle ends up landing on the dark side of the moon. The two astronauts emerge from their shuttle to a startling discovery; a colony of Nazis has been in place on the dark side of the moon since 1945, and are (slowly) planning to come back to Earth and take over! One of the astronauts is killed, while another named Washington (American-born Aussie resident Christopher Kirby) is captured, interrogated, and has his black skin bleached white by orders of the ‘Moon Fuhrer’ (veteran cult actor Udo Kier)! Meanwhile, back on Earth, Presidential campaign manager Peta Sergeant seems to be incorporating awfully fascistic speech material. Julia Dietze plays the schoolteacher daughter of Nazi scientist Prof. Richter (Tilo Prückner), who is engaged to Fuhrer-in-waiting Klaus Adler (former Bond henchman Götz Otto, perfectly cast), but seems to have a soft spot for the African-American Washington, the only non-white she has thus far met.

 

Directed and co-written by Timo Vuorensola (this is just his second feature film), this 2012 Finnish/German/Australian co-production isn’t, strictly speaking a great movie. The Sarah Palin satire is awful and several of the performances are shocking, especially Australian Peta Sergeant. However, I ended up having such fun overall that I was able to overlook its failed elements. This is one whacked-out and visually arresting film, destined to become a cult favourite.

 

The film is at its best in the early scenes set on the Moon, though the opening ten minutes will likely alienate about 90% of the population. Me, I thought it was a hoot. It’s like a cross between “Watchmen”, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, TV’s “Red Dwarf”, and the hilarious German spoof “Dreamship Surprise- Period 1”. The opening scene is brilliant and hilarious, and the “Sky Captain”-esque visual design is truly stunning. The Nazi iconography and architecture is certainly ominous. The computer-generated backgrounds give the film a look that seems far more expensive than it probably was (Apparently the budget was around $7.5 million). I also absolutely loved the running gag about Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”, where the Nazi folk on the moon are under the impression that it’s a pro-Nazi (and particularly pro-Hitler) short film. I also loved one line announced over a PA system; ‘The fugitive is a male negro. Unarmed, but possibly angry’. I think the scene that really won me over, however, is the one where two people are about to be sucked out into space and when the girl is pulled back inside, not only have they not exploded, but she’s in her underwear. Genius. Meanwhile, does that little German scientist with the wild hair remind you of anyone? You certainly don’t need to be Einstein to see the resemblance. And yes, the idea of turning a black guy white (essentially giving him a ‘whiteface’ treatment) is racist, but it’s supposed to be- they’re Nazis! So if you’re offended, that’s your problem for not understanding the intent. It’s fifty flavours of insane, and I dug it.

 

I particularly loved the thunderous, Wagnerian music score by Laibach (apparently a Slovenian industrial music group), which also has a “Godzilla” feel about it at times. We actually get a bit of Wagner at one point, and yes, it’s the tune you’re expecting. No one else will probably like this film as much as I did, but honestly, it’s your loss. Certainly Americans of the Republican or Conservative persuasion had better steer clear, it’ll be regarded in those quarters as a kind of “Satanic Verses”. The Palin segments don’t really work, I’ll admit. The Palin imitator (Stephanie Paul) is just terrible, and the idea of the character is awfully short-sighted given Palin was a flash-in-the-pan and it will forever date the film. When Paul and Sergeant become the focus of the film, it definitely loses something. But other than that, I was entertained by this, somewhat unexpectedly. Co-written by Michael Kalesniko (with story credits to Johanna Sinisalo and Jarmo Puskala) I don’t know if it’s a good movie or not, I just know I enjoyed the hell out of it.  

 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 Most Hated TV Characters Part Deux


10 Most Hated TV Characters Part Deux

 

My first list of this kind is by far my most popular post. It's not even close. Odd given I spent a lot less time on it than just about anything else I've put on-line, but I guess I tapped into the secret shaudenfreude in everyone. So in order to shamelessly attract even more pageviews, I present to you 10 more TV characters that shit me to no end. This time around, there's really only one character who is meant to inspire hatred, the rest are merely unintentionally horrible, irritating, and/or unbearable.

 

10. Allie Kingston (Nadia Townsend), "City Homicide"

I actually liked this cop drama at first. Any show that gives the underrated Nadine Garner a big role is worthy of a gander at least, and I didn't even mind that the culprit was always easily predicted. But after a while they started introducing new blood into the show, and the results weren't good. Nadia Townsend's detective Allie Kingston was a black mark on the entire show, forcing me (and seemingly a lot of others) to eventually abandon the show. Whether it was Ms. Townsend's unconvincing acting or a mistaken choice in character writiing (my guess is both), Allie was a constant irritation, a truly overbearing and irritating wannabe tough female cop, with all the stereotypical tough female cop schtick you can imagine. She was such a 'bull in a china shop' in her every scene that I found it unbearable. She wasn't likeable, she wasn't interesting, she wasn't subtle, and she didn’t fit in with the rest of the cast at all. Ms. Townsend also made the constipated acting stylings of Aaron Pederson look Logie Award-worthy.

 

9. Sonya Mitchell (Rebecchi), "Neighbours"

I won't deny that I've watched both "Neighbours" and "Home and Away" at different points over the years. I'm not a regular viewer of either show, but "Neighbours" is probably the one I have come back to most often, however. I remember seeing a few episodes of this character's early appearances and really liking her and the actress (Eve Morey) playing her. Having just recently caught up with the show again in the last few weeks, though, it appears that both the character and actress have changed and not for the better. Morey's excessive neurotic facial twitching is so aggravating it nearly gives Asher Keddie a run for her money. I now find her unbearable. Stop the stuttering and head shaking, already! If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was jonesing for a fix.

 

8. Capt. Maria LaGuerta, "Dexter"

This character actually started out semi-likeable, but let's face it, was there anyone in the entire TV-viewing world who wasn't cheering when Debra Morgan stabbed this horrible woman to presumed death? Oh, please, don't deny it. I'm sorry, but by this point I had long tired of her unwarranted bitchiness towards Debra (my favourite character on the show) in particular. She became a nasty, over-ambitious bitch to be honest. Brilliant show, however. I mean, what other show could possibly have viewers caring about a serial killer?

 

7. Buffy Summers, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Yes, this is one of those rare occasions when a good TV show features a horrible or annoying main character. I detested Sarah Michelle Gellar's schtick as Buffy so much that seeing it on the ads for the show were enough to keep me from even watching the first four seasons or so. Eventually the interesting characters of Willow and Anya (and a considerable step-up in writing) were enough to get me hooked onto the show until it finished, but still I loathed Buffy herself. Part of it is the annoying, wannabe quirky lingo she spouts throughout the series like 'deal'. Deal what, deary? 'I get'. You get what, luv? Oh, which man do I choose, the good vampire, the bad vampire or the big blonde wuss of a man? Decisions, decisions. Yawn. Gellar's acting also contributed to my hatred, and I do think it's relevant, because she makes it a part of the character. She's terrible and one-note throughout the entire series, whilst the talent Alyson Hannigan acted circles around her the entire time. Not to mention that Eliza Dushku's darker slayer Faith was a much more fascinating and charismatic character who frankly deserved her own TV show.

 

6. Pamela Douglas, "Bold and the Beautiful"

I loved Alley Mills as the mother on my favourite TV show "The Wonder Years". She was the perfect TV mum. Unfortunately, her characterisation of Stephanie Forrester's long-suffering, mentally unstable sister Pam is a complete joke. Yes, even by soap opera standards. I've never seen anything so infantile and ridiculous in all my life, and if I hadn't watched "The Wonder Years" I would question Ms. Mills' ability to act. Who the hell thought this idiocy should've made it to air? The same people who have allowed Hunter Tylo to fail at acting for so many years, I guess. As Dewey Cox’s father famously said; ‘Wrong kid died!’.

 

5. Marie Barone, "Everybody Loves Raymond"

Not everyone loves Raymond. I fucking hate Raymond. Not enough to put him on this list, though. No, instead, I want to talk about his dear old mum. And by that I mean that selfish, overbearing, excruciatingly annoying and manipulative old shrew. Yes, it's a comedy, and yes it made me laugh on occasion (mostly due to the late Peter Boyle and every now and then Brad Garrett), but this woman is just horrible, caricatured, and simply not funny. Just because something is intentional doesn't make it funny. Ray's mum is just awful. No one would put up with a mother like that. I mean, at least the mother from the Aussie TV classic "Mother and Son" had the excuse of dementia! (And genuine laughs)

 

4. Debra Barone, "Everybody Loves Raymond"

I don't like Ray Barone anymore than I like Ray Romano, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Barone's wife Debra is insufferably annoying, nagging, and humourless. I don't know how he managed to stay married to the woman, to be honest. It's a completely one-note characterisation, even for a sitcom.

 

3. King Joffrey, "Game of Thrones"

An addictive TV show with a bad guy you love to hate, though I'd have Lord Baylish on this list ahead of Joffrey if not for the fact that he's a far more shadowy figure. Joffrey is just a straight-up snotty, humourless little shit who unfortunately wields a lot of power which means he can even treat his own mother like shit if he wants to (and frequently does). And please don't use his age as an excuse, though the only reason he hasn't got a twirly moustache is presumably due to age. He's the kind of villainous character who would inspire me to throw vegetables at the TV screen...if I ate vegetables. If he doesn't die a horrible, violent death by the end of the show's run, I'll be bitterly disappointed.

 

2. Nina Proudman (Asher Keddie), "Offspring"

I’ll catch hell from Aussie readers on this one, but I don’t care. "The Secret Life of Us" was bad enough, but this wannabe "Secret Life of Us" (not to be confused with "The Secret Life of the American Teenager") rip-off features a main character so neurotic and full of nauseating facial tics and exaggerated expressions that it is frankly unwatchable. This chick (played by the irritating and inexplicably lauded Asher Keddie) is so nauseatingly neurotic that it's a wonder she's not a quivering mess who can't even get out of bed in the morning. She's probably meant to be our Carrie Bradshaw, and is similarly self-absorbed and unbearable. Everyone's a bit neurotic from time to time, but this woman takes the cake, spends an hour and a half fretting over the calories in the cake, accidentally drops the cake out of pure spasticity, and then frantically runs into her bedroom, locks herself in the closet with a blanket over her head and sobs uncontrollably for a week. How is it possible that this woman is an obstetrician when she probably takes two months to decide what to wear in the morning? Like "The Secret Life of Us", it's a show the ads promise 'we'll love', and we're meant to relate to the characters. In both cases, I call bullshit on that. But hey, the show's a big hit, so what the hell do I know?

 

1. Amy Jurgens, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Yes I watch the show (it hasn't finished here in Australia yet). Got a problem with that? Considering the other silly shows I admit to watching, it shouldn’t be a surprise. I don't think I've ever seen a decent TV show with an absolutely horrible main character until “Buffy” and this show came along. Thank God there are plenty of interesting supporting characters to make the show work because teen mum Amy Jurgens is such a thoroughly unlikeable person that she probably should have topped my previous list. This is a girl who acted stroppy to everyone and anyone whilst pregnant, got stroppy when her parents made her look after her own baby rather than go out (the horror!- It’s called life, sweetheart and your actions have consequences), and let's face it, if it weren't for Amy getting pregnant to Ricky and essentially choosing him over Ben, Ben would most probably not have ended up getting another girl pregnant, they would therefore not lose said baby, Ben would not have gotten married to a woman he didn't love (and subsequently divorced), would not have turned to alcohol...basically, Amy has ruined Ben's life. I hate it when people blame others for their own problems, but in this case, it's very arguable. To be honest, though, it's not the Ben thing that makes Amy unlikeable. It's the fact that the writers have made her crabby, bitchy, whiny, and selfish in every single episode since the show began. I'm not sure they've kept track of what they've written, because if they had, they'd realise that Amy needs to lighten the fuck up already. Sadly, I doubt that'll happen in the episodes I'm yet to see.