Sunday, 24 June 2012

Retro review: Le sexe qui parle (AKA Pussy Talk, 1975)

pussy talk vagina uncut

Since my review of the 1977 'sex' 'comedy' Chatterbox is currently the most viewed article on my blog, it makes sense (in a page view grabbing way, at least) that I should get round to reviewing the French film which was the films' influence, Le sexe qui parle, better known as in its international title, Pussy Talk, which turns out to be a much more hardcore outing than the rather tame US counterpart.
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Joëlle (Pénélope Lamour) is the lady who is cursed with a talking doo-dah in this film, but it doesn't make its presence known until she has inexplicably fiddled with a blonde who happens to make a comment to her in the street (who also looks completely disinterested in this - even when Joëlle uses a rolled up banknote to play with her parts), performed fellatio on an unsuspecting office clerk at work, relieved the tedium of a dinner party by having another strum, only in front of all the guests, and been completely let down in bed by her husband, Eric (Jean-Loup Philippe, best known from several Jean Rollin films, the most notable being Lips of Blood - nice link, eh? - billed here as Nils Hortzs, no doubt to keep his film cred).
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After this disappointing display of horizontal dancing, she heads to the bathroom to flick the bean once more, this time while having a fantasy of a group of men watching her do this while jizzing the most unrealistic spunk on her car windscreen. Her foo foo is just as unimpressed with Eric's prowess too, and it makes it known to him. Eric brings in a psychiatrist (Ellen Earl) who is coerced into getting a seeing to from him by Joëlle's vagina before going public with Joëlle's secret, causing her to go into hiding.
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A sleazy reporter, Richard (Vicky Messica) takes it upon himself to get the scoop on the vocal vag, and makes a deal with her Auntie Barbara (Sylvia Bourbon), who is an artist who can't help taking part in a threesome with her models, be they male or female, and makes novel use of her brush and stiletto heel!

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Pussy Talk is not quite as hardcore as some films of the 70s, but there are still several strong scenes of sex, mostly blow jobs, but some penetration - done via insert (pun intended) shots of body doubles. There is even a couple of pot shots later in the film, which make the aforementioned windscreen splashes seem more ridiculous. Surprisingly the film is fairly well made, with some fun POV angles and the performances, even though dubbed are above your usual XXX fare. I did try to see if they had managed to dub the fanny voice right, and yes, it did seem to go with the lip movements, so no complaint there.
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Originally rejected outright by the BBFC in 1976, the film had a UK DVD release under the Erotika banner in 2000, but was cut by 1 minute 37 seconds, I assume to the penetration and ejaculation scenes, but as it was the uncut version I watched, I can't confirm this. There are many close ups of both male and female privates - aroused and diddled, often too - so I imagine even in a cut form this would still be very saucy.
The music was a stand out element, too and at times reminded me of Fulci's The Beyond - although I doubt this was an influence!
It wasn't quite sexy enough, however to cause a dirty rummage of my own, but had some genuine moments of eroticism, and was no where near as boring as what counts as XXX fare nowadays. Give me 70s bush any day.
6 out of 10. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Frank Sidebottom..Two Years Gone.

It's amazing, in the worst possible way, that two years have gone since the world lost one of the greatest entertainers and men - Chris Sievey, better known as Frank Sidebottom.
The following video was filmed by me on the eve of my 40th Birthday. Spent the whole night chatting to Chris, getting more and more drunk while ignoring work mates. Perfect.
There isn't a day goes past that I don't think of him, and my life is certainly the poorer for him not being here. I'm just glad I got to know him a little, and got to enjoy (and often take part in) some great Frank shows.
If you can spare some change, please try and support the Statue Fund, which aims to erect a statue of Frank in his beloved Timperley, or donate to your local cancer charities. Thank you.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: Rock Of Ages (2012)

Based on the musical currently wowing the West End (starring Justin Lee Collins) and Broadway comes this big screen bombardment of 80s rock.
The story is simple - a small town girl, Sherrie (Julianne Hough) up sticks from Tulsa to the bright lights of LA in the hope of making it as a singer. She meets city boy Drew (Diego Boneta) who is also a singer, who gets her a job at the 'in' bar on Sunset Strip, The Bourbon Lounge. This is owned by Alec Baldwin's Dennis Dupree, who is struggling to keep the place going and is banking on the farewell gig from rock legends Arsenal, whose singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) is going solo. The wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) of the local mayor (Bryan Cranston) has made it her mission to close the Bourbon and rid LA of the curse of rock.
Full disclosure here, I've not seen the play, so can't compare the film. From what I've heard it's more tongue in cheek and humourous. The film however, does take itself quite seriously so when it is funny, or trying to be, it doesn't always come off. The music is brilliant, without doubt. But then I would say that as this is the sort of music I listened to back then, and still do now. I doubt however, a lot of the target audience for this film (and probably the play too) would be too familiar with the likes of Night Ranger, Warrant and Twisted Sister. They may know the songs through horrid X Factor type rip offs (yes of course you're going to get Don't Stop Believing, but how many watching know anything else Journey did? They probably don't even equate another song aired, Any Way You Want It to them). Despite my reservations, the film wasn't that bad, even if it did feel a little too much like a rock version of High School Musical. Director Adam Shankman works the magic he did transferring the Hairspray musical to the screen, although I will only really ever acknowledge the John Waters original. He also worked as choreographer on the Buffy episode, Once More With Feeling, and you do get that flare here and there, but you don't feel the songs are as integrated into the script as well as Joss Whedon did.
The characterisations are all very stereotyped and over the top; there are lots of 'devil's horns' and sticking out of tongues - but if I'm being honest, that can be a fair representation of a lot of the wannabe bands of the time (some even do it today). Because this doesn't set out to spoof the times or genre, which This Is Spinal Tap did all too perfectly, those who don't have a connection to the songs or the time may feel a little let out, or just not 'get it'. The stage version was made as a celebration of the music, much in the same way Mamma Mia was, and this adaptation carries that spirit too, thankfully. There is some great commentary on the shifting musical tastes, however, when dodgy manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) signs up young Drew and convinces him to join a boy band. Musically, though it hits most of the right notes, and the song mash-ups actually work really well - Juke Box Hero and I Love Rock n' Roll are perfect together! They missed a trick though by not having the Def Leppard song Rock of Ages in there somewhere (Pour Some Sugar On Me gets an airing during one of the concert sections though)
The two young leads are good enough, but are far too clean cut and polished to be completely believable in the parts. Cruise is entertaining as the rock god, channeling all the trappings of the iconic stars, the temperament of Axl Rose, the swagger and attitude of Jim Morrison, and Kid Rock's coat (although, of course Kid would be a star much later than the 80s, more on that sort of thing later..). The on stage persona is how you can imagine him playing Lestat if they'd have continued filming the Anne Rice books instead of combining the second with Queen of the Damned. Alec Baldwin is great as the club's owner, once you get over the jarring image of him with long hair and playing air guitar. The BIG weak spot for the film is Russell Brand. He is truly terrible. His accent seemed to go from Birmingham to Welsh to his normal 'cheeky chappie' style, and he is just NOT funny. Even if he had the funniest lines in the world, he would ruin them. All of these, however are upstaged by Jaxx's ever present right hand man, a baboon called Hey Man.
Now, onto pedant's corner. First of all, take a look at the poster. Alec Baldwin there, looking all rock n' roll in a fantastic KISS t-shirt. Great stuff. Except THAT particular shirt didn't see the light of day until the band re-united with the original members - in 1996. Not good for a film set in 1987. He does wear it in the film, too so it's not just an advertising faux pas. KISS, of course were massive in the States in the 70s, and then were having their second wind success wise in the mid 80s (there is - correctly - a large poster for Crazy Nights in the Tower Records store they go to in the film). You would argue, then that this is an old, faded (as that's how it looks) vintage shirt? You could, but you'd be very wrong. Yep, I know my KISS. That design never existed 'back in the day'. Also, in the very same Tower Records, playing in the background is one of the few original artists songs on the soundtrack. Namely, I Remember You by Skid Row. A song which did not get released until 1989. OK, that's a small point but I needed to get it out of my system.
On a plus note, it was nice to spot a few familiar faces in the crowd scene at the end. A nice nod to those who actually DO love this type of music and lived (and not only survived, but still love) the big hair metal scene of the late 80s. So keep your eyes peeled for Skid Row's former vocalist, Sebastian Bach, pop princess Debbie Gibson - who pops up now and again in films like Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus and Kevin Cronin, better known as the voice and keys in REO Speedwagon.
Maybe I'm getting soft after enjoying Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band but for all it's faults, I didn't hate this. I don't know if I'll ever watch it again, though.
6 out 10

Monday, 4 June 2012

Retro review: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

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Almost universally derided since it's 1978 release, Robert Stigwood's screen version of the famous Beatles album has become a minor cult film in it's own right. With the recent death of yet another Bee Gee, leaving only bearded falsetto wonder Barry to carry the can, I thought it was time to re-visit the film, which I had not seen since it's UK TV premiere sometime in the early to mid 80s. At that time, my only interest in the film was Alice Cooper and Aerosmith (this was before they had got back together and cleaned up their act, and virtually no one in the UK gave a monkeys about them) When I remembered one of my favourite comedians is in it - Frankie Howerd and genre legend Donald Pleasence, my keenness to re-watch was increased.
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The film's story (such as it is) centres around the lovely town of Heartland, USA, where the eponymous band leader and his group have been playing their way through most of America's history, helping stop wars, overcoming the depression, etc. When the good Sgt. dies, the instruments are left to the town - while they exist there, the town will always have peace and tranquility. The music must continue, though, and the Henderson brothers (The Bee Gees) team up with Pepper's grandson, Billy Shears (Peter Frampton) to keep the spirit alive. Aided by Billy's more reckless brother, Dougie (Paul Nicholas) they head out for fame and fortune, signing a contract with sleazy mogul B.D. Brockhurst (Pleasence).
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Things go bad in Heartland when the instruments are stolen by Mean Mr Mustard (Howerd) under the orders of FVB - The Future Villain Band (Aerosmith). They get one instrument, Father Sun (Cooper) gets one, and the other goes to Maxwell (Steve Martin). Heartland in ruins, it's leader (and the narrator) Mr Kite (George Burns) appeals for the band to track them down and return them to their rightful place.
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steve martin maxwells hammer
I suppose the big thing people have against the film is the re-arrangement of the Beatles songs. Now, I'm certainly not as precious about them, because some of the treatments here are quite good (special note going to Aerosmith's groove through 'Come Together', and Alice's sinister, Zappa-esque 'Because'). Beatle producer George Martin worked on the soundtrack, and since he was always considered the 'fifth Beatle' that's good enough endorsement for me. Stigwood had produced a stageshow of the songs (and those from Abbey Road which are included here too), and while he had the rights to use them decided to make the film. He had been involved with the Ken Russell film version of The Who's Tommy, along with the other hits Saturday Night Fever and Grease you can imagine why he thought the Beatles music would be a shoe-in at the box office. Sadly, it was not to be. The film flopped big time, and like I mentioned, it is - if ever mentioned at all -  usually badly thought of.
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Now, re-watching it, I'm surprised to say, I  actually quite enjoyed it. Sure, some of the songs don't lend themselves to the interpretation they are given. Burn's rendition of 'Fixin' A Hole' is a train wreck, and a lot of the lyrics are interpreted literally. Steve Martin's 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is as annoying as he is (never really liked him. There I said it), but Howerd's turn as Mustard is brilliant. All his standard traits are present and he even gets a oooooo in during 'When I'm 64'. His servant, Brute is played by 7ft Carel Struycken in his first role, later to be in Twin Peaks and the remake of The Addams Family, who suffers from acromegaly, the same disease the great Rondo Hatton suffered from.
Director Michael Schultz had previous had a hit with the disco tinged Car Wash and later made a few films with Richard Pryor, Greased Lightning and Carbon Copy, before heading to TV and directing shows as varied as Bruce Campbell vehicle The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Charmed and Ally McBeal and recently did some episodes of Chuck.

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The film is colourful, the songs are great (although they may be enjoyed more if, like me, you're not the biggest or purest Beatles fan), and there's a great spot the star section at the end for the reprise. (If you're under 40 I imagine you'd struggle for a lot of them though). Just like Tommy, I think this has probably improved with age. You can enjoy the camp without having to worry about taking it too seriously.
Go on, give it a go. You never know, you might like it.
6 out of 10
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Producer Robert Stigwood (left, centre row) in the finale

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: The Shadow Of Death (2012)

shadow of death horror poster

Becoming lost in the woods after heading out to 'score some weed', three house mates -  sensible Debra (Corinna Jane), computer geek Jamie (Jane West) and annoying stoner Nancy (Sophia Disgrace) - and their wise cracking, loser friend Dan (Daniel Carter-Hope) unwittingly become prey to a madman doing away with people in increasingly inventive ways. Their only hope may well come from a wanna be cop, the self styled Super Special Officer Cop Craven (Dan Bone) of the Super Secret Police Force. Let's just hope they don't rely on him too much though...
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gory arm chop

While it may not sound the most original of subjects, Director Gav Chuckie Steel manages to weave an interesting and fun take on the standard tropes, without resorting to copycat or parody.
The over saturated look gives it a grindhouse feel, without having to go as far as some have to force that. (it doesn't go over the top with fake film scratches and there's no missing reels here, folks!)
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The Shadow of Death is a no budget film. IMDB says it cost £250. From what you see on screen, I wouldn't have believed it. Both the practical make up FX (there's some effective gory moments) and the inventive use of camera angles and sound are much better than you'd see in films with a much larger budget; you know the ones that would turn up on late night screenings on The Horror Channel, or straight to DVD. The acting is above the standard you'd expect in a film at this level too. While I found a lot of the characters annoying (I really hate people preoccupied with drugs) by the end I had warmed to them, and there are several funny moments.
The film is peppered with film references, from the subtle (Cannibal Holocaust) to the obvious (naming the pub The Slaughtered Lamb, Evil Dead), and while these are fun, they don't take over the film. I did get a feel of The Wicker Man in there too, especially with the use of music.
It is hoped the film will get into a few of the horror festivals held around the country later in the year, and it certainly is well worth checking out. It could easily work as a calling card to the industry for Gav Steel, and I hope he does well in the future. You can find out more about the film at the website
UPDATE: You can now view the film in full, for free at Youtube. Thank you Gav! 
8 out of 10

Review: Prometheus (2012)

It's 2089 and archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover cave paintings in the Isle of Skye that are 35,000 years old and are similar to other drawings and carvings from across the world and across all history, all showing a large man pointing to the same set of stars.
This is obviously an invitation, at least it is to Shaw, and she hopes of meeting mankind's makers (despite the fact she believes in God), they set off on a space voyage on the good ship Prometheus, funded by ailing trillionaire Peter Weyland, head of Weyland Corporation. Among the crew are scientists, an android David (Micheal Fassbender) and Weyland executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). Despite it being a trip to explore Shaw's theory, Vickers makes it clear that it's her companies money, and she calls the shots.
It's not long until they are exploring the caves of the planet the cave drawings have led them to, and things begin to get a little out of hand.
Long and eagerly awaited by many, this return to the world of Sci-Fi for Ridley Scott has probably been set up for failure by the hopes and dreams of the many Alien fans who, when it was hinted at that Scott would be returning to the Alien-verse and specifically the "Space Jockey" we see in his 1979 masterpiece, had so much they wanted answered and delved into.
It is to Scott's credit that he has taken a different route with the story here. There are similarities, and yes, we do get to understand a little more of the Space Jockey race, but it's clear that this film doesn't necessarily take place in the same uncharted area that the Nostromo is sent to investigate. While the space ship and indeed, the Space Jockeys are all the same it is more likely the wreckage Dallas and his crew explore is a different one, which should be clear from the events at the end of the film. The focus on DNA is a big clue into the way this one goes..

That is not to say there are not some answers, and indeed, a sequel to Prometheus could easily work as the missing link, and lead straight into Alien.
So while Prometheus might not be all we wanted, or expected, it is a well made, entertaining film. It just doesn't have much in the way of tension or threat. Even in the scenes with alien life forms (which are more proto-xenomorths and face huggers rather than the ones we know and love) there is a lack of real drama, which is a shame. It is certainly not a body count film, but if you go along wanting a fairly intelligent piece of Sci-Fi then you should enjoy it, despite some plot holes and clunky dialogue.
Full marks, however go to Micheal Fassbender (who keeps his knob in his pants this time, unlike his brilliant turn in Shame) as David, who watches the sleeping crew's dreams and memorises lines from Lawrence Of Arabia in the spare time he has while the ship travels the galaxy (an inspired choice of clip to show, too - with an appearance from the recently deceased Harry Fowler). David is a character that you are waiting all the way through to betray the crew and "do an Ash" - indeed, at some points it seems he's doing just that, but it could easily be interpreted that he was in fact, naively, just learning and experimenting.
Guy Pearce, so brilliant in Memento (2000) is a little wasted here, under a ton of make up as the aged Peter Weyland, head of the company. The make up job here isn't the best either, more like Grandpa in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) the Dick Smith's tour de force in Little Big Man (1970).
One thing that I was very disappointed in was the 3D. Now, I'm a complete advocate of the format. Yes, it's a gimmick, but used right and well it CAN enhance the film (just watch Hugo for proof). However, Scott seems to make little allowance for it here, despite filming 'native' with 3D cameras. The enormous alien structures and tunnels should look amazing, yet they are quite often just OK, which is a shame. There are many dark scenes in the film, but you shouldn't worry too much about losing anything from them with the usual drop in light levels necessary with the 3D process, though as it all seemed OK to me.

Not a complete waste of time, but I doubt it will top any "best" lists, I just wanted to enjoy it so much more.
7 out of 10.