Category Archives: Films

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 18

Many moons ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Alien IAlien_Intruder_VideoCoverntruder

Ricardo Jacques Gale

 (1993)

 Rating **

Sounds a bit rude. Go on, admit you thought it too.

 

 

You just know you’re in for some top quality film making when the opening credits proudly announce that the special guest star is the guy who played Kenickie from Grease.

Although I’m starting to suspect that was just a polite way of saying ‘dies in the first eight minutes’. You see we open with Kenickie shooting up a storm on a spaceship (read: a boiler room). It seems he’s being controlled by a sexy lady although he blows his brains out before we can find out why (including a frankly disturbing shot of the inside of his mouth). I’ve been compelled to do a lot of stupid things in the name of sexy ladies but a gun toting rampage isn’t one of them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right girl yet. The plot thickens…

We cut to Billy Dee ‘Lando Calrissian’ Williams (to give him his full title) who is recruiting a bunch of rough, tough prisoners to go on a salvage mission to bring back the spaceship where Kenickie went loopy. This ragtag group consists of an ex-navigator, played by Maxwell Caulfield (Empire Records, Grease 2, er…Emmerdale), a creepy ex-alcoholic engineer, an incredibly infuriating explosives expert who enunciates every line like a coked up sex pest crossed with Yosemite Sam, and, er, an IT geek.

They are enticed on the mission with promise of the use of a virtual reality machine which can make all their fantasies come true (as long as these fantasies involve boobs and are within the budget). This sadly leads to incredibly awkward scenes of each guy’s fantasy, all of which involve rubbing up against a hot girl in differing time periods (Wild West, a 1950’s biker gang, a Casablanca rip off, and some generic beach house). No matter what the era, all the girls look like they just walked out of a Whitesnake video. But hey, boobs right?!

alien intruder 4

…and for the ladies, an oiled up Rex Manning!

Their fantasies keep getting hijacked by the same broad who sent Kenickie gaga in the opening scenes. This doesn’t seem to bother anybody much except for old Billy Dee who has been monitoring their fantasies, which is in no way creepy at all.

alien intruder 2

“Beats cable!”

It turns out Billy Dee has been searching for the mystery woman and has engineered this whole debacle so he can be with her. You see, this lady (if you hadn’t guessed about three minutes into the film) is some sort of alien siren who lures men to their deaths with her feminine wiles. Anyway, she plays them all off against each other (leading to one of the most ridiculous fist fights this side of They Live) and they all end up shooting, punching, or plain testosteroneing each other to death. Except for Maxwell who manages to escape, or does he? Trust me, you won’t care.

I can only surmise that this film was written by a couple of 11 year old boys. They wrote a list of all the things they loved and decided those things were spaceships, boobs, and punching, and if they could squeeze in some cowboys too then all the better.

The aforementioned fantasy scenes are cringe worthy. Oily convicts pawing at Playboy models in period clothing does not entertainment make. That these scenes are even in the movie at all is on such a flimsy pretense that doesn’t even really make much sense if you think about it too hard (I know, I know, why am I thinking about it too hard?).

But the main issue with Alien Intruder is that there is virtually zero threat throughout the entire movie. The alien herself doesn’t even become a real danger until the final minutes of the film and even then it’s really quite difficult to get that scared when the alien looks like this –

hqdefault

THE HORROR!!!

In all it really feels like an amalgam of several Red Dwarf episodes (Psirens, Better Than Life, and Gunmen Of The Apocalypse particularly) only without the laughs. Actually even Red Dwarf managed to be scarier than this on occasion. Alien this is not.

The film gains a star for some unintentionally funny moments. The fistfight being a highlight and the death of the nerd being way funnier than it was intended to be. It also earned some kudos for having a title that instantly reminded me of this joke from Top Secret.

top_secret_intruder_2

Although, once again, probably not their intention.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 17

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Home Team coverHome Team

 Allan A. Goldstein

 (1998)

 Rating *

Just another reason to hate football

The last time I took a dip into the murky depth of the Family Films boxset it was one of the most diabolical movie watching experiences of my life. A cheaply made, animated musical ripoff of James Cameron’s Titanic, featuring a rapping dog.

I managed to watch ‘Titanic – The Legend Goes On’ in a single sitting. The same cannot be said for Home Team.

You could argue that I may not be the target audience for this film, however even if I was six years old and had just fallen out of a very tall tree on to my head I still could not imagine getting more than half an hour into this but I turned it off and put The Goonies on again.

Steve Guttenberg plays Mr. Butler (if they ever said his first name then I missed it), an ex ‘party boy’ (their words) who’s been in some trouble and now must do community service as a handyman for a small orphanage. Also he’s the most irritating man alive. The orphanage is occupied by a bunch of plucky young scamps with nicknames like Pineapple, a comedy fat cook called (wait for it) Cookie, and a fairly normal, if slightly saccharine, lady called Karen, who we’re told is from Paris even though she’s clearly French-Canadian.

What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

         What aboot that Eiffel Tower eh?

Mr. Butler isn’t happy about this arrangement but tries to ingratiate himself with the household in the only way he knows how. By steamrollering into every situation with a barrage of supposedly funny monologues, impressions and comedy skits. No one takes kindly to this, least of all me. I’ve never had much of a problem with Guttenberg in the past but here he delivers every line with the all confidence of a mid-1980’s Eddie Murphy and all the wit of a mid-2010’s Adam Sandler. Every gag is like nails down a chalkboard, but not just to me, all the kids and the Canadian lady think he’s a tool as well. We’re all cringing together and wondering what possible motivation the director could have for making our main protagonist so utterly, utterly irritating. At one point in the film he kisses a live cockroach, this is easily one of least nauseating parts of his performance. And this from a man who appeared in his breakthrough role dressed like this –

BOOM! COMEDY!

                      BOOM! COMEDY!

To be honest it’s not all Stevie Boy’s fault. The script he has to work with is so moronic that even Robin Williams, at the height of his powers, would struggle to wring a chuckle out of it. In the first half hour the comedic highlights include the fact that Pineapple farts a lot and that Cookie the cook, can’t actually cook (oh my sides!).

Anyway, the kids, for some reason, don’t warm to Mr. Butler so pull some pranks on him which generally end up catching poor old Cookie instead. During all this hilarity, Canadian lady is trying to train their football team, however, as the first match proves, they are just dreadful (if you like seeing footballs in the groin and people running into goalposts, buddy this scene is for you!).

Then the orphanage burns down for some reason, plot progression I guess, and suddenly Mr. Butler decides he will train the team, and the kids all suddenly like him. Hurrah! And so with the help and funding of a comedy undertaker (I don’t know, so don’t ask), they start traininnnn…….nurgh…..I can’t, I just can’t relive this any more. Look they train and they win, and Mr. Butler snogs the Canadian lady, and something about Cookie winning a bet so he can buy a new orphanage. The end!

Man this was painful! There are few things worse than bad comedy and this is bad comedy…aimed at children! Also having everyone else in the movie agree that the leading man is painfully unfunny is an odd stylistic choice, I mean this isn’t Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy. We’re suppose to like this guy. Instead the first hour is like watching that embarrassing uncle who thinks kids love him when they’re really all Tweeting about what a dick their uncle is.

Making Police Academy look like Police Academy 6

‘He makes Police Academy look like Police Academy 6. ROFL!’

And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with Home Team. A kid’s comedy about kids finding themselves in a predicament, should focus on the kids, not the guy in his late 30’s. In fact the kids are fairly likable for the most part but we rarely get to root for them before Guttenberg blunders in with another routine. It can be fun to side with the kids against the adults in a movie but not when the adults are completely dominating the scene. Take Home Alone or the aforementioned The Goonies for example. That’s how you get the balance of kids to adults.

Instead what we get is 40 minutes of eye rolling, clenched teeth and forced smiles while Steve churns out another tired barrage of gags. I imagine the filmmakers probably hoped they could use some of Guttenberg’s star power to propel this film to success.  However, as this was a good few years after his brief comedy reign, they’d have been better off focusing the story squarely on the kids and making the adults the supporting cast.

I’ve sat through rubber dinosaurs, rubbish vampires, and six hours of shit Robocop, during this series. I never expected an innocuous family comedy starring Mahoney from Police Academy would cause me the most pain. To be honest it’s got me scared. All bets are off now. I’m never going to make it out of this with my sanity!

Next time – Billy Dee Williams fights cheap aliens with Rex Manning from Empire Records!

(Send help!)

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 16

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Bruce cover

  Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth

           See-Yuen Ng

           (1976)

           Rating ****

‘Bruce Lee – The Man The Myth’ is a biopic about Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee, staring renowned Bruce Lee impersonator Bruce Li (real name Ho Chung-Tao). If that sentence hurt your head then I’d back out now if I were you. Go on, I understand.

You see, BLTMTM (as it shall hereon be known) is a biopic with a twist. The film makers decided, in a revolutionary take on the biopic tradition, to brush over such life events as Bruce’s first major role in The Green Hornet, the birth of his children, or his marriage to Linda Lee, and instead decided to focus on mostly fictionalised street fights, Bruce doing weights workouts in the gym, and frankly bizarre scenes of him willfully electrocuting himself or punching strange machines.

bruce-lee-the-man-the-myth

You thought I was joking didn’t you?

Most important life events are brushed over by a narrator or simply ignored altogether. In fact the film seems so desperate to race towards its next fight scene that it may be one of the worst paced films I’ve ever seen. Suddenly he’s played Kato, suddenly he’s in a completely different country, suddenly he has a wife and kids, couple of headaches, dead! They even drive a final nail in the coffin marked ‘fact’ with a surreal coda that suggests that Lee may have faked his death and disappeared. Poised to return in 1983!!

So why the four star rating? Well, despite this being a terrible, terrible, film, it is, without a doubt, the most entertaining movie I have watched so far in this interminable series. Therefore I have decided that the films hereon out shall be ranked by how much I enjoyed them, rather than as an indication of actual quality (I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing this unconsciously anyway).

Yes this film is awful. The transfer is so scratchy that I had pirate videos in the 80’s that looked better, the ADR (the dubbed over voices) is jarring and unsubtle, the acting is truly horrible, the foley (sound effects) is jacked up to 11, every swish of the arm sounds like a jet aircraft going past, and the aforementioned plot is laughable at best. But then isn’t that exactly what you want from a 70’s Kung Fu flick? I know I do.

Bruce Li plays the part of Lee with a smug arrogance that makes him fairly unlikable for the most part. In the opening scenes he moves from China to Washington and instantly becomes the most popular guy in town. He then saves an old guy from two unbelievably 70’s black guys which gets him in trouble with the local Karate teacher (“Karate is superior to Kung Fu!”). Lee sets him straight by beating him up.

0 (1)

You can almost hear the funk guitar.

Then the movie pretty much carries on in that vein. People challenge Lee, Lee beats them up. The absolute pinnacle being a scene where some road workers are assaulted by a bunch of English geezers, out on a run. The whole mob sound like they’ve been voiced by the cast of On The Buses,  throwing insults at Lee like “You horrible little bleeder!”. One guy even yells “CHARGE!” as he runs, fists first, at Lee. It’s a truly wonderful scene.

On a genuinely positive note, the fight scenes work pretty well for the most part. Nothing compared to the hyper-choreographed fights of today’s cinema but they retain an honest realism. It’s also full of wonderful 70’s fashions and cheesy disco synth music. Even Lee gets in on the action!

vie-fantastique-bruce-leebruce-the-man-the-my-L-dXvLFD

He could kill a man with just one of those collars.

So there you have it. I’ve seen in the new year with a film I genuinely enjoyed. Not for many of the right reasons, but still, I’ll take it over Dark Side of the Sun any day. HIIIIYYYAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 15

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

 

Def By Temptation102612-celebs-movies-def-by-temptation

James Bond III

(1990)

Rating **

 

 

We open on a libidinous bar tender casually telling an unseen conquest at the other end of the phone that he will pay for her abortion. This bastion of chivalry then shifts his attentions to a seductive woman who has entered the bar and within minutes they are back at her place doing the nasty. Karma’s a bitch however as she turns out to be an evil, vampire succubus who eviscerates him and drinks his blood. Women huh? Right guys?

Focus shifts to a young man called Joel who is being haunted by dreams involving his preacher father and a mysterious figure in black. His father is played by Samuel L. Jackson! Yes! Maybe this film is going to be OK after all. It turns out he’s dead, and, aside from a very short scene at the end, this is the only time he appears. DAMN YOU MOVIE!

Def-by-Temptation-1

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and…ah forget it!”

Joel is training to follow in his father’s footsteps (to be a preacher, not dead) but is suffering a crisis of conscience so goes to spend some time with his black sheep brother ‘K’  in New York. K takes his brother to the bar from the beginning of the film and wouldn’t ya know it, they run afoul of miss bloodsucker, who slowly tempts Joel away from his brother and his beliefs. Apparently Joel is last in the line of something, I’m afraid this is as much as I can elucidate as it’s never properly explained. All we do know is that the sanguine queen needs him dead. As we’ve seen from her previous handy work, she’s not a gal to mess around when it comes to killing, which makes it all the more odd when she proceeds to take Joel on several coffee dates and even gets him alone on more than one occasion. Perhaps this is vampire foreplay.

K teams up with an undercover cop (Bill Nun of Spiderman fame) and attempts to save his brother from the clutches of this nocturnal harridan. They both do spectacularly badly however, as one is killed and the other turned into a vampire. In a weird, dreamlike ending that makes very little sense, Joel manages to kill the vampire and save his soul with a little help from his dead father and his mother who is about 600 miles away in a different state (I told you it made no sense).

defbytemptation

She was starting to lose her looks anyway.

It may look like I’ve been lazy with the old plot summary but for a 95 minute film there’s actually very little plot. If you remove the weird dream sequences and gratuitous vampire lovin’ then there’s barely a skeleton to hang a story on. Vampire seduces men to their deaths, one of them fights back. End.

It all comes across as an attempt to make a cool, African American version of Fright Night (or perhaps more appropriately Fright Night 2). However unlike those movies, the attempts at comedic moments just jar awkwardly with the horror. Also the clearly minuscule budget makes every scene look very much like it was shot in a studio (which they clearly were), mist and coloured lights are used to disguise the edges of the scene which makes it hard to feel like any of it is grounded in reality.

Dodgy editing also makes the film hard to follow at times. Scenes jar into each other, sometimes at random. The filmmakers must have been aware of this to some extent because on a couple of occasions a cue card would appear stating ‘The Next Day’ or ‘Later That Night’ to show the passing of time.

It is also so unbelievably ‘of its time’. Released in 1990, everything from the fashion, to the music, to the awful pun in the title screams ‘late 80’s’. I was half expecting to see a comedy cameo from The Fat Boys.

That said, the acting is fairly solid. Jackson puts in a good turn in his brief appearance, prefacing his bible spouting turn as Jules in Pulp Fiction, and Bill Nun provides some comedy as the undercover cop pretending to be a hopeless romeo while scoping out the bar.  Cynthia Bond has fun as they evil seductress even if her performance does come close to scenery chewing at times. The worst scenes sadly involve the brothers (one of whom is played by the director himself), not because of the acting but because each scene feels like it was improvised, badly. They mumble half conceived lines at each other in a directionless manner until the scene just peters out. This happens several times.

There are some effective scenes however. Some of the dream sequences are quite spooky and surreal and there’s at least one unique death where a guy is sucked into his own television which then spits out his guts and bones. However Cronenberg or Lynch this is not, and most of the time these scenes are either confusing or hilarious, or both (confarious?).

The director gets the last laugh though with his unintentionally hilarious dedication before the credits roll.

0V8eh

“Suck it forebears!”

 

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 14

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

split decisions coverSplit Decisions

David Drury

(1988)

Rating ***

For this episode we take another trip into the murky depths of the Drama boxset (I’ve got to start ticking these bastards off!) for a film about a sport I have no interest in. My spirits weren’t exactly high but my fears were somewhat unwarranted as this one turned out OK. Not, you know, great, but OK, which at this stage in proceedings, I consider a win.

Split Decisions stars Gene Hackman and a bunch of actors for whom IMDB was invented. The phrase “What’s he been in?” has never been uttered quite so many times by your humble reviewer, and as such I shall do my best to describe the actors to you in the most familiar way I know how.

So, Gene plays a cop (we know this because briefly dons a policeman’s uniform, although this fails to become an important plot point) who also helps train his two boxer sons played by Cabal from Nightbreed and The Lawnmower Man. Except that Lawmower Man has gone off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune with a bigger boxing promoter, much to the chagrin of his father who is training his more loyal and level headed son for the Olympics.

split laen

“Can’t mow lawns forever Dad!”

When Lawnmower returns home he is approached by a shady boxing promoter (played by Mr. Strickland from Back To The Future) who wants him to take a dive in a fight against his prizefighter in return for a pay off. When he refuses, Mr. Strickland has the slacker beaten up and thrown from a window to his death. Marty McFly got off lightly!

Cabal decides that the best way to avenge his brother’s death is to get into the ring with the prizefighter (and aforementioned defenestrator) even though he’s clearly way out of his league and will almost certainly get pummeled to death. CUE TRAINING MONTAGE!

Well the big fight comes and things go pretty much as expected with poor Cabal getting his ass handed to him on a plate. Then, suddenly, he wins, and the police arrest all of the guilty parties. Cue near carbon copy of the freeze frame from Rocky. Seriously that how it ends! He’s on the ropes when he suddenly launches a volley of blows out of nowhere and defeats the guy. I can only assume the writer was right up his deadline on this one.

Well despite the ridiculously abrupt ending, this one wasn’t all that bad, the story is pretty derivative (seriously how many loved one’s deaths have been avenged in 80’s cinema?), but the cast are pretty strong. Hackman has little to do but not as little as The Girl From Flashdance. Oh did I not mention that The Girl From Flashdance was in this? Well that’s because she does NOTHING! It’s not that she’s in only a few scenes. She’s in lots of scenes, sitting in the background, looking a little worried, kissing the hero. Hers is one of the most underwritten characters I’ve ever seen, and she’s the only bloody woman in it (unless you count ‘Sexy Round Announcer Lady’ as a meaty feminine role)! She does has one scene with some dialogue but the main point of that scene appears to be so she can lean out of a window dressed like this –

split crop top

GIRL POWER!

I’m not even exaggerating. Most of the dialogue revolves around how she probably shouldn’t be leaning out of a window dressed like that. Germaine Greer this is not. Some versions of the DVD even have her on the cover next to Hackman, clearly to capitalise on her Flashdance fame, which is even more insulting.

But all gripes aside, this one was a whole lot better that some of the other dreck I’ve been forced to endure during this series. It rolls along fairly painlessly and for once I didn’t feel entirely like an hour and a half of my life had just hemorrhaged into the ether.

Cheesy Sci-Fi next time I think. I feel like I’ve earned it.

Land of Sunshine’s Most Memorable Movie Mums

Mums are great aren’t they. Well, the good ones are anyway. My dear old Mum is genuinely one of the most loving and selfless people I have ever met. Sure she may repeat herself after one too many gins and display a disappointing affection for Il Divo but she’s basically great.

So, as it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday (you did remember right?), I thought we’d take a look through some of the Land of Sunshine’s most memorable movie Mums. Please note the word ‘memorable’, in most cases you wouldn’t wish these matriarchs on your worst enemy.

Jeanine Stifler

Jeanine_Reunion_01Film: American Pie

Son: Steve Stifler

 

“I got some Scotch”
“Single malt?”
“Aged 18 years, the way I like it”

No Mum list would be complete without this lady. Every son’s nightmare, every son’s friend’s dream. She likes her men like she likes her whisky and seems to be able to control every young man except for her son. Although as Finch finds out, nothing puts the boot in to an obnoxious bully quite like nailing his Mum at his own party.

Played by the wonderful Jennifer Coolidge, Jeanine has had very little screen time over the course of the American Pie movies but has left a bigger impression than some of the main characters (Oz who?). She’s also probably responsible for the first time you ever heard the term ‘MILF’ (though possibly not the last).

Vera Cosgrove 

brain_dead_dead_alive_crimson_quill_tok-16Film: Braindead

Son: Lionel Cosgrove

“Your mother ate my dog!”
“Not all of it”

As I stated at the top of this article, this is not a list of the best movie Mums, but simply the most memorable. Vera is not the sort of Mum you’d like to have but boy is she memorable.

When she was alive she was an awful, overbearing witch. Overly demanding of her poor son Lionel and even going so far as to spy on him and his new girlfriend when they take a walk in the park. She got worse after she died.

After getting bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey she turns into a flesh eating zombie that infects half the neighbourhood. In a final act that would make Oedipus balk she transforms into a 50 foot high monster and engulfs her own son in her giant, deformed womb. Talk about emasculating!

Do not watch this clip at work, while eating, or of a nervous disposition!

Delia Deetz 

968full-beetlejuice-screenshotFilm: Beetlejuice

(Step) Daughter: Lydia Deetz

“I’m here with you. I will live with you in this hellhole, but I must express myself. If you don’t let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane, and I will take you with me!”

Technically a stepmother but it’s my article so my rules. Delia Deetz is the archetypal wicked step mother that only the likes of Tim Burton could bring kicking and screaming into the modern day (well 1988) with such efficiency.

Played by one of my favourite actresses, the incredible Catherine O’Hara, she’s part Maleficent, part Vivienne Westwood, all neurosis. How she ended up with her simple living new husband (Jeffrey Jones) who wants nothing but to relax in his new country home, and a reclusive goth daughter (Wynona Ryder, in a role which very seriously helped shape my taste in women) who she doesn’t even try to understand is anybody’s guess.

tumblr_mfgfnlDUdp1qh97ogo1_500

Totally relevant and not at all gratuitous pic of Winona Ryder.

But then if she wasn’t so pugnaciously awful, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun when Beetlejuice makes her do this:

Mandy Cohen

RD0UFilm: Life of Brian

Son: Brian Cohen

 

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Ever woken up after a heavy night only to have to explain to an unhappy Mother why your underpants are in the fish tank, or why your mate Dave is asleep in the bath, or why she has three voicemails from the police and one from mountain rescue?

Well imagine you had to explain why there were two hundred people outside the house claiming you to be the son of God. Also you’re naked. Also your Mum has a fierce temper and looks a lot like Terry Jones in drag.

That’s the problem poor Brian found himself in after being mistakenly identified as a deity’s offspring.

Terry Jones always played the best ratbag old women on Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his performance as Brian’s irascible forebear must rank as his finest. From her encounter with the wise men in the manger (“What are you doing creeping around a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning? That doesn’t sound very wise to me“), to her chastising poor Brian while he’s nailed to a cross (“Go ahead! Be crucified! See if I care!“) she is one guilt flinging, emotion smothering machine.

Lorraine Baines / McFly

F42sizWXJfFilm: Back to the Future

Son: Marty McFly

“Well, it’ll just happen. Like the way I met your father”
“That was so stupid! Grandpa hit him with the car”

Stifler’s Mum might be a nightmare as she keeps boning your friends but that’s nothing compared to having your Mum want to bone you. Not usually a problem outside of ancient Rome but given a time machine, a lot of bad luck and a disruption in the space-time continuum, you might just find yourself in that position. Be warned!

Shame really, as having a teenage girl who looks like Lea Thompson throw herself at you wouldn’t usually be a problem. Sadly for Marty however it could end up erasing him from history, plus there’s the fact that she’s, you know, his Mum.

Lorraine may not be a figurehead for strong, positive women. She spends most of the film swooning over a guy she’s just met only to be suddenly swayed to poor old George McFly when he punches out the guy who was trying to rape her. But she earns a place here by being in one of the greatest movies of the 80’s (and all time) and for playing, so convincingly, a pivotal role in the only PG rated film that I know of where the heavy threat of incest lurks round every corner.

 

Mama Fratelli

Mama_FratelliFilm: The Goonies

 Sons: Jake and Francis Fratelli

“Oh, Slothy. I may have been bad. I may have kept you chained up in that room but it was for your own good.”

Proving that, much like Vera Cosgrove, your children don’t have to be kids for you to be a tyrannical, emasculating nightmare. Quite happy to abuse her adult offspring both physically and verbally while all the time using them as accomplices in her misdeeds. Well, apart from her poor disfigured son Sloth who she simpy keeps chained in the basement.

She’s not a big fan of younger kids either, seemingly happy to cut off their tongues, put their hands in a blender, or just straight up murder them if it means getting her hands on some pirate booty.

Played with relish by the sadly departed Anne Ramsey, she’s every clichéd mother-in-law joke rolled into one and then pumped full of steroids.

Barbara

barbarashaunofthedeadFilm: Shaun of the Dead

Son: Shaun

“Some men tried to get into the house”
“Well are they still there?”
“I’m not sure, we’ve shut the curtains”

I had to end on a lovely one.

Let’s get this out of the way. Shaun of the Dead is one of the greatest films ever made, and one of the things that makes it so great is that behind all the chaos and zombies and jokes about farting are a cast of completely believable characters, and none more so than Shaun’s dear old Mum, Barbara (named seemingly as an excuse to cram in a Night of the Living Dead reference). Firstly she’s played by Penelope Wilton and I can’t think of a single other actor who could embody that character with such warmth, emotion and slight confusion.

But it was the exchange quoted above between her and her son that was the moment she stopped being Shaun’s Mum and started being my Mum, and I probably wasn’t alone. If you grew up in middle class suburbia you either had a Mum like this or knew several friends who did. She makes sandwiches during a zombie outbreak, she tells her son off for swearing, and she doesn’t even make a fuss when she gets bitten (“I didn’t want to be a bother“).

If you’re not convinced that this is one of the saddest scenes in movie history then I’m afraid you may have a stone for a heart. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.

So happy Mother’s Day to all you Mums out there. I hope that yours is more a Barbara than a Mama Fratelli.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 13

It’s been a while so here’s a reminder how this works.

About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!

Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!

As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.

As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:

*****  Might actually keep

**** Attempt to sell on Ebay

*** Straight to the nearest charity shop

** Straight to the nearest bin

* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay

So here goes…

Train To Hell

Carlo U. Quinterio

(1996)

Rating *

train-hell-dvd-cover-art

Train To Hell! Look at that title. Train! To! Hell! It’s a film, about a train, that’s going to hell!

I think everything’s going to be alright after all.

Wait, what do you mean the film’s alternative title is ‘Night Train To Venice’? That doesn’t make sense. Is it going to hell or to Venice? Oh, Venice you say? Well that is a disappointment. My Mum and Dad went to Venice and said it was very nice. You still want a review? Fine!

The film opens on a child balancing precariously on the edge of a fourth floor balcony, cut to a tree, back to the girl, the tree, the girl, a leaf falls at a man’s feet. Cut to Hugh Grant in a library. Wait, what? Sadly this is a portent of the ADHD style editing this film will employ throughout its mercifully brief 72 minute running time.

Hugh (merely a year away from making ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and assuring he never has to star in dreck like this again) is a writer who has just penned a shocking expose on Neo-Nazis, so he’s off on the Orient Express to Venice to visit a publishing house called Inferno (geddit?!) who are interested in his book.

He is joined on this journey by a bunch of colourful misfits including an actress (ironically played by a terrible actress) and her daughter, a bunch of stowaway skinheads who just might be Neo-Nazis (spoiler: they are), and a creepy gentleman known only as The Stranger. Said stranger is played by Malcolm McDowell who, apart from during his brief scenes of dialogue, appears entirely in slow motion. A curious directorial choice, especially considering he is usually standing fairly still in all of these scenes.

1998b

Actual footage. Not a still!

Anyway, Hugh seduces the actress by dropping a winner of a pick up line on her (“I like books actually, I’m an intellectual”) and that’s pretty much the last moment this film makes even the remotest sense.

Hugh and the actress have visions, possibly flashbacks, possibly caused by the stranger, possibly related to something relevant. The Neo-Nazis cause a modicum of trouble, and a terrifying, white faced, chanteuse sings La Vie En Rose, and this is all before we even get to Venice (or hell, I’m still hopeful).

Once in Venice, Hugh finds the publishers building to be empty save for some dusty papers and a Doberman chewing on some meat. He is then chased on motorcycle by the Nazis who crash into a truck and explode while Hugh merely crashes and gets amnesia (you heard me). He wanders the streets of Venice, contemplating who he is, until we come full circle. The girl on the balcony was none other than the actress’s daughter in a cunning flash forward. She falls, Hugh saves her, this cures his amnesia, he and the actress make love over a dreadful song called Night Train To Venice (I’m starting to think there’ll be no hell in this movie at all). The end (dammit!).

"Is that a coherent plot up ahead?" "No I think it's a pigeon"

“Is that a coherent plot up ahead?”
“No I think it’s a pigeon”

Well, I’ve had some hard times trying to describe some of the plots to the movies in this series but man alive! Un Chien Andalou made more sense! People phase in and out of visions that are never fully explained, characters come and go without motive, plot points are hammered into the narrative and then forgotten about (seriously what was the point of the amnesia?).

For a film of such brevity there’s an incredible amount of padding. Extended scenes of people gazing at each other in slow motion and frankly bizarre montages that are supposed to show the passing of time fill up a lot of the space where perhaps a coherent plot might have gone.

Messieurs Grant and McDowell aside, the acting is horrible. The Nazis have weird, American sounding accents that sound like they were dubbed on as an afterthought. The actress playing the actress is amusingly stiff as a board, but nothing compared to her daughter. She reads lines so monosyllabically that I at first wondered if she was supposed to be possessed. Especially when she has been given such dialogue as “When we get back home to Venice I’ll show you all my pretty pigeons. They all have little red shoes and white wings”. Try reading that in a creepy child’s voice. Chilling!

Overall it felt like the film had been written using that game where each person writes down a sentence then folds the paper over and the next person has a go. It tries to be some sort of gothic mystery but remains so resolutely unfocussed that it feels, for the most part, like a particularly odd episode of Poirot. Hugh Grant has publicly stated that this is the worst film he’s ever been in. He was in Love Actually. Just let that sink in.

1998d

Sightseers – a (spoiler free) movie review!

We don’t often do movie reviews in the Land of Sunshine but seeing that the good people at Den of Geek were kind enough to furnish me with a ticket to an exclusive screening it seemed rude not to.

Ben Wheatley’s last film  ‘Kill List’, was a bleak, gruesome and violent affair that delved into the dark world of contract killers. Sightseers is a bleak, gruesome and violent affair that delves into the dark world of, well, caravan holidays. Yes Sightseers is a comedy, albeit a very dark one.

It tells the tale of Chris and Tina. A new couple who are off on a caravaning holiday so Chris can show Tina ‘his world’. Tina is simply happy to get away from her overbearing mother who likes to keep Tina in a permanent state of guilt over a past incident. To explain much more would be to ruin it somewhat but anyone who’s familiar with the director’s previous work will not be surprised to learn that things don’t go exactly swimmingly.

Written by its stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (who fellow geeks will most likely know from the brilliant ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’), the dialogue has a wonderfully stilted, naturalistic feel (suggesting a lot of improvisation) which really helps add veritas to the dreary settings of caravan parks and tram museums that the film takes us through. One brilliantly emotive scene even takes place in the screening room of a pencil museum. And that, at its heart, is the genius of Sightseers. For all its violence and bloodshed, much of it is very, very ordinary. Conversations take place about potpourri and plastic moulding, tempers are raised over litter bugs and picking up dog poo, and virtually every character is totally unremarkable in most senses. So when the blood does flow it is all the more jarring, like Natural Born Killers meets Caravan Monthly.

Wheatley’s direction is very similar in style to that of Kill List. Cameras are mostly handheld and scenes are cut awkwardly giving a disjointed, documentary feel which, while taking a little time to get used to, completely suits the film’s tone. But a film like this really hangs off its lead performers. Aside from a small support cast of characters this is Chris and Tina’s story and the two leads more than deliver. Oram is pure passive aggressiveness broiling behind a ginger beard, three parts caravan enthusiast, one part something much darker. But he is no Norman Bates. Every one of Chris’ actions are grounded in reason and belief, in his mind he is a model citizen standing up for what he believes is right. But the shining star is Alice Lowe who grows from doe-eyes ingenue into a woman who’s finally taking control of her life for the very first time. Even at her most insane moments she retains the certain lovability of a child on a rite of passage. This is not a glamorous role and she grasps it with both hands.

And yes, it is very funny. In many ways it shares a sense of humour with the mighty Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright was one of the producers) in putting very unremarkable people in remarkable situations, but tonally it’s very different, swapping Shaun’s frenetic London setting for the laid back wilds of the Midlands and the North. Both are however, very, very English. It also has some cracking dialogue (“He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader”).

Sightseers is not for everyone. If you’re a fan of gentle romantic comedies starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey then the bleak setting, awkward tone and moments of bone crunching violence may not sit too well with you. However if you like your humour with lashings of darkness then Sightseers is right up your street.

The Top 5 Sports Movies (for people who hate sport)

So the Olympics is finally upon us and has so far been treated with the sort of hostile, passive aggressive welcome us Londoners have been fine tuning for decades. But despite the rail disruptions, road chaos and the fact that Stratford is an armpit with a Westfield, a lot of people are looking forward to the actual sporting events getting underway.

For me however, one guy throwing something further than some other guy means about as much to me as my Mum’s milkman beating some other milkman to the role of head milkman. Or, you know, a really good metaphor that highlights that one stranger beating another stranger at the egg and spoon race (that’s in the Olympics right?) is really not on my radar, even if they are English.

But I do like to be topical, so for all those to whom the Olympics simply means a ball ache of a commute to work for a month here are my five favourite sports movies for people who think Spurs are the spiky things on cowboy’s boots and Arsenal is a big load of guns.

5. Happy Gilmore

(1996)

Happy Gilmore was a small miracle for two reasons, firstly it managed to be a great comedy about golf that didn’t completely rip off Caddyshack, and secondly it managed to be a great comedy starring Adam Sandler. Actually it should probably have points deducted for being the movie that led me to think watching Billy Madison would be a good idea. But we’ll waive that point.

It tells the tale of a terrible hockey player with an incredible slap shot who is convinced to give golf a try in order to win enough money  to save his grandma’s house. Adam Sandler has built a career out of his idiot manchild / violent psychopath shtick for years, but never has it been so perfectly balanced as in this movie. Just check out the scene where his calm attempts to ‘send the ball home’ result in a brilliantly violent outburst –

But it’s not just Sandler who makes the movie, there’s an amazing supporting cast, from Carl Weathers as one handed coach Chubbs Peterson to punchably smarmy rival Shooter McGavin played with relish by Christopher McDonald. Even Ben Stiller has a cameo as a brilliantly moustached psycho care home warden.  The movie zings with quotable one-liners (“I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast”, “You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?”) and any movie that features a midget cowboy and an all out fist fight with Bob Barker (“The price is wrong bitch”) is definitely worthy of my admiration.

4. BASEketball

(1998)

This one drifted under the radar on its release, at least it did in the UK, perhaps due to the fact that it’s based on two very American sports. But any movie starring the creators of South Park and directed by the man behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun has to be worth at least one watch. Some may argue that this isn’t a sport movie as the sport was made up, to which I say fuck you, all sports are made up (except for human hunting, that shit is inherent).

Matt and Trey play Coop and Remer, two losers whose only joy in life is a hybrid of baseball and basketball which they created. One day a sport promoter (played by the late great Ernest Borgnine) shows up, interested in turning it into a national sport and so they, along with their long suffering third member Squeak (Dian Bachar, who die hard Parker/Stone fans will recognise from Cannibal The Musical and Orgazmo) head to the big leagues and pay the price of fame and fortune before, wouldn’t ya know it, learning a little something about friendship.

The first thing I noticed about this film is what a genuinely talented actor Trey Parker is, he plays the part of Coop with genuine pathos which stops the film ever fully lapsing completely into farce. But aside from that it’s just really, really funny. Matt and Trey had no part in writing this one but they still left their mark all over it, especially in the brilliant ‘psych-outs’, the perfectly legal tactics they use to put the opposing team off scoring points –

3. Caddyshack

(1980)

By now you might be thinking that I’m actually a secret golf fan but let me assure you that my entire experience of golf includes the one time I went to the driving range and that Christmas where my housemate and I spent two weeks drunk, playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour on the Playstation. So it comes as just as much of a surprise to me that not only do I like two movies involving golf but that there were even two great movies involving golf!

What’s really left to say about Caddyshack? Sure it’s rambling and shambolic but it features Chevy Chase and Bill Murray at the height of their comedic powers, the former playing slimy playboy and golfer Ty Webb and the latter in a career making role as semi-retarded groundskeeper and gopher nemesis Carl Spackler. Just watch what happens when the director (in this case Harold ‘Egon Spengler’ Ramis) turns on the camera and let’s Murray do his thing –

or when he knows that all you need from a great comedy scene is Chevy Chase and a piano (see also Three Amigos and Community) –

2. Dogtown & Z Boys

(2001)

I had to include at least one non-comedy on this list and I admit this is a bit of a cheat because I actually fucking love skateboarding. Don’t get me wrong, put me on a half pipe with a skateboard and the only trick I’d pull is breaking 17 bones all at the same time, but sit me in front of the X Games with a cold beer and I’m as happy as the proverbial Larry.

But Dogtown & Z Boys deserves inclusion because it is such a great film. To be precise it’s a documentary film chronicalling the rise of modern skateboarding focusing particularly on the legendary and influential Z-Boys, a group of punk surfers who took surfing to the streets and paved the way for the Tony Hawks of the future. Made by ex-Z-Boy Stacy Peralta and featuring most of the major players from that time it is a fascinating look at the evolution of a modern day sport.

The film also deserves inclusion as skateboarding has always been a bit of an anti-sport. What makes this documentary so fascinating is that none of these people thought they were changing the world, they were just doing something they loved with their friends. The only people they were competing against were themselves, which always seems a far healthier way to be in my opinion.

I have even showed this film to people with little interest in skateboarding who have thoroughly enjoyed it, that’s how good it is. Here’s the trailer, and while you’re at it check out Peralta’s almost as excellent surfing doc Riding Giants.

1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

(2004)

Before this film was released a lot of British people were completely unaware that dodgeball was even a thing, even afterward I think a lot of people thought it was a BASEketball style Hollywood invention. No English council’s health and safety department would ever allow a sport where kids pelt each other with hard rubber balls (though rugby is fine apparently!).

Right there is what made it so ripe for parody. Exchange the children for grown adults, make one side lovable losers led by everyman Vince Vaughn and the other a group of buffed out super men led by a hilariously diminutive Ben Stiller (for the second time in this article sporting a fabulous moustache), then add a deranged Rip Torn throwing spanners at people and you’ve got gold.

I must admit my hopes weren’t too high for this movie on its release, a broad, high concept comedy made by a first time director, so I was as surprised as anyone to be gasping for breath within minutes in the cinema. Dodgeball is simply one of the purest comedies ever made, every single scene exists solely to be as funny as it can be. The performances are superb. Stiller gets a lot of the credit for his admittedly show stealing role as White Goodman but he’s supported by a cast including Justin Long, Stephen Root, Christine Taylor and the aforementioned Torn and Vaughn, and who could forget Alan Tudyk who will forever be Steve The Pirate in the hearts of anyone who never watched Firefly.

Here’s 49 seconds of Justin Long getting hit with dodgeballs. It never stops being funny.

So there you have it, five films that prove that sport can be about more than grown men crying in pubs. What are your favourite anti-sport movies? Have a lovely giant sports day everyone, if you need me I’ll be in Camden in any bar without a TV.

Niki’s Crap DVD Clearout Review Extravaganza! part 12

Riot

Joseph Merhi

(1996)

Rating *

 

It is always a gamble when casting a movie that heavily relies on martial arts. Do you get someone who can act and hope they look good fighting or do you get a fighter and hope they can act? This movie plumped for the latter, it didn’t pay off.

Riot stars kick boxing champion Gary Daniels and former professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard as two marines who must rescue the British Ambassador’s daughter and friend who have been kidnapped by a street gang who turn out to be working for a group of IRA soldiers. Yes, it’s nonsense. They kick, punch and shoot their way through a riot ravaged town (a small set with a couple of burning cars) and (SPOILER) one of them dies hilariously, but more of that later.

On researching the film my first surprise was to find it was made as late as 1996, the whole thing feels incredibly like one of the hundreds of shitty, straight to video, action movies that came out in the 1980s. Our poor leads clearly are not trained actors, Gary Daniels fares OK in normal conversation but when he has to emote anything other than placid calm or kicking someone’s ass he fares pretty poorly. Sugar Ray fares little better, while he’s not awful he’s developed a starey expression that he uses in every scene.

The damsels in distress are even worse and clearly responded to an ad that read ‘Are you hot and blonde? Come be in a movie. We promise it’s not porn’.

Acting is all in the legs

But at least the fighting’s cool right? Well, no. While there is certainly a lot of fighting (there really is a lot of fighting), most of it is so incredibly stagey, actors line up to take their turns getting hit by the good guys, it all starts to look a bit like Fame mixed with Double Dragon.

There is some fun to be had though, sadly for the film makers though this is unintentional and involves the death of a major character. In this hilarious scene the heroes’ helicopter is hit by a rocket launcher (well technically a rocket fired from a rocket launcher), instead of blowing it to pieces it starts a small fire and they manage to crash on a roof, it’s not all roses though as a second rocket tips the helicopter sideways a bit and our protagonists roll out over the edge of the building. Sadly for them the waifish blonde girl is left to pull them both up which results in a hilarious minute or so of Sugar Ray Leonard pleading “Hold Me!” over and over to his friend while reaction shots show him clearly just standing on a platform pretending to wobble about. The hilarity is sadly short lived as they fail to uphold his request for a cuddle and he drops to his death.

After that I kinda lost interest to be honest. There was more fighting, a bit in a black family’s home to show how blacks and whites can get along if they stop blowing shit up, and finally the bad guys are thwarted so our hero and his really quite badly hurt new girlfriend head off into the sunset. Well, into the riot ravaged streets where they’ll probably be killed but as the credits have started to roll this is none of our concern.

You know? I’m really starting to regret ever starting this ridiculous endeavour. By the end I will have wasted about 75 hours of my life watching these movies. 75 hours that I could have used to attend an evening class, go to the gym, or go out socially and meet women. Oh well, more next week!