Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Zero Theorem 2013 directed by Terry Gilliam


Cohen, a man working for "mamagement" in a distopian future who always refers to himself in the plural is requesting a disability status so he can work from home. The reason for this is he thinks he will recieve a telephone call that will tell hime what his meaning in life is.

He does eventaully get to work from home where he is joined by another programmer, Bob, who is ill and  his somewhat of a love interest, Bainsley who he shares a VR fantasy with.

In the end Cohen discovers that "Management" wants to prove there is no meaning of life. Choen destroys the machine and jumps inot the black hole within it, ending up back in the VR simulation, seemingly content despite management's biting statement that he has basicalling destroyed any meaning life did have for him by waiting for a phone call to tell him wha tthey meaning may have been.

Terry Gilliam is a brilliant dirextor. It's hard to deny that wiht his incredible body of work and he often returns to the same well for inspriation and ideas. This film, however, it pretty terrible. Despite some great actors, set peices and wonder Gilliam imagery, the movie comes off as a cheap copy of a Gilliam fim done by a much lesser filmmaker. The lead is good enough but the overall lavk of sympathy generated for him, or anyone else drags the story down. In Brazil the protagonist is relateable  and we care what happens to him. The world is a knockoff of the world of Brazil or maybe 12 Monkeys and never quite seems liek a real or interesting place. I do like that we see it in braod daylight so it doesn't fall into the distopian trope of "always raining and night".

Overall, a disspointing entry into the director's mostly great catalog of work.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Raven 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

Based on the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, this was my longest single animation to date at 9 minutes. Michael Z. Keamy did the narration and it was a solid 5 months of full time work to get it done. 

This time out with the addition of simple sub-titling tools added to Final Cut X, I was able to add French and English captioning so more people can watch and understand it. I tried for a sombre but realistic tone to present to poem. I have seen a few animations that go wild with abstract shots and ideas but I wanted this to keep grounded. It was a challenge to make something that is basically some depressed dude yelling at a bird in one room for nine minutes until he passes out! I started with longer, lingering shots and then made them shorter and shorter as it progressed to give it a faster pace while keeping the ideas of grief and depression to the forefront. 

Comments, etc with Blogger not working

If you have tried to leave a comment on this site, or my home page... or any blogger site it seems, you likely were prevented from doing so over the last few months at least. I have tried to contact google but no response and while there are rumours of improvements coming, I would not hold my breath. It seem likely blogger will cease to exist at some point and this version of the blog will dissappear.

If you want to comment still, please do, just send it to

If you have suggestions for free blog sites like blogger to switch to, I'm all ears!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sons of Star trek

For the Love of Spock (2016) directed by Adam Nimoy
Trek Nation (2011) ditected by Scott Colthorp

Eugene "Rod" Rodenberry and Adam Nimoy were the sons of gene Rodenberry and, the creator of Star Trek and Lenord Nimoy who played the iconic alien Mr. Spock in the franchise. Both got through not only the history and accomplishments of famous fathers but also the cost thier familys paid by having such well known and publically well loved figures as dads.

I can reccoemnd both documentaries highly. I will say, for the Love of Spock has better production values overall, which is not a surprise as Adam Nimoy is a film director. Trek Nation is not badly made either and tackles a much thornier subjects such as his dad's womanizing over the years with a very open interview with Majel Barrett, Gene Rodenberry's wife and Star Trek icon in her own right.

Oddly two films with strong connections to the history of Star Trek, a show that has been written about, discussed, parodied to infinity at this point, should be expected to have lots of repetative information and spill over from countless other projects about the subject, but they both are fresh takes on a juggernaugt franchise that only the sons of men who many consider to be giants can give us.

Friday, December 21, 2018

King Kong (1976) directs by John Guillermin

The 1976 remake of King Kong was a BIG deal. Firstly there were two version set to come to the big screen, this one and another that was to use new stop motion animation techniques to update the classic film as opposed to the guy in suit this one used.  Secondly, once this version as set to go, the ad campaign for it was enormous. Posters, bubble gum cards, you name it. They pulled out all the stops to make sure everyone on earth near a movie house knew this film was coming.

Since it follows more or less (mostly less) the original classic film script, there is no real need to recap it here. It is an updated telling however and the adventurer film maker Carl Dedham is replaced by Fred S. Wilson, his 70s evil petrol magnate version ( now plated by Charles Grodin) who wants to exploit Skull Island for oil, but when that doesn't work out, he decides to kidnap the giant gorilla living there and show him off to reduce his losses. Ann Darrow is now called Dwan (seriously, she is) played by Jessica Lang in her first role and she is, in a word, terrible. Funny, but terrible. She made good use of her 3 year work hiatus after this movie to really learn her craft and become the great actress we know now. Her lover, Jack (Jeff Bridges) is now a palaeontologist who stowed away on the boat going to Skull Island just in case there was giant monkey there. The Empire State building was replaced by the ill-fated Twin Towers that had recently been completed.

For reasons I cannot fathom, reviews for this movie were pretty good all around and the praise for its effects were almost universal. The script by Lorenzo Semple Jr, who is one of my favourite writers from the time he wrote the Batman TV show to his amazing campy update of Flash Gordon, is uneven at best and totally inappropriate and plain wrong at worst. It is really funny at times, but this flies in the face of how everyone else in the production saw the project. He seems the only one to get the joke. Because of that humour, I find it hard to just trash this film for the pretentiousness Dino DeLaurentis had to take on this big budget update of the RKO classic and still find it enjoyable in that "bad film" way.

To be clear: This film does not hold up. I liked it well enough at the time, there were few effects movies to compare it too until Star Wars came along,  but the effects are all pretty dismal. I don't know where the high praise for them came from. Bad matte work, and a monkey suit that was disappointing even to its creator, the very talents Rick Baker. The biggest issue is the lack of scale. Kong never looks any larger than a guy in suit walking around miniature scenery. He has a range of facial expressions from angry to rape-y pervert eyes when Kong looks at Dwan - which is uncomfortable to watch to say the very least. The updated touches are ridiculous as well. Kong is rolled out in New York City in a giant gas pump. For about 2 seconds the suited actor is replaced by a full sized robot (with 2 left arms) that was made solely for the purposes of giving the impression before the film was released that the monster would be the giant robot throughout. The end scene is totally banal and meaningless. There is no "Twas beauty that killed the beast" in this film.

And...good god, there was a sequel. King Kong Lives that was MUCH worse.


Mighty Joe Young (1998) directed by Ron Underwood

While this film is not a classic either, it does satisfy the giant ape desires you might have much better than the Kong remake. The story is serviceable, light and fun. Made by Disney for 90 Million Dollars, it only grossed 50 million. I can't explain why it flopped while Kong was box office gold. Rick Baker returned to try again to make a believable ape suit and this time it works in spades. Mixed with a digital version of Joe, it is impossible to tell which is which and the scale and believability of the giant ape is worth watching the film for. Charlize Theron also gives a great performance as does Bill Paxton.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Obit: Nicolas Roeg ( 15 August 1928 - 23 November 2018)

Nicolas Roeg has worked on many films and Tv projects but his output as director is relatively small, only 14 films total. Starting out as a cinematographer on films like Lawrence of Arabia and Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451,  he earned a reputation for excellence - and eccentricity.

As a director he developed a style all of his own and hard to describe. He was able though editing, to pass the limits of space and time with a seamless cut or fade. many of his cuts would take you into the past or mind of the character and then back again with ease that only Roeg has ever accomplished in my opinion. It makes for fascinating, complex and sometimes confusing works of art.

He also broke the mold by hiring musicians as actors, rock musicians in particular. He saw in them the ability to project an image on stage that, while not traditionally acting, was nevertheless engaging and presented characters in a way trained actors had not done before.

Despite his acclaim and influence, not many, if any, of his movies were considered financial successes. Even his adaption of Roald Dhal's The Witches which boasted an over the op performance by Angelica Huston and puppetry by Jim Hensen's studio never made a splash a the box office that it should have. Even so, Roeg films had star power behind them. Actors like Donald Sutherland and his ex-wife Theresa Russel appeared in a several projects as did Christopher Loyd and Gary Oldman.

While the movie studios and theatre chains might not have given him the respect his work deserved, a couple generations of actors, film goers and critics (me included) mark him as one of the great filmmakers of all time.

There is nothing like a Nicolas Roeg film. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Documentary: Men for Sale 2008 directed by Rodrigue Jean

11 male sex orders are followed over the course of one year and open up about their lives, past and present. As you might imagine, it's pretty hard to watch and you won't feel sympathy for all the men presented I'm guessing. Though if you don't, you have some self reflection to do.

Simply filmed, the interviews are non-judgemental and very intimate. Needless to say, by the end of just one year, many of the subjects have slid downwards in every way possible, a couple seem to have  a have maybe changed their lives.

While started as a film about sex workers, it is more about drug addicts who have become sex workers, the sex work is  part of everything else they do to get drugs which includes robbery, etc.

I was left thinking how far we still have to go with getting people the mental health care they need sooner and with less stigma.

Many of the comments below the film wanted a follow-up and that would be amazing and heart breaking. I doubt it's possible to find these lost men after 10 years. I live where it was filmed and don't recognize any of them.

A hard watch but important.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Prophecy 1979 directed by John Fankenheimer

In a Halloween special review, the Celluloid Slammer brings you Prophecy... a late 70s horror film that is basically about a mutant bear attacking people. The mutant part is brought about by about by chemicals that are changing the wildlife into improbably deformed creatures. For example, a fish that eats a duck.

I saw his film in the cinema, the Everett Park Theatre outside of Boston, with much anticipation from all the full page ads, TV spots and trailers I had seen. Some mentions were made about being more of a thinking man's horror film with a message. That message was pretty much the same one as in Godzilla VS the Smog Monster, basically - don't pollute. Sadly thinking is not something the writers of this movie did much of, in my opinion. There are some suspenseful scenes at the start, a mystery about killed loggers and the introduction of a Native American legend possibly responsible but that all gets forgotten when we are face to face with the terrible man in a mutant bear suit. The lead up is for something big and horrifying and that bear isn't those things. It becomes unintentionally campy as it goes on, culminating on the best scene ever filmed in motion picture history.

The sleeping bag attack.

Even in 1979 I was rolling on the floor and to this day I have friends who will bring up as one of the stupidest things they have ever seen in a motion picture. Did that kid sleep with explosives? Seriously, that sleeping bag pops like a balloon!

See this movie? Maybe don't unless you have a banking for bad horror films or monster movies. It's all of clich├ęs, bad acting, worse effects and even ends with the audience being made aware there is another mutant bear about, ready for a sequel. Thank goodness, that never happened!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tell Tale Heart at Another Hole in the Head film festival!

This year, the Another Hole in the Head film festival has chosen my short animated adaption for Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell Tale Heart to be part of the films shown!

If anyone is close, please go and be sure to mention to everyone how much you love my movie! I would like to keep making them and word of mouth is about all I can afford these days to find support for them!

15th Annual Another Hole in the Head
SF IndieFest’s Genre Film Festival
November 28 – December 12, 2018

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Excalibur 1981 directed by John Boorman

John Boorman's attempt to put the Arthurian legends into one coherent film was an enormous effort, one that I think pays off.

The film was a big success, something Boorman really needed after the failure of Exorcist II - the Heretic bombed at the box office. It was also a passion project for him and getting it on the screen was one of his most impressive accomplishments. Not everyone was sold on his interpretation of the legend or on the merits of the film - some saying the dialog and characters were poorly rendered but pretty much across the board, it was lauded for its visual style.

Spoilers and a really simplified plot synopsis.

The story is more centred around Merlin than Arthur which is a good choice as Merlin has first hand knowledge of much more going on than Arthur. It also allows us to see some back story of how the sward Excalibur is given to merlin form the Lady of the Lake and ends up in a stone and only able to be extracted from that stone by England's future king.

Arthur's personal tribulations of betrayal and ego lead to Morgan, an evil sorceress imprisoning Merlin and causing the kingdom to wither and die. Arthur has caught his wife sleeping with his best knight and friend, Lancelot and left Excalibur stuck in the ground between their sleeping bodies. Arthur goes on a quest to find and drink from the holy grail which restores both him and the kingdom to health. On his return his wife returns Excalibur to him and they reconcile. Lancelot, non the other hand, has left the kingdom out of shame and guilt from betraying his king and friend.

Meanwhile Morgan and her son Modred, whom she has produced from an incestuous relationship, have gathered their forces against Arthur and his remaining knights. Merlin tricks her into using up her powers and she loses her eternal youth, becoming an old hag. Her son, disgusted by this, kills her and goes off to conquer the kingdom. He is defeated by Arthur with the help of Lancelot who has returned to redeem himself in Arthur's eyes and the men reconcile in time for Lancelot to die with a clear conscience. A bloody battle between Arthur and Modred leaves Mordred dead and Arthur about to die. Before he passes into legend, Arthur manages to make his way back to the Lady of the Lake and returns Excalibur to her. He is last seen lying on a boat attended by three maidens on their way to the isle of Avalon.

This film is gorgeous. And I disagree that the characters and dialog are low points. It all works together to make a dreamlike spectacle that while it might be hard to keep ahold of the plot at times, like most dreams, makes its own sort of sense.

It started the careers of future stars like Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne. Nigel Terry makes a convincing King Arthur and Boorman keeps the supernatural and magic elements to a subdued minimum saving the effects budget for elaborate armour and incredible looking settings. The R rated version is pretty bloody,  but the explicit sex scenes with Nicholas Clay's full nudity is more likely the case for the adult rating. He pushed that further in Lady Chatterley's Lover with full frontal. So - not a shy boy. Not a bad actor either, his performance in this is a great asset to the movie.

This film really holds up to this day, Partly because of it's timeless setting but mostly because of the director's decision to focus on elements like character, costumes and set pieces instead of magical special effects which can really date a film quickly. it is long, but its also hypnotizing from start to finish.