Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy New Year

I hope you have a fantastic and utterly brilliant 2018! My Christmas was short and not so great - I was stricken with cold/flu and so was the rest of my family. So a lot of the week was spent feeling ill and lying down or not feeling up to going out or seeing people. Not the greatest, at least I can say I didn't do much and mean it. I did see a few old films at The Rex cinema in Berkamsted. I saw Die Hard, It's A Wonderful Life and Pretty Woman. I enjoyed them, even Pretty Woman, I think it is better on a bigger screen than on the TV at home. Not on my favourite films list though. I'm looking forward to watching lots of films again in 2018.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I took my son to go and see this film, he said he enjoyed it a lot. I was not so sure I enjoyed it. I like the fact that there is a strong female lead character but as a film in its own right I just felt that something was missing. It felt too formulaic and unoriginal to me. A battle between Rey and Kylo Ren seems ends with a rebellion battle cruiser splitting the master Imperial star destroyer in two and in a later scene Rey appears in the Millenium Falcon with no explanation of how she got there. I was also confused by not really knowing the backstory of Supreme Leader Snoke or not having it explained - my son says he appeared as a hologram in The Phantom Menace, a fact I had fogotten. So, overall there was plenty of action in the film but not much of it was new. I also don't really enjoy the character of the pilot Poe Dameron - he had potential to be a good character with a touch of the Han Solo hustler about him but he is played too straight for my liking.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mirrorless Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3

This week I purchased a new camera from e-Bay, well a secondhand camera but new to me and in pretty good condition. It is just missing the original box, cables and lens hood. I have got compatible cables anyway and I have downloaded the manuals for free. I just need to buy a lens hood and a strap. Shame the lens hood wasn't in the package but it wasn't advertised and I assumed it was something I'd have to buy anyway. A lens hood is not expensive, its just in short supply. Anyway, here is my new baby.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

We Are Still Here (2015)

This film is set in the 1970s but is from 2015. It does capture the 70s quite well, the acting is very good. I wasn't sure what to expect, I thought it must be better than some of the rubbish I've watched recently. It was. It's a story of some evil spirits who inhabit a house in the American countryside. The main couple have recently lost their son and have moved in to try and start a new life. but very quickly things go pear shaped when the woman feels a strange presence in the house who she believes might be the spirit of their son and they invite some friends who believe in the paranormal to stay for the weekend. Things don't go that well for them all and whatever evil inhabits the cellar comes out to wreak vengeance. It's a nice little horror film and one that is easily recommendable, there is some black humour in there as well, which just adds to the enjoyment.

5ive Girls (2006)

This film is set in a reopened Catholic school and involves a group of 5 girls who all have some unique ability but who all have been sent to the school by their dissatisfied parents. Ron Perlman plays a priest who tries to teach them, he was at the school when it was originally closed due to the disappearance of a girl. Well, I won't bore you with the plot, the film isn't very good. The story is uninteresting and there really isn't anything to recommend about the film. Ron Perlman looks very uncomfortable and is just not believable as a priest, he obviously knows the film is a dud. The women are all beautiful and that's why they were cast but the script is lacklustre and the effects aren't very good.

Muck (2015)

This film is set in America and starts with some friends escaping from what I would call a swamp but others more familiar with America might call something else. Something has been attacking them in the swamp and they are missing a couple of people, one of the survivors is injured. They find a vacant house and break in. One of the guys goes to find help and the others have to fend off the evil monster attackers. It is very silly and likes to show women in hardly any clothes for no reason at all. The plot is flimsy and uninteresting and the acting is just as bad. There really isn't anything positive I can say, muck by name and muck by nature I'm afraid.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I saw this film this week, I'd seen part of it before but not all the way through. It is the origin story for the domination of Earth over humans by the apes. It focuses on the story of an ape called Ceaser who is given a drug that stimulates the growth of his brain - or something like that. It makes him much more intelligent than other apes. The make-up and visual effects are vastly improved over the 2001 film. The apes look like apes and not the PG Tips monkey and Michael Jackson. I like the film, it is enjoyable to watch and the pacing and action is very well paced.

The Snowman (2017)

I went to the cinema to see this film. The idea of the film is good, a serial killer called The Snowman is active again and Harry Hole, a police detective from Oslo in Norway has to piece together lots of old case information. It is based on the book by Jo Nesbo, but I've not read the book. The scenery is lovely, part of the film is set in Bergen. I've been to Bergen but it wasn't snowing like it is in this film. I watched the story unfold with some interest but the pacing wasn't good all the way through and the way the film was edited didn't tell the story very well or very engagingly. It picks up at the end but by then a lot of people would probably be turned off.

Satan's Slave (1976)

This is a 1970s independent British horror film that likes to show a breast or two in the way that British film and TV liked to do in the 1970s. There are some good female characters in the film though, Candace Glendenning has a good part. It's a tale of a family who live out in the country and invite their attractive young niece and her parents from the city. It's a bit of a mess plot-wise if I'm honest. Necromancy is practiced by the family but the characters and setting don't quite feel right. The girl's uncle shows absolutely no sense of loss when his brother and his wife are killed in a car accident, he is more interested in sedating his niece. No real sense of time is portrayed in the film and it is quite confusing. If you like independent British horror, such as Hammer and Amicus films this might be up your street, as it has a similar feel but it really isn't very coherent.

The Collection (2012)

Not a very pleasant film, this is from the twisted minds of the people who brought us the equally unpleasant later versions of the SAW franchise. I'm not a great fan of this torture style of film. The Collector who maintains the collection is never revealed and there is no backstory to speak of, even though this is apparently a sequel to The Collector. There are some set pieces that are intended to gross out the audience with their gore and they largely achieve this but there is no real story or plot besides lumbering from set piece to set piece. Not a good film and certainly one I wouldn't recommend.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ex_Machina (2015)

I really enjoyed this film. I like science fiction films generally and I thought this brought a good story, cast and visual effects together really well. The story is based around the need for a genius programmer to have someone independently verify that he has built a robot that is intelligent and can think and feel for itself. He does this by bringing a gifted worker from his company to his remote home and spend a week with the robot across several daily sessions. The young programmer thinks he has won a competition but the nature of what he will be doing was kept secret from him. The genius has quite a challenging personality compared to the easy going nature of the young worker. There is a latent sense of threat throughout their exchanges that works very well. At the back of your mind during the film it is difficult to reconcile the personality of the genius with the apparent child-like quality of the robot called Ava. It's a great film and very easy to watch. Thoroughly recommend this.

Planet of the apes (2001)

I originally watched this in the cinema at the time it was released and I remember we sat near the back where the speakers were and it was phenomenally loud and I came out with a ringing headache. This time it wasn't so loud and I can actually remember the film. It is the story of a astronaut who is sucked in to a magnetic storm that transfers him to a different version of Earth where apes rule over humans. It is the story of the apes who argue for equal rights and their support for the human astronaut who tries to escape his captivity and return to space. It's a good story and this version isn't a bad one really. It is showing its age a fair amount though, the prosthetics aren't as good as they are today and the later Planet of the apes films have better effects, but saying that it is an entertaining film but the only thing I wasn't keen on was Mark Wahlberg as the main man, I didn't sympathise with his character much at all and ultimately the story depends on this. I think it was down to how he played the part, there was very little chemistry between him and the female characters. General Thade is easily hateful as the mean and vicious general of the apes.

Bridge of Spies (2015)

I enjoyed this cold-war thriller very much when I saw it last weekend during a wet Saturday afternoon, it was a perfect accompaniment to my suffering with a cold! The story is based on a real life story, with the usual Hollywood embellishments that have to accompany a true story to make it entertaining. Not knowing the true story makes it easier to watch I'm sure. Tom Hanks plays the part of a lawyer to represent a man accused of being a Russian spy. I like the way he is portrayed as a normal everyday insurance claim defence lawyer. The actor playing the man accused of being a spy is well acted. There are some nice acting touches where the personality of both of the men shine through during repeated refrains of their dialogue: Tom Hank's character uses the phrase "one one one" several times, which changes to "two two two" at one point and the spy character is asked "do you never worry?" several times to which he replies in a monotone "would it help?". It was only after the film ended that I saw it was directed by Steven Spielberg. I can easily recommend this film to anyone who enjoys thrillers, especially legal and spy oriented ones.

Game of Death (1978)

This film was released five years after Bruce Lee's death in 1973. It features scenes shot by Bruce Lee in 1972 where he fights opponents in the iconic yellow tracksuit. Lee's scenes were shot for a different storyline completely and only 11 minutes of footage from the original film were used in this 1978 version. The original story and the story in this version were very different but somehow I thought the film did hang together just enough to make sense and the score by John Barry was quite good. Despite the difficult challenge of using footage shot for a different film (with same title) and lookalike actors playing Lee's character, this was achieved. The 1978 version of the story is a very simple revenge story, where an actor who is an ex-martial arts fighter is threatened by gangsters led by an old man and he is eventually shot on the set of a film he is making. The gangsters and the girlfriend of the actor all think he is dead, the film even controversially uses actual real footage of Lee's open casket funeral to make this point. But the actor isn't dead, the shot just disfigures his face and he returns to exact his revenge on the gangsters. The last part of the film is the part using the footage shot for the original Game of Death, which was shot in the last surviving wooden pagoda in real life but is supposed to be the upper floors of the Red Pepper Restaurant in this version.
I thought some of the fight scenes were excellent, the original footage is great. The dubbing is not so great and some of the noises are frankly ridiculous but they may be the genuine audio. I didn't like a protracted motorbike scene in a warehouse, I thought it went on far too long and with little point. Other than that I enjoyed it pretty well and would recommend it to fans of Bruce Lee and martial arts films, just remember your not getting Lee's original vision for the story - he would probably hate this version.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Society (1989)

This film became more familiar as I watched it. I remember seeing part of it before but not sure if I have seen all of it in the past. The story follows a well to do society family and in particular the son. His sister's ex-boyfriend tries to tell him something funny is going on with his family but he doesn't believe it. Not until he listens to a tape from a bug planted on his sister. It reveals a secret hidden from him by the people he thought were his family. The society in question are all from rich families and the secret is that they are not human and they do some very strange things with their bodies. It is a body shock horror film and has some sexual overtones. The last part of the film is very strange and will stick in the mind of anyone seeing the film. The special effects are a bit like Spitting Image and not quite good enough to look real. At the time, they might have been OK though. There are some interesting ideas in the film but the casting decisions were a little bit strange.

Containment (2015)

I was very impressed with this small British horror film about the residents of a block of flats who wake one morning up to find themselves quarantined. Their doors and windows have been sealed and won't open. They look through the windows and can see people wearing Hazmat suits and moving in and out of detoxification tents. The guy playing the violent nutcase acts his part very well, it's believable.

Frankenhooker (1990)

I watched this film recently, against my better judgement I should add. While it was awful, I had a certain fondness for the combination of violence and humour found within it. So it isn't all bad. Infact, if you don't expect it to be any good you might even be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

I took my son to the cinema this weekend to watch a film that we've been looking forward to, it's the third film in the Thor series. I have to confess here that although my son has seen the first films, I haven't seen all of them from start to finish.
The film includes a lot of CGI effects and the humour is in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy. It's an entertaining romp that delivers everything fans of Marvel would enjoy. Thor's father Odin returns to Norway to die and with that it leaves Thor and Loki to deal with their exiled sister Hela: the Goddess of Death, played by Cate Blanchett. Hela returns to Asgard to take her seat as heir to the throne. She has ambitions for Asgard to conquer the Nine Realms again, like it emerges that she and Odin ruled them through violence and fear in the past. So Thor, Loki and the last surviving Valkyrie (that captured Thor on a planet ruled by the Grandmaster - played by Jeff Goldblum), eventually try to rescue Asgard from Hela.
There is rarely any sense of threat in this film, which is targeted more at the young than the old, there are a few jokes that are intended for adults. I found it entertaining while I was watching it but ultimately, the only thing I will remember is the use of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song during several key battles. It was a good choice of song but unfortunately had the effect on me of making the battles feel like a music video.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

John Williams vs Hans Zimmer

We went to watch this concert at the South Bank Centre earlier this month and had a great time. The tickets we got were good value because we bought them a long time in advance. The most expensive thing was the wine I bought before the concert!

Performers: London Concert Orchestra, Anthony Inglis conductor
Programme includes: -
John Williams: Jurassic Park; Harry Potter; Star Wars; Superman; ET
Hans Zimmer: Pirates of the Caribbean; The Da Vinci Code; The Dark Knight; Batman Begins; Gladiator; Inception
-and many more

Demons (1985)

I watched this Dario Argento film this week. The lack of a comprehensible plot and terrible overdubbing leave me feeling this was not a good film. There are some girls, some guys, some people who take up the offer of a free evening in an old cinema to watch a film. Someone gets turned into a demon who seems to infect others who also then spread the infection, if that's what it is? There are physical manifestations of the demonic possession, such as growing long nails red eyes and a desire to eat flesh and puke green vomit. All a bit silly and funny, without being scary at all.

Evidence (2013)

I wouldn't really put this into the horror genre of films. It follows some US detectives who specialise in investigations that involve editing video evidence. After a brutal murder scene, with little physical evidence of bodies left due to fire, there are several digital video sources that contain evidence. The killer seems to be a man in a welding mask who attacks victims with a blowtorch burning off their limbs. Quite a gruesome idea really.
One of the victims was funnily enough a documentary film-maker and had a proper video camera on her. Well, we watch most of the film via clips of the relationships between the victims and some of the investigators.
This film was mediocre, not a great example of the found-footage genre. Neither outstandingly bad r very good. One to avoid I think.

Girls against boys (2014)

This was an entertaining but strange little film. A young female student is having a relationship with a married man but he ends the relationship and she is very messed about it. She works in a bar and after work a female co-worker takes her out. They meet three guys, go back to a place two of them live and she kisses one of the men. She then throws up and decides she has to go home. The man and she get a taxi and he asks if he can come in. She doesn't think so but then he turns nasty and forces his way in. He assaults her, the extent of the attack isn't clear, I suspect he raped her. She tries to find the older man but he doesn't want her turning up at his home and jeopardising his relationship with his wife that he is trying to make work again. He misreads the situation completely and stupidly tries to force himself on her, which isn't what she wanted at all. After this episode, the co-worker offers her comfort and takes her to the police to report the crime. However, the police don't seem very interested so the girls take the matter into their own hands, well, at least the co-worker decides to. They go back to the boys apartment with the intention of finding out where the guy who committed the rape lives. Nobody is there but they break in and help themselves to breakfast. The remainder of the film sees them attack and kill the men who did them wrong in various situations. The lead female eventually meets a guy who isn't like the others but he gets killed by the co-worker and the co-worker eventually meets her end at the hands of the lead.
None of the characters in this film really stir up any empathy in me. You sort of want to empathise with female student Shae but she plays the character mostly silently and moodily that it doesn't repay any effort and she ultimately ends up irritating more than anything else. A shame, some interesting scenes but ultimately not very original.

Interview with the vampire (1994)

I've watched this film over several weeks whilst on various train journeys. The premise is that a journalist meets with a vampire who is hundreds of years old and who wants to tell his story. It feels very pretentious and more a vehicle to present Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise as vampires wearing a range of fancy clothes, make-up and hairstyles. It certainly isn't horror. That's about all I really want to say about this film, I carried on through to the end but I wasn't impressed.