Posts tagged “1976

The Box / Zombie Invasion (On Bicycles)

The Box  -  Front Blu-ray Cover (UK)Press the button and get a million dollars, but someone whom you don’t know will die. This is the offer given to Norma and Arthur, an ordinary decent couple played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, by the mysterious Arlington Steward (Frank Langella).  The question “What would you do?” will ring in your ears as you witness that their decision is just the beginning. Based on a short story by the writer of “I Am Legend” and from the director of “Donnie Darko”, “The Box” takes you on a tense, gripping and totally unpredictable ride as the couple realise that they are part of something greater and far more terrifying than they could ever have imagined.

2009  –  Certificate: 12  –  USA
Rating Details:  Moderate horror and psychological threat
7 out of 10

Has some sort of universal death wish descended on the world’s cycling population this week?  Or does a bit of snow render all bicycle lights inoperable and telepathically compel cyclists to wear really dark clothing?  The number of people riding bikes in the dark with no lights or anything reflective on, seems to have skyrocketed this week.  They’ve been everywhere, literally jumping out in front of me as I drive along, like zombies, except on bikes, and faster, and not undead with bits of rotting flesh hanging off them, not yet anyway.  I’m really starting to think that I should take a few of them out with my car, get the issue on the front pages and thus in the long run save many more from getting themselves run over.  I know I know, it’s another opportunity for me to become a national hero; and probably locked away by an uncaring judiciary for my troubles too.  Whatever happened to the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few? I’ll end up a citizens’ champion, losing my liberty for upholding the teachings of Surak, the subject of many an online petition to have my trial or sentence re-examined. This film offers a not dissimilar choice to people, to sacrifice your own freedom for someone you’ll never met.

This intellectual, sci-fi thriller is a brave attempt to do something a little different; it partly succeeds and the first part is excellent, but in the end it sort of looses the plot a bit, literally.  The idea is great, it looks good and it’s fun enough to watch, but it sort of gets a bit too complicated whilst at the same time being a bit too simplistic and leaving too much open to interpretation.   If you have to listen to the commentary to find out what was going on, then it’s kind of failed.  A second watch would probably be more rewarding, which isn’t such a bad thing.  I also didn’t really warm to the main characters Norma and Arthur.  They had plenty of money, a nice house, son and lifestyle, yet had over-extended themselves financially a little.  However, they didn’t seem to be in any particular difficulty but still choose to press the button.  An “ordinary decent couple” it says in the overview.  They just condemned someone to death.  Geez, I’d hate to meet an ordinary couple that wasn’t decent then.  After that, they did lose what little sympathy I had for their ‘plight’.  The end should have been pretty heart-rending, but I just found myself thinking that the situation they found themselves in served them right.  Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I really don’t think I’d have pushed the button.  The best scenes are the ones with Employee Arlington Stewart in them; an excellent bit of acting and a wonderfully rendered character.  The music is pretty good too.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Recommended for people willing to concentrate.

Top badass moment?   Cameron pressing the button.  Greedy bitch.

The Box at IMDB (5.6/10)

The Likely Lads: 1.5 Stars

The Likely Lads  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Starring Rodney Bewes as Bob and James Bolam as Terry, “The Likely Lads” is the hilarious feature-length spin-off from the popular television series, written by acclaimed duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (“Auf Wiedersehen Pet”, “Porridge”).  Yet again the two lovable Geordies are up to their likeable necks in trouble.  It begins when Bob`s wife talks Terry and his Finnish girlfriend into touring the North of England in a caravan.  And it ends with both like-minded lads running away to sea. But what happened in between adds up to the funniest, if unlikeliest misadventure of all.  With a fantastic script from Clement and La Frenais, “The Likely Lads” is vintage, essential British comedy.

1976  –  Certificate: PG  –  United Kingdom

Today I got to glimpse what life would be like after an apocalypse.  I worked in my office all day and received no phone calls, no e-mails and saw no one outside in any of the other units.  No disturbances, no grief, no hassle.  Now, does anyone know anything I could do that would really, really piss off the Russians?  This film was made at a time when words like Internet, mobile and voicemail didn’t even exist.  Blimey, what on earth did teenagers and executives do with themselves all day?

When I was growing up, “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” was probably my father’s favourite TV series.  (Well it was either this or The Benny Hill Show.)  I think he could relate to the characters in it.  It provides a small but indelible element of my childhood memories from the early-mid 70s.  He’s sadly been gone for many years, but the programme remains and a couple of years ago I watched both series of it, along with its early-mid 60’s predecessor, “The Likely Lads”; (which confusingly has the same name as the film).  I didn’t much care for the latter, but “Whatever Happened to…” is still funny today.  Despite being nearly 40 years old and suffering from some of the worst excesses of 70s clothing, (like suits with flared trousers and kipper ties), the humour was often still pretty good.  It also managed to contain surprisingly little that was based on race or gender stereotypes, which for a 70s TV series was pretty progressive.  I was quite sad when which I finished watching the last episode, partly because I liked the link it gave me to my past, but also because I’d enjoyed watching it on its own merits.  So it’s two years later now and I finally get around to watching the spin-off film that was made a couple of years after the final episode.  Sadly it’s pants.  Despite containing all the same ingredients as the TV series and evoking much of the same feel, as well involving its principle stars and writers, it’s just too over the top and stupid.  Whilst the ridiculous situations Bob and Terry sometimes got themselves into in the TV series were often quite silly, the film stretches things too far.  I’m afraid my “That Wouldn’t Happen In Real Life” alarm went off far too many times, which rather spoilt things for me.  The whole scenario around the B&B was particularly awful.  Still, it was good to see a Vauxhall Chevette in action.  Apparently its two stars, Rodney Bewes and James Bolam, haven’t spoken to each other since this film was made, which probably means we’ll never need to deal with the confusion that a “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” film would cause.  Shame really.

Recommended for Likely Lads completests.  I really can’t see many other people finding it much good. 

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Although it’s about as likely as me managing it, Bob getting off with the B&B owner’s daughter has to be considered badass.  Real Men don’t need to try, which makes them badass.

The Likely Lads at IMDB (6.5/10)

Who Can Kill a Child?: 3.0 Stars

Who Can Kill a Child? - DVD Front CoverI’ve never been to Spain but I’ve eaten a lot of oranges grown there, so I think I know the country and its people pretty well.  So why not come with me now (in a virtual way I mean), to the charming Spanish island of Almanzora, a four-hour boat trip off the south coast?  With a population of just a few hundred, this delightful ‘hidden treasure’ far from the main tourist attractions of the area, boasts a wonderfully warm, quiet and tranquil environment, traditional Mediterranean housing, an idyllic harbour and welcoming, friendly locals.  In fact, it’s the ideal place to take a holiday with your heavily pregnant wife, if you’re an English Professor of Biology with a 70s porn-star moustache, horrendous denim flares and ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’ sunglasses.  Unfortunately, all the local kids are homicidal murderers with an unexplained need to kill all adults. Still, nowhere’s perfect.  After all my less than positive comments about mid 70s films and music yesterday, what do I go and do today?  That’s right, I watch another.  However, this horror has quite a different feel to it.  This time, most of the action (and to be perfectly honest there’s a lot of sitting around going on much of the time), takes place during the day in bright sunshine.  It’s also very quiet.  In fact when the phone in the cafe rang it really didn’t do my head any good at all, such was the shrill, mono sound that assaulted my ears; in cider terms, the sound is very much at the farm scrumpy end of the scale, (i.e. virtually undrinkable).  Most of the rest of the noise comes from Evelyn (the wife), who’s whining and moaning did start to get on my nerves a bit.  I know she was expecting and all that, but still.  Perhaps they should have taken a holiday in the UK instead, where it’s not so hot?  Still, I can forgive any character who’s played by someone who’s been in a film adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel.  Thomas Hardy rocks!

1976  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Spain

I watched the full, uncut version of this movie, which has only quite recently become available.  It’s not that gory or anything, but I guess the idea of loads of kids and adults going around killing each other was a bit of a non-starter in the 70s.  In fact the first ten minutes of so features archive-footage from various wars, with a narrative that explains how many children were killed in these conflicts, whilst we watch film-clips of dead and dying kids.  This is way more horrific than anything than comes up in the movie itself, so it dilutes the effect of what follows afterwards a bit.  I guess the director/writer was trying to make a point.  The whole premises of the film is based around the fact that it really wouldn’t be very easy for a normal adult to kill a child and this works surprisingly well as a plot device.  It made me wonder why it’s not been used more often, but perhaps it’s still something that too many people wouldn’t be comfortable with?  The kids do smile a lot, which is disconcertingly creepy.  There aren’t a lot of laughs to be had, that’s certain, but for 1976 it’s got its good points.

Recommended for biology teachers.

No cats and no decapitations, (although you do get the feeling there was an off-screen one of the latter).

To badass moment? Tom (the husband) didn’t make for a very good hero; realistic maybe but not very Hollywood-hero like.  Still, to give him his due, he does do his best under quite trying circumstances; driving fast(ish), trying to plan an escape, searching for survivors, protecting his wife, running around a lot, using a gun, fighting the bad guys.  (A flared trousers wearing ‘all-action hero’?  I think not.)  Trying to be the hero (when clearly you’re not) is badass.

Death Game: 2.0 Stars

Death Game  -  DVD Front CoverIn the same way that I feel a bit sorry for teenagers these days, growing up in a period swamped with crappy indie rock bands with nothing to say and auto-tuned dance music, I also feel sorry for those people who are now in their early 50s, who were teenagers in the early-mid 70s.  It must have been awful deciding who to go and see, the Osmonds, David Cassidy, Paper Lace, the Bay City Rollers, Yes, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer; or maybe I’ll just kill myself instead.  The first half of the 70s was a barren, talentless, artistically worthless vacuum. (Please don’t bother to take me to task over this statement; I’ve already determined this to be a fact, using the most up to date scientific methodology that you wouldn’t understand and a massive super-computer.)  Unfortunately, the movie industry was equally as guilty of falling into this void.  Now I appreciate that there were occasional, individual flashes of worthwhileness during this time and that people will say I’m missing the point of the vibe of the movies made then.  To these people I’ll just say this; there are sometimes positive aspects to sitting in a traffic jam for ages, but on the whole not very many.  You’re basically stuck there and you don’t have a lot of choice; rather like living in the early 70s with its range of music and films I suppose.  Why do I even watch films made in the early-mid 70s?  I must be a sick individual to put myself through the same pain, over and over again.  I guess I must feel a bit of the pioneering spirit prevalent in the 19th Century Gold Rushes, living rough in the hope of uncovering that gem of artistic merit that makes it all worth it.  (I’ve long given up on finding a whole seam of gold; just one flake would do me now).

1976  –  Certificate: Not Rated

This obscure, B-movie home-invasion thriller (well I have to call it something) is about two young women who randomly turn up at some rich guy’s house in San Francisco and proceed to basically trash the place and fuck-up his life.  Quite why is never really explained.  To their credit, the two women do carry out their ‘mission’ in a very determined manner and never really show any signs of wavering.  They were really quite disturbing and convincing at times.  George (the victim) was a bit of a wimp to be honest; his wife beats him at croquet for goodness sake.  It didn’t take much to make him cheat on her either; I really didn’t warm to him at all.  There’s an awful lot of food eaten and thrown about too.  The technical quality of this film is abysmal (lots of scratches and dirt all over it) and it’s pan and scan (an invention of the Devil) as well, so we lose a lot of the action off of the sides of the screen from time to time.  The other thing that marks this film out is the music.  Of course, it has the normal selection of horrible 70s inspired tunes; at one point George plays an LP for one of the women that his children have just got him for his 40th birthday.  It did occur to me that they must have a terrible relationship, given the noise that came out of the stereo.  However, the biggie music-wise is the song that gets played over the opening credits and at several points during the film over montage-like sequences.  “Good Old Dad” is evil.  It goes on and on, and on.  It was amusing enough the first time, but by the 2,000th play it had actually caused me a measurable level of psychological damage.  Come to think of it, the women in the film had probably heard it once too often, which would explain their behaviour.  Oh I nearly forgot, the ending is one of those, “what the f***?” ones.  However, I’m not going to entirely trash this film, as hidden inside all the bad things is a good movie trying to get out.  It’s probably worth persevering and giving it a watch, if it’s Sunday and raining outside.

Recommended for time-travellers, who want to visit a bad place.

1 cat and no decapitations.  The cat is so cute!  Its name is (I think) Teaky and it’s lovely and white.  It even has several lines of dialogue (although I do have reason to believe these were dubbed).  It’s in two scenes, but sadly its final one involves it being hurled through a glass window.  Poor Teaky.  :-(  If the same scenes had been in a more well know film I’m sure we’d be looking at an Oscar nomination at the very least.

Top badass moment?  You don’t get a good look at it, but George’s stereo seemed to be pretty awesome; it certainly impressed the two woman and to his credit I don’t think he was even using it as a penis extension either.  As well as being one of life’s essentials (like water, air, food, shelter, etc), having a big stereo is badass.

Death Game at IMDB