Sunday, 19 July 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Years ago, back in the late eighties I was a guest at the wedding of the cousin of Zoe, my future wife. I had been unemployed for quite some time and was having trouble finding a job, and I was, if I'm honest, a teenage slacker with a working class chip on his shoulder the size of a closed down Cornish tin mine. The wedding was very posh and afterwards at the reception we were herded down the line of family members to say hello. "This is Lord Such-and-Such", "Hello, I am Lady Was-Her-Name" and so on and so on.

So there's me a son of a factory worker meeting these people who I thought had no idea how the working class struggled to heat their homes and to feed their children in these times of corporate greed. To me they were scum of the highest order. So, Lord Such-and-Such speaks to me and says something along the lines of "... and what do you do?", to which I belligerently replied "Nothing, I'm unemployed!". What followed was a conversation in which he displayed some of the best manners I'd ever seen, he was truly interested in me, where I was from and what I'd like to do for a career. He was concerned about someone he had only known for a few minutes and I had treated him like a piece of shit. I felt like a dick.

That wedding changed my whole outlook on people and class. Yes it's true that he would never understand what it's like to work your whole life in a job that you hate for wages that don't cover the cost of living with the threat of redundancy looming over you like the Sword of Damocles. Was this his fault? No, of course not. People are people. Some are dicks, some are lovely, but the very best of them, rich or poor, have good manners. Manners are classless.

I still dislike the class system and the way that certain people, due to an accident of birth, have certain entitlements that the vast majority of others will never be able to claim. What I don't do though is hate a person based on a role that society, tradition and marriage has imposed on them.

Anyway, Kingsman, or a Comedy of Manners was really good.

The Frost Report - I Know My Place

Letterboxd Review

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Night of the Creeps (1986)

During the late-fifties, an extra-terrestrial spaceship jettisons a biological experiment of brain-loving slugs that lands on earth and infects a college boy. Put on ice for 30 years only to be re-awakened by Rusty Griswald and his wise-cracking sidekick, the fratboy popsicle and his army of brain slugs seek to infect the local population of co-eds, dead axe killers and doughnut eating cops. Can Rusty save the day? Will Tom Atkins succeed in killing himself? Will that cop ever stop eating around dead bodies? Is that Fred from Scooby Doo?

Fred Dekker takes 80's slasher films, 50's paranoiac sci-fi, b-movies, zombie films, film noir, throws them into a blender and pours out a frothy milkshake of yummy goodness.

The opening B&W filmed opening scene was wonderful and, if I were honest, I'd have been quite happy if it had continued. However this is linked quite beautifully using the quite similar music, fashion and attitudes of the eighties.

Tom Atkins was, as always, terrific as a down-at-the-heels, suicidal detective who lives in a jazz playing, Marlowe-like alternate reality.

The effects are great with heads being split open, entirely believable slug creatures, zombies and explosions.

Night of the Creeps was on heavy rotation at mine and my friends houses back in the late eighties. If we didn't know what to watch, on would go Night of the Creeps. It was just as good as I remember and I would recommend sticking this on a double bill with The Stuff or Return of the Living Dead.

The picture and sound on the director's cut Blu-Ray are outstanding and I'm looking forward to watching the extras.

Far too good to be classed as a cheesy b-movie.

Letterboxd Review

They Live (1988)

An itinerant worker discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see society's corruption, greed and selfishness that is thinly covered by the superficial glossy veneer of 1980's consumerism.

Roddy Piper plays Nada, a nobody, an Everyman who thinks that if he works hard and does the best he can then everything will work out okay. Once upon a time this would have been true but the "greed is good" ethic of Reagan and Thatcher put paid to this and we've been struggling to pull ourselves out of the sewer ever since. You only need to look at that modern microcosm of society, the supermarket. Shopping trolleys/carts are not put back as "it's someone else's job", kids run riot, people shove past you without an "excuse me", there is no consideration for our fellow human beings, and without simple consideration and courtesy everything else starts to rot.

Excluding the final raid sequence, the film itself is well shot in widescreen. The soundtrack is a really nice slow blues riff that echoes throughout the film. Roddy Piper and Keith David are likeable heroes, Meg Foster still unnerves me with her spooky eyes, and then there's the fight scene between Piper and David. It's like a little film within a film, with it's own structure,rhythm, plot. It's just one of the finest fights ever filmed. The visual effects are excellent with chrome-eyed, skull-like alien faces, but my personal favourites are the black on white subliminal messages - they look so sharp and authoritative and terrify way more than any number of uber-rich, alien scumbags.

If there is a fault with They Live, I'd say it's with the final sequence. It's almost as if Carpenter needed to fill 10 minutes but ran out of steam. The same shot of a rifle barrel is used over and over again and it's just too damn long.

They Live is as relevant today as it was back in the eighties and next time you're out shopping please put your trolley away correctly!

Letterboxd Review

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Highlander (1986)

A French man plays a Scottish highlander who is told that he is one of a race of immortals by a 1000 year old Spanish named Egyptian played by a Scot, and is hunted through the centuries by a Russian warlord played by an American.

Highlander is one of those films that really shouldn't work but somehow does. The effects are ropey, the sword-fights slow and laughable, and the dialogue cheesy. Even worse, the film has dated pretty badly displaying the lighting and editing of a eighties pop music video. Then why the hell did I enjoy it so much?

Told partially in flashbacks covering periods from sixteenth century Scotland to the battlefields of the Second World War, Highlander is a story of love, life, passion - it's a fucking opera! The mythos is interesting, although we are left thirsty for more of the background of the immortals. The characters are well rounded and come with histories that link the different time periods together quite nicely. Clancy Brown is suitably huge and menacing, Sean Connery is loud and foppish, and Christopher Lambert is roguish, but in my eyes Sheila Gish's character Rachel almost steals the film with the look she gives Connor; so full of love, regret and sadness. These are characters we become invested in.

Unlike Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, the years have not been kind and it doesn't quite have the impact it had back in the day but it's still a really fun film and, dare I say, ready for a reboot?