Monthly Archives: September 2009

That Sinking Feeling DVD – your thoughts

This past few weeks has seen the release on DVD of Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl director Bill Forsyth’s first film, the charming That Sinking Feeling.

Set in 1980 Glasgow, it tells of four teenagers who decide to pull off the heist of the century…involving kitchen sinks and dressing up as girls.

I write in Friday’s Evening News how this new release is actually the version screened in America in 1984, complete with posh Glasgow accents dubbed onto the cast, including John-Gordon Sinclair, in case the “foreign” audience didn’t understand the originals.

The DVD owners are quite open about the fact that the original version of the film is now in a bad state and that they’ve released the best version they could.

Fair enough, but why not add an alternate voice track to the DVD with the actors real voices? The old VHS version was correct and that can be bought of eBay for a fiver.

I think this is travesty, that Bill Forsyth is possibly our greatest living Scottish director – unless you know better – and that releasing a dubbed version of his film is tantamount to destroying a Scottish national treasure.

Or is it just me? Have your say below.

DVD Round-up, 21 September 2009

A round-up of recent DVD releases.

Based on the 2005 six-part BBC thriller featuring David Morrissey and John Simm caught up in a scandal following the death of a political aide, State of Play (Universal Home Entertainment) sees Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe take over for this pared down US remake.

When Senator Stephen Collins (Affleck) hears of the death of his assistant and lover, it’s not long before the press get a hold of the story, old friend Cal McCaffrey (Crowe) volunteering himself as investigator into the story of the year. In fine conspiracy movie fashion, it’s not long before there’s more death and a dash of destruction for Cal to look into, the appearance of professional political blogger Della (Rachel McAdams) perhaps the biggest mystery for the old-school journo to get his head around.

Newbies to the world of State of Play will revel in the smart dialogue, witty one-liners and Helen Mirren, while fans of the original will find themselves playing a game of “spot the difference” throughout as scenes and characters are excised to ensure the run time stays manageable. It’s an impressive mix which perhaps doesn’t quite have the grace of the BBC version but it makes up for it with sheer energy.

Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt play against type in Five Minutes of Heaven (Element Pictures), an intriguing BBC film depicting the aftermath of a real-life Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) killing in 1970’s Belfast on two men caught up in the violence.

What makes this story unusual is that once the facts are out of the way – Alistair Little (Neeson) did indeed murder the brother of James Griffin (Nesbitt) in 1975 as part of a desire to be seen as worthy of membership of the UVF – the film moves into “what if?” territory, the film depicting what might happen if the men confronted each other today.

Screenwriter Guy Hibbert’s script depicts the guilt and pain felt by the two men in a number of ways, with Neeson and Nesbitt’s actions often saying more than overlong dialogue could hope to. Though the pair share little time on-screen together, Nesbitt’s twitchy performance is an antidote to Neeson’s outwardly relaxed persona, flashbacks to their past helping to explain the present.

Topped off by some stylish direction from Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel, this is a satisfying drama which definitely deserves more than five minutes of your time.

Armour and amour abound in The Black Shield of Falworth (Eureka!), freshly minted for its release on Blu-ray.

The first Cinemascope film made in
Technicolor, this 1954 swashbuckler stars Brooklyn-boy Tony Curtis as English peasant Miles, determined to discover his true lineage by gaining access to MacWorth castle and swordfighting his way to the facts behind his family tree.

On hand to offer the love interest is Janet Leigh as Lady Anne, while Patrick O’Neal’s Sir Walter Blount is suitably menacing to the young knight-to-be.

Ignore the fact that this was clearly filmed on an LA backlot and that Curtis’ accent is Sussex by way of the Bronx and you have a suitably rip-roaring little adventure which looks better than ever in this new hi-def transfer.

Finally arriving on DVD after years of being overshadowed by siblings Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, That Sinking Feeling (2Ientertain) was Bill Forsyth’s directorial debut in 1980 and for many it’s his best, most personal, work.

Focusing on four young teenagers from Glasgow, the film follows them as they discuss suicide and sinks, a plan to carry out a heist hatched among them.

Though Forsyth’s trademark wit and magic is present, it’s tragically overshadowed on this release by the fact that the DVD’s owners have given us the international version of the film, complete with watered down “posh” Scottish accents which completely alter the feel of the piece.

If you can get through the film without wincing every time someone opens their mouth then you might just enjoy the film. Otherwise it’s a sadly tainted film which can only be recommended to Forsyth obsessives who just can’t wait to see it turns up on TV soon in the correct version.

One film which certainly isn’t witty or magical is The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (Icon Home), the second sequel to the 2004 Ashton Kutcher-starrer Butterfly Effect. Kutcher is long gone from the franchise, now replaced by Chris Carmack as Sam Reid, a man who can travel back in time with the aid of a low-fi time machine and lots of ice in a bath.

Reid helps local police to solve crimes, pretending he’s psychic while each time nipping back to the scene of the crime to see for himself what really happened. When things get too close to home for Sam, he tries to change the course of history to save his dead girlfriend while trying to keep things on track in the present.

Sadly Butterfly Effect 3 makes little sense. The constant time travelling gets quite confusing, with no clear idea of what’s going on from one minute to the next. Carmack is decent enough but he’s not helped by having a one-dimensional character and co-stars who look bored.

Perhaps if Butterfly Effect 4 ever gets made they’ll travel back in time to stop number 3 ever getting greenlit and I’ll forget I ever watched it.

Finally, forget the cult of Mamma Mia! – one of Benny and Bjorn’s earlier musical efforts, Chess: The Musical (Warner Music Entertainment) has now arrived on shiny disc.

Marti Pellow heads the cast of this Cold War romp, with love among the chess pieces of a world championship the cetral focus of the piece.

Though the cast have clearly put in the effort, and it must have been impressive to witness from the stalls, there’s something missing on DVD, a lack of energy and buzz.

Still, if you love a good musical, Marti Pellow or anything with Benny and Bjorn’s name attached, then this is for you.

Cult movies for beginners – part two

Ahead of tomorrow’s publication in the Edinburgh Evening News of the second part of my look at the rise of cult movie fandom in Edinburgh, Robbie McKay from the Edinburgh B-Team lists his top five cult films that deserve a place in any self-respecting DVD collection.

  1. Hard Boiled (1992)

    The film which got me out of the mainstream. If you are a fan of action movies, this is THE action movie. John Woo and Chow Yun Fat collaborate at the top of Woo’s game. This film moves from one fantastically crazy set piece gun battle to another, from a tea house to a dockyard warehouse to a hospital, all with a 1 vs 100 good guy to bad guy ratio.

    It’s also spectacular to watch, with Woo throwing Fat in slow motion through scenes in which EVERYTHING explodes with ricocheting bullets and explosions, and plenty of spaghetti western-esque gun shot wounds. I recommend this to any one who’s made themselves sit through by-the-numbers, 80s-style western action movies for too long.

  2. The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)

    A miniature Holy Grail, literally, this movie is fairly notorious amongst the B-movie circles. It’s a fairly simple western about dastardly cattle thieves pitching ranchers against one another, with a hero having to try and stop the bad guys before bloodshed. What marks it out is that the entire cast, from the villain to the hero, via the show girls and the bar man, are all played by midgets (and the odd child).

    Now whilst this is quite obviously exploitation cinema (a good 40 years before Grindhouse movies revolutionised the concept), it is interesting to note that the actors/actresses in this piece all get their names credited, and the roles they play are delivered with as much realism and seriousness as any other western of the time. The same people went on to act in such massive Hollywood A films as The Wizard of Oz and got no such treatment. This film is certainly an experience.

  3. The Pit & the Pendulum (1961)

    Vincent Price is one of the greatest actors the realm of horror has ever had the privilege to call its own. Having made some classic macabre through-out the 50s, with The Tingler, The Bat and The House on Haunted Hill, the 1960’s introduced Price to Roger Corman, the man responsible for many major trends in not only the horror world, but cinema as a whole.

    One of their first collaborations was in this movie, a re-working of a story by Edgar Alan Poe (who’s work was regularly re-worked for cinema by the duo). This movie is good for people getting into cult movies as it not only introduces you to the wonderful acting skills of Mr. Price (for a whole lot longer than his wonderful cameo in Edward Scissorhands), it also introduces you to Roger Corman and American International Pictures, and if you follow them down the rabbit hole you are sure for a big surprise.

  4. Street Trash (1987)

    A film which made me want a region free DVD player, Street Trash is a notorious cult movie. The story is fairly simple, a liquor store owner finds a crate of booze under his shop, and sells it cheap to all the bums and winos. Problem is, this drink, Tenafly Viper, makes anyone who drinks it either melt or explode.

    Throw into the mix a morbidly obese predator, a varied group of bums and crazy Vietnam vets and you know that some crazy stuff is going to happen. And it does. This film is not for the weak of disposition, as it features some real gross out parts. It manages to stay out of the video nasty section by being ridiculous throughout, so it never drops into the disturbing, just remains in the sick and twisted.

  5. Murder Party (2007)

    A modern cult movie, and rightly so, this is for those who like their horror with plenty of dark humour. The scene is simple on the outset, a loner finds an invitation to a ‘murder party’ on Halloween. He goes along expecting a party, but soon discovers it is in actual fact a planned murder, of himself. However, it has been organised by 5 members of the New York art scene, and its thereby anything but simple.

    Egos, ambitions, desires and exaggeration soon takes hold and everything deteriorates. This is a low budget number, but it looks great, and the acting is excellent too. Whilst the general theme and level of gore keep it in the horror genre, it is actually funny, something which most horror films often miss the mark with. This film is set to be a cult classic.

Cult movies for beginners

In today’s Edinburgh Evening News I interview Stewart Dawson, owner of DVD shop Cult Fiction on Newington Road.

Here Stewart lists five “must-have” cult DVD’s for anyone looking to build up their collection.

  1. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966)
    Simply stunning, captures what it was like in the real wild west. Fantastic performance by Eli Wallach.

  2. Nightbreed (1990)
    Clive Barkers massively underrated 1990 Sci-Fi hit. Great special effects and David Cronenberg playing a great bad guy.
  3. Fortress (1986)
    Not Christopher Lambert’s 1993 version, but an Australian drama where a rural school class gets kidnapped. Surprisingly hard hitting for a PG.
  4. The Warriors (1979)
    Proper cult film and shot beautifully in some of New York’s old rundown streets, most of which have been fully regenerated.
  5. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
    Cheesy 80’s flick Directed by the Chido brothers and has a huge cult following. Great Klown costumes!

DVD Round-up, 7 September 2009

Bypassing UK cinemas after a US release in August 2008, Hamlet 2 (Momentum Pictures) finally comes to DVD in the UK from Monday.

Steve Coogan stars as Dana Marschz, a drama teacher in Tucson, Arizona famed for staging terrible adaptations of well known movies such as Erin Brockovich.

Threatened with the sack, Marschz decides to write an original play in the shape of Hamlet 2, a time travelling sequel to the original with musical numbers such as Rock Me Sexy Jesus.

Coogan is fantastic here, gloriously OTT as a teacher with little quality control over his work. He’s also joined by Catherine Keener as his wife who doesn’t take him seriously, while David Arquette pops up in almost a cameo as their silent lodger.

Director Andrew Fleming may not have an eye for exciting visuals, the barrage of outrageous sequences and one-liners making this a joy to watch – it’s a shame it didn’t get the recognition it deserved on the big screen over here.

A director’s commentary and behind-the-scenes interviews complement the main film, Coogan overacting for Britain throughout.

As the madness of the summer blockbusters fades it’s good to see decent, low-budget British films making it to DVD, such as the award-winning Helen (New Wave).

Set in the aftermath of a young girl’s death, the film shows what might happen if the person who portrays her in a Crimewatch-style dramatisation starts to integrate with the deceased’s family.

Slowly we watch Helen come to terms with the role she’s taken on, time taken by director’s Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor to set the tone of grief and pain.

Newcomer Annie Townsend makes an impressive debut in this elegant and often thought-provoking film.