Monday, 7 February 2011

I've moved to Disturbed Kids & Shuriken Pixels

I'm now doing Cult and Horror talk at Disturbed Kids

I've moved my geeky banter to Shuriken Pixels

Thanks to any readers/followers

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Serbian Film

‘A Serbian Film’ leaves a bad aftertaste in your mouth. The debut film by 'Srdjan Spasojevic' is growing in notoriety for its controversial scenes, banned in most places (including the USA) and released in the UK with over 4 minutes of cuts by the British Board of Film, the most cuts in 16 years.

The film follows an aging pornstar hired to star in a new 'art film', that descends into the dark, depraved world of underground pornography. I DO NOT recommend that anyone watch this film. But as a reviewer I will give my critique of what I watched; the film is actually pretty well made, there’s some good camerawork and editing, the acting by the main cast is mostly solid and it sustains threat and builds tension.

BUT, the films plot is constructed to allow shock tactic sequences for the sake of it, anyone looking for a deeper reasoning from the films horrid finale is giving the film more credit than it deserves. ‘A Serbian film’ is a repugnant piece of vile, hateful filmmaking. The unnerving ending made me feel quite sickened, I’m an open-minded fan of the weird and disturbing and I believe in freedom of expression, but this went too far. A nasty piece of exploitive work.

I've seen way more graphic films (Districted), I've seen films with more sex and violence (Baise-Moi). I've seen films with more thought provoking impact (Irreversible). And I've seen films with more brutal endings; 'Dancer In The Dark' left me feeling destroyed by its stunningly powerful finale, yet it managed to do so without sickening me with unnecessary imagery. 'Dancer in the Dark' is brutal in a different way and that to me is true 'art'. In the end, it's the tone, delivery and themes that make 'A Serbian Film' just plain nasty. Any deep message or moral hidden within does not give it artistic merit enough to redeem it.

If you still have some sort of morbid fascination about watching this film, remember; what has been seen, cannot be un-seen. Unless you want to feel violated, don’t watch it.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Film 2010

I haven't seen so many of the years best films, partly because they weren't released in the UK yet and partly because I don't get as much time to watch everything these days. Black Swan and True Grit are just two of those films that I'm positive I will love, but still haven't seen...

My favourite films of 2010, that I did see;


Filmmaking of the most highest standard, craftsmanship that is near perfection. Inception looks and sounds amazing, each shot is meticulously composed. Christopher Nolan has raised the bar. An intricate plot, a great ensemble cast, the most impressive special effects in years. Even if you don’t like the story, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most well made films of all time. Jaw-dropping! 9/10


I loved Kick-Ass! I thought it managed to surpass the comic book in every way, it balances a comic quirkiness with an often gritty raw edge perfectly. It’s good to see Nicholas Cage back on form (also good in Bad Lieutenant). And Chloe Moretz as ’Hit-girl’ is as good as the hype suggests. Matthew Vaughn is fast becoming one of Britain's best directors, I look forward to seeing what he does with ‘X-Men: First class’. 9/10

Toy Story 3

Pixar are probably the most consistent filmmakers in the business, making two solid sequels to a classic original is almost unprecedented (not even The Godfather trilogy achieved this feat). Toy Story 3 is clearly lovingly crafted and a fitting end to a great series. 8/10

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy's documentary/film about street art and the fickle world of art is an inspiring little treat. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in street art, art, or filmmaking. 8/10

Films that Disappointed me;

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

I loved the comics. Pilgrim isn't a bad film and there's parts I liked, but the overall package seems to lack something that made the books so great.

The Expendables

I knew it was just going to be mindless action and a tribute to the 80's-90's action flicks, but for some reason I just expected something better. 90 minutes of testosterone and guns.


Maybe I was expecting too much, Rodriguez attached made me have hope. It's average at best, it doesn't build any tension, the action is bland and mostly too dark to see and the acting seems forced. It's better than Predator 2 and the AvP films, but it's still rubbish.

I think 'Sucker Punch' looks fun in 2011.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

My name is Phil and I'm addicted to Anime

The Early Years.

I've loved anime since around 1994-95. During my early teens Channel 4 went through a period of showing anime late at night. During one of my late-night channel surfing sessions I found myself transfixed by the super deformed styling of the characters animation and the swear words that came from their mouths. It was a WTF moment that changed everything. My attention was caught long enough to take in the preceding ultra-violence and nudity, and from there on I was hooked! I was 13, seeing a cartoon with guns, gore and titties was possibly the coolest thing imaginable at the time.

I was aware of Japanese animation prior to this, but it was these Channel 4 late-night sessions that really exposed me to the whole phenomenon. I'm glad I got into it when I did, before it become oversaturated. With that first wave of films and OVA distributed by Manga Entertainment it achieved a cult status in the West that made it cool. There was the obvious legendary titles such as Akira and Fist of the North Star, but the ones I remember most fondly from this time squander in near obscurity now...

Cyber City Oedo 808

This sealed the deal. A 3 part mini-series (it’s a massive crime only 3 episodes were ever made!), about 3 convicted criminals in the future who are employed as part of a 'Cyber Police' unit to reduce their life sentences. They have to follow orders and keep in check thanks to an explosive collar around their neck! I’ve only seen it once since watching it back then on TV (a borrowed VHS from a friend years ago), and I’ve only seen it in the English dub (bah!). But from what I can remember this was the most kick-ass awesome action anime I can recall.

If you’ve not seen it and like your old-skool action stuff like Guyver, Crying Freeman and Ninja Scroll I highly recommend this forgotten little gem. Although, I think it’s quite hard to get a none import DVD and even harder to get a version with both the original subs and the English Dub on one disc.

Legend of the Four Kings

Hardly anyone remembers this one, but the few that do always get excited when you mention it. It follows 4 brothers who are the descendants of the divine Dragon Kings, trying to live normal lives on Earth with their supernatural powers and ability to transform into dragons. Obviously this being Japanese animation evil forces come to ruin their precious little lives and all hell breaks loose. I would love to re-watch this series on DVD, but unfortunately it goes for ridiculous money on import.

3x3 Eyes

This series follows Pai, a 3 eyed Sanjiyan Ankara (powerful mystical being) who is the last remaining of her kind and her immortal companion and protector Yakumo. Another I haven’t seen since it was shown on TV that isn’t easily available or affordable on DVD. I remember it having viciously brutal action sequences, taking full advantage of Yakumo’s immortal power of resurrecting from any wound, no matter how severe. He even had the ability to grow his limbs back; so he would get cut up, mutilated and severely beaten and just keep coming back!

A Pop Culture Phenomenon

The first wave of anime to hit our shores during the late 80’s and early 90’s boom caused controversy in the press, newspapers protested at the ‘ultra-violence’, depraved nudity and sexual violence seen in films like ‘Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend’. This notoriety cemented its cult status in the West.

It became more and more readily available on VHS, the local video store even had some Manga videos and I was introduced to the awesome bio-mech action of Guyver and the zany madness of Dominion Tank Police. Kids at school thought I was weird and immature watching these ‘strange cartoons’.

When I started college a friend there was selling his entire collection and I bought them all. I couldn’t get enough. But I wasn't alone in my habit and with commercial shows like 'Naruto' anime was no longer as cult cool as it once was, but my addiction continues with some of the newer generation, revisiting old favourites for nostalgic reasons and catching up on the classics I should have watched.

Going To Tokyo

During my 2 week Tokyo honeymoon I don’t think I could have geeked-out better anywhere else. All the comic and toy shops and arcades were EVERYWHERE! You couldn’t escape the anime goodness in Tokyo. All that culture, my heart was finally home. 'Mandarake' was the place to be; ‘one of Tokyo's largest vendors of used anime and manga-related products. The store stocks collectibles, VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and used manga, toys’...

(me at the entrance to Mandarake)

I might have come home with a few little mementos from Tokyo (possibly a suitcase full).

Studio Ghibli and the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

Studio Ghibli continues to push the envelope on 2D animation, from classics 'Princess Mononoke' and 'My Neighbour Totoro' to the stunning 'Spirited Away'. Animated film really doesn’t get any better than Ghibli! I knew one place I needed to visit was the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

It’s charming and quaint, but unfortunately photography was forbidden inside this enchanting building. Although…

(the robot from Laputa! This statue is on the roof of the museum)

Of the new generation of anime?

One of my favourites is Elfen Lied

The animation is technically excellent, colourful and fluid. A fascinating story following a new strain of the human race knows as the Diclonius, held captive and experimented on in a facility. Lucy a dangerous Diclonius girl escapes the facility and kills all that get in her way. But she is injured in the process and develops a childlike split-personality in the outside world, only reverting back to her true self when in violent situations. The attempts to recapture Lucy by various characters is where the anime becomes really entertaining and often harshly brutal. The violence is exceptionally gory; limbs fly around the screen, body parts are cut into segments, heads are decapitated, blood paints the scenery and the violence is treated almost like an art form, which some find overly gratuitous. In my opinion it’s a fine example of modern anime.

There’s so many great films and OVA I could go on and on forever, but I wont…

so yeah, crack is cheaper and probably better for your social life than a nerdy anime obsession.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Film Treats To Be Excited About In 2010

We’re more than halfway through the year and still revelling over an early display of awesome from 'Kick-Ass'. Here’s my top 5 most anticipated films of the remaining year…

1. Toy Story 3

Toy Story is probably the best CG animation ever made, Toy Story 2 was a good sequel and Pixar have continued to release groundbreaking films that adults enjoy as much as children year after year. This is my most anticipated film of the year. Can't wait!

2. Inception

This is possibly gonna be the biggest film of the year that isn't a sequel to a rubbish vampire film. From director Christopher Nolan, expectation is high after the success of 'The Dark Knight' and with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead and a reported budget of $170 million. I'm a big fan of Nolan's Memento and The Prestige. I'm hoping this will live up to the hype.

3. Predators

What makes this so anticipated for me is that it completely ignores the terrible Alien Vs Predator films and the not so good Predator sequel (starring Danny Glover). And Robert Rodriguez is onboard to produce, with creative control and to watch over director Nimród (yes, 'Nimrod') Antal, director of Armoured (2009). We deserve a good Predator film!

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

From director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and based on a comic book series. Scott must battle the seven evil ex-boyfriends/girlfriend of the girl of his dreams, before they kill him. It could be stylish, cheesy fun. I have faith in Edgar Wright.

5. Tron: Legacy

Released at the end of the year, this is a sequel to the 1982 cult classic. Jeff Bridges is back and the teaser trailer showed off some pretty slick special effects. The original was a flop, but gained a huge cult following and it’s one I remember fondly from my childhood. Roll on December!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Top 10 Film and TV Geeks

The best nerdy nerd nerds on the big and small screen.

1. Egon Spengler (Ghostbusters 1 and 2).

"Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light"

2. Doc Brown (Back to the Future Trilogy).

"Let me show you my plan for sending you home. Please excuse the crudity of this model, I didn't have the time to build it to scale or to paint it. [reveals intricate tabletop model of the town square]"

3. Seth Brundle (The Fly).

Genius physicist, inventor, twitchy, tweed jackets...

4. Steve Wiebe (The King Of Kong).

Devoting your life to beating the Donkey Kong world record is pretty nerdy.

5. Comic Book Guy (The Simpsons).

"I've spent my entire life doing nothing but collecting comic books...and now there's only time to say...Life well spent!"

6. Mulder and Scully (X-Files).

They spend their days investigating extra-terrestrial and paranormal activity…

7. Moss (IT Crowd).

"You see the driver hooks a function by patching the system call table, so it's not safe to unload it unless another thread's about to jump in there and do its stuff, and you don't want to end up in the middle of invalid memory...hello?"

8. Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Nuff said.

9. Doctor Sam Beckett (Quantum Leap).

"Oh boy"

10. Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory).

"You have about as much chance of going out with Penny as the Hubble Telescope has of finding that at the center of each black holes there's a little man with a flashlight trying to find the circuit breaker"

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Cult Classic Reviews #2: Scanners

An early film from David Cronenberg, from his first wave of b-movie horror films. Scanners was made the year I was born (1981), I remember seeing it when I was pretty young and finding it a disturbing watch. There was something unsettling about the tone of the film and the idea of someone being able to get inside my head and kill me with just the power of their mind.

Watching it now it’s aged, but still manages to be pretty disturbing all the same. Yeah, most of the acting is wooden, it’s badly dubbed in parts, laughably corny in a few places and the effects might be dated, but they still have a charm and the infamous exploding head is as good today as it was back in 1981.

It’s Cronenberg's intense direction, ideas, and use of audio and visuals that make it effective and these basic elements continue to serve him well today, only with bigger budgets and better casts. The films strongest card is Michael Ironside, who makes for a formidable villain, he seems to be channelling a bit of a angry Jack Nicholson in his performance, snarling and chewing scenery as he epitomises pure evil. It's a solid piece of acting in the midst of the b-grade support. He doesn't seem to get the credit he deserves, but he’ll always have fans in the cult film world for his roles in Scanners, Total Recall and the cult sci-fi series V.

It’s not the best of Cronenberg's films, it's not even the best of his early works, but it’s a memorable piece of b-movie history nonetheless and a movie that always comes up in conversations about cult film. 7/10