Thursday, 30 April 2009

A personal word....

Theresa Joan Burkett
1938 - 2009

Regular readers of this blog will know that during the past year my postings have been somewhat irregular. This has been mainly due to the long illness of my partner, Terry. Some of my regular readers know that Terry has been suffering from advanced Alzheimer's Disease for several years now. She finally lost her battle last Saturday when she passed away surrounded by her family and friends. I would like to thank those who have continually sent me their support and best wishes and those who were unaware of the circumstances for their patience and for staying with the blog when nothing seemed to be happening.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

In Memoriam

Jack Cardiff


1914 - 2009

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Just as I was beginning to get starved of trash along comes old Roger Corman to save me. Corman was the uncredited Executive Producer (and part director) of this classic piece of sh....well, shlock! Is it bad ? It sure is. Is it fun ? You betcha - if you are in the right mood. Made on a budget of about $3.00 the film tells of an alien mind creature whose planet is dying (aliens always use this lame excuse to explain their invasions) who comes to Earth in what looks suspiciously like a salvaged water boiler and takes over the minds of a rancher's family, the mute handyman and their animals. Not exactly an exciting concept but whatever entertainment value this movie (and I use the term loosely) comes in the how rather than the what. Special effects are quite stunning - in one of many scenes that spookily prefigure Hitchcock's THE BIRDS - a woman is attacked by chickens! I can already hear your heart beating faster! No CGI here - the effect consists of actress Lorna Thayer screaming while some unlucky hens are thrown in her face - YES, REAL CHICKENS! The alien itself is seen very briefly and resembles nothing more than a glove puppet gremlin. Although the alien only seems to have only two eyes the producers make a gesture towards the million eyes of the title by superimposing a third eye. Acting is of the highest order (no, I am joking) with Corman regular Paul (NOT OF THIS EARTH) Birch as the rather philosophical rancher, Lorna Thayer (later to appear in FIVE EASY PIECES) is great fun as the mother who seems to be living out some daughter hating, cake baking fantasy but the very worst performance comes from the totally talentless dog - a German Shepherd who is not fit to chew on Rin Tin Tin's discarded dog bisquit. If all this isn't enough to get you excited - there is also a scene in which silent film comedian Chester Conklin being savaged by a milk cow and the most over-the-top musical score I can recall. Rating **

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


I really sympathise with grumpy old men these days as I'm fast becoming one. I particularly felt empathy with Walk Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) and his reaction to his Vietnamese neighbours as I recently took a trip back to the area I grew up in and found it to be depressingly delapitated, dirty and unpleasant with barely an English voice to be heard. Yep, I found a lot of old Walt in me. It has been said that GRAN TORINO is Dirty Harry in retirement and to an extent this is true. But Eastwood takes his old screen persona and uses it to great effect. I'm not going to say much about the story as the film is best left to unfold without spoilers but I will say that the charges of bad acting that have been aimed at the younger members of the cast seem totally unfounded to me. Eastwood hams it a bit in some scenes but this is really because he is, as I have said, playing a bit on his past screen performances (and I'd happily adopt his growl when dealing with some of the feral dregs that roam the streets these days). The film isn't, to be honest, Clint's best work (although it gets close in places), veering as it does from the subtle to the cliche and the final scenes are pretty much telegraphed to any knowledgeable film fan. While I can applaud the film's message there is still a little bit of me that would have been quite happy to see Walt Kowalski taking out the trash in a more conventional way. Supposedly Eastwood's acting swansong. If it is then it's not a bad one. Rating ****

MILK (2008)

You know, I'm actually suffering from a drought in my supply of trashy movies and have actually been watching some really good, quality movies. Of these, unexpectedly, MILK is the best. I say unexpectedly because I confess that I had heard virtually none of the buzz about the film and I hold my hands up to knowing absolutely zilch about Harvey Milk. I'm sure that Gus Van Sant is a talented director although one I've sadly ignored, his career, rather unfairly, being defined for me by his 1996 version of PSYCHO which surely must rate as the most pointless remake in film history. MILK, however, is a different kettle of fish. The film is a totally believable, thoughtful, extremely moving biopic of gay activist and politician Harvey Milk. Van Sant brilliantly sets the scene for the story by using newsreel footage of police raids of gay clubs, harrassment and brutality in the 1950's and 60's after which he concentrates on Milk himself and credits the audience with enough intelligence to fill in the background. Milk himself is quite brilliantly portrayed by Sean Penn (an actor I've always admired rather than really liked) as a likeable guy whose passion for his cause ultimately causes the disintegration of his personal relationships and ultimately his own death. Make no mistake about it, this is a terrific movie.
Rating *****