Archive for the ‘Gibber-flix’ Category

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Beyond The Black Rainbow

November 2, 2012

I had intended to write about this film months ago but failed to for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I recently became a father for the first time and now intend to channel my creative energies toward shaping and nurturing the wee spongy mind of my infant son. However, I will try to rectify this hideous blog dormancy as best I can.

Made in 2010 but shown in a limited capacity in various festivals prior to its home release, Beyond the Black Rainbow is the debut feature from the superbly named Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos. It was made for very little money, and seems to have made a whole lot less in turn, which is unfortunate given that there aren’t very many films at all that bother to look or sound this good in any given year. It is not for everyone*, and will likely prove an infuriating film to those for whom the all-pervasive aesthetic on display is neither seductive nor engaging, but for the appropriate audience (in which I enthusiastically place myself) it is a gorgeous and visionary cinematic delight.

Beyond the Black Rainbow opens as a promotional video for the Arboria Institute, as Dr. Mercurio Arboria introduces himself and the institution in which the film is set. The doctor is styled as a guru of yesteryear, deliberately reminiscent of such New Age scientist figures as Timothy Leary, albeit here with the darker edge of a cult leader. Before long, we are shown the institute itself and its head researcher and erstwhile Arboria disciple, Dr. Barry Nyle. The sinister Nyle is studying or treating what appears to be a patient at the institute, the near-catatonic Elena, a silent anguished girl who refuses to communicate with Nyle and who seems to be sadistically tormented by him. It is hinted that Elena possesses some kind of psychic, telekinetic power that is somehow kept subdued by means of a glowing tetrahedron pyramid in another level of Arboria, the corridors and rooms of which are also frequently roamed by silent “Sentionauts” (comparisons to Daft Punk characters is both unavoidable and fair), amongst other unusual features and oddities. Dark secrets are revealed pertaining to Dr. Nyle’s past and the precise nature of his work with the largely absent Dr. Arboria as Elena steadily prepares to escape the insidious institute in which she is held prisoner, with an increasingly unhinged Nyle in pursuit. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Dark Knight Rises & Batshit Politicking

August 24, 2012

Gadzooks, dear readers, almost two months without a single post! These once-mighty blog muscles risk atrophy! Mewling self-pity aside, I fancy the best way to return to fighting shape would be to launch into a rant about a popular movie forthwith. And so…

I’m late to the party in discussing The Dark Knight Rises (quick review: it was entertaining, but a goddamn mess overall) but the hugely anticipated event movie has nonetheless provided an amusing side distraction in the weeks following its release. It seems various commentators and critics have come to the conclusion that there is some kind of noteworthy political subtext to the most recent Batflick and have been churning out column inches in response, the rough consensus being that The Dark Knight Rises is an indictment of the Occupy movement group against income inequality and an unabashed exultation of extrajudicial vigilantism to defend capitalist values. Here are a pair of examples (admittedly soft targets) arriving at the same conclusions from markedly different parts of the political spectrum.

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Total Pisstake

June 29, 2012

A new trailer for the execrable Total Recall remake has been released and some excited commentary surrounds the appearance of that fan-favourite from the original film, the mutant hooker with three tits.

News of a remake of the classic Paul Verhoeven directed sci-fi action flick from 1990, starring Arnie in what can now be considered the last of his hardcore violent 80s roles, was greeted with much disdain. The original is the epitome of the kind of film they simply do not make anymore, i.e. an over-the-top, ultraviolent science fiction film for an adult audience (from the filmmaker who also gave the world Robocop, no less). That it was being remade with a modern mega-budget could mean only one thing, that the new one would likely be a watered-down, Disneyfied turd of a film pitched at family audiences and likely carrying a PG-13 age rating. When it transpired that this remake would be directed by Len Wiseman, and written by Kurt Wimmer, my own sense of disgust and outrage was palatable, to say the least. Wiseman is behind the terrible Underworld films, and delivered the single worst of the four Die Hard films. Wimmer is the writer/director of such films as Equilibrium (it’s shite outside of Bale’s performance, you know it) and the disastrous Ultraviolet. Make no mistake about it; this remake will be a thoroughly worthless piece of shit.

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Prometheus

June 29, 2012

“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” – Eric Hoffer

So the catharsis of posting here aims to achieve recovery from ruin and win solvency for the soul.

This was initially intended as a review piece for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel*, Prometheus, but a number of factors combined to obliterate my interest in pursuing that idea. There has been a massive amount of online discussion following the release of the film which could generally and simplistically be summarized as being an ongoing debate between two camps; those highly critical of what they see as a badly-realized and thus extremely disappointing film that squandered immense potential, and apologists on the other side who seek to mollify the letdown fans with specious arguments regarding the production values of the film and threadbare theories surrounding religious symbolism based on comments the filmmakers made in post-release interviews. (It may be obvious from the way I phrased that which of the two camps I place myself in.) Already this debate has diminshed the value of a mere review, although I still had some lingering frustration which I intended to channel into a scathing response here until my whole approach to the film and its aftermath were largely altered by a brief, and wholly unexpected, comment from my younger brother. Expressing my disdain for the flick via a popular social networking site, and inquirying as to his own thoughts, he furnished me wth the reply, “It was never going to be what we wanted.”

To give that quote some context, my brother is a major Alien franchise fan. We’re talking about a guy who had all the Dark Horse comics, as well as scale models, multiple copies of the films (including VHS boxed sets), a fucking life-sized plastic facehugger, etc. I had imagined he would be in the vanguard of the inevitable backlash jihad against Prometheus but the serene simplicity of his entirely fair response caused me to reflect on my own pointless frustrations with the film and, ultimately, let it go. That said, I still feel moved to offer some criticism here of the “Space Jesus” plot point because…fuck that shit is why. Needless to say, this will involve major spoilers.

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The Avengers

May 3, 2012

There have been loud murmurs of discontent amongst cinemagoers regarding the amount of superhero films that have recently been sprayed on the viewing public and, to the extent that most of these films haven’t been of the best quality, these complaints can be said to be justified. The fault likely lies in the poor ratio of good to bad here. For every single over-achieving, runaway success like Iron Man or The Dark Knight, there have been several titles that are either mediocre, at best, or downright terrible. There have also been trilogy franchises like Spiderman and X-Men that needed an initial film to establish their respective origin stories before really hitting their stride and peaking in the second film, only for their third outings to be woeful shit that tainted the entire series retroactively (Spiderman 3 is, to quote the hooker-assassin in Munich, “such a fucking waste of talent”). Superhero-flick fatigue is only to be expected at this stage, but it also frames this as precisely the right time for a truly great superhero movie to come along and remind us of how much fun they can be and, thankfully, that is exactly where The Avengers comes in.

Here Loki, the principal antagonist from Thor, returns to menace mankind as he snatches the Tesseract, the cosmic cube artifact of unlimited power first seen in Captain America, on behalf of mysterious alien beings offering him dominion over the Earth in return. In response to this emergency, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles his team of erstwhile superheroes to defeat Loki and save the world, but not before they have to overcome their own flaws and character defects (like being a rich, selfish asshole or a potentially super-destructive, raging monster) and learn to work as a team to fight for the greater good and what have you. There’s no great mystery to the plot structure, but what this film is really about is how the Avengers are brought together and how much fun it is to have all these characters, ahem, assembled as such on the screen. It’s the ambitious cinematic adaptation of the wider Marvel Universe, as opposed to individual characters alone, and it appears to be an experiment and gamble that has overwhelmingly paid off.

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Days of Heaven

April 21, 2012

This is one I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while.

Released in 1978, Days of Heaven was the second of only two feature-length films made by Terrence Malick prior to his embarking on a 20-year hiatus in Paris, France. This sophomore work, however, appears to have been overshadowed by the acclaim of his more-immediately accessible debut feature, Badlands, featuring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as young lovers on a killing spree; that initial film being a far more rock ‘n roll affair, thematically similar to the hugely popular Bonnie & Clyde and loosely based on the real case of the multiple murders committed by Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, in 1958. Written and directed by Malick, and starring Richard Gere and Sam Shepard (marking the first major lead role for Gere and the screen debut of Shepard, respectively) alongside Brooke Adams and the teenage Linda Manz, Days of Heaven proved a challenging and exhausting film to make, spending two years in post-production and editing before finally being released. Today, it does not appear to enjoy the same iconic status as the more recognizable and widely seen films from the landmark era of American cinema in which it was made, despite now being critically lauded and (rightly) held to be one of the most beautiful films ever made. The following will be my own modest and humble effort to redress this unfortunate state of affairs.

Set in 1916, Days of Heaven is a tale loosely narrated by the 15-year-old Linda (and largely told through her eyes). Linda is the younger sister of Abby (Adams), a young woman in love with Bill (Gere), a manual laborer working at a steel mill in Chicago. After an altercation with his boss gets frightfully out of hand, Bill flees with Abby and Linda to the Texas Panhandle where they are hired to work the in the fields of a wheat farm to bring in the annual harvest. Bill and Abby pose as brother and sister to avoid scandalous gossip and it is not long before Abby catches the eye of the quiet, unnamed farmer (Sam Shepard). Bill learns that the wealthy farmer is ill and may not have long to live and so begins to encourage Abby to respond to the man’s advances and marry him in order to inherit his fortune. With the farmer and Abby wed, Bill and Linda are welcomed to join the family and live in the rich landowner’s home after the harvest is complete. They all share an idyllic, “heavenly” existence for some months before their situation inevitably begins to unravel and it is not long before all involved are forced to confront the hidden secrets and betrayals amidst biblical disasters and further tragedy.

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Shame

April 18, 2012

Minor spoilers throughout.

The acclaimed British visual artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen followed up his feature film debut Hunger (2008) with last year’s Shame, which went on limited U.S. theatrical release in December following a rather minor and silly controversy surrounding the film being given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (see here). Following their prior collaboration on Hunger, McQueen once again put Michel Fassbender in the central role (in what can be seen as something of a companion piece to that earlier film), alongside solid support from Carey Mulligan. Despite widespread critical praise and a number of accolades, Fassbender was snubbed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his brilliant portrayal of an angst-ridden, sex-addict yuppie which led writer/director McQueen to later remark, “In America they’re too scared of sex, that’s why he wasn’t nominated.” Although the controversy surrounding the subject matter and supposedly explicit content of the film no doubt contributed to generating much-needed publicity for a small film commercially endangered by the MPAA’s decision to rate it an NC-17, and therefore helped make it profitable, this same controversy actually gets in the way of Shame to some degree. It’s a distraction that, arguably, risks provoking unnecessary hype and ill-fitting sensationalism unrelated to the true intentions of the film.

Fassbender plays Brandon, a handsome, non-satirical yuppie working in an unspecified corporate job in New York. Despite his outward appearance of success and comfort, Brandon is an empty, tortured man engulfed in compulsive sexual misadventures involving prostitutes, casual encounters, sex chat rooms, masturbating in the gents’ bathroom at work, and a thoroughly silly amount of pornography. His troubled younger sister, Sissy (Mulligan), a struggling singer with no fixed abode, turns up to stay in his apartment unexpectedly and it is not long before her presence and her destructive behaviour confront Brandon with the reality of his own damaged life and the personal hell he has fashioned for himself. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Making a Statement

March 31, 2012

The Devil of the Deep Blue Sea

James Cameron has cooler hobbies than you. He makes overblown techno-movies that turn $500 million into $1 billion, collects a fat slice of that (deservedly), and uses it to build his own cutting edge submersibles festooned with cameras and recording equipment including his own one-man submarine that he then pilots to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean, 7 miles down in the Mariana Trench. He made the two highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic and Avatar, and it seems like he did so largely to fund his passion for dicking about at the bottom of the sea and for building better machines to help him do so. It should also be noted that James Cameron, when he collected his Academy Award for Best Director in 1997, stood in front of a worldwide audience of 60 million people and declared that he was Satan.

Well, his exact words were, “I’m the king of the world!”, which were interpreted by the pedestrian, benighted onlookers as being merely a notable quote from Titanic, the film he was being awarded for, but to the keen ear of the initiated the hidden meaning was unmistakable. The term ‘King of the World’ is rendered in Latin as ‘Rex Mundi’ which is an alternate title and name for Leviathan, or Satan, depending on the precise occult esoterica one subscribes to. Simple, really.

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For Shame

December 21, 2011

Those fortunate enough to have been in my company of late may have heard me lament the extent to which I’ve devoted time on this blog to covering centipede movies and other oddball horror fare. I’ll be looking to redress this in the coming year for, despite the time and energy devoted to these gruesome amusements here, they are by no means the films I take the greatest pleasure in watching and that has been as true this year as it has always been. I’m not a horror fanboy.

One recent film that I’m eagerly anticipating is Steve McQueen’s Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. I thought it hadn’t yet been released but apparently it opened in limited cinemas in the states on December 2nd. The consensus opinion is that Fassbender is excellent in it as a sex-addicted yuppie in Manhattan steadily fucking his life up with implacably empty promiscuity, and the previews promise a tone that is both intriguingly grim and beautifully composed. Visual artist-turned-director, McQueen, apparently had final cut privilege on the film and refused to change a frame of the sexually explicit content resulting in Shame earning an NC-17 rating in the states. Normally, this rare rating, equivalent to “adults only”, can be a huge obstacle to a film’s commercial success in America (and, ergo, overall) as, astonishingly, both large home movie distribution franchises like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video refuse to stock NC-17 films as a matter of policy and major cinema chains AMC and Regal will not show them. Such policies, of course, are merely cowardly compromises in the face of the bullying and interference by organized religious fundamentalists who seek to control and deny precisely what other people can consume for entertainment. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

December 15, 2011

This one probably needs no introduction. When Tom Six announced his intention to make a sequel to his notorious 2009 body horror film, The Human Centipede (First Sequence), he promised that the follow-up would contain “all the blood and shit” that was largely absent from the first film. Filmed in the UK, and made with a mostly British cast, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) not only fulfills the director’s promise, but also delivers what is essentially another elaborate joke lurking mischievously behind the facade of a gross horror flick. As documented here at length, the BBFC initially refused a certificate for the centi-sequel, citing what they felt was the excessive sexual violence and potentially illegal obscenity of the film, with the result that it couldn’t then be legally supplied anywhere in the UK (a de facto ban), before eventually relenting on this decision and granting it an 18 certificate following a substantial 2 minutes and 47 seconds of demanded cuts. It’s difficult to imagine that this tabloid-scandal sideshow did anything other than bestow free publicity on Six’s demented product but it is worth noting that the BBFC seems to have missed the crucial joke running throughout a film that, in all things, is hardly subtle. That joke being how ridiculous the notion is that someone would actually try to make their own human centipede after being inspired to do so by a horror film. Tom Six, in turn, was reportedly motivated to realize this idea after being repeatedly asked by journalists following the release of The Human Centipede if he feared his film may cause copycat behaviour amongst the viewing public, an idea so ludicrous he opted to parody it at length in his sequel. In doing so, he also quite deliberately chose to rebuke the horror fanboys and critics who pointed out the extent to which the first film was actually lacking in visceral shocks and gory imagery by stuffing the new movie with a truly inordinate amount of bizarre violence and explosive shit-shocks. Easily one of the single most absurd movies ever made, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) may work as a grotesque 90 minute prank, but it offers up very little in the way of a satisfying film experience.

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