Monthly Archives: November 2013

Transsiberian

This film didnt really have a chance, but then putting out your film in the middle of blockbuster season is a bit like whacking out your schlong in a room full of porn stars. Iron Man, Batman … Will Smith … pretty much with the exception of Wall-E and Sex and the City the biggest films of 2008 had big fat dicks. The nice thing about Transsiberian is that it doesnt really have a dick at all – I mean first of all size really doesnt count – but everything that makes this film good is to do with its leading lady – and I promise it is nothing like Sex and the City. We follow an apparently naive American couple on their few thousand mile train journey from Beijing to Moscow. We pretty soon learn that it is a favorite route for drug smugglers and you can guess the rest. Or can you? Well the film does a pretty good job of throwing you off the scent a few times, ratcheting up the tension until the final, I have to say slightly bonkers (logistically) ending. My only issue is that it does almost as good a job of ratcheting up its Russian stereotypes too, until you’ll be convinced that anyone who isnt a local will amost certainly be immediately killed by any or all Russians upon arrival – representative this is not. But, going back to dicks, or lack of, this film is really all about the power a woman has to make and live with her own decisions. Sometimes they are not the right ones and sometimes she regrets them, but ultimately it is a “I am doing this, join me or dont” situation, or to be more prescise, “I have done this, deal with it”. It is a bit of a spoiler to say (I.E. stop reading now if you are about to watch the film) that this all seems to fall apart at the end, but its safe to say that the main male role here is one occupied by a woman in 99.9% of similar films. A refreshing change, but one that in an ideal world wouldnt even have been noteworthy.

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Rosemary’s Baby

You may have noticed (or will notice soon) some of the more well known horror movies popping up on efihr.com. After a fairly lacklustre halloween crop this year I decided it was time to revisit some classics, or at least what we are told are the classics. Rosemarys Baby is one of the few ‘horror’ films rolled out on ‘must see’ lists that I had not actually seen. I put ‘must see’ in inverted commas because the concept of a must see list fundementally goes against all this blog stands for, and I put ‘horror’ in them because it is patently not scary. I would never argue that an age rating is a signifier of … well anything really, but how this is an 18 is beyond me, I am not saying that it could have passed at 12A with “contains scenes of devil rape”, because thats not going to fly, but honestly, the hand of the ‘devil’ looked like a pokemon (graveler to be specific) and his body looked like it was straight out of childrens bedtime favorite “rainbow fish”. “Contains scenes of Rainbow Graveler rape” doesnt sound as bad, but I concur, brightly coloured geology doesnt make rape any better. Just in case you were interested (you are right?) the devil suit from the movie recently sold for $4000, a small price to pay considering it was listed as “condition – very fine, as worn in film”, I think you may find that is because it only appears in the film for about thirty seconds. So, in any conventional sense this is one of the least scary films to be marketed as horror I have seen in a while. There is some other stuff going on here, its surely saying something about the social elite, of ‘old money’, for which ‘the coven’ is a synedouche. By remaining together their money stays in their group, to join it success can be bought, but at a price, a particularly devilish one. It could be a clever critique of the 1%, except here they want to breed the spawn of satan, rather than just be rich and have swimming pools and mansions and things. There are lots of stories about this film, mostly sparked by the horrific Manson murders which occured soon after the film was released. This and other misfortunes (if the Manson murders could be called that) have been attributed to a curse upon the film. Ultimately though I cant help but think that it was just a series of awful events, which perchance happened to follow the making of a film, and the real reason people wanted to talk about them is because they are, by any measure, the most scary thing about this film.

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Rescue Dawn

So onwards I go with my inadvertant mission to watch all of Herzogs films, and we come to Rescue Dawn, arguably the weirdest of the lot. It is weird because it just doesn’t make any sense to me. The story makes sense, but why it exists is completely mysterious. When it starts you are thrown into a strange world of super macho silliness on an American warship. Its like Top Gun (the production company is top gun pictures) but on laughing gas. I’d love to say this had some sort of deeper meaning but it makes about as much sense as the “sexual tyrannasaur” line in predator – in that it makes no sense at all aside from to show that the guys are good old American toolbox heads. Christian Bale then embarks on a silly mission to bomb something or another in an attempt to curtail the impending Vietnam War. The timeline doesnt even work out really, I cant see how he fitted this in between leaving the league of shadows and returning to Gotham city, unless it all happened before that. I am not even sure the Vietnam War happend in that universe? Spoilers abound from here on. He does a great job with his bombing and we are treated to Apocalypse Now quality footage of bombs destroying literally tens of wooden huts. He does not however do the best job with his leaving the area after the bombing and rather than Christian Bale out of his crashing plane he somehow manages to survive as it piles into a field. Then he gets caught by some shady looking characters who do a little bit of torture then drop him off at a nice English speaking guys place. The guy tells him he can be free if he gives up his passport and signs a document condemning the war, this is a big no no as far as Bale is concerned, he is so die hard American (with German heritage) that he aint signing a damn thing unless his lawer is present. From here on its torture, prison, escape, jungle…rescue. Here are the good things – Bale and his buddy getting stuck in the jungle is actually quite poingient, their friendship is really well developed even though they dont say anything much at all to each other. Unfortunately thats about it. The Vietnamese captors are pretty horrible stereotypes, Bale is out of kilter with his situation and the whole thing degenerates into sort of cliche clusterfuck as the first friendly aircraft he sees passes him by. Above all else though is why do we need a Vietnam POW film in 2006, I really thought this was going to use a fairly well worked through genre to present something really interesting, a comment on war, a comment on prisons, both physical and mental, a comment on friendship even. But all hopes go out of the window with the final scene, Bale returns to his battleship following his inexplicable desire to return to his buddies, who are, it has been confirmed, all tool box heads, and is applauded by the entire personnel of the ship. With nary a moment of contemplation, a moment to appreciate all he has been through, the war which rages on, or a moment for his friends who died, he joins in the celebration. Batman wouldnt have done that, Batman would have gone to a tiny cafe in Paris with Catwoman.

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The Exorcist

Having not watched this film in a good few years I had completely forgotten about the start, a mosey around some archeological dig in Iraq with some weird extra big penis statue moments thrown in. Its kind of Indiana Jones territory. Not Crystal scull though. Never Crystal Scull. Well this whole big dick statue part is pretty badly tied into the rest of the film, when this original dude shows up for the final exorcism showdown I barely remembered who he was. I was sort of confused because he croak about five minutes into the excorcism after barely getting called anything rude at all, even though he was bought in as some sort of exorcism veteran because he had done one before. Which took six months. Seriously, six months, the statue did have an epic schlong though. The Exorcist is fantastically dated, for someone who was not alive in the 70s to appreciate just how scary and or blasphemous this all was is quite difficult. It really does make you wonder quite what was going on to make this scary, its vaguely gross in parts, but even those bits are pretty hilarious. One day, should the world still exist in 2050 I may watch a movie released in 2013 and wonder, what was I thinking, this isnt scary at all, but that world will probably be like Total Recall or Blade Runner or something and no one will be able to play blu-ray anyway. When that time comes we’ll probably be able to make movies to order, dial up a film or two. Im personally going to use this exciting new technology to make ‘The Exorcist – The Iraq File’ and find out what really happened with that king dong statue.

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The Message

On a March day in 1977 three groups of armed men stormed three separate buildings in Washington. They took over 100 hostages and killed a young radio reporter.  They were led by Khalafaa Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who had broken away from Nation of Islam to form a group called the Hanafi, citing disagreements over leadership and beliefs. After the break a number of his followers were murdered, including a number of his children. Whilst the murderers were caught and punished the belief that they were associated with the Nation of Islam brewed resentment which eventually led to the hostage situation. The demand that the murderers (who were in prison) were handed over to the Hanafi stems from this, but beyond this the demands become less coherant. A meeting with Muhammad Ali was sought, which Ali fairly wisely steered well clear of, and the third demand, and the one which some say sparked the whole situation was that the recently released film ‘Mohammad, Messenger of God’ was banned, it being seen as blasphemous in its depiction of Mohammad. Having watched the film the demand makes less sense, it is very careful to be very clear that Mohammad is not portrayed or heard. The film uses a few devices to get around this issue, characters speak to the camera a lot of the time, and most things Mohammad says are relayed through other people, it results in lots of scenes where people run into rooms with ‘he said!’ on their lips. But all this means that either the empty space which Mohammad inhabits in the film was still too offensive for the hostage takers, or that they had never actually seen the film. Its like the tv interviews when everyone interesting was enjoying video nasties in the 80s :- “they are terrible and will turn our children into crazed killers” ‘have you actually seen these films” “no”. Except here the anger is underscored with murder and religious fervour. The film is interesting in other ways, it was partially funded by Gadaffi and filmed on location in Libya, a claim very few films can make. One assumes this only occured because there seems to have been a genuine desire to make a film which made the story accessible to western audiences with little knowledge of Islam. That said each scene was also shot with Arabic actors to make effectively a separate film. It would be interesting to see if some of the more explanatory narration is left out for an audience which presumably is more familiar with the story. This is a long film, sometimes the American actors jar in a way that wouldnt be tolerated now and some of the fight scenes are quite pedestrian (at one point at supposed 3000 man army is almost certainly about 150 men) but it did a good job of telling the story, and I genuinely feel slightly more informed than before I watched it, even if an awful lot of what went on would need a lot of explaining before I could really say I understood it. The hostage takers were eventually talked into standing down, the negotiators were Muslims who urged the hostage takers to remember some of the central tenets of the their belief, tenets which ironically they would have been reminded of had they gone to see ‘The Message’.

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The Woman In Black

In this 2012 addition to the Men in Black series the reigns are taken by a young Daniel Radcliffe, she looks like a boy, but the girlish screams and childish looks more than make up for this potential titular faux pas. With nary a noisy cricket in sight she dispatches with some invisible aliens with nothing but a lamp and a vintage car in what must be the least stylish entry into the M.I.B franchise. The Fresh Prince would be ashamed. Whilst the feminist in me decries the lack of women in the classic buddy franchise, this would be the worst idea ever. In reality its just a nice old ghost story, the point about Radcliffe stands, he is too babyfaced and ends up being as convincing as a father as he was at the end of the last Harry Potter. I never thought much of him as an actor because his dialogue delivery never seemed at all natural, but its not that important here because the best bits of the film are him wandering around a big spooky house alone – with no one to talk to but a dog. It has some good jumps and scares, the plot is all you need to get to those good jumps and scares and eventually it all comes back to the house, which is the real reason the film works. Its, big (bigger on the inside than the outside if looks are anything to go by) and absolutely full of creepy shit, a good portion of the film is spent just wandering around getting creeped out, and one thing Radcliffe does do well is looking a bit like he is scared. This isnt anything original, but its done well and is good for a windy night hiding behind a duvet, just dont expect anyone to turn up in a spaceship.

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