Wednesday, 30 September 2015

3 - top four things...

so i finally set out a kind of manifesto for my channel, if you can call it that. i thought really hard about this one in advance and everything! still took me a few attempts to get it right, but it was two in the morning...

in case you'd like to check out a couple of my favourite things, here be links -

i, parasite are fucking amazing, here's their site -

if you haven't seen the cabinet of dr. caligari then a) why the fuck not? and b) you can watch the whole film legally (it's way out of copyright) over on the internet archive here -

if you enjoyed this video please give it a 'like' and subscribe if you want to see more.

and if you'd like to see what i do when i'm not making videos in the early hours of the morning, please check out my blog -

Or follow me on twitter - @pazvsstuff

thanks for watching!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

avengers: age of ultron

i know pretty much everyone has probably posted a review of this movie already and on top of that i’m late to the party, but fuck it, this is what i thought of avengers: age of ultron.

first of all, the character work in this film was amazing. the writing was great, the actors were on top form and there was some fantastic story-telling on display here. the love story between black widow and hulk was like something from a film noir and played so well i was almost in tears at the end. i also loved the conflict between captain america and tony stark – that one man needs a war to feel alive and the other hates the fighting so much he will do anything to stop all wars ever. there is a real complexity to both points of view and to the conflict those opinions engender that works well with these characters, and i’m guessing that conflict will be played out in civil war. there were some nice little moments too, like the part where they get to the safehouse and thor leaves because he’s not going to get any answers there, and you can see that cap is desperate to go with him but knows he can’t. that said, i thought thor was a little short-changed in terms of character development in this film as he didn't have all that much to do except set up his next movie. hawkeye on the other hand gets some real development in this film and goes from a character who felt shoe-horned in to the last film to one who really feels integral to the story. for a huge summer blockbuster to have this much emotional complexity to the characters is amazing and should be appreciated.

having taken that into account, let’s look at how black widow comes across in the film. i can’t call myself a feminist and not look at the backlash that forced joss whedon to leave twitter. most of this was to do with the fact that her character becomes defined by her potential to be a mother – that she refers to herself as a ‘monster’ because she’s sterile, and that she essentially becomes a mother to the team with hulk being a substitute baby. and this is troubling, it’s one of the things that always ruins female superhero movies because the guys writing them think that all women care about are babies. for example, the awful elektra movie is so awful because it insists on giving elektra a surrogate daughter, thus falling into exactly the same trap and making her all about motherhood, instead of all about the killing and stuff. my verdict is that people have generally been overthinking this. i'm not saying it's not a valid reading, because it's all there. however, my first thought was she’s a monster because she’s a killer, and the hulk isn’t a surrogate child, he’s a fellow monster and probably the only person on the team she can really relate to. i read their relationship as two characters with a real darkness in their past finding solace each other. far from being a mother/child relationship, it’s the only adult relationship in the entire film. black widow is not defined by her inability to have children, she’s defined by the temptation to give up on peace for the world so she can find peace for herself. that’s what banner wants, and the fact that she betrays him is so tragic because it’s necessary. once again she's cheated out of the thing she wants because she isn't given a choice, and that's something everyone has to face at some point in their lives.

io I didn’t have a problem with the so-called misogynist backstory that drove whedon off twitter, because it’s a reading, not a fact. i did have a problem with black widow being kidnapped and thrown into a cage – that was bullshit. sure, you can justify it on the basis that she kicks ass throughout the film and then she uses her situation to reveal the location of ultron’s base, but it’s still a woman in a cage moment, and you can’t get away from that. add to that the fact that between widow, scarlet witch and various female civilians there were like half a dozen moments of women being carried to safety by men. in  a way what’s offensive is that this more casual misrepresentation of female characters wasn’t considered offensive by the feminist audience, because to be honest it’s the norm in these films. it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the film, but i can’t say i wasn’t disappointed.

however, the biggest issue with black widow being thrown in a cage is why? why did ultron take her in the first place? why did ultron do anything that he did in the film? i get that ultron wants to destroy the world, that’s fine, but none of his decisions made sense. he has the power to control computers, so this should have been like maximum overdrive, right? like he should have got into all the computers, ruined the economy, shut down the hospitals and played real life carmageddon with all the vehicles. that’s what i would have done if i was ultron, which i’m not. instead he fucks off to a made-up country like he’s doctor doom, builds an army of flimsy robots, steals some vibranium because … reasons and fucks around with making himself a paul bettany body because bettany rocked in gangster no. 1, or whatever. then there’s something about a mindstone, like from hawk the slayer, and thor seems to think that’s important because he knows he'll get another movie out of it, but no one else really gets it, i certainly didn’t. and then ultron’s big plan is to make a city float up into the air and then drop it on the earth, for no reason other than it will look visually impressive but will also take some time to execute so it’s a good third act plan.

i’m sure the plot made sense on some level and i’m sure someone would be able to explain it to me, but it felt like the film didn’t care so why should i? there were long passages of dialogue devoted to the character development and i loved that, but it felt like the filmmakers were kind of embarrassed by the plot so it was only ever explained in brief throwaway moments where someone would talk really quickly about mindstones and vibranium or whatever. did it matter? not really, because i cared about the characters enough to go along with it, despite the headache i got everytime i tried to work out what was really going on.

the thing is, making superhero movies is hard. really this should be a kids movie, but the studios are so determined to appeal to everyone that they infuse it with all this deep character stuff for adults which is great, but then they have to serve the plot too and make sense of the fact that this is a movie about people in costumes fighting robots. i think nolan got this right in the batman movies, but he did so by going too far the other way, in that the batman films are almost too grown up (one day i’ll write an epic piece about nolan’s batman trilogy and why they are three of the greatest films ever made, but not right now). marvel have traditionally focused more on the fun, kid-friendly aspects of their world but here it feels like they’ve lost some of that focus because they’re trying so hard to appeal to everyone. the geek audience is wider now, it’s not just teenage boys, it’s adults who read the comics as kids, it’s people all over the world (so setting your film in a fictional eastern european country so you can destroy it may not go down too well in eastern europe), it’s women of all ages, but it is still kids as well and to attempt to appeal to every single one of those groups is insane.

but it kind works at the same time, and ultimately i enjoyed it. i did think there was some amazing writing here, i think whedon did the best he could with what he had and there is a lot to admire on screen, and i think the actors were all great and poured a lifetime of emotions into every line of dialogue. i just wish that occasionally i knew what was actually going on, but maybe that's just me.

Monday, 21 September 2015

2 - the difficult second video...

i posted another video on my youtube channel!

if you think i should do more of these, please do subscribe and check back in the next week or so.

thanks for watching!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

eaten alive

in a new introduction filmed for this release, director tobe hooper tells the audience to 'enjoy the colours'. in many ways this is the perfect prologue to the film, because eaten alive is death, murder and gore at it's most colourful and by extension at it's most frenetic and insane.

the plot of eaten alive is tough to describe because it doesn't really have a protagonist, other than the motel owner, judd (neville brand), who links the other characters together and i suppose goes on the biggest journey. he's a murdering psychopath very much in the vein of the leatherface and co. except he works alone, unless you count the giant crocodile he feeds his victims to, and the film takes place on the worst night of his life. people keep turning up at the motel and though you get the impression he doesn't intend to kill all of them, that's pretty much how the story progresses.

my failed attempt at a plot synopsis raises the first real flaw with the film, in that it doesn't really have a sympathetic character. sure, the kids in texas chainsaw massacre weren't exactly saints but it was clear we were supposed to be on their side. here, everyone seems to be working through some kind of exaggerated trauma and as a result they all come across as borderline insane. even marilyn burns' character, who arrives at the hotel with her deranged husband and disabled daughter, appears to be hiding something. in fact, the disabled daughter character may be the only person we truly sympathise with, and all she does is scream a lot and run away, slowly (similar to the wheelchair-bound character in chainsaw). but is this really a flaw? is it so bad that in a horror film hooper doesn't care if we give a fuck about any of the characters? normally, yes, but in this case i'm not so sure.

hooper's films, particularly the early ones, seem more concerned with atmosphere than character and dialogue, and that's never been more evident than in eaten alive. the first fifteen minutes play like a documentary filmed in hell. the colours are spectacular, but only in that they are disorientating and at times rather sickening. hooper creates this claustophobic, stylised and almost cartoonish version of reality that never feels real but it doesn't matter because this is an assault on the senses. hooper doesn't want us to care about anyone because he doesn't care about his audience. unlike the screaming, bleeding bedlam that texas chainsaw devolves into over 90 minutes, eaten alive hits an unsypmathetic, maddening high-note early on and stays there for the whole film. once the bodies start piling up we're never really given a reprieve. and why should we be given a reprieve? this is horror at it's most raw and it's what hooper does best.

if i'm not selling this to you with the above description, there are some other interesting elements to mention. robert englund turns up as an extremely sleazy local and does a great job at making you hate his character. marilyn burns plays a similar role to the screaming victim she played in hooper's earlier film, but at least here she gets a bit more to do at the end. and without wanting to spoil it, it's nice to see a very early slasher film go against a convention that had not yet been established and avoid the final girl trope. there's also potentially something interesting to be written on the way the film treats sex and women although i'm not sure i have the academic vocabulary to do it. there is interesting stuff here, though, and that raises it above the level of most slashers.

i'll be honest, i had a hard time watching this film, it's an intentionally tough watch and certainly doesn't cater to the whims of the audience. that said, it's a fascinating example of a director who wants his audience to suffer for the sake of his art and the fascinating dvd extras reveal that not everyone was a supporter of hooper on this. i think it's a film that opens up a lot of discussions and is perhaps a failed attempt at something truly unique, which makes it all the more fascinating. i only wish they they'd had the budget for an animatronic crocodile...

arrow video release eaten alive on blu-ray and dvd on 21st september 2015

Monday, 14 September 2015

the man who could cheat death

between all the frankensteins and draculas there are some lesser known and rather more curious hammer productions that depart from the usual format. the man who could cheat death falls into this category.

the film follows dr. georges bonnet (anton diffring) as he pursues the impossible dream of eternal life through increasingly nefarious means. when the surgeon he has secured to finalise his immortality is unable to complete the procedure he has to somehow convince a more conservative doctor, pierre gerrard (christopher lee), to take his place. the solution to his predicament presents itself in the form of janine dubois, a young woman both bonnet and gerrard are in love with.

for the most part, the man who could cheat death concerns itself with one central question – is bonnet’s pursuit of eternal life good for humanity, or simply good for him? fhe film proceeds to answer that question by unraveling bonnet’s character and ultimately his physical form until we are left with the truth in all it’s horrifying glory. there are other elements at play, including a murder mystery subplot as a determined detective closes in on bonnet after a girl who modelled for him (he is also a sculptor) disapperars. on top of that there are hints of dorian gray and the film occasionally wanders into jekyll and hyde territory with bonnet even having to consume a special serum, only his is used to prevent a transformation rather than to trigger it.

describing the twists of the plot and obvious literary influences leads to an assumption that there is a lot happening onscreen, and yet the film mostly takes place in one or two rooms. a glance at the opening credits reveals it was based on a stage play by barre lyndon (who also wrote the 1950s adaptation of war of the worlds, among a great many other things) and in this sense very little appears to have been done to adapt the story for cinema, except for jack asher’s shadow-rich cinematography. as a result the film feels more contemplative, thought-provoking and at times, unfortunately, slower than the more well-known hammer titles. the scenes of horror almost seem out of place against the philosophical discussions that occupy much of the dialogue, and yet they are a welcome distraction when they arrive.

what’s interesting is who we the audience are supposed to side with. the film takes its time before fully revealing what bonnet is attempting to do, although we find out early on that he has some serious anger management issues. bonnet’s secret is of course clear from the title to a point, but it’s only as the details of his condition are revealed that we understand the true extent of what he has had to become. the film presents bonnet as the protagonist and anton diffring is a charismatic lead so it’s hard not to be on his side as his ambition turns murderous.

this is partly helped by the fact that the romantic lead and the closest thing the film has to a hero is played by christopher lee. obviously, lee is amazing and i’ve enjoyed seeing him play against type both here and in the hound of the baskervilles. at the same time, there is something slightly off about lee in roles like this and it’s hard to fully sympathise with him. instead, he comes to represent the conservative establishment, unwilling to support bonnet’s controversial approach to progress and thus making it easier to sympathise with the mad doctor. i wonder if this was the intention, although i think it would have been more successful with peter cushing in the bonnet role, as was originally intended. diffring certainly does a great job, but it’s not the most sympathetic portrayal of a scientist gone mad with ambition, and i can’t help feeling cushing would have added some much needed humanity to the role.

while it doesn’t succeed on every level, the man who could cheat death certainly delivers in the climax, which i won’t give away here but there is an awesome combination of fire and amazing make-up effects that really make the ending work. overall, this is an interesting story and fits neatly into the hammer canon whilst also providing a nice contrast to their usual output in its theatrical setting and contemplative dialogue.

eureka entertainment release the man who could cheat dead on blu-ray on 21st september 2015

Friday, 11 September 2015

hell's mouth (a.k.a. parasite)

so a few weeks ago, my friend chris sent me this dvd as a prize for commenting on one of his youtube videos. and it was kind of a joke and i don't think he thought i'd actually watch it, but the truth is it was pretty good and worth writing about here.

so it's about this team of specialist cleaners (how many films feature a team of cleaners as their protagonists? there's session 9, i suppose, although they're more asbestos removal ... that's another blog for another day) tasked with cleaning an oil rig with an experimental new cleaning substance. except they mix it wrong and rather than killing bacteria it mutates it into giant bacteria snake things that spit acid and eat people. basically, it's alien on an oil rig.

what makes it work is that the characters are actually kind of interesting. firstly, there are three female characters including a no-nonsense corporate scientist, a super-experienced engineer and an environmental activist. that's pretty amazing even by today's standards, and even when the engineer has a shower scene she's in there with one of the guys so at least it's equal opportunities nudity. by comparison, the men in the film are all pretty dull to the point where it's difficult to tell a couple of them apart. however, rather than a criticism this only serves to enhance the unique qualities of the female characters. of course, alien did this too and did it better but for a low-budget horror film i was pretty impressed by the filmmakers' commitment to gender equality.

the other pretty cool feature here is the creature effects. there's a mix of practical effects and cgi, with the former being the most effective, but considering the presumed low budget the cgi isn't so bad either. sure, it looks like a ps1 cut-scene a lot of the time, but it does what it needs to for the narrative and at times it's really effective.

it's hard to place where the film falls down, but it felt like there was something missing, like the narrative never really holds together. the story is no more complicated than that of alien - the characters arrive, they find the monster, they have to escape - but it feels like it's lacking something. i was never 100% clear what the characters were trying to do, or what the sinister corporation was trying to do by developing the monster-creating chemicals, which seemed to be intentional. i wasn't sure who to root for a lot of the time and that can be a good thing if played right, but here it felt like a mistake. and ultimately it didn't feel like they were in all that much peril because as isolated as an oil rig is, it's not outer space and i'm not sure oil rigs really do have escape pods.

that said, there are three reasons to watch this film - it's british (and while i don't consider myself a nationalist i do like to see british films that aren't set in country manors or on housing estates once in a while), it had women doing stuff and the effects weren't bad so that's three wins as far as i'm concerned.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

my first ever vlog, all about a dream i've been having...

i filmed this a couple of days ago. i don't know what time it was, like three or four in the morning. i'd been meaning to start writing down my dreams, but then i saw my camera and i thought fuck it, let's just film it instead.

this isn't how i intended to start my youtube channel and i wasn't even going to post it at first because the focus is all wrong and i'm not making much sense, but i could just see myself filming three hundred first vlogs and then deleting them for random reasons. so here it is.

if you like it, you know what to do.

if you'd like to see more, please subscribe. i think i'll make more videos. not sure yet. depends how this one goes down.

if you have had a similar dream or you have mad dream interpretation skills, or if you just want to say hello, please leave me a comment.

also, i'm @pazvsstuff on twitter

Monday, 7 September 2015

mississippi burning

cinema history is littered with ill-advised attempts to marry hollywood genres to real life stories; films that ultimately seem exploitative or in bad taste because the sensationalist nature of genre cinema does not sit well with cold, hard reality. mississippi burning takes one of the darkest and most sickening moments in american history and turns it into a buddy-cop movie. somehow, it works.

mississippi burning follows two fbi agents, ward (dafoe) and anderson (hackman), tasked with tracking down three missing civil rights activists. ward is by-the-book and has no time for pandering to local customs. anderson is as hard-boiled as they come with brutal tactics to match, but at the same time appreciates the subtlety required in getting the right people on side. the rising tensions between the two men mirror the tensions their presence has created in the community as finding the missing activists takes on a much greater importance in an ongoing war against prejudice.

the first thing that stands out about mississippi burning is that the treatment of the black community is so extreme it almost seems like some kind of sci-fi vision of a dystopian future. it’s so horrific and so far from the society we know now (or certainly that i know now) that it’s impossible to watch this film without experiencing a growing anger towards humanity that boils into rage by the final act. that’s exactly the emotional journey agents ward and anderson go through as well, making them perfect vessels for our exploration of this troubled time.

the differences between ward and anderson are more subtle than they seem at first, meaning the combined acting talents of dafoe and hackman are absolutely essential to the piece. while ward likes to follow the rules he equally has no problem flooding the town with fbi agents to provoke a reaction, despite knowing that his actions will cause more trouble for the community before they find justice. anderson will gladly beat up suspects and use all kinds of coercion tactics to get what he wants, but is also more sensitive to the feelings of the locals, particularly frances mcdormand's character, and it’s ultimately his more subtle tactics that get them their break. dafoe and hackman add a palpable fire to this relationship and when the two men do clash the fireworks are spectacular.

there is also a really impressive supporting cast, including brad dourif, r. lee ermy, michael rooker and stephen tobolowsky as the primary antagonists. the only odd thing about the cast is the omission of any prominent black cast members. on its release in 1988 the film caused controversy for precisely this reason, because the implication of this decision was that the black community were perpetual victims who needed two white men to come in and save them from oppression. at the time, director alan parker responded to the controversy by saying that he was simply happy the issue was being talked about so much in a public forum, and this reasoning still stands today. while the facts have clearly been manipulated to tell a good story, mississippi burning remains a powerful snapshot of an oppressed community and a reminder of an injustice that should never be forgotten.

it has to be said that the political backdrop does provide an excellent setting for a cop movie. it’s a convention of the genre that the justice system will support the criminals over the hard boiled cop heroes, but when a judge gives three arsonists a suspended sentence in this film, it makes perfect sense given the environment. at the same time, this translates into the larger story, as ultimately ward and anderson are unable to bring the perpetrators to justice under local laws and have to come to a more creative solution. ultimately, it’s this inter-weaving of genre conventions and real world drama that makes mississippi burning such a great film. parker tells an entertaining story without pulling his punches when it comes to the historical reality. the result is a film that is as compelling and entertaining as it is hard-hitting.

overall, mississippi burning is an expertly crafted piece of genre filmmaking that showcases the abilities of two of hollywood’s finest actors and a director at the top of his game. it’s entertaining, harrowing and visceral all at the same time, and it deserves to be remembered as a modern classic.

mississippi burning will be released on blu-ray by second sight on 14th september 2015