Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Spoil-Rock-HunterRockwell Hunter (Tony Randall) writes advertisements for television commercials and the corporation he works for is about to lose a major account from a lipstick company called ‘Stay-Put’. The company needs its product to become a sensation and when Rock sees his niece April (an autograph hunter and president of Rita Marlowe fan club) on TV trying to snap Marlowe’s autograph, Hunter tracks down Marlowe and asks for an endorsement as Marlowe has some “oh-so-kissable lips”. Continue reading

John Waters: This Filthy World

This_Filthy_World_DVDORDER DVD

This Filthy World is a documentation by Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) of John Waters’ (self labelled) ‘vaudeville’ act. The film runs for 86 minutes and consists of John Waters talking about his films, repertory group and obsessions. For hardcore Waters fans the DVD doesn’t really offer anything new as most of the material has been used in his books or in his movies. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t a good watch though. My ultimate sum up of the film is that it is a commentary of his films and philosophies, and if you have followed his career, read his books, watched every single one of his movies, then you know most of this stuff already. But hey, it’s not like it is a waste of money, it’s better than his last film, so if you are choosing between this or that…go with This Filthy World.

In places the film did seem to run on a little and the transition between topics felt a little hasty and rushed. Maybe if there had been a little bit of cinematic change throughout the show instead of focusing on John live on a stage decorated with black flowers and trashcans for 86 minutes, the show would not have seemed so rushed and boring in places. When I heard this was a documentary, I expected to see a variety of footage: live footage, driving around Baltimore, footage of John at work or at home, similar to the many features accompanying his films in the Very Crudely Yours: John Waters Collection. So even though John Water is very engaging, honest, sardonic and his usual limit pushing self, the act does become a bit dry, due to seeing nothing but him and a stage, and the odd shot of the audience. Continue reading

Jimeoin: Something Smells Funny

Jimeoin-Smells-Funny-DVD

It’s very rare that I come across a new comedian that I like. I’ve liked the same comedians for years and the only recent one who is right up there with the likes of Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks, Stewart Lee etc is Louis CK.

A few years back I had to review a stack of DVDs for another website and they were mostly all DVDs of Australian comedians so by the time I came around to Jimeoin on Ice I was ready for another shitty “bloke” comedian to bore me for an hour or so. So when he managed to make me love aspects of comedy I hate I was sold that Jimeoin is awesome.

Sure he’s not quite up there amongst Hicks or CK, but Jimeoin takes two elements of comedy I usually hate and makes me laugh: physical and musical comedy. He’s hard not to like because he’s cheeky, he has Irish charm in bucket-loads and he is so effortless in his delivery it really feels like you’re just watching a friend goof off for a while and I suppose that’s why the 10 minutes or so of guitar playing is easy to handle: he’s not trying to be a rock star and he’s basically just goofing around. If you met Jimeoin on the street he’d be the same person as he is on stage. Continue reading

Terri

Terri-DVD-2011The teen/high school/coming-of-age film has to be one of the most universal genres. It doesn’t matter if its Jim Stark (Rebel Without A Cause) or Napoleon Dynamite, films of this type elicit nostalgia, make you reminiscence and most people identify with the misfits, loners, the burgeoning sex drive or the eternal teenage struggle to be understood by the parental unit. Terri is a lot more Indie than most coming-of-age films but is refreshingly different in its approach and as quoted by the Arizona Republic on the back of the DVD cover “ is almost an anti teen-coming-of-age movie”.

Terri is an obese, sensitive high school outcast who lives with and cares for his decrepit pilled-out Uncle. He wears pajamas and never arrives at school on time. One day Terri is summoned to meet with the vice principal, Mr Fitzgerald (played the wonderfully funny John C. Reily), only instead of scalding him he takes Terri under his wing. Fitzgerald dedicates each morning to a particular outcast/troubled kid as it turns out he was somewhat of a monster himself in high-school and knows what they are going through. Through this arrangement Terri befriends some fellow members of Mr Fitzgerald’s “Good Hearts” club (a rebellious loner and a promiscuous blonde) and begins to come out of his shell.

I really have no criticisms of the film, I’m nit-picking here so I’m not biased but some might find that the relationship between Terri and Mr Fitzgerald is really fleshed out but the relationships with his new misfits friends is kind of abrupt… but then isn’t everything in high-school? One minute you’re friends with someone then your not, one minute you have a crush on Johnny then it’s Jimmy.

Terri has none of the normal trappings of an Indie film such as a low-budget; it also has a great script and is superbly acted and filmed. It really comes down to whether or not you like stories that don’t really go anywhere, are not fast paced and are in a sense existential. The humor is very subtle so if you’re looking for a comedy this won’t fulfill your needs. If you like films that take their time and are a reflection of real life then add this to the top of your to view list. You’ll find no fairytale endings, cartoon characters, cautionary tales or dramatic life-changes within the characters here but despite this the film is not bleak at all… it’s just realistic.

Sadly there’s no extras of any substance on this release. I would have enjoyed listening to a commentary with the director or writer and interviews with the cast. I’ve never seen Jacob Wysocki in anything before but he can really hold his own next to the brilliant comedy of John C. Reilly. He’s got a lot of upcoming films in 2012 so he seems like a person to keep an eye on.

Extras:
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Madman Trailers

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment. 

Trailer Park Boys Complete Series

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*02/04/2016. At time of writing this was the complete set. Please see comment section for more info on further releases.

Finally a Region 4 complete Trailer Park Boys collection, well complete television series collection, the films are not featured in this set. But fear not we’re treated to the Christmas Special as well as 7 seasons (there are other sets claiming to be complete but only have 6 seasons).

For those of you who have not seen the series, it follows a recidivist name Julian, his inept (at everything but growing dope) friend Ricky and the kitty loving Bubbles. In season one a documentary crew records Julian’s transition back into society after serving 18 months in jail alongside his friend Ricky. The crew follows Julian back to the trailer park where he lives and for the next 6 seasons we meet the lovable, charismatic and very odd trailer park residents. From a drunk ex-cop turned trailer park supervisor, a wannabe rapper and his crew, skanky chicks, fat guys whose shirts don’t cover their bellies (or Randy, an ex-male prostitute, who never wears a shirt), there’s a whole heap of oddball characters here who shine as much as the main characters.

In the first episode of season one Julian says to the camera: “I’m going to lead a good, clean life, I’ve matured now. Things are going to be totally different”. Julian plans to stop hanging around with Ricky and wants to go back to school. As soon as he gets outside of the jail Ricky is there expecting a free ride home . When Julian gets back to the trailer park, despite proclaiming that he’s going to go to community college, it’s clear he can’t escape the park life without consequences imposed by trailer park supervisor Jim Lahey. Soon enough Julian and Ricky are back committing greasy crimes and at the end of every season (well nearly) the pair end up back in jail.

Over seven seasons we see many scams and get rich quick plans go awry, these include ventures such as: stealing meat from supermarkets, parking meter picking, starring in pornos, opening illegal bars and massage parlours in the park, producing rap albums and throwing rap concerts, selling dope, growing dope and smuggling drugs across the Canadian border into the US (for Sebastian Bach) via a toy train – not just any train though, Patrick Swayze’s train “the Swayze Express”. For those who don’t find crime, cursing and drug comedy amusing then stay well away from this one.

Loaded with obscure Canadian references (you’ll have to Google a few of them), filled with “oh my god I know someone who did that” or “I know someone like that” moments, the show is a riot plain and simple. It’s not highbrow, it’s silly and the characters are utterly ridiculous but so charming and lovable. Apart from a few stupid plots (Conky was just too much) the show was pretty good at keeping the characters real and their environment as well. The creators even ended up building their own trailer park as they often had trouble shooting the show in real parks due to the swearing and constant gun firing.

A remarkable show that kept this viewer glued til the end. I’ll admit I didn’t like the first movie as it was too high concept and lacked the visual qualities that made the show so great. The movie was too polished and slick not rough like the show. Anyway, TPB is a Canadian gem that is simply a must own TV series, you’ll never get enough.

This set has an edge over the R2 release which only contains seasons 1-6 and doesn’t have the Christmas special either. It also retails for $85NZ which is a steal compared to the R1 version which costs $115 US dollars.

The box-set looks awesome, the discs come housed in two separate fold out cardboard sleeves with full colour artwork. My only complaint is that the plastic holders that the discs click into are a bit flimsy and at first were pretty hard to get around. Apart from this, an exceptional release that is a must have for Trailer Park Boys fans.

TPB

Not only do you get 1555 minutes worth of episodes there’s also loads of extras:

SEASONS ONE AND TWO

Disc One includes: Alternate Openings, 5 Lost Interviews, 3 deleted scenes and 4 Alternate takes.

Disc Two: 4 Lost Interviews, 5 deleted scenes, 7 Alternate takes and “Cartboy” – a 9 minute short film about Bubbles and his carts.

Disc Three: Bubbles Interview (47 seconds), 2 Deleted scenes and 2 Alternate takes. “Fuck Ups Montage” (10 mins) – 10 minutes worth of the cast corpsing and making errors. “Ricky Wipes Out Montage” – a minutes clips of Ricky falling over. “Mike Clattenburg Directs” – A two minute clip of Mike Clattenburg directing the actors. He also dresses up as Bubbles and does a scene with Julian which is incredibly funny. “Walkie Talkie” – A seven minute clip of footage with walkie talkies.

SEASON THREE

Disc One: 5 “Lost Content” clips, 4 deleted scenes (including Microphone Assassin outtakes), and 6 alternate takes.

Disc Two: 6 deleted scenes, 7 alternate takes and 4 “Lost Content” clips including a fuck up reel and a clip of Brian from Helix.

SEASON FOUR

Disc One: 3 deleted scenes, 7 alternate takes and 6 “Lost Content” clips including: a bottle attack montage and another montage of characters breaking the 4th wall.

Disc Two: 3 deleted scenes, 2 alternate takes and 5 “Lost Content” clips including: “ Trailer Park Life” – 31 minutes of interviews with cast and crew, “Directing is Easy” – 10 minutes of cast and crew talking about Clattenburg‘s directing habits, a 2 minute clip of “Rickyisms” and a 7 minute “fuck up reel”.

SEASON FIVE

Disc One: 6 deleted scenes, 5 extended takes, 5 lost interviews, 6 alternate takes, and 18 minutes of bloopers and gags.

Disc Two: 4 deleted scenes, 4 extended takes, 5 lost interviews, 8 alternate takes and “A Park of Our Own”, a featurette which runs for 15 minutes and is about how the TPB crew actually created their own trailer park so they had more freedom with their shoots.

SEASON SIX

Disc One: Behind the Scenes on “Don’t Cry Over Spilt Piss Jugs” which runs for 15 minutes. There’s also 10 alternate takes and 6 deleted scenes.

Disc Two: 7 lost interviews, 2 extended takes, and a feature called “Trailer Park Boys Fun” which runs for 10 minutes and consists of interviews.

SEASON SEVEN

Disc One: a 43 second montage of crew members sleeping called “in-between takes”, a 1.37 minute clip called “stunts”, “Weed Hunt” a 3 minute clip about the weed they use for the show, “casting” a one minute clip about casting, a 1 minute interview “Mike O’Neil” clip (he plays Thomas), and two 1 minute clip with an animal wrangler.

Disc Two: An interview with Sebastian Bach, “Car Dump” a 3 minute clip of some car damage, and “Crew Moments” a 6 minute feature with members of the crew playing around.

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

3 deleted scenes, 8 alternate takes, 3 extended takes, a 1.31 minute gag reel, and a 16 minute feature called “From Shit Flurries to Shit Blizzards” which includes footage and interviews.

A nice selection or worthwhile extras that will keep you entertained for hours.

Available as a 14 disc box-set on DVD from Magna Home Entertainment.

Withnail & I

Withnail_and_IThere are many films that underperformed on their initial release, only to find an audience with subsequent home video or DVD releases. Bladerunner and The Thing are two such examples, as is another 80s movie...Withnail & I.

Released in 1987, Bruce Robinson’s Withnail & I made little impact at the box office, but over time has grown in reputation. Although little known outside Britain, the film has become a cult favourite on its home shores and on viewing it, this is not much of a surprise. It celebrates drinking, smoking, drug use and bullshit but above all, features endlessly quotable dialogue.

The story – such that it is – focusses on Withnail (Richard E. Grant in his film debut) and “I” (Paul McGann), two struggling, unemployed actors who decide to take a holiday from their squalid London flat to the countryside cottage owned by Withnail’s gay Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths), who takes an immediate shine to I.

And that’s pretty much it for the plot. But the appeal of the movie lies in the interactions between the characters and some stellar performances, particularly Grant who steals every scene he is in (which is pretty much all of them). It is the kind of performance that comes along once a career and Grant is utterly iconic, a blend of erratic charisma and empty bluster that is the lynchpin of the film.

Bolstering Grant and some excellent, but more understated, work from McGann are great lines delivered in typically deadpan style, the comedy being all the more cutting from the fact the characters do not believe they are saying anything funny. “Don’t threaten ME with a dead fish!” Barks Withnail at one country poacher while drug dealer Danny (a superb Ralph Brown, who would later imitate this exact performance for Wayne’s World 2) points out that, “All hairdressers are in the employ of the government…”

Is Withnail & I overrated, though? Perhaps. Certainly, there are stretches of film lacking laughs and some scenes are weak (the forced comedy of the kitchen scene, for example). True adoration undoubtedly comes from being able to identify aspects of the lead characters and their situation in one’s own life where there are unlikely ambitions, few responsibilities, copious amounts of alcohol and no women (it is hardly surprising that students make up the most rabid fanbase for the movie). On top of this, it is successive viewings that are more rewarding than the first as each line becomes funnier.

Despite this, Withnail & I remains a singular, uncompromising comedy. With no gimmicks or action sequences, it rides on the old-fashioned values of a great scripts and top-drawer acting. Defiantly British and a deft blend of the tragic with the comic, this is a little gem of a movie that deserves a wider audience beyond the British Isles.

Extras:

  • Commentary with Paul McGann & Ralph Brown
  • Commentary with Bruce Robinson
  • Postcards From Penrith Featurette
  • Bruce Robinson Interview
  • Withnail and Us 1999 Documentary
  • Behind the Scenes Stills
  • Swear-a-thon
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Withnail and I Film Score

Available on Blu-Ray from Umbrella Entertainment.

Attack the Gas Station

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Attack the Gas Station is a South Korean teenage black comedy about four smooth-looking Korean punks who out of boredom decide to trash & rob a local gas station twice in the same week. The second time however, the owner claims he has already sent the nights earnings home with his wife so the four lads decide to take the employees hostage and run the gas station themselves, while pocketing the earnings.

Throughout the course of the night the number of customers-cum-hostages rapidly increases until, via various series of events, the four misfits are faced with incessant in-fighting of the hostages, power struggles and eventually, an all-out battle. As a side-plot there are flashbacks to each of the four criminals past, explaining why they behave in the particular way they do.

Attack the Gas Station is an ultra-stylized, colourful and anarchistic political satire / social commentary on the disaffected Korean youth of today. There are numerous politically-incorrect statements such as the attacks on the facile national “motivational statements” hanging on the walls of the station and the comparison of the Pepsi logo to the Korean flag.

I didn’t really find the humour all that amusing as some of it is rather silly and slapstick in nature, however one comical running joke throughout the film – seemingly a homage to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch – is the line “If they move, kill them” to which the response is always “Really?” (guess ya had ta be there). Also, some of the random beatings meted out to the hostages are kinda funny.

Overall an ok film if ya wanna waste a coupla hours but I felt it was kind of overlong and directed more at South Korean teens, so some of the comedy & allegory didn’t translate as well as it could of.

Madman Entertainment’s R4 PAL release is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and has a choice of either a Korean or English soundtrack.

Extras:

Trailers. That is it unless you consider an English dub-track as an extra.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

The Good, The Bad And The Weird

Good-Bad-DVDChang-yi Park (Byung-hun Lee) is a dangerous killer obsessed with his reputation, hired to steal a mysterious treasure map from a train in pre-World War II Manchuria. When the heist is foiled by a bounty hunter (Woo-sung Jung), oddball thief Tae-goo Yoon (Kang-ho Song) escapes with the map. Things quickly escalate and soon all three men are in pursuit of the map, as well as several gangs and the entire Japanese army in a race across the barren plains.

Director Ji-woon Kim has an impressive resume, including black comedy The Quiet Family (remade by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris), Woo-esque action thriller A Bittersweet Life and one of the greatest horror films of the past couple of decades in the form of A Tale of Two Sisters. For this outing, though, he was dealing with the highest production budget in Korean film history and ups his scope considerably.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird features a series of massive set-pieces, including a sprawling shoot-out in a dingy market and the big finish – a high-speed chase/battle across the plains involving gangsters on horseback, cars, motorbikes and artillery. These are wonderfully staged and shot using a myriad of camera tricks, some of which are revealed in the ‘behind the scenes’ featurette. What is most impressive, though, is that whilst watching the film, the viewer is not left wondering how they pulled off a tight dolly around a horse in full gallop, rather you are simply swept along by the spectacle.

As an action film, this is a resounding success. The gunfights are inventive and fun, mixing excitement with humour at every turn. It is hard not to be entertained. If there is a flaw, however, it is the lack of depth beyond the surface thrills. The characters, particularly Kang-ho Song’s “Weird” have backgrounds and baggage, but this is always presented flatly and the characters neither develop nor reveal hidden layers as the narrative unfurls. This holds the audience back from being fully invested in proceedings and also stops The Good, The Bad, The Weird from attaining true greatness.

Similarly, there are tentative hints at deeper themes that are ultimately left unresolved. There are varying attitudes towards Korea’s fight for independence and the crossfire between Japan and Korea. There are nods towards the cavern between responsibility and self-preservation. But these issues remain glossed over background detail when they could have added a lot more underlying weight.

The technical work is superb throughout. Dazzling camerawork aside, the production design is intricate and always thoroughly convincing, evoking a period and a place rarely seen on film screens before. All three lead actors do solid work, with Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life, JSA, G.I. Joe) obviously having great fun playing evil, complete with jet black goatee and eyeliner. But the film undoubtedly belongs to the versatile Kang-ho Song (Thirst, Memories of Murder, The Host), blending sympathy with danger and proving – if there was any doubt – that he is a major international talent.

A rollicking adventure yarn, The Good, The Bad, The Weird is terrific fun and pretty much a guaranteed good time. It just seems a shame that there couldn’t be a deeper sensibility from a director with a track record of doing exactly that.

Extras:

There’s a nice selection of extras including a behind the scenes segment, Cast & Director interviews, deleted scenes, alternate endings and a trailer.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Dead Set

12705-535095Big Brother: like it or not, for over the last decade the reality show has become a cultural phenomenon and primetime hit viewing in almost 70 countries across the globe.

For 3 months a year in the UK, our TV screens, office gossip and gutter press seemingly come under siege, as a panel of everyday nobodies are turned into pseudo celebrities, their fifteen minutes of fame milked for every last drop as they “bare their souls” to the viewing public, then further to the tabloids upon eviction, usually with the female ex-housemates baring everything else for Nuts or Zoo magazine shortly thereafter.

It is essentially a rather low and abhorrent form of so called entertainment; having been at the centre of race rows and coming under fire from mental health charities on more than one occasion. So what is the public’s fascination with the programme? Why do viewers enjoy watching a group of talentless nobodies argue, smoke, sleep and repeat for weeks on end, as they’re shut in an enclosed house, slowing revealing their dementia and collective bigotry as they ultimately turn upon each other?

It is my personal opinion that commonly, people – especially the Great British public, enjoy not only to people watch, but to be able to openly judge, criticise and generally hold in contempt… well, pretty much everybody else really. To a lesser or greater degree Big Brother has created an outlet for this mindset – a format where the mindless Joe public can stand in judgement over other members of the mindless Joe public.

This of course leaves plenty of room for the show to be criticised, parodied and satirised, which is where a show like Dead Set comes into play.

On the surface, Dead Set could be seen as just another footnote in the wave of zombie culture we’ve witnessed in the last few years since 28 Days Later, and I’m sure to some the mini-series is little more than a made for TV Shaun of the Dead. The show is however just as much about cultural satire and is a more accomplished work than simply riding the wave of popular zombie culture. Crude, cynical and yet amusingly effective – this pretty much sums up the show, as it does most of the work of its writer, journalist and broadcaster Charlie Brooker.

As with most zombie outings, the premise is very simple; it’s the usual format of a zombie plague with the unburied dead and their victims returning to life for a human flesh chow-down. Throw into this typical scenario the blissfully unaware Big Brother household – Britain is going to hell in a hand basket, but from their oblivious world view, their biggest concern is viewer ratings and that people are still watching them. That is until reality comes crashing in on eviction night in the form Kelly (Jaime Winstone of Kidulthood and Donkey Punch), a backstage runner on the show.

Things are thrown into further disruption with the arrival of the show’s obnoxious producer, Patrick (Andy Nyman of Dead Babies), who uses rifts in the group to gain an upper hand and form an unlikely allegiance with Joplin (comedian Kevin Eldon), the house’s unlikable geeky pervert character.

As the Housemates adapt to their rapidly deteriorating situation the rather unsubtle analogies soon start to flow… as the “mindless, braindead zombie masses” clamour for their “pound of flesh”, who will survive and what will be left of the contestants – after they’ve torn each other to shreds.

Clearly the level of social commentary shouldn’t need too much clarification for even the most vapid of idiot box viewer, and for those who enjoy their gut-munchers wet, bloody and filled with flying intestines, you won’t be disappointed. Notable scenes of housemates being decapitated to feed the zombies hordes, a zombie trapped in a hot tub and an homage to a certain gorey death from Day of the Dead should sate even the most bloodthirsty of zombie fiend’s appetites.

Amongst the carnage we have UK Big Brother presenter, Davina McCall, playing herself being turned into a zombie, who feasts upon Eugene Sully of Big Brother 5. Alongside cameos from other former Housemates, there’s also appearances from Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Charlie Brooker himself appearing as a zombie.

Nominated for a “Best Drama Serial” Bafta, Dead Set was originally broadcast as five episodes on the UK’s E4 channel over Halloween week 2008 and was later repeated in January 2009 on Channel 4, reformatted into three hour-long episodes. This Madman DVD release appears in the same format as the original five episodes.

Gorey, cynical, downbeat and satirical, Dead Set is more effective than most British genre cinema of late and is certainly more entertaining than 99% of the shows broadcast on UK TV these days – if only Channel 4 invested more in this type of show than Hollyoaks and re-runs of Friends.

EXTRAS:
  • Interviews with writer Charlie Brooker and director Yann Demange
  • Behind the scenes
  • Special FX
  • On set with Dead Set
  • Deleted and extended scenes

Review by Matt Black.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.