The Kentucky Fried Movie

Director John Landis teams with The Zucker Brothers to bring a ridiculous collection of sketches that cover everything from modern news, advertising, daytime television and film, in an irreverent mishmash of occasionally tasteless, often funny, film that still stands the test of time.

Although it’s now almost 40 years old, John Landis and The Zuckers have created a work that has stood the test of time.  In a much maligned modern era of dumbed-down media,  The Kentucky Fried Movie is silly in the most puerile ways, but has a thick satirical thread that runs right through it.

From it’s take on sexploitation films, to the kung fu legend that is A Fistful of Yen, via the mock news reports and bits in between, this is a film that anyone with a sense of humour and an interest in mass media will appreciate.

Also, when will be getting motion pictures shown in Feelaround!

Runner Runner

 

A young student, down on his financial luck, finds that a gambling site isn’t playing by the rules and decides to take on its supremo, only to be drawn into a world of corruption and deceit.

A sun kissed setting, a world where money flows as easily as water, and a principle cast that is incredibly talented and attractive, Runner Runner should be a high rolling winner.  Alas, under the facade, it’s all a bit… bland.

The cast shine with powerful performance as Justin Timberlake’s Richie (is there a more go-getter name?  Scoot, perhaps) battles against Ben Affleck’s Ivan Block (a name that wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond film).  Gemma Arterton has little to do as Rebecca, but is still superb, and the presence of Antony Mackie as Agent Shavers is only saved by Mackie’s skill as an actor.

The premise – an every-man (well, as every-man as Richie can be given his business and mathematics acumen) taking on a ruthless business tycoon – is hardly new, but it being set in the world of, primarily, online gambling certainly gives it an edge.  Sadly, it’s an edge that is dulled by a script that never settles on what it really wants to be, going from drama to action without ever maintaining either.

Definitely a film where cast and setting will leave you thinking it’s better than it is.

The Frankenstein Theory

A group of film makers follow an improbably young professor who is intent on saving the reputation of his family name by proving that Frankenstein was more than just a work of fiction.

The concept is an interesting one – what if Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was based on fact? Unfortunately, it’s executed in a tedious way that is a reminder that found footage films are rarely as engaging as their premise.

As would be expected, given that none of the characters are supposed to be professionals, the actors manage to capture the awkwardness of going about their business, although Kris Lemche is far and away the best of the lot, despite looking far too young to be Professor Venkenheim.

The story lacks tension, even when the strangeness starts (the cast of two-dimensional characters are incredibly blase when their snowmobiles are trashed).  Venkenheim aside, it’s entirely possible that the viewer will forget the names of the other characters as they trek through a landscape that is far more interesting than they are.  They lose their best hopes for survival, yet the filming continues without any sense of hopelessness.  As the terror ramps up, we get a lot of night-vision camera, jump scare tactics that barely work and a sense of dread that makes Most Haunted look like true horror.

As a genre, found footage has never really matched the skill of Blair Witch and Cannibal Holocaust, having almost become a shorthand for cheap, jump scare laden horror.  Paranormal Activity has rumbled on as a box office success, The Dyatlov Pass Incident (Devil’s Pass) was an interesting attempt, whilst Apollo 18 and Chronicle defied expectations and crafted a film that felt “authentic” within the genre.  It is, however, an overused trope that, far too often, feels too much like a student film experiment trying to be different.

Thus is the issue with The Frankenstein Theory – the concept exceeds the abilities of the film makers and it feels far from the “original vision in horror” that the blurb suggests.

Street Trash

A liquor store owner takes vengeance upon the city’s homeless with a lethal cocktail of death.  With a cop trying to unpick the crime wave, two homeless brothers trying to survive and a lovely young lady hoping to save society, it’s race against time to stop the carnage.

Street Trash is, as the name would suggest, trash – it’s a sensationalist horror film, full of overblown gore and questionable morals, but it’s certainly entertaining.  The homeless folk seem to live a dystopian existence with their own code of morality and they start melting.

“Lady, I can only save one person at a time.”

On the subject of immorality, nothing is left un-exploited – race, status, taboos, they’re all there for the taking under the blisteringly offensive, yet wonderfully effective, script by Roy Frumkes.  Visually, it’s a real gorefest and definitely of it’s time with its lingering, faux meaningful shots, overly intense performances and two dimensional characterisation.

Underneath the gore, there’s almost a social commentary – we’re all people fighting to survive – but that’s really not important.

It’s definitely not one for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

Vamp

Two best friends attempt to secure the services of an adult entertainer but end up facing a centuries old evil.

Richard Wenk’s 1986 cult classic sees Grace Jones at her most captivating as Katrina, an ancient vampire who rules her own night-time empire, facing off against AJ (Robert Rusler) and Keith (Chris Makepeace) as they fight for survival against overwhelming, nightmarish odds.

“Very new. Very now”

With a superb supporting cast, including Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe and Billy Drago, and a wonderful soundtrack (Volare has never seen better use, whilst Grace Jones gives a sparkling performance for Katrina’s theme and Jealous Heart will stick with you), it’s certainly a film of its time – exceedingly cool, beautifully shot and a entertaining script that does what few horror films, let alone horror comedies, since have truly managed to do.  AJ and Keith bounce off each other, the horrors are visceral and don’t rely on jump scares and there’s a real level of malevolence at play.

Rusler and Makepeace, as the confident AJ and the responsible Keith, are wonderful together, even if Makepeace does come across as slightly wooden on occasion.  Dedee Pfeiffer as the surprisingly (for its time and genre) independent Allison comes close to stealing the show and Grace Jones lights up the screen as Katrina, she may not say much but her actions speak much, much louder.

“Ever have one of those nights?”

The idea of a world that operates after dark is a chilling one and well executed – the After Dark Club feels realistic, the haunt of the hopeless, whilst the street scenes – with Snow’s gang of miscreants and the various denizens of this world – give the feel an urban authenticity.

Between this, Near Dark and Lost Boys (which would both be a released a year later), horror audiences were treated to a rejuvenated vampire genre, long separated from the Hammer Horror Dracula days and far removed from the much later Twilight interpretations.  Wenk and Schumacher gave us the sexiness of vampires, whilst never letting us forget the danger, whereas Bigelow masterfully craft a dark and dirty tale.  In the 1980s, vampires were never treated better.

Ultimately, in Vamp, the good guys would prevail, but the final moments do give us a hope for a sequel that would never materialise.

A Love/Hate Relationship with Books

At one point, I had literally thousands of books, and I use the adverb accurately.

Before I got my Kindle – a momentous decision, given I thought I wouldn’t get along with it and would just buy even more books to fill my one-bedroomed flat – I used to amass books that I would never read.  New or second hand, it didn’t matter, I’d just buy them and I was close to running out of space.

Very much like DVDs, I had piles of the things.  Two foot stacks of books that I probably would never read would spout up wherever there was space.  There was, of course, more chance of me watching a DVD than reading a book, but that didn’t stop me buying the darned things.

Anyway, the Kindle and a lack of space changed that, pretty much… almost…

I decided it was time to reduce the collection and set myself a lofty target of 90% fewer books, donating them to charity as I went along.  It was one heck of a collection, too – from Stephen King to Tolstoy, books of film studies to economics, science fiction to classic literature, I pretty much covered a whole library of subjects.

Of course, there were exclusions to my charity list – I wasn’t going to get rid of my Doctor Who books, some other bits would hang around, too.  I was, however, going to get rid of anything else that I’d read or hadn’t and wouldn’t read.

booksWhich brings me to today – I probably have five hundred books left.  Mostly Doctor Who, books on film, reference works (typically pop culture and film related, it seems) and a growing collection of Star Wars novels.

Growing… collection?  Wasn’t the plan to reduce the number of books?

Yes, yes it was, however there came a problem.  Very much like my discovery that charity shops near me have decent DVDs that I might not otherwise buy (not just Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II and other straight to video bilge), and vinyl, I’ve started buying books again – books I’ve wanted or books I fancy.  It’s a vicious circle, I tell you.

That said, I’m much more controlled (12 Star Wars novels yesterday, simply because they were there).  I tend to buy books on Kindle because they take up far less space, these days.

The Quest for Cheap Music Continues

Okay, so I’m onto my second record player and it’s another charity shop bargain… well, I think it is, considering it sounds a ton better than the first deck I bought and cost me less than a five.

0Daft things like the plastic lid stays up of its own accord, so I’m no longer juggling a disc, a lid and Lord know else just to protect my inexpensive, but still cherished (mostly) vinyl.  The needle lowers slowly on the vinyl, thanks to a little lever.  It’s like magic.

Aside from that, it really does sound clearer than the Goodman’s I was clearly slumming it with (but without, wouldn’t have started the madness that has ensued).

I now have far too many records – I’m not talking hundreds, that’d be silly and I wouldn’t have any where to put them all.  I’ve got “a collection”, though, and a random one at that.

I’ve been to a record fair in Hull and bought three, but most of them have come from local charity shops and have been things that have… caught my eye.

0-1Amongst the purchases have been The Best of David Bowie (covering 1969 to 1979), Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Sure, none of them are pristine, but the most expensive (Bowie) was a fiver and the three came to £7.50.  Can’t argue with that.

 

Through vinyl, and away from streaming media, I’m rediscovering a love of music, especially stuff I grew up with and discovered at a later date.  I’ve got a wishlist of LPs I want, and there’s bound to be more coming my way as I trawl through charity shops, second hand record dealers, record fairs and everyone’s favourite auction site.