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The Sunday Film Review: V/H/S

Posted on by sam

V/H/S

Director(s): Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence Productions (2012)

1 a.m: a dark crisp September night, an intrepid wannabe indie filmmaker struggles to sleep, the reason? Sid Meier’s Pirates, a swashbuckling computer game the wannabe indie filmmaker bought discounted in the 2013 Steam Summer Sale. Unable to remove a treacherous crossing between Trinidad and Gibraltar from his mind, the wannabe indie filmmaker turns to Netflix. His plan: to rest his tired mind by focusing on a film he can drift off to, the only problem is, the trashy sounding film he’s chosen, V/H/S, may not be so accommodating

PLOT SUMMARY

V/H/S is the story of a group of dudes with video cameras who like to video their crimes, (something I’ve always thought is on the ‘pulling the tiger by the tail’ level of forward thinking). The film begins with a shaky mini-featurette of the group smashing up abandoned houses, partying and grabbing women in the street to expose their intimate areas. Apparently the group receives payments from uploading videos of them exposing female genitalia, so whoever says crime/sexual assaults/general misogyny doesn’t pay hasn’t realised just what a horror the internet is yet.

But reducing women to their sexual organs can only entertain a group of dudes with video cameras for so long, and soon they make the natural progression into VHS tape collection.  Entering a rather shady looking house in order to fulfil a job collecting a videotape, the group find a dead guy in a chair, an odd television set-up involving several screens and a VHS player. Looking for the specific tape to collect, the group split up, several members decide to search the house for the tapes, while the least popular one gets to stay in the room with the dead guy and watch tapes the group have already found, hierarchy, can’t have a group of dudes without hierarchy. The story then splits between the contents of the tapes the least popular member of the group watches and the story of the rest of the group hunting for a specific tape.

PLOT SUMMARY ENDS

V/H/S is basically a series of short horror films put together, and I’d like to describe my thought process early on watching it……….. so I will, because it’s my review, I have no editor and I can write whatever I like………….. long as my mum approves.

I sat through the early section of V/H/S, which involved the group exposing a woman’s breasts, filming another woman having sex without her knowledge and a scene of them sat in a room speaking in naturalistic, almost certainly improvised dialogue, pretty bored. The gratuitous framing of female breasts and the casual swearing just wasn’t very interesting, it’s not that I’m against such things. Well maybe the sexual assault and filming people without their consent parts I am, but I certainly wasn’t offended by them. I just find that boobs and the word ‘fuck’ are overly done and dare I say, boring horror devices used as an excuse to gain a ‘mature’ rating or as a cover for a lack of story. (Boobs and swear words aren’t alone in that category but I’ve digressed enough).

Little to no effort was made to actually introduce the group (I’m not even sure their names are given) and I began to suspect V/H/S was going to be one of those generic low budget horrors where mutilation and copious amounts of blood are the order of the day………………. which would actually have been ok, because that’s the type of lazy horror crap I drift off to quickly. Then a dude played the first video tape and everything changed to a new short story, ‘ok’ I thought, ‘I’ll watch this bit, and then I’ll probably be ready to sleep’……………. Ten minutes later, I was anything but ready to sleep.

The first story in V/H/S sets the tone for the rest of the film brilliantly, for the longest time you’re just watching a few guys filming themselves in a very normal situation, and yet something doesn’t feel right. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching something very bad unfolding, and when it finally did, the execution was damn near perfect. The idea of a video diary was used to limit how much I could see of the horror unfolding, and I actually found my imagination (a terrible, terrible thing) being the catalyst for creating my own fear. Put another way, the film cleverly used framing devices and character interaction to leave me with the knowledge that some horrific thing was happening, and then let me go to town imagining exactly what said horrific thing was. Then the first story abruptly ended.

From that point on V/H/S had me, every time a new tape was put in and a new short story began, I became tense, I started seeing shadows, and everything felt like a clue or precursor for some bigger, hidden terror. Knowing something bad is about to happen, but having no idea what, that’s a scary position for the viewer to be manoeuvred into, and once you’re there, V/HS keeps you there.

It reminded me of the glory days of Japanese horror, yes there‘s monstrous imagery and a fair amount of blood, but it’s the atmosphere, the impending sense of doom, the knowledge that every corner turned could be a characters last, that’s where the scares come from. Jump scares, scares designed to make your audience jump with surprise, can be a great horror device (Jaws has that famous one involving a severed head), but after you execute a jump scare inevitably your audience then has time to relax again. When the scare comes from atmosphere though, well once you’ve built that up enough to creep out your audience; you never have to let them go. That’s what V/H/S does in spades, brilliant, cheap camera techniques are used to create one hell of a disturbing atmosphere.

Silent Hill 2: One of the scariest experiences you'll ever have, and it's all down to the atmosphere

 

It’s not a perfect film, one or two of the shorts feel a little phoned in, in fact there’s one that I’m not actually sure counts as a horror story, and the end credits, which are some of the most ill thought out and jarring in history, have to be seen to be believed. The acting ranges from exceptional to pretty poor, though it could be argued that fits with the low budget style, and the jerky camerawork will annoy some, also, I’m amazed how many amateur cameramen are good at framing shots and playing with focus.

Overall though, V/H/S is good, very good; V/H/S is a nice little horror experience, one I’ve gone to every effort to review without spoiling. Kept me up for hours, watch it, I recommend.

Written By Sam ‘needs to stay away from the Steam Summer Sale if he wants to eat‘ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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People with Happy Fingers Episode 8: Mrs Hinskman

Posted on by sam

Mrs Hinskman

People with Happy Fingers episode 8 can be seen right …………………………………….. here.

This time the subject is the closest person to wonder woman I’ve ever met, Mrs Hinksman, a.k.a Tom’s mum. Tom’s mum has that unique skill, she can literally do anything she puts her mind to, and as such she’s been a constant source of help and support for Happy Fingers Productions. Far too generous and tolerant of our foolishness, I actually felt nervous about filming this one, simply because I wanted to make sure we did her justice. I think we did, you decide, anyway, it’s Tom’s mum, so by rights I should hand over to him now

Sam

So, interviewing my mum other then my general dislike for being on camera wasn’t so bad. This is an interview Sam has been asking to do for a long time since the first people with Happy Fingers. The reason it took so long is because I was very aware that I’d have to actually say something in this one. With that aside my mum is someone who should be immortalised because as Sam says she can pretty much do anything, if she cant then she knows someone who can. She has supported me both financially, emotionally and physically more than even a mother should have to and never (well rarely) complains about it. She allows me to live dirt poor supplying me with a house and food, in order to allow me to pursue the ever creative but low/no paid career I chose. She’s helped us build equipment, and props. Transport wardrobes from houses on stilts and lets us take over her kitchen on a weekly basis to be our office. So watch the video, you may like it or you may not but if for no other reason you should watch the video to help progress our film careers so that I might someday make enough money to pay her back.

Tom

The Sunday Film Review: Kick-Ass 2

Posted on by sam

Kick-Ass 2

Director: Jeff Wadlow (2013)

Christmas 2011: a young(er) handsome wannabe indie filmmaker, working at a crappy supermarket, becomes so fed up reading propaganda declaring there would be no Christmas if he didn’t purchase an inane little film titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he wrote a remarkably badly thought out and poor structured review about a much better film: Kick-Ass.

Snap back to reality: if you can’t be bothered to read my Kick-Ass review (you should, it’s one of my better ones), I’ll summate: Kick-Ass is a hell of a film worth anyone’s time. Now, almost inevitably, there’s a sequel, but unlike a lot of films getting the sequel treatment (EVERY superhero film due out not involving Patrick Stewart) I’m actually optimistic Kick-Ass 2 could be decent, if not good. Kick-Ass one had such a nice deep story; there are plenty of interesting directions for a sequel to go in. Will my optimism be rewarded? Will I be entertained? Will the legacy of Kick-Ass be buried forever beneath a weight of lazy ill-thought out garbage? A vague answer to these questions coming up…………………. NOW!

Vague answer to all three questions: Yes and no, to borrow a Streetlight Manifesto (The greatest band in the history of everything ever) track title, it’s all somewhere in the between.

CAUTION: The following plot summary contains spoilers from the first film, go and watch Kick-Ass if you haven’t already, not for the sake of this review, but for the sake of your soul.

PLOT SUMMARY

Kick-Ass 2 picks up a couple of years (I think, it’s a bit vague) after Kick-Ass ended; Dave Lizewski a.k.a Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, adding Taylor to his name as a sign he found love………..awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww) has retired from internet fan videos and jet pack whey-hey fun, in order to settle down as a boring normal high-school kid….. with shattered nerve endings. The legacy of Kick-Ass however, lives on; ordinary citizens have begun to follow Kick-Ass’s lead, and a new generation of masked superheroes have taken begun to take to the street to do good deeds.

Inspired by the people inspired by him, Dave, very quickly decides it’s time to put the Kick-Ass mask back on, and asks his fellow undercover superhero highschooler Mindy Macready, a.k.a Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz, who survived the pointless English language Let Me In remake relatively unscathed, hooray) to train him. The training starts well enough, with Dave managing a few pull ups etc, but a montage or two later (and an unfortunate scene with a tired ‘pimp clothes’ joke), we learn that Hit Girl has her own baggage. You see now her, I think it’s fair to say slightly psychotic, father is dead; her care is in the hands of expository dialogue specialist Sargent Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut, a fine actor who’s underused). Sargent Williams wants Mindy to be a normal high school girl, so he bans her from being Hit Girl, which Mindy agrees to……….. I have no idea why, something to do with a letter……………..it isn’t really explained, and that’s the end of Dave’s training.

I’ll go in more depth later, but it’s at this point is Kick-Ass 2 divides itself into entertaining and boring storyline mode. Entertaining storyline mode involves Dave meeting other masked heroes and joining a group headed by born again christian Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey with a nice turn). The boring involves Mindy trying to be a high-school cool girl.

Elsewhere, Christopher Mintz-Plasse returns as Chris D’Amico. Now determined to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Kick-Ass, Chris drops his Red Mist hero persona in favour of becoming super villain The Motherfucker and with the help of family butler/go to guy Javier (John Leguizamo, I think Mr Leguizamo is an underrated actor, but he does little to help my case here), puts together his own team of super villains.

PLOT SUMMARY FINISHES

Right then, let’s start with some of the things I liked about Kick-Ass 2. Most of the Dave a.k.a Kick-Ass, storyline is tight, well told and filled with the sort of strong characterisation that impressed me so much in the first instalment. I found myself getting attached to the super hero team, joining the on form Jim Carry were some nice contributions from Donald ‘Turk from scrubs, you will always be recognised first as Turk from scrubs, do not despair, this is a sign you played that part well’ Faison and Lindy Booth, as team members Doctor Gravity and Night Bitch respectively. There’s a really nice scene the first time the superhero group go out on a mission, everyone gets a chance to shine and you see the beginnings of an interesting group dynamic. Away from that, it was also nice to see the way Dave developed as a character, he endures a fair bit of dark times in Kick-Ass 2, and his character sort of grows up in a logical, well told way..

Next up in the ‘good’ section: Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

In my Kick-Ass one review I commented that perhaps Mr Mintz-Plasse was a bit dull at times (along with Nick Cage), and Kick-Ass 2 started in the same vein, but one unfortunate ‘guns can mean boobs’ joke later (a joke so bad they actually had a character explain it) his performance developed into probably my favourite thing about the whole film. Chris D’Amico is just a fun, unpredictable villain. You’re never quite sure how evil he really is, at times he’s getting beaten up or embarrassed, at others he’s paying a henchman or two to do some pretty reprehensible stuff. It’s a good, balanced performance, probably the best I’ve seen from Mintz-Plasse, a good villain is one you can sort of sympathise with, or understand, for the most part, that’s what Mintz-Plasse provides. There is the most inane rape joke of all time though, but I’ll save that for the next section.

Next section titled: stuff I disliked or down right hated about Kick-Ass 2.

First and foremost, the humour is all over the place. Kick-Ass one had very tight, anti-humour, humour. A guy exploding in an industrial pressure valve-thing (no I don’t know what it’s called) became amusing because it was the exact opposite of what the bumbling villains intended to happen, there was a quiet, understated delivery of a lot of brutal dialogue, mixed with interesting/creative musical track choices. It wasn’t so much a glamorisation of violence at it was the strange and the bizarre. The same team behind Kick-Ass worked on the sequel (all be it a change of director) yet they seem to have missed the point entirely.

The ‘rape joke’ is a perfect example of this. I’ll set the scene; The Motherfucker has discovered the identity of a female member of the superhero group his nemesis Kick-Ass runs about with. Along with some henchman (including the brutal Mother Russia played nicely by Olga Kurkulina), The Motherfucker storms the house, captures the woman in question and orders a henchman to hold her down so he can rape her. Except he gets stage fright, and despite trying hard can’t achieve an erection, so he just orders his henchman to beat up the woman instead.

Listen, I’m a shades of grey kind of guy, I think anything can be funny and context is the determining factor, but that aint funny. I’m guessing the jokes meant to be on the Motherfucker because he couldn’t rape the woman, or maybe I’m meant to think ‘ha, look at that woman getting one over on the villain because she just got beaten instead of penetrated, ha ha ha’. It’s rubbish, unfunny and unnecessary, why go there if you can’t deliver? It just makes the writing team look like morons, or out of touch, or possibly rapists. It’s the wasted time not being funny that annoys me more than the subject, but if anyone comes out as offended by such a crap attempt at a joke regarding such a hot potato of a topic, I wouldn’t argue with them.

Speaking of wasted time, the entire Mindy a.k.a Hit Girl is dire, and I mean dire. They seemed to be going for this whole ‘finding herself’ subplot, but it actually didn’t amount to anything. The same Hit Girl comes out of the subplot as went in, and it’s actually entirely different, unrelated events involving Dave and Chris’s feud that cause her character to do anything remotely interesting. That means you spend a third of the film watching Mindy battle high school politics and discover her feelings for guys (totally unrealistic, she’s 15, and if the Daily mail has taught me anything, it’s that all 15 year old girls are drugged up whores on their second abortion) for absolutely no discernible point. Oh no actually, there was one point, a shit joke, no literally, a joke about shit, that’s the entire culmination of the subplot, a joke about poo. Not great writing there either.

Away from the good and the bad, there’s some stuff which I’d describe as bearable but a missed opportunity. Matthew Vaughan directed the first Kick-Ass but only acted as producer on this one, instead Jeff Wadlow took the reins and while not exactly doing a bad job, I can’t help but feel he’s delivered a watered down version of the original. There’re a couple of flashes of brilliance, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. The action is competent, but gone are the interesting backing track choices or break neck fight scenes, the humour is far too puerile too often, gone are the little scenes of henchman chatting or arguing to provide some characterisation and make their deaths mean something. That’s a real shame considering there were so many wasted scenes, especially the ‘Hit Girl gets domesticated at High School’ stuff that just dragged and ultimately had no point.

Conclusion time

Please do not get me wrong, Kick-Ass 2 is ok, it’s certainly watchable, and as with its predecessor, when compared to the plethora of superhero films released ad nauseam these days, it provides an interesting and different take on the superhero persona. It also carries on the story of Dave Lizewski nicely, with some genuine character development. It’s just that as a film, Kick-Ass 2 only exists thanks to the brilliance of the original Kick-Ass, and as such can’t avoid being compared, and when compared, Kick-Ass 2 is infinitely inferior, large amounts of time wasted, some awful missteps with the jokes to the point of being an embarrassment, and very little is added to the franchise as a whole.

It’s a massive shame, because as with the original, a graphic novel was released at the same time, and the graphic novel version of Kick-Ass 2 is fantastic, absolutely fantastic, probably too brutal to have been realised on screen, but even a watered down version would have been far better than the film we got.

For me, this is now it, I don’t regret seeing Kick-Ass 2, nor do I regret that it was made, but the franchise for me is done, finished, over and out. Word is there’s going to be a third instalment, my none-existent god do I hope that isn’t the case, because while Kick-Ass 2 just about stumbles over the line of acceptability without damaging the original, a third one may well be the nudge that sends the entire franchise into free fall, and the last thing we need kick-Ass to do is become another fucking Wolverine.

Written by Sam ‘fully intend to raise my children to be super villains’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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Defending the Indefensible: Richard Madeley

Posted on by sam

 

 

THE TOP 40 RICHARD MADELEY QUOTES

 

Richard Madeley. The man, the legend. The man who has been arrested on two separate occasions for ‘forgetting’ to pay for his items at Tesco. The man who described himself as the the ‘Millennium Guru’ and had his own ‘Millennium cupboard’ where he stored non perishable items in readiness for the Y2K bug that would devastate the world on the 1st of January, 2000. The man who was once wrestled to the ground live on TV by none other than Shakin’ Stevens (Look on YouTube, it’s true).  It’s impossible not to associate Madeley with Alan Partridge but whereas Partridge only comes to life whenever Steve Coogan decides to unleash him, Madeley is Madeley 24/7.

I’ve been collecting these quotes of Madeley for a fair while and was initially going to release them after his inevitable death. Then I figured that though he has near 30 years on me, his hair is much thicker than mine so it’s probable I will die before him and my findings would never see the light of day. So, here are my personal favourite Richard Madeley quotes. They are pretty much in order though my opinions do change day by day. I’m sure you will have your own favourites after reading the list.  I was going intersperse these quotes with comments of my own but I simply can’t compete with Madeley. He deserves uninterrupted attention.

Over to you Rich…..

40.Talking to Ricky Gervais about Chris Rock

“We had him on last week. Complete Prat”

 

39.When interviewing Keira Knightly

“Can we get some make up please, get Keira looking like a crack whore, she’d make a good crack whore”

 

38.After a man breaks down crying after meeting the paramedics who saved his life in a motorbike accident 

“Stop crying! This is supposed to make you happy! Anyway after the break, the biggest dog in the UK. And he really is big. Don’t miss it” 

 

37.“There’s not many better things than seeing an older woman skipping”

 

36.To Opera singer Russell Watson and Faye Tozer from Steps

“I always thought both of your music was a bit crap but this is quite good”

 

35.After being told by Kamikaze survivors that they didn’t want to watch clips of the VE celebrations because they had lost several crew members the day before VE.

“Well we’ve got a clip so we’ll run it anyway”

 

34..In reply to John Fashanu saying his nightmares were so bad, he often woke up with his bed saturated

 ”With sweat?”

 

33.After giving out the phone-in competition number

“A numerically satisfying number there.”

 

32.After Stephen Hawkings replied ’no’ to his question of whether he believed in a God or not

“ (Distraught) I was hoping for a yes there”

 

31.To a caller

“I understand you have a little lad of 12. Is it a boy or a girl?”

 

30.After Ricky Gervais points out the cameraman is doing the ‘wanker sign’ behind Madeleys back

“He’s been doing it most of the week (sighs). He doesn’t realize that I can see him doing it in the reflection from the other camera’s Auto-cue…I don’t know why he’s still working here, really.

 

29.”Women lie about sex. It doesn’t matter how many partners she’s said she’s had before you. She’s lying”

 

28..Talking to a child who has spinal injuries meaning he had to wear a huge neck and head brace

“Hey you look just like Buzz Lightyear”

 

27.“The one characteristic I don’t think I have any shreds of is suicidal tendencies”

 

26.To Jade Goody

“You’re quite sharp. It’s just in the pure sense of the word that you’re ignorant”

 

25.“Remember when you had thrush Judy? You had a terrible time of it”

 

24.To someone with an eating disorder

“When you were younger did you have a brother or sister who used to steal food off you, you know like dogs do and that’s why you wolf it down?”

 

23.To Eddie Grant

“I hope when I’m reincarnated I come back black because you age better”

 

22.When interviewing Primordial Dwarves

“Do you find that people patronize you? That means that they talk down to you”

21.When Interviewing Frank Sinatra’s daughter

“It’s obvious you loved your father, but do you think you were actually in love with him?”

20.When Interviewing Eddie Jordan

 ”you’re looking good.  You were born in 1948, Judy you were born in 1948…” 

 

19. The first question to man giving his first TV appearance after being wrongly imprisoned for years
“So, did you do it?”

 

18.To the comedians Punt and Dennis
 ”You two have been together for 24 years, just like me and Judy! Although me and Judy were only having an affair in the beginning, weren’t we Jude? Is that the same for you two, did you just start off as an affair too?”

 

17.After Judy misjudged someone’s age

“Ha ha, she failed maths. She did, she did!”

 

16.When Judy was complaining about her dislike of Squid being prepared

“Your point’s not valid Finnegan”

 

15..Talking about how he doesn’t like anyone interfering with his cooking

“No I am bad. I’m like Hitler in the kitchen”

 

14.When interviewing an actor who was currently playing a role as  a bi-sexual

“would YOU prefer to have sex with, me or Judy?”

 

13.After Judy said that she’d like to have become a Dr if she wasn’t a TV presenter

“No, you would have ended up killing everybody”

 

12.To singer Sophie Ellis Bextor

“Where did you get your face?”

 

11.“So he suffers for us. He bears our pain in the most public way possible. He serves a timeless human need, one that goes back long before the time of Christ. Perhaps this has always been PAUL GASCOIGNE’S destiny”

(Capital letters my own doing. Felt it needed to be highlighted that he is indeed talking about the footballer here)

THE TOP 10!


10. 
To a teenager suffering from anorexia

“5 stone! That’s concentration camp thin that is”

 

9.(To Judy) Do you remember that soup I made last week? Absolutely horrible. Had to throw it in the garden”

 

8.To one of the Birmingham 6 

‘What do you notice most that has changed during your 18 years in jail? 

Cars have five gears now, for example.”

 

7.“I’ve never met a single women who’s happy with the way she looks, except Jordan, although I’ve never met her”

 

6.To the Actor Mark Williams

 ”You’ve lost some weight, haven’t you? Why’s that? You’re not ill are you?”

 

5.To Charlotte Church

 ”OK, imagine I’m someone from  a record company with a ponytail… (Begins shouting)…. I OWN you, Church!”

 

4.When interviewing someone who had an obsessive crush on a celebrity

“So, Jane, when did you first realise that you were quite clearly mad?”

 

3.”When me and Judy were trying to conceive. I used to douse my balls in icy water before intercourse”

 

2. Conversation with Skins star Nicholas Hoult 

Richard: “How old are you now? 18?”
Nicholas: “No I’m 17″
Richard: “Really, I thought you were 18″
Nicholas: “Nope”
Richard: “But you’re nearly 18 though, aren’t you?”
Nicholas: “Actually I’ve just turned 17″
Richard: “Well I suppose I’ll have to take your word for it”

1.When talking to Bill Clinton about his affair with Monica Lewinsky

“I know what it’s like to be wronged by the press. I was once accused of shoplifting. Unlike you though, I knew I was innocent”.

Written By Jim Haginson

Follow him on twitter at @panchero

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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The Sunday Film Review: Pacific Rim

Posted on by sam

Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro (2013)

Act 1

High School Jock #1: ‘How’d the date with unrealistically attractive preppy cheerleader go?’

High School Jock #2 ‘Got all the way to Pacific Rim, oh yeah!

The two high-five

Act 2

Promiscuous Female in Slasher Movie: ‘Yeah baby, in my Pacific Rim’

Moments later Promiscuous Female is hacked to pieces by masked male murderer

Act 3

Angry Army Sergeant: ‘Pull that again private and my foot will be go far up your Pacific Rim your momma won’t wanna kiss it better’

Private eventually wins Sergeants respect with acts of valour

Act 4

Prime Minister David ‘kill kill kill the poor’ Cameron: ‘As ‘your’ elected Prime Minister I want what’s best for all’

General populace: ‘Stop talking out your Pacific Rim David, your party didn’t even get a majority vote’

 

There I was, all ready to dismiss Pacific Rim as a film with poorest thought out title since Deep Impact, when something strange happened; People with opinions I actually respect started praising the damn thing. Then people whose opinions I don’t really care about started slating the damn thing, then a filmmaker friend by the name of Ryan J Finnigan typed this on The Asylum knock-off version of the damn thing. Finally, I decided I could wait another week before following up my Batman 66 review with Batman 1989 in order to jump on the bandwagon.

Plot summary

The premise behind anal penetration Pacific Rim is admittedly pretty awesome. The first five minutes are a montage which reads as such; Aliens decided to invade earth, but instead of expensive space travel, they opted for the relatively cheap route of genetically engineering a huge monster (emphasise on huge). They sent said huge monster through a conveniently placed portal in the Pacific Ocean. Not being up to date on huge monster sci-fi, and therefore not expecting a huge monster to rise out of the ocean (watch Cloverfield people, it’ll teach you all you need to know), quite a few lives were lost in the resulting rampage.

Inevitably though, a combination of tanks, airplanes and heavy ordinance won the day and the huge monster was brought down. A while later and a second, slightly different huge monster appeared, this too was brought down, then a third struck and so on. It reached the point where humanity became quite confident at fighting huge alien monsters, and relaxed enough to give the monsters a Japanese word for a name; Kaiju, which translates as beast, strange creature and/or monster. In response to the ‘Kaiju’ threat, the governments of the world ‘united’, the concept of a ‘united world’ isn’t really explained in any depth, but I’m assuming it means countries actually started listening to International laws and stopped killing each other for oil or religious claims to land etc….. kind of like what John Lennon imagined.

I have a poster of this great man on my wall............. it's a very selective wall

 

What happened next is a little sketchy, but it went something like this: someone with power and influence watched Power Rangers: suddenly tanks, airplanes and heavy ordinance didn’t seem cool anymore. Pilot operated giant robots on the other hand, they were the future. Thus the Jaegers, (which is actually meant to be written as jäger, the German word for hunter), giant robots the size of skyscrapers, were produced. The catch though, was giant mechanised robots were far too awesome for one person to operate so a dual pilot system was developed. One pilot would take the right side, the other the left. How do they manage to ensure the two pilots move in sync you may ask? ‘Years of practice and training’, the person watching you from outside your window may answer………..They’re wrong. Instead the pilots are telepathically linked using machines with wires and plugs and all that matrix stuff.

If you’ve kept up then, explorative sex Pacific Rim is the story of dual piloted giant robots fighting genetically engineered colossus alien monsters, and that’s only the first five minutes!

The actual story (and that word is used loosely) part of specific point of penetration Pacific Rim introduces Raleigh (Charlie Hunman) and Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) Beckett,  two brothers who happen to be Jaeger pilots. It turned out whoever watched Power Rangers was right, and giant mechanised death robots were cool, so cool that jaeger pilots are the new celebrities popular enough to get away with murder, soliciting prostitution and substance abuse. Though undeniably Jaeger pilots have gone more the ‘home grown Olympian’ approach to celebrity, so despite an overinflated sense of self-worth and a deluge of tweets, are relatively bearable, even at times admirable.

I think I'd probably like Ms Ennis if her face didn't advertise everything!

 

Raleigh and Yancy’s overinflated sense of self-worth turns to tragedy when they disobey the orders of commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (Idris ‘Stringer Bell’ Elba, can’t wait to see him play Mr Nelson Mandela) and attempt to save the lives of some hapless fishermen caught by a Kaiju…………… yup, it’s that sort of a film. The result is Yancy’s death, which is a shame, because of the two, he seemed the one more likely to portray genuine human emotions, or be in any way interesting as a character.

Fast forward a few years and Raleigh has taken the death of his brother so badly, he’s spent years working on a wall. The wall’s significant because as the Kaiju became more adept at fighting jaegers, humanity decided a giant wall was a boring yet cheaper way to deal with the threat than death robots. It was at this point I stopped rooting for a humanity victory. Then some things happen, Luther Stacker Pentecost asks Raleigh to return to the Jaeger project and a horde of one dimensional stereotypes get introduced.

Rinko Kikuchi plays love interest Mako Mori, who gets along well with Raleigh once she discovers he can speak Japanese, but eventually reverts to speaking English in a horribly stereotypical accent, I guess because that’s the language none existent God wants humanity to speak. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play two scientist dudes who annoyed the hell out of me to begin with but somehow transitioned into heart-warming comic relief. Robert Kazinsky plays a jock from an Australian high-school movie who adds nothing to the film, and alongside him Max Martini plays an Australian as seen in Crocodile Dundee. Elsewhere Clifton Collins, who once appeared as a Vegan Policeman in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, appears as a generic scientist guy, and Ron ‘war, war never changes……………..yes, yes it does actually’ Perlman plays a war profiteer black market dude with gold shoes.

Finally, in a move that would automatically add a star if I did star ratings (which I don’t, complex wannabe indie filmmaker opinions cannot simply be expressed numerically), Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS in Portal, the greatest game ever made, provides the voice of a robotic system the Jaegers operate.

Stop reading and play this gem of a game if you haven't already!

 

Plot summary ends.

Pacific Rim is the story of two halves, one half is named Action, the other everything else. I’ll start with the latter.

With a couple of notable exceptions, the acting in sensitive area Pacific Rim is poor, the problem is most of the characters are bland, one dimensional stereotypes. The Australian dudes are the most obvious example of this, but it’s the lead character, Raleigh, that particularly got on my nerves. Raleigh Beckett is one of the blandest, shallowest leads in history. He literally does nothing save walk around in a bland malaise. My brother got killed in a horrific accident so I’ll just go work on a wall, guys at work are dissing me so I’ll just walk away from them, some of the greatest Jaeger pilots in the world are right next to me so I’ll just sit here at this table and eat some lunch, wouldn’t want to chat to them or anything. He does get in one fight, but that’s only because the Australian jock called his nearly girlfriend a bitch and he wants an apology. In film terms, that’s villain twirling his moustache while declaring he wants to take over the world level of characterisation and depth. Then there are the stupid arsehole moments, like a pilot of a Jaeger, a machine primarily built for close combat, forgetting his vehicle has a sword.

I’m not sure how much of this is Charlie Hunmans fault, the script isn’t exactly strong in the dialogue department, but whoever thought what the action world really needed was another lead whose voice sounds like Tome Waits had a romantic rendezvous with throat cancer in a darkened alley needs banning from film for life.

Away from the acting, the ‘story’ is one of incredible convenience. The Aliens just happen to release their genetic monsters in a predictable way, there just happens to be a ranking system that the alien monsters conform to, an explosion at the right time will just happen to………. You get the picture. There’s no depth or shades of grey anywhere, there isn’t really a value placed on human life, considering how quickly some characters are disposed of, and how little time (none at all in most cases) is spent lamenting death and reflecting on the perils of mortality. Also in the entire film, there’s like one female character, one, and all she does is follow the orders of men.

But then we come to the action, ha ha butt sex Pacific Rim is predominantly an action film, and to borrow a phrase from my geeky subconscious mind, the action is pretty hype. Followable and epic, the battles are………… wonderful, truly wonderful. The scale of the action is ambitious and yet it really, really works. I could follow exactly what was going on in each fight, and yet had no idea where each one was heading, I watched intrigued as my childhood dreams of giant robots and monsters were realised on screen, and I really got into it. Every swing, every bite, every crunch as something flew into a building, it conjured images of a young me twirling sticks and imagining the exact same thing. Then I turned 25 and decided it was time to stop such silly games.

I already knew Guillermo del Toro was a fine filmmaker, and while Pacific Rim isn’t a particularly fine film, as a spectacle it’s up there with the best I’ve seen, the camerawork, the scope, the visuals, they’re fantastic, some of the best I’ve seen in film. Then there’s the soundtrack, pulsating and adrenaline fuelled, each battle gets its own little musical accompaniment.

But, and that’s one of those big big big buts, the story does hurt the enjoyment somewhat. The closest film I’ve reviewed to Bottom Violation Pacific Rim was Battleship, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing, I enjoyed Battleship. The problem is I enjoyed battleship because I was after big dumb fun, and I got just that. Pacific Rim is certainly big and dumb, and generally speaking when there’s a giant robot prancing about on screen it’s fun, but that isn’t enough. Battleship was always going to be ridiculous. Pacific Rim on the other hand could be a masterpiece, with action as spectacular as it possesses, it should be, but the characterisation and story is just too poor. I loved watching robots fighting monsters, but I couldn’t have cared less who won the battle, or if the pilots inside the robots died, or fell in love, or saved a thousand orphans. There was no jeopardy for me, no tension, in fact at times some of the characters became such simplified excuses for human beings, I felt patronised. It turned me off, and that’s a problem, because it means I can’t honestly say I enjoyed Pacific Rim, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t enjoy it, it’s ‘meh’, and when a film has action so good I rave about it, ‘meh’ is a hell of a disappointing way for things to end up.

In conclusion, do I recommend analogy for anus Pacific Rim? The answer is I don’t really know. I’m not saying don’t watch it, as I’ve said the action is up there with the best I’ve seen, the child in me was well satiated, but as a story it’s bland, superficial and a waste. It’s kind of like eating the worlds tastiest chocolate bar with a horribly bitter lemon.

I also have this poster on my wall

 

You really enjoyed the chocolate bar but the lemon left a bad taste, and combined you’re not really sure how tasty the chocolate bar really was because all you can remember is the taste of a horribly bitter lemon.

Written by Sam ‘hyped to be a wannabe indie filmmaker’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

Why not be kind and drop HFP a like on facebook     

Defending The Indefensible: Laziness

Posted on by sam

IN DEFENCE OF LAZINESS

“Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or marker is a symptom of deficient vitality….there is a sort of dead alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation….they have no curiosity  They cannot give themselves over to random provocations:they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake: and unless necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk ”

Robert Louis Stephenson

 

“Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good

Soren Kierkegaard

 

‘Arbeit Macht Frei’

 

I recently read that America has a 15 billion dollar weight loss industry. Despite the amount of money going around in these innumerable weight loss programmes, 97% of cases end in failure. 97% of people quit the programme they started.  In some cases other things take over and you simply don’t have the time to carry on with what you started but the majority quit because they simply can’t be arsed.

With this in mind it begs the question of why do so many people start something that they are highly unlikely to finish? In some cases weight loss is of absolute importance due to health issues but for most the shredding of a few stone is all that they crave. Yet still this is not achieved. Or it is achieved and then is soon put back on again because the thought of going to the gym instead of the pub suddenly seems like a ludicrous idea.  We as people are generally happier sat around a table talking about nothing than than running nowhere on a treadmill and sweating like Nick Griffin in an Indian restaurant (That’s a poor joke but one that works on TWO levels which more than makes up for the quality of the joke itself which is undoubtedly very poor). It’s not hard to understand why people quit their exercise programmes. It’s a simple case of toil v leisure and most people would rather indulge in leisure than toil. It’s natural to want to relax instead of run just like it’s natural to want to sit in a pub rather than stand in one.  So why do we feel so guilty for our inactivity?

Bet that's the Daily Mail he's defending himself with. HA HA HA HA.............Oh fuck off

 

It all comes down to the social belief that being busy is more of a virtue than idling around. You feel socially obliged to get up and do something with your time. If you tell someone that you’ve spent your week off work sitting on your couch, eating crisps and designing the ultimate Superhero, they will say you’ve wasted your week. This is because we as a nation have totally lost the ability to relax.

Its disturbing that man now sees himself as a worker first and foremost. When you go to a school reunion the first question you are asked is “Where do you work?”. You haven’t seen this person for 10 years and all he wants to know is where you are when you suffer the most. Why not ask “What music do you listen to these days?” or “What do you get up to at weekends?”, Something, anything, that may actually reveal something about YOU. Your essence, passions and hates.

This man wants to know what job you do

 

The hard work ethic that has been indoctrinated into us has managed to triumph above all else.  People now believe you don’t deserve to enjoy life unless you have earn’t it. You must work for your happiness. Tom Hodgkinson, the founder of the fantastic ‘The Idler’ magazine describes this mindset by saying -

- “you must be unhappy to be happy. The underlying idea behind this insanity is that you are infinitely undeserving – that reward, ie happiness, will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity.” -

A phrase often levelled at me is “You have too much spare time”. I think this is possibly the most unsuccessful insult of all time. How can you have too much spare time when spare time is all we live for? Spare time in life IS life. People say that they haven’t got enough time for things such as, you know, enjoying themselves but we all get the same amount of hours in a day. People choose not to use their time as they wish and then criticise those who do. When someone says to me “You have too much spare time” I genuinely take it as a compliment. I don’t see how it can be anything else. When people look forward to holidays from work they look forward to having spare time. Time to indulge in their hobbies, passions and thoughts. Spare time is the only time when we get a break from performing to please others and get to concentrate on pleasing ourselves (Not in the sense that we stimulate our own gentiles. Although if you wish to spend your time that way then knock yourself off). Unfortunately some people work so hard that they don’t even know their own mind and have no idea how to spend their spare time. They don’t know what they like or hate. They get bored on holidays because they have mentally committed suicide and turned into a machine. They don’t know how to relax because they don’t know who they are. They aren’t safe until they are back at work and don’t have to think for themselves.

Occupation has undoubtedly come to define people which is terribly, terribly depressing and is actually patronizing to an evolved, intelligent human being. Characterizing yourself by your job is de-humanising. Think of the people you know who take their work incredibly seriously. The likelihood is that they are bereft of any sort of personality. They have sold themselves in exchange for a big house. They have abandoned their personalty for a new car. They don’t have real friends as they never see them. They never see their family because they are totally committed to completing some meaningless task in the office.  When people talk of ‘wasting your life’,  I can not think of any group of people more deserving of this phrase than the ‘go getters’. Striving all their life to be comfortable and to one day not have to work so hard. Striving to one day relax. Striving all their life for something that they can gain by being idle and creative. Its no coincidence that the vast majority of career driven people are boring whilst the so called wasters are invariably interesting.

This picture will not have been dreamt up by someone on more than £30,000 a year

 

Idle hands and having time on those hands are when we truly live. When we truly understand ourselves and realise what’s going on in our own heads. The aimless days are the ones when you learn more about yourself above all others. These are the only times you truly realise your own thoughts. There are no obstacles interrupting your thought. There are no jobs to be done that will switch your mind back into the world of unreality. Your mind can only be the only true reality as we only find sense in anything because of it. The beauty of life is that we all have different minds and our own independent thoughts. The tragedy is that many never truly realise their own thoughts. The insistence to do something at all times prevents relaxation which in turn prevents genuine thought. People know more about their bosses than they do themselves.

Another quote that often comes my way is ‘grow up’. Why on earth would I want to grow up ? People always say the best days of their lives were as a child and yet they can’t wait to turn their back on their childhood. As an adult we become overcome by seriousness and the child like free nature that we once had is viewed as something we can’t get back. You can still be a child. A child is always looking for excitement and takes nothing serious. A child is happy. You can still be that child. Instead of worrying about the future and saving money in the hope that this mythical happy life will one day be yours, enjoy life today. People who say ‘grow up’ have given up. They have created a dystopia from the sands of paradise.  “Its time to be responsible”. No it isn’t. Its never time to be responsible and become Dave Smith from Taplow (No offence to Dave Smith from Taplow). Most of us never decide what we want to do with our lives at all. We go from one relationship to another, one job to another, trying to win what’s never been won, trying to do what’s never been done. Just relax. Be idle. Be lazy. The idea that any work as long as it’s work is of moral benefit sits at odds with Civilization itself. Civilization truly developed when we stopped being hunter gatherers and started raising crops and livestock. The reason this change happened was because of the modern enemy. The enemy of Idle hands. When people had time to devote to their own passions they progressed to create what we today call civilization .

Some poor souls out there have to work two, sometimes three jobs earning minimum wage in all just provide food and shelter for themselves and their family. The book ‘Nickel and Dimed’ by Barbara Ehrenreich is a darkly humorous read into the life of low wage American workers and the treatment they receive from the hierarchy of society.  She comments the low wage workers are reluctant to revolt as they are made to feel unworthy by their superiors and how saddening it is to see people take such pride in their jobs to such little recognition  These poorly paid people work harder than anyone purely because they have to and yet their work invariably goes unnoticed, unappreciated and unconsidered.  They are living proof that the mantra of ‘Keep your head down, work hard and you’ll reap the rewards’  simply isn’t true in all cases. Their employers strip of them of their own thoughts and civil liberties by refusing them permission to air their views or even speak at all on company time. They are made to feel that the dictatorship of huge company’s paying low wages is ‘just life’ and that they should feel privileged to have a job at all. This selfish brave new world world is shaped by social status but people should understand that the guilt and shame they may feel about having low aspirations in ‘working your way up the ladder’ is purely a personal state of mind.  There is nothing at all wrong with treating work as simply something you have to do to be able to indulge in what you like. People too often change their own views of the world to suit societies in order to protect their self image. Most of us are in a position lucky enough where one job holds enough wages to fulfils our needs.  The idea that you are lazy and unambitious for not wanting to stick to the familiar path of putting so many hours and so much toil into something purely in the hope that a wage increase that may make you slightly more comfortable or have a higher social status is ridiculous to me.  None of it actually means anything if you don’t know how to enjoy your time away from unavoidable activities.

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of WORK, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in the organised diminution of work.

Betrand Russell

Betrand Russell couldn't even be arsed to put his glasses over his eyes.

 

In 1,000 years time you will be nothing. No-one will remember you. Your actions will have meant nothing. Take the liberty that a wonderfully pointless life gives you and learn how to relax. Learn how to be lazy. See being called a ‘bum’ as a compliment. Take pride in your lack of energy. Follow your own ideas and be be totally free from the constraints of social conformity. You will be the one on your death bed with no regrets whilst the others realize how futile their actions have been. People should understand that whilst life is ultimately pointless they are not. Every single person ever born has their own thoughts, passions and hates. They have a mind that is different to anyone else who has been before or since. That is an amazing thought. The only way to fully comprehend and enjoy your own thoughts is through leisure.

So stay in bed, don’t feel guilty about relaxing and be as lazy as you please. The workers will have you believe that they are doing things the right way but look at them. The stress, the inability to rest and the labour constantly cloaking the mind of it’s wonderful possibilities.  People take two week holidays and do nothing. You can do nothing more than you realise. You don’t need to wait for a holiday. Hobbies and interests are formed through laziness.Having hobbies and interests are key to a happy life. Much more so than having money and not knowing what to do with it.  Relaxing and laziness is a positive state of mind. If you look at any thesaurus you’ll find that the antonyms to the words work and labour are fun and entertainment. A lazy life is a life of pleasure

Written By Jim Haginson

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

Why not be kind and drop HFP a like on facebook

 

Websites that should be visited by sane people

http://idler.co.uk/

http://idlefoundation.org/

http://www.whywork.org/

http://www.anxietyculture.com/

http://libcom.org/

 

 

The (late again) Sunday Film Review: Classic: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Posted on by sam

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Coen Brothers (2000)

Last week I reviewed Batman 1966, with the proviso I’d review Batman 1989 and compare the two, all in the name of providing a practical demonstration of the little known Sams Motherfucking Theory on Reboots. Nothing’s changed, I’m still going to review Batman 89, buttttttttttttttttttttt, I can’t be doing with two Batman (or Batmen GWA HA HA HA!) films in two weeks, so as a bit of a break from caped crusaders, here’s a film review that will most likely just end up being a gushing love letter explaining why I reckon O Brother, Where Art Thou is a classic. Apologies to anyone disappointed by the lack of a Batman 1989 review, oh wait, no one cares………………………. Cool.

There are tons of justifications I could and very likely will give for describing O Brother, Where Art Thou as a classic; the craftsmanship, the script, the performances, the soundtrack, a personal story involving my father who didn’t grow up strong wrestling alligators down in the Louisiana swamp. Stop reading after the plot summary if you don’t like weepy paragraphs praising a film it’s incredibly difficult to find fault in.

Plot Summary

1937: One fine day down in the more racist half of America, three convicts escape one of those chain gangs that breaks rocks in the hot sun after they fought the law but the law won (how exactly does breaking rocks make someone less likely to recommit crimes?).The trio comprises of the fantastically named Ulysses (there’s a whole Odyssey theme running throughout the film) Everett McGill (George Clooney in one of his finest performances), Pete Hogwallop (a wonderful John Turturro) and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson, who can act, sing, direct and choose roles in good Incredible Hulk films).

The three escaped in order to dig up a fortune Everett buried before he was jailed for robbery but almost immediately are their escape they run into a blind seer (Lee Weaver with a fine if brief performance) who predicts the three have a long journey ahead of them. The seer claims they will find a treasure, but not the one they seek. Then everything becomes more complicated by the appearance of merciless Sheriff Cooley (Daniel Van Bargen, who also played the merciless Commandant Spangler in Malcolm in the Middle), a man more than willing to pursue chain gang escapers to the ends of the earth.

To a prevalent and incredible American folk soundtrack, the three do indeed endure a rather long and bizarre journey. One encompassing an implausible range of historical and fictional characters; there’s Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King, a fantastic musician in his own right) who sold his soul to the devil in return for the ability to play a guitar just like a ringing a bell, bank robber Baby-faced George Nelson (Michael Badalucco: energetic and wonderful) who carries a grudge against cows, bible salesmen Big Dan (a fine John Goodman, wearing an eye patch as a nod towards the Cyclops in The Odyssey) and blind radio station manager Mr Lund (Stephen Root, his delivery is hilarious, a fine fine actor, don’t believe me, watch Office Space).

The three also become embroiled in a mayoral election between incumbent mayor Menelaus ‘Pappy’ O’Daniel (a rough talking and belligerent Charles Durning), and ‘voice of the little man’ (he has a midget as part of his campaign), Homer Stokes (Wayne Duvall with a nice character turn). Naturally, being set in the south there’s a Klu Klux Klan moment, as well as an intimate meeting with some singing sirens. If all that weren’t enough, there’s a lovely, spirited performance by Holly Hunter as a character you’ll have to watch the film to discover.

Plot summary finishes.

Waxing lyrical begins.

We begin with the soundtrack. While O Brother, Where Art Thou the film was still being developed, the soundtrack was already recorded. The traditional American folk songs form a huge part of the film. Energetic, soulful, warm and frightening at different points, every scene features its own atmospheric song. It really adds to the experience, and comes as no surprise that the soundtrack was so popular it massively enhanced the careers of the artists who recorded tracks. In terms of a soundtrack, this may be the definitive example of just how music and film can be melded together to create a filmic experience.

Next let’s visit the acting. The Coen brothers have always made films with interesting character turns; Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing, William H Macy in Fargo to name but a few (and there are tons more, oh me oh my yes, tons more indeed). I don’t know if they just had great casting directors, or the atmosphere they create on set is conducive to quality acting, maybe it’s both, whatever the reason, every film has terrific moments of acting. It’s quite possible O Brother, Where Art Thou is the pinnacle of this. Every actor, from the leads to the bit parts, play their parts perfectly, I can’t name one actor that stands out above or below the rest. The entire cast are talents deserving of big houses and private lives. Even the child actors didn’t grate.

Around the corner from acting we have the films direction: O Brother, Where Art Thou is one of those sepia looking films that works. This is an even greater achievement when you consider it was made at a time when every Tom, Dick and Harriet filmmaker viewed sepia as the greatest colour grading effect of all time. In terms of the setting, everything looks just right. An entire portion of a country going through massive change is captured via an interesting variety of roaming wides, detailed close ups and beautiful, off-centre angles. The pacing is tight and consistent too; no section of the story drags or seems weaker than the rest. There are plenty of what i’d call Coen moments included; the odd transition, a weird fade to black or two, and a roam up to fire in a dudes eyes, yet the focus is on story, and characters and all that stuff I insist a good film should have.

Accompanying the technical prowess, is a quirky script filled with wonderful back and forth conversations, strong, consistent characterisations, and a genuinely interesting, heart felt look at the American south as it began an arduous change into a technologically advanced society.

Finally the nods to The Odyssey are clever and probably most importantly, don’t feel contrived.

Had enough of me gushing yet? Oh, that was three paragraphs ago, well how about a personal story?

No wait come back.

Fine, but I’m still telling the story.

There aren’t that many films I’ve watched with my father who shot the sheriff but did not shoot the deputy, and know he’s enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, there’re plenty of films he’s appreciated; The White Ribbon, Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Oldboy, to name a quality few. We’ve gone to the cinema together plenty of times and he’s even pretended to enjoy some of the films we’ve made here at HFP. Yet despite all that, there are only a few films I can remember watching with him, looking over and seeing genuine joy on his face. A couple of Marx Brothers films (particularly Duck Soup) made the list; he laughed hysterically at anything by Chaplin and had a lot of time for Hitchcock.

Finding a film from more recent days for him to enjoy, well that wasn’t so easy.

Step forward the Coen Brothers. The Big Lebowski had him guffawing, and he’s fond of Fargo, but it’s O Brother, Where Art Thou that I would truly declare his modern (ish) film. It’s a film he continues to watch again and again and again (when’ he’s not having sex with my mum who isn’t the inspiration for Stabuck in the remake of Battlestar Galactica). There’s one specific sequence involving a live performance of the song Jailhouse Now, he used to wind an old VHS tape copy of the film forward to to specifically watch. In the process of writing this I popped round his house and played him that scene. The result; during a busy morning with him running late (thanks to my mum), he took 7 minutes out to stare transfixed at my laptop as the scene played out. See O Brother, Where Art Thou isn’t just a great film; it’s a great memory of times with my father.

Inevitably, as with all my reviews, I feel I have to ask this question: any negatives?

The answer is probably. I don’t believe in perfection, and I would certainly never say O Brother, Where Art Thou is a perfect film.

The films quirkiness will be its undoing to some, while others just won’t care for the music. Yet for me personally, I can find no flaw while watching it, nothing at any point turns me off, or distracts me, or I feel I would have done differently, but then O Brother, Where Art Thou is on my list of films that go beyond pixels and become something much more important. (Others include Oldboy, Clerks, This is England).

Here in a nutshell then, is why I rate O Brother, Where Art Thou as a classic. It’s fantastically well-made, reinvigorated a music genre, holds up today as well as it did when it was made, and provided me with important memories of my father who isn’t a fire-starter, twisted fire-starter. Apart from all that, watching it is just a brilliant experience. It’s the type of film that leaves me wanting to go make my own film (which we did, we just haven’t finished editing the thing yet).

I’ve been thinking of how to end this love letter of a film review, here’s what I came up with………….

Don’t be a dick, go watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Written By Sam ‘O Nintendo, Where Art Thou?’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

Why not be kind and drop HFP a like on facebook

The Sunday Film Review: Batman (1966)

Posted on by sam

Batman (1966)

Leslie H. Martinson (1966)

Also a hilarious radio adaptation

Dunna dunna dunna na naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Holy terrible retail experience poorly constructed film review fans! When last you left (actually that’s not true, it was several reviews ago, just go with it) your compelling and irrefutably handsome wannabe indie filmmaker was enjoying a terrible experience battling the evil entities at John Lewis. The battle between good (reviewer) and pure evil (John Lewis) raged so ferociously, your reviewer was left unable to explain his intelligent theory on how to reboot a franchise successfully (geniusly named Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots). Originally he intended to use the Batman Franchise (which has had like four reboots) as an example, but thanks to convoluted events involving the shocking discovery of John Lewis developing their own Genesis Device, that idea fell by the wayside. Will the situation be resolved, will our intrepid writer forgive the heartless cretins at John Lewis, will we get to read Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots? The answer to this and more, coming up, right……………………………………… now.

Yes, never, that’s what this reviews designed to set up.

To explain how I think you avoid making another reboot like Rise of The Planet of the Apes (no, no I will not let it go, that movie was too horrible, too damn horrible!) using Batman, I need to first look at how the franchise initially established itself, which I can’t be arsed to do yet, so here’s a plot summary. Drinking game, take a shot every time I type the word camp or derivatives there of.

!Plot summary!

Batman 66 starts with one of the best dedications I’ve ever read

There, how nice a message is that? (If you’re reading this on RYM then hello, feel free to add me as a friend, but I’m sorry, no pictures)

Then it’s straight into camp action in which the dynamic duo (Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, as if you didn’t already know) get into sequence involving the Batcopter, a disappearing boat, an exploding Chondrichthye and a gem of a sight gag about shark repellent spray. In a subsequent, incredibly camp conversation with Commissioner Gordon (A slightly camp Neil Hamilton) and Police Chief Miles O’Hara (Stafford Repp with a somewhat off Irish accent), our heroes discern that four of batman’s greatest enemies have joined forces. My favourite part was Robin working out Catwoman’s involvement by stating, and I quote: ‘this whole thing happened at sea, C, for Catwoman’.

!Quote!

By this point you’re giggling (if not dead inside or too cool for old films) and those giggles turn into belly laughs when the four villains get introduced (again, provided you’re not dead and blah blah blah). As Robin deduced, Catwoman (a very sexy Lee Meriwether, who was a voice in Metal Gear Solid 4, the poor unfortunate soul) is involved, her role is to make purr puns and occasionally throw a black cat at the other three villains whenever they start arguing. She also stays out of the physical stuff, not sure if that’s a reflection of sixties attitude to women on film or not, but it seem interesting enough an observation to place in this sentence, so yeah.

!Paragraph!

Next there’s The Joker (Cesar Romero, fun fun fun), whose job is to laugh a lot and gleefully make a camp joke out of the line ‘fire torpedoes’. Following on there’s The Riddler (Frank Gorshin, who provided voices for Diablo 2, a game much, much better than Metal Gear Solid 4), his job is to argue with The Joker and make riddles so ridiculous they cross the line into genius and plant themselves there for all time (no spoilers, this films worth watching just for the riddles). Finally, and very likely stealing the show, we get The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, who survived the bullshit that was the Un-American Activities Hollywood blacklist to have a career any actor would be proud of, good for him). The Penguins role is to act as the glue that holds the rest of the group together. It’s Penguin who explains what the evil plans actually are, and he has a particularly exquisite sequence in which he disguises himself as a camp sea captain.

!Acting!

Oh, and Alan Napier, a fine British actor, gets a few scenes as Alfred the Butler, in which he acts camply and does very little else.

The rest of the film involves the four villains trying to realise their goal of world domination via seducing Bruce Wayne, a dehydration machine, an exploding octopus and a submarine with a penguins face.

!Finishing!

Plot summary finishes

I’ll do the ground work for Sam’s Motherfucking Theory on Reboots next, hope you enjoy statements of an obvious nature. Batman’s first big screen incarnation, ok, technically it’s the second, but I have neither the time nor the patience to track down a 1943 fifteen part serial, and I doubt there was enough of a 1943 audience for Batman 66 to be considered a reboot…………….. that my friends (not really), is what we call a cop out, enjoy. Now where was I?

I'm assuming money for costumes was diverted towards the war effort

 

!Lost!

Oh yeah, so, Batman’s 66 incarnation of the caped crusader was camp, fun and over the top. Bats used grandiose language bordering on the absurd, had a dead-pan expression and wore a wonderfully camp costume. There was also very little separating Batman from Bruce Wayne, effectively they’re one and the same. They speak the same, have the same mannerisms, and share affections for the same lady. Of course Batman also has a ton of gadgets, ones ranging from the useful (Batcopter, Batbike with side car, utility belt) to the downright inane (Robin go-kart). There’s also a sense that Batman’s a far superior force than his villainous counterparts. The fearsome foursome (think I came up with that, it could easily be in the movie, but till you watch it and tell me, I’m taking the kudos) target is world domination, but they perennially state their plan can’t be achieved as long as Batman’s in the way. Even when they seem to have the upper hand, they barely lay a scratch on Batman and he easily escapes their contrived traps (though at one point that’s with the help of some noble porpoises). There’s also a swinging soundtrack, and a general sense of absurdity and farce.

That may not have seemed the most interesting paragraph, but it’ll be the one I refer to most in my next Batman review………………………. And that my friends (not really) is what we call making it seem like you’ve made a point when in actuality you’ve said nothing at all.

Right now that’s out the way, I’m free to say if I enjoyed Batman 66 or not………….

I enjoyed Batman 66.

Written By Sam ‘!Thwack!, !Crash!, !Wallop!’ McKinstrie……………………….. But wait, there’s more.

Before Dark Knight was released, I remember Adam West did a few interviews in which he said he wasn’t exactly looking forward to the film. He made some blasé comments about Batman having become too dark and serious, and was dismissed either because know-it-alls such as myself like to dismiss people, or maligned as performing little more than a petty grab for column inches. In retrospect, I can sort of see his point.

Don’t get me wrong, I remain a massive Dark Knight fan, in fact I’ve enjoyed a darker interpretation of Batman ever since I was a snotty and oversensitive kid listening to a BBC radio version of the Knightfall storyline, but in all honesty, I enjoyed watching Batman 66 as much as any of the later films. It was just refreshing to watch a film doing everything it can to stop me taking it seriously. [Insert Joker ‘why so serious’ quote here]. Batman 66 was made to be enjoyed, that’s how I felt, and they really went all out to achieve that. There’s some delightfully farcical dialogue, sight gags galore (the Batcave is full of signs), and lest I forget, a swinging sixties soundtrack. Batman 66 had me laughing out loud, the villains were awesome, and everything was so silly that it reminded me in a good way of my days watching The Naked Gun films. It’s a shame more films aren’t deliberately like this, because done right, farce works, it works incredibly well.

Oh, yeah Woochi's giant rabbit theme continues

 

Batman 66 also serves as an interesting throwback to sixties sensibilities, there’s a subplot involving Bruce Wayne and a sexy Russian journalist. At one point the two end up in a horse drawn carriage and exchange some very suggestive dialogue. Wayne basically uses the metaphor of a dream to describe climaxing, then asks for sex by saying ‘may I escort you home’ rather than, fancy a shag/fuck/boom-boom/moment of intimacy/trip to penetration station (that last one I used during a love-making session……………….it will not happen again). I reckon these days asking to escort a girl home is much more likely to bring out the pepper spray than something a bit more forward and upfront.

Any negatives? Sure, it’s a bit long, there, that’s the only negative I can be bothered to think of.

Finally, there was one fascinating moment set in the Batcave. Batman and Robin quickly rid themselves of five rehydrated goons, because, unfortunately, the goons were rehydrated using heavy water, which made their physical forms unstable enough to pop out of existence with the slightest bump. Upon realising they’ve just witnessed the deaths of five goons, Batman and Robin have a moment of introspection and genuinely seem upset at the thought that five men just died. It’s a bit like the ‘no one ever thinks about a henchman’ scenes from Austin Powers, except with a value placed on life, rather than making a joke out of friends and relatives brutally losing a loved one to a steam roller.

I’ll conclude, Batman 66 is camp and entertaining, it’s dated well enough and I really enjoyed the experience enough to recommend.

Written By Sam ‘If I could get away with those tights, life would be one step nearer perfection’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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People with Happy Fingers Episode 7

Posted on by sam

Episode 7 of People with Happy Fingers can be viewed right here.

This episode’s subject is Aaron McKinstrie, my youngest brother. It is slightly film related as he’s done a few moving and grooving jobs for us over the years on various shorts, donated his room for a location and once disturbed a very fine actress named Grace Fisher while she was getting into character.

But my reasons for pushing Aaron and Tom to do a People with Happy Fingers go well beyond that….

At the end of Fight Club (a film I love), Edward Norton’s character (he may or may not be called Jack) turns to Helena Bonham Carter’s character and delivers the immortal closing line, ‘you met me at a very strange time in my life’.

I can think of no one else who would be justified in using the exact same sentiment. It’s a very strange time in Aaron’s life, for one, he’s actually on good terms with both his brothers, a fact that’s not always been the case, then there’s the fact that he’s just finished university and is at a point where he has to start figuring out just what exactly he wants to waste the rest of his life doing. There’s also the arguably mundane point that he’s in a stable, and rewarding relationship, something he’s not particularly familiar with (though he shares no small part of the blame for that).

But beyond that, my youngest brother is working through some intense and really rather horrible things. This year, through varying degrees of closeness, my family has been touched by five funerals, two of them suicides.one of these suicides was a close friend of Aaron’s, and is the second friend to have had his life cut short in as many years for the young man. I’ve experienced a similar time in my life myself, and watching Aaron deal with the emotional baggage that comes with such things, is both nightmarish and heart-warming at the same time. It’s fascinating to see how the young lad whose arm I once accidently broke, has and is coping with such an experience.

Beyond that, my youngest brother, who I used to drop as a baby, and always had a grudge against because his life meant my parents couldn’t afford to get me a Nintendo, has grown into a man, and a lads lad at that.

He’s young yet old, and matured ever so slightly through circumstance, and yet he’s still at a crossroads and finding out exactly who he is. I can think of no more interesting a time in someones life to interview them.

Also, 21 years after the fact, it turns out I’m really quite fond of the moody little shit after all.

Written by Sam ‘you wish you had a brother like me’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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The Sunday Film Review: Falling Down

Posted on by sam

Falling Down

Joel Schumacher (1993)

Joel Schumacher directed Batman Forever, a pretty decent (my opinion), if overly camp instalment in the Batman franchise. He later directed Batman and Robin, a not so great instalment that if not quite killed the franchise, left it in a coma on life support for quite a while. Schumacher is the dude who thought a bat credit card joke was a good idea.  He later apologised (sort of), but despite this, a little bit of me always freaks out in a bad way whenever I read his name. I know he had notable achievements with the brat pack, but I’ve always thought of Schumacher as kind of like the opposite of film Jesus, a force for the mega rich studios, who places profit above quality, audience enjoyment and all that jazz. Falling Down may have changed my mind on things, probably not quite enough to forgive casting Schwarzenegger as a pun spouting Mr Freeze, but the review is still young. Plot summary time…………

Plot Summary

Despite DVD box art and a blurb that focuses on one character, Falling Down is the story of two, middle-American white men. Michael Douglas (the big marquee name the DVD focuses on) plays disgruntled white man William Foster, while Robert Duvall (you know, I’ve yet to see a bad performance from Duvall, brother can act), plays mild mannered white man Martin Prendergast.

One day, in a traffic jam far far away…………

Sitting in stationary traffic pushes William Foster over the edge. Fed up of a life it would be generous to describe as unfulfilling, he decides to show everyone who’s boss by taking a long walk ‘home’, home being code for his terrified ex-wife’s house. Fosters ex-wife, Beth (played with gusto and class by Barbara Hershey) is slightly unhinged, and there’s an interesting question over just how big a threat to her safety Foster poses. But before that gets resolved, Foster has a long trek following the suburban yellow brick road or one dimensional characters to endure. A trek that incorporates encounters with a range of stereotypes: some Latino gangbangers, a crazy neo-Nazi, a South Korean shop keeper with an ‘engrish’ accent, and to head off accusations of racism, a few less racially charged meetings involving road workers, diner workers and retirees on a golf course. Each encounter involves a fair amount of Foster ranting and raving. It’s a bit like watching an American version of Jeremy Clarkson going mental. Oh wait, they already have one of those across the pond. It’s like watching Bill O’Reilly go on a ranting spree, except instead of being inside a studio he’s out on the streets, which would never happen, O’Reilly only leaves Fox studios once every ten years to attend NRA meetings and throw faeces at immigrant children……………..

Moving on from that poorly constructed paragraph, with its poorly constructed political commentary, I JUST DISLIKE O’REILLY SO NONE EXISTENT GOD DAMN MUCH, I SWEAR I’D…………………………

No, shut up, think of Woochi, ah giant rabbits fighting wizards, there Sam, there, everything’s fine, shhhhhhhhhhh, giant rabbits :-)

And we’re back. On the flip side to Angry Foster, we get Content Martin Prendergast, or Content Sergeant Martin Prendergast to give him his full title. Prendergast is one day away from early retirement, which is film code for ‘this character may die if we want a sad ending’. Prendergast is one of those unremarkable men who’s good at what he does, but not flashy enough to be respected for it (kind of like me, except good at what he does). He’s taking early retirement to spend time with his difficult and needy wife Amanda (another classy performance, this time by Tuesday Weld, who achieved my dream of winning a BAFTA for her performance in One Upon a Time in America), but he doesn’t want to admit it to the rest of the force. Not knowing this fact, the majority of the police department label Prendergast as a bit of a coward and while not entirely horrible to him, aren’t exactly respectful or appreciative of his work. This is particularly true of his superior, detective Lydecker (a nice turn by D.W. Moffett). So when Prendergast starts putting two and two together about the possibility of an angry white man going on a bit of a rampage, he’s politely ignored, and later downright mocked.

The exception to the ‘ignore Prendergast’ rule comes in the shape of Detective Sandra Torres (Rachel ‘Total Recall good version’ Ticotin, who successfully turns a very generically written female character into something deeper and more interesting), Prendergast’s former police partner (it gets revealed early that Prendergast was once shot, then never mentioned again), who takes his hunches slightly more seriously. She still lets the others malign and mock him though, so she’s not that good a partner.

The scenes with Ticotin and Duvall (yes that's his back) are all gold

 

And that’s it, the rest of the film is a slow burning progression as Foster treads a path of ever increasing violence and anger, and Prendergast works ever harder to catch him.

Plot summary ends.

There’re a number of things about Falling Down that really impressed me, I will now discuss these things, in no particular order.

Firstly, Falling Down is a character driven story with shades of grey. Yes Foster is going crazy and doing bad things, but he’s also tragic and you find yourself sympathising with him. It probably helps that he doesn’t do anything particularly violent except in reaction to violent behaviour by others, and most of the time he’s up against soft targets (more on that later), but it’s still an interesting route to take. Prendergast likewise is an interesting character, instantly likeable, you find yourself routing for him at the expense of the other cops, which all leads to a fascinating inevitable showdown between the two. Kudos to Duvall and Douglas, they get one scene together and they nail it.

Secondly, as a story, Falling Down is very well paced and executed. With the exception of an unfortunate ‘comedy scene’ involving a rocket launcher and an annoying child actor, nothing grates or feels tacked on. The story progresses logically, carefully building to the inevitable showdown. Something I found interesting; once Falling Down started heading towards the end, I pretty much know exactly how it was going to conclude, but I couldn’t be sure, the story did just enough to make me doubt myself. I felt like a different, more morbid and tragic ending might be on the cards and I watched the last few scenes gripped, just to make sure things ended in a way I considered ‘right’ and satisfying. That’s good storytelling, very good storytelling in fact. Look I’m a cynical creature by nature, so if, after 110 minutes, I’m still emotionally invested enough in your film to want to know how it ends, that’s success, two thumbs up success. Well played Mr Schumacher.

Thirdly, I couldn’t believe when I checked the DVD case (after watching), and discovered Falling Down was made in 1993. I honestly thought I was watching a recent film, something from maybe the last five or ten years. In technical terms, with sweeping crane shots, jerky steady cam, and tight, deep angles, Falling Down was ahead of its time. So ahead of its time, I’m racking my brains as to whether or not Batman and Robin wasn’t a well-made film after all, just poorly scripted, hang on.

………………………. Nope, it sucked, camera work and all.

Speaking of sucking, Falling Down isn’t all sunshine, roses and a happy society of free and equitable exchanges; The soft targets that Foster rants and raves against, they’re about as generic as they come. In a film with two deep and interesting, often tragic leads, the rest of the characterisation is incredibly one dimensional. The neo-Nazi (played with energy but slightly too comically for my tastes, by Frederic Forrest) is a prime example of this, from the moment he’s introduced he starts spouting homophobia and acts like an arsehole throughout. It feels like the story goes out of its way to say, ‘yes Fosters violent, but he’s not a bad guy, look, this is a real bad guy, this guy laughing as he uses racial slurs’. My problem with this is that it really isn’t necessary. As Fosters background gets revealed, his story becomes more and more tragic, he really is a working stiff pushed over the edge, but it most certainly wasn’t neo-Nazis that pushed him over the edge, so there really isn’t a need for such an over the top confrontation to occur. It’s lazy and superficial, it’s a good thing the pacing was spot on, because if any of these confrontations had dragged, then boy would Falling Down have been a boring experience.

This generic one dimensional aspect to support characters becomes a bit more sinister when the racial stuff comes into play. The Latino gang is as clumsy a stereotype as I’ve encountered, and I’m not surprised Falling Down never got released in South Korea. It’s one thing to be lazy in order to focus your efforts on developing one character, but to blunder into race territory and allow your movie to tar an entire group of people could very easily be described as arrogant or even sinister.

It kind of feels like the makers decided on the audience demographic they were aiming for (in this case white middle class men), and then decided the best way to appeal to them was to put them ahead of every other group out there. The poor, the mega rich, minorities, they don’t matter, as long as we get the middle class white vote. It’s a shame, because it taints what is otherwise a really well made, interesting film.

Do I recommend Falling Down? Yes, as a story it’s engrossing and a good example of story/character development. The performances from the leads are strong, and the ending is satisfying. The problem is it’s a film I feel slightly dirty for enjoying. It’s not like it’s an overtly racist or offensive film, I don’t think Mr Schumacher is that type of guy, but the devil is in the detail, and Falling Down may well hold something ever so ominous in its detail.

In conclusion then, no, I do not yet forgive Mr Schumacher for Batman and Robin, I just hope his millions, his good Hollywood standing, his mass of assets and his successes as a director are enough to get him through that.

Written By Sam ‘angered by angry white men’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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