Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Falling (4½ Stars)


To be free you must be conscious.

This film has a surreal dream-like quality. It's not terrifying enough to be a nightmare, but it's not pleasant enough to be a good dream.

The story takes place in a girls' school in the late 1960's. The location isn't specified, it could be anywhere in central England, but it was actually filmed near Oxford. Abbie and Lydia are two girls in the fifth form (ages 15 to 16). They're more than friends, there's a budding lesbian relationship between them, and they swear they'll love one another forever. This relationship is disturbed when Abbie loses her virginity on the back seat of a car with Lydia's brother Kenneth. Worse still, Abbie becomes pregnant from this single act.

Abbie considers having an abortion, but before she has a chance there are complications and she dies. Soon after the funeral an epidemic breaks out in the school. The girls in the school repeatedly faint, and some of them even have convulsions. The headmistress doesn't call a doctor because she thinks the girls are faking it, and she accuses Lydia of being the ringleader. It remains a mystery throughout the film: is the fainting a contagious illness, is it the result of witchcraft, or are the girls really faking?


Despite being written by an English author, Carol Morley, the film follows the tradition of American gothic literature. The girls spend their free time in the woods communing with nature. It would be going too far to call them pagans, but they're aware that there are greater powers at work in nature than they can understand, something in contrast to their Christian education in school.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Austin Powers: The Spy who shagged me (4¾ Stars)


"The spy who shagged me" was the second and most successful film in the Austin Powers trilogy. Despite its box office success it was judged less favourably by the critics than the first film. The main criticism is that it was less original and repeated the same jokes. I'm sorry, dear critics, you just don't get it. Sequels to comedy films always repeat the same jokes. That's what the public expects.

Nevertheless, there are some changes from the first film. They're actually logical progressions. In the first film the actor/comedian Mike Myers played two characters, Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. In this film he plays a third character, the Scotsman Fat Bastard. In this film a new enemy is introduced, the miniature clone of Dr. Evil, Mini-Me. The relationship between Dr. Evil and his son Scott is further explored.

That's not to say that the film doesn't have faults. Mustafa and Number Two both died in the first film, but they magically re-appear in this film without explanation. It's not a problem that Austin's wife Vanessa turns out to be a fembot, but it's dissatisfying that Basil Exposition says that he knew all along she wasn't human. Strange. I find the character Fat Bastard so disgusting that he almost puts me off the film. Despite all this, the faults are only enough to merit the deduction of a quarter star. It's still a very good film.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (5 Stars)


No other film shows the difference in the sense of humour between countries. In America this film was enormously successful and was one of the biggest box office hits of 1997. In England the film was also a success, but there were mixed opinions, many people saying they found the humour silly. The reception in Germany was the most extreme. Whereas the Americans were laughing throughout the film, the Germans sat in icy silence. Whenever there was something they perceived to be a joke they cautiously looked left and right to see if anyone else was laughing. In Germany the public and the critics held a consensus was that that the film was dreadful.

The differences can be explained by the type of humour. "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is primarily a spoof of the early James Bond films, in particular the first five films in which Sean Connery played the leading role. Dr. Evil is an almost exact copy of Blofield, Random Task represents Odd Job, Alotta Fagina represents Pussy Galore, etc. These parodies automatically include making fun of England in the 1960's, which went through a cultural revolution very different to the hippy movement of America in the 1960's. That is probably what piqued the English audiences. The English are usually able to laugh at themselves, but they're sensitive when they think Americans are making fun of them. That wasn't the intention of the film, far from it, but that's what it looked like.

In the case of Germany it's slightly different. First of all, the Germans have a great love for the English, a love they don't feel for America. I don't know where this comes from, but I experienced it personally as an Englishman in Germany, and it's existed for more than a hundred years. In "Mein Kampf" Adolf Hitler described England as Germany's natural ally, and he was shocked when England declared war on Germany in 1939. For the Germans the Second World War was an unnatural affair of brothers fighting, they thought England and Germany should have been allies waging war against Russia and France. Secondly, the Germans hold the James Bond films in high reverence. The Germans considered it disrespectful to make fun of James Bond.


Shortly before the film appeared in the cinemas there was a 60-minute special shown on MTV called "The Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club", the name of Austin Powers' favourite London nightclub in the 1960's. This programme presented Austin Powers in the style of a "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" episode. Clips from the programme are even shown during the film, including the dancing girls and Ming Tea's performance of "BBC" during the final credits. I taped the programme at the time, but I no longer have it. It was brilliant, at least as good as the first Austin Powers film, maybe even better. I've tried in vain to get a copy of it ever since. It ought to be a DVD extra, but it isn't. I'd certainly buy it if it were ever released as a standalone disc. Does anyone know if I can find it online? I've looked, believe me, I've hunted for it.


I've been told that the scenes in which Christian Slater appears as a rather stupid looking security guard have been omitted from the American version of the film. Can anyone in America please confirm this for me?

Monday, 27 April 2015

Vampire Vixens from Venus (3 Stars)


This film is very disturbing, and I don't mean it in a good way.

Three intergalactic drug dealers come to Earth to harvest a very rare drug. It's only produced when human males become sexually aroused. In order to blend in and make their job easier the aliens have bracelets which can give them any physical appearance, so they make themselves look like beautiful Earth women. The photo above shows the before and after looks. Any man that they extract the drug from isn't actually killed, but he's left in a shrivelled form which is barely recognisable as human.

So what do I find disturbing? No, it's not the cheap special effects or the stupid slap-stick humour of Detective Oakenshield, a Mr. Bean lookalike. What disturbs me is the concept of male aliens taking on female forms to seduce men. Okay, the men in the film think they're women, but for me as a 110% heterosexual voyeur looking on I feel very uncomfortable. If you're able to overlook the transgender issues, the film offers a lot of eye candy, especially J. J. North and Michelle Bauer.

Talk about false advertising. "Vampire Vixens from Venus"? First of all, they aren't vampires. Second they aren't from Venus, they're from a far distant planet. Third, they only look like vixens, they're really foxes. It's still a cool title though.

Dracula (1931 version) (5 Stars)


I've been through phases with this film. When I first saw it on television at a relatively young age I loved it. As I remember, it was often repeated as one of ITV's Friday night horror films. Then I didn't see it again until the early 2000's, more than 20 years later. By that time I had a fascination with vampires and everything vampiric, sparked off by seeing the film "Vamp", but mostly centred around my love for the novels of Anne Rice. When I watched it again after such a long time I didn't like it. Apart from seeming dated, Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula seemed so macho to me that it was off-putting. Another 10 years passed. When I watch it now my impression is "Wow!" Bela Lugosi is simply perfect in his portrayal of Count Dracula. He's aloof and brooding, but with a dark charm that makes him likeable.

The film itself is amazing, from Carla Laemmle's opening words to the low-key ending (which still leaves me wondering if something else is to come). When it was made it was only a few years since the era of silent movies, and the film still has the silent movie characteristics of over-acting, especially where the facial expressions are concerned. It's a masterpiece, nothing less.


Avengers: Age of Ultron (4½ Stars)


I think I'll keep this review to an absolute minimum, because it hasn't been released in the USA yet. I don't like to give spoilers, and most of what I would like to say, both in praise and criticism of the film, would give too much away. I'll write a more complete review when I buy the film on Blu-ray.

I'll restrict myself in this review to two issues. Actually, it's only one issue, but it involves two characters, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch. In the film Wanda Maximoff isn't called the Scarlet Witch, but that's the name she uses in the Marvel comics that I know and love.

The issue is the differences between characters in the film and the comics, in particular the differences in their powers. Wanda's powers in the film bear almost no resemblance to what she can do in the comics. In the film she seems to be able to fire energy bolts, she can read minds, she can give people nightmares, and she can perform acts of telekinesis. This sounds very similar to the original powers of Jean Grey, the X-Men's Marvel Girl. In the comics her abilities were described as "hex powers", a rather erratic gift over which she had only limited control. Whenever she used a "hex" on someone it altered the laws of probability, so that something happened which was unlucky for the person and at the same time lucky for herself. In the 1990's her powers were redefined as involving "chaos magic", but I don't accept such latter day changes to the Marvel characters as canon. Back in the 1970's Wanda was taught witchcraft by Agatha Harkness, but this knowledge of the dark arts was something she could do in addition to her natural powers.

The film's Vision is also far removed from the character that we know in the comics. In the comics he is an android, created by using the body of the original Human Torch and the brain patterns of Simon Williams aka Wonder Man. In the film he's a robot created using the artificial intelligence of Tony Stark's robot butler Jarvis. (In the comics Jarvis was a real person, but that's another story altogether). In the comics the Vision has a synthetic gem on his forehead, probably part of his own body, but in the film it's the Mind Gem, one of the Infinity Gems. In the comics the Vision has the power to change his body density, but this ability is missing altogether in the film. In fact, it's not quite clear to me what powers the Vision is supposed to have in the film. I have a slinking suspicion that he will be used as a replacement for Adam Warlock, who was one of the main characters in the battle against Thanos.

I did enjoy the film, as is obvious from my rating, despite my disappointment at the redefinition of the central characters. I'm sure it will be one of the most successful films of 2015, maybe even the most successful film.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

House Arrest (3 Stars)


Grover Beindorf is 14, and his sister Stacy is 10. When they find out that their parents are planning to get divorced they lock them in the basement and tell them they have to stay there until they've made up their differences. Grover's school friends hear about it and are so impressed that they bring their own parents to Grover's house and throw them into the basement as well.

Despite being called one of the worst films ever made "House Arrest" was a success at the box office. What do critics know about films anyway? The film's target audience was young teenagers, and they liked it. That's all that matters. My interest in watching it was that it stars two of the most beautiful actresses that I know, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jennifer Tilly. Jennifer Love Hewitt was only 16 when she appeared in the film, although she is supposed to be 14 in the film as Brooke Figler, the most beautiful girl in Grover's school. Whether she looks 14 or not is a matter of opinion, but I won't deny that even as a young girl she was very attractive.


Jennifer Tilly plays the part of Brooke's mother. In the film she dresses down, deliberately not showing off her full beauty. I suppose it wouldn't have been appropriate, in the context of the film, for a mother to look more attractive than her daughter.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Salvation (4 Stars)


A Danish western? Is there such a thing? I don't know if any westerns have been made in Denmark before this, but if not "The Salvation" is a worthy film to kickstart the genre. It's slow and intense, coiled like a rattlesnake, before erupting into scenes of savage violence.

After Denmark lost a war to Germany (actually a coalition of Austria and Prussia) in 1864 the disillusioned Danish soldier Jon emigrates to America. After seven years of living alone, establishing a small homestead, Jon invites his wife and son to join him. They are both fridged on the stagecoach journey from the train station to Black Creek, the town nearest to Jon's homestead. After his wife is raped by two drunken cowboys they are murdered and thrown onto the road. Jon catches up with the stagecoach and takes revenge by shooting the men.

One of the men that Jon shoots is the brother of the gangster Delarue who demands protection money from the leaders of Black Creek. It's a strange little town. The town's undertaker is the mayor, and the town's priest is the sheriff. They're all terrified of Delarue and accept his demands. In retaliation for the death of his brother Delarue executes three of the townspeople and doubles the protection money until the killer is found.

Mads Mikkelsen is dark and broody in all of his films, so he was the ideal choice to play the lead role. I wouldn't say he's a good actor, he's very one-sided in his roles, but he's good at what he does. Also notable are Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Delarue, Jonathan Pryce as the undertaker and Eva Green as the mute wife of Delarue's brother. The film reproduces the style and atmosphere of spaghetti westerns without actually being a spaghetti western.

P. S. No, I don't know what the film's title has to do with the film.

The Prophet (3½ Stars)


After the Vietnam war the American government resorted to desperate measures to find missing prisoners of war. A group of children between the ages of 6 and 9 were "recruited" as part of a secret experiment. They were treated with drugs to enhance their ESP capabilities.

25 years later one of the children, Jarrid Maddox, is working for the CIA. His special abilities have made him a highly successful agent, because he is always able to outguess criminals. He's sent on a mission to Los Angeles to capture the leaders of a dangerous religious cult, but when he meets them they're not what he expects. Instead of being religious fanatics one is a drug dealer, one is a loving housewife and one is a gambler. The only thing they have in common is that they were also children who took part in the government experiments. Together with a local police officer assigned to support him he attempts to solve the mystery.

This was a direct-to-video film made in 1999 and directed by Fred Olen Ray. The attractive box cover (pictured above) has probably enticed many people to rent it from Blockbuster. It's a good film for an evening at home with your girlfriend. Jarrid Maddox is played by former world champion kickboxer Don Wilson. The fight scenes are exciting, and the acting is above average quality for direct-to-video films. The DVD is now out of print, but the film is available to be watched on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Kid with X-Ray Eyes (3½ Stars)


Bobby Taylor is a 12-year-old boy who lives in a fantasy world. When he's not playing computer games or reading comics he pretends that he's a secret agent who battles the forces of evil and rescues beautiful women in dazzling car chases. His Dad tells him that he should stop fantasising, because things like that only happen in the movies. But luckily for Bobby, and for us, it is a movie, so anything can happen.

While visiting his Uncle Chuck Bobby finds a suitcase that has been washed up onto the beach. In the suitcase are a pair of goggles that allow the person wearing them to see through anything. On high settings Bobby can see through walls, while the lowest setting is enough to see women's underwear. For a boy just entering puberty it's obvious how Bobby uses the goggles. Unfortunately, people are searching for the goggles: an NSA agent and a terrorist group. Yes, there are beautiful women involved, but it's not the weak, helpless women that he rescues in his fantasies. He finds himself tied up by Diane Salinger, an evil woman who doesn't hesitate to shoot men while they're distracted by her cleavage. Why does that make me feel jealous of Bobby?


Bobby is played by Justin Berfield, the child actor best known as his role as Ross Malloy in the long-running TV Series "Unhappily Ever After". He became an actor at the age of five when he appeared in television commercials. He appeared in many films and television series until he was 20, and now he works behind the camera, doing administration work for a film production company.

The film is obviously aimed at young teenagers, but it's of sufficient quality to entertain the whole family. Don't let yourself be put off by the bad reviews from people who don't get it. It's a film worth watching at least once.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Child 44 (3½ Stars)


There is no murder in paradise.

Sometimes my reviews just flow naturally, and I can ramble on about a film for hours. Other times I don't know what to write. In most cases it's not the good films or the bad films that I have problems writing about; it's the average films. That's the case with "Child 44". I've been sitting staring at my computer screen for the last two hours wondering where to start.

Let's get the plot out of the way first. That part of the review is easy. After introductory scenes immediately before and after the second world war, the film takes place in Russia in 1953. Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is a high ranking security officer in Moscow. He loses his position when his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) is accused of being a traitor and he refuses to denounce her. It's not clear from the film whether she really is a traitor; it's possible that she was falsely accused by Leo's enemies. Together they are exiled to a remote Russian town. When there Leo begins to investigate a series of murders that have been covered up by the government. 44 young boys have been stripped naked and killed. In every case the reports say the deaths were accidental, because the official Communist doctrine is that murders only take place in Capitalist states. By daring to claim that there is a serial killer Leo is treated as a criminal.

Tom Hardy is a brilliant actor, as always, and Noomi Rapace also delivers an excellent performance. It's a fascinating window into the dismal life in Russia in the latter years of Stalin's rule. The problem, as I see it, is that the film is cluttered with too many sub-plots. There are the relationship problems between Leo and Raisa, Leo's problems with his colleague Vasili, Vasili's desires for Raisa, the arguments among party officials, betrayal and counter-betrayal, just to name the main sub-plots. I can imagine that this works well in the novel by Tom Smith that the film is based on. The screenwriters should have trimmed the story down to make it less difficult to follow.

Judging by initial reports "Child 44" is going to be a big failure at the box office. That's probably because the film doesn't look appealing to the popcorn-munching public. Spy films aren't popular, unless they have over-the-top action, and spy films set in Russia are a total no go. That's a shame. Despite my criticism of the film I think it's worth seeing.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

TV Series: Xena Warrior Princess


The television series "Xena Warrior Princess" ran for six seasons from September 1995 to June 2001. It continued the habit developed in "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" of having humorous disclaimer texts at the end of each episode, although in a few cases the disclaimer is of a non-standard but serious nature, and in many cases it's not a disclaimer at all. What I mean is that instead of saying, for instance, "No centaurs were harmed in the production of this motion picture", the text of series 6 episode 17 is "The centaur population was severely harmed during the making of this motion picture".

Here is a full list of the disclaimers used in the Xena TV series, together with each episode's name, season number and episode number. I've seen a list on a Xena wiki page, but I believe my list is more accurate. Please feel free to copy my list for your own web site.

Notable disclaimers are:

1.13 and 2.16 - Tributes to a person, rather than disclaimers.

4.16 - The only disclaimer to appear at the beginning of an episode.

6.14 - A disclaimer about a disclaimer.


 Xena complete disclaimer list.

1.01 Sins of the Past

<no disclaimer>

1.02 Chariots of War

<no disclaimer>

1.03 Dreamworker

<no disclaimer>

1.04 Cradle of Hope

No babies were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.05 The Path Not Taken

<no disclaimer>

1.06 The Reckoning

<no disclaimer>

1.07 The Titans

<no disclaimer>

1.08 Prometheus

Iolaus was harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, the Green Egg Men went to live long and prosperous lives.

1.09 Death in Chains

No jumbo sized cocktail rats were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.10 Hooves & Harlots

No males, centaurs or Amazons were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.11 The Black Wolf

<no disclaimer>

1.12 Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts

No oversized Polynesian-style bamboo horses were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, many wicker lawn chairs gave their lives.

1.13 Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards

The producers would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to Stanley Kubrick, Kirk Douglas and all those who were involved with the making of the film classic "Spartacus". Additional thanks to Steve Reeves.

1.14 A Fistful of Dinars

No Ambrosia was spilled, spoiled or in any way harmed during the production of this motion picture. (Thanks to the indefinite shelf life of marshmallows).

1.15 Warrior... Princess

Neither Xena nor her remarkably coincidental identical twin, Diana, were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.16 Mortal Beloved

No winged Harpies were harmed or sent to a fiery grave during the production of this motion picture.

1.17 The Royal Couple of Thieves

No ancient and inflexible rules governing moral behavior were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.18 The Prodigal

Meleager the Mighty, the generally tipsy and carousing warrior-for-hire, was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.19 Altared States

No unrelenting or severely punishing deities were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.20 Ties That Bind

No fathers, spiritual or biological, were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.21 The Greater Good

Excessive belching can cause brain damage and social ostracism. Kids, please don't give in to peer pressure. Play it safe.

1.22 Callisto

Joxer's nose was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, his crossbow was severely injured.

1.23 Death Mask

No messenger doves were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several are reportedly missing in action and search-and-rescue efforts are under way.

1.24 Is There A Doctor in the House?

Being that war is hell, a lot of people were harmed during the production of this motion picture (but since television is a dramatic medium of make believe, all casualties removed their prosthetic make-up and went home unscathed).

2.01 Orphan of War

No sleazy warlords who deem it necessary to drink magic elixirs that turn them into scaly centaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.02 Remember Nothing

Xena's memory was not damaged or... ...what was I saying?

2.03 The Giant Killer

No Bible myths or icons were irreparably mangled during the production of this motion picture.

2.04 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

No bloodsucking Bacchae were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, a few Dryads lost their heads.

2.05 Return of Callisto

Although Xena finally conquered her dark nemesis Callisto, it took her weeks to get the sand out of her leather unmentionables.

2.06 Warrior... Princess... Tramp

Neither Xena nor her remarkably coincidental identical twin, Diana, were harmed during the production of this motion picture. Meg, however, suffered minor injuries while preparing Aardvark nuggets for King Lias.

2.07 Intimate Stranger

Argo was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, she is undergoing intensive psychotherapy to help her work through her resentment and feelings of distrust toward Xena.

2.08 Ten Little Warlords

No one was harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, Xena's ability to recover her body was severely impeded by Lucy Lawless' mishap.

2.09 A Solstice Carol

Senticles was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several chimneys are in dire need of repair.

2.10 The Xena Scrolls

No Hollywood producers were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.11 Here She Comes... Miss Amphipolis

No ribbons were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several experienced severe motion sickness.

2.12 Destiny

Julius Caesar was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, the producers deny responsibility for any unfortunate acts of betrayal occurring soon thereafter.

2.13 The Quest

Xena's body was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, it took weeks for Autolycus to get his swagger back.

2.14 A Necessary Evil

The reputation of the Amazon nation was not harmed despite Velasca's overly radical adherence to an otherwise valid belief system.

2.15 A Day in the Life

No slippery eels were harmed during the production of this motion picture despite their reputation as a fine delicacy in select cultures of the known world.

2.16 For Him The Bell Tolls

The producers wish to acknowledge the inspiration of Danny Kaye and pay tribute to the classic motion picture "Court Jester".

2.17 The Execution

By popular demand "The Executioner" will bring back his comfortable lightweight cotton-flax blend robe in a variety of spring colors.

2.18 Blind Faith

Once again, Gabrielle's luck with men was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.19 Ulysses

Despite Gabrielle's incessant hurling, Ulysses' ship was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.20 The Price

To show sympathy for the Horde, "kaltaka" was only served upon request during the production of this motion picture.

2.21 The Lost Mariner

Cecrops' "Joie de Vivre" was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.22 A Comedy of Eros

No cherries were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

3.01 The Furies

Xena's sanity was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. The Furies however, will be opening their own lap-dancing variety show off-off-off-Broadway soon.

3.02 Been There, Done That

The rooster was not harmed during the production of this motion picture, although his feathers were severely ruffled. However, a little gel and mousse straightened out the mess.

3.03 The Dirty Half Dozen

No convicts were reformed during the production of this motion picture. Can't we all just get along?

3.04 The Deliverer

Gabrielle was slightly well-done during the production of this motion picture. However, the producers would like to recommend a zesty barbecue sauce to bring out the full flavor of the episode.

3.05 Gabrielle's Hope

Despite witnessing the bizarre and somewhat disturbing birth of Gabrielle's Hope, no farm animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.06 The Debt (Part 1)

No frock tarts were killed during the production of this motion picture, although they wish they had been.

3.07 The Debt (Part 2)

Xena's and Gabrielle's relationship suffered another blow (although Gabrielle doesn't know it yet) during the production of this motion picture.

3.08 The King of Assassins

Due to the infliction of a severe wedgie, Joxer was slightly uncomfortable but not seriously harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.09 Warrior... Priestess... Tramp

Despite another Xena look-alike , the gene pool (or rather gene puddle) was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.10 The Quill Is Mightier

No naked Gabrielles were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.11 Maternal Instincts

Xena and Gabrielle's relationship was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.12 The Bitter Suite

The musical genre was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. In fact, the Producers sincerely hope you were A-MUSE-D by this episode.

3.13 One Against An Army

Gabrielle's ankle was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.14 Forgiven

No street-talking, cat-fighting, barroom-brawling juvenile delinquents were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.15 King Con

No con men were conned during the production of this motion picture.

3.16 When In Rome...

Caesar's palace was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, Crassus and the gladiators went down for the count.

3.17 Forget Me Not

Xena and Joxer were not forgotten during the production of this motion picture.

3.18 Fins, Femmes and Gems

Joxer's dignity was slightly harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, Gabrielle's pink nightie was restored to its original condition.

3.19 Tsunami

No cast or crew were singing "Tanks for the Memories" during the production of this motion picture. However, the phrase "Strike the Set" was given new meaning.

3.20 Vanishing Act

Upon completion of the filming of this episode, Autolycus' scuba gear was placed on display at the Athens Diving Institute for the education and enjoyment of future generations to come.

3.21 Sacrifice (Part 1)

No pulsing cocoons were hatched during the production of this motion picture. What you witnessed was purely a reenactment.

3.22 Sacrifice (Part 2)

Gabrielle finally went off the deep end during the production of this motion picture.

4.01 Adventures in the Sin Trade (Part 1)

No dead Amazons lost their lives during the production of this motion picture.

4.02 Adventures in the Sin Trade (Part 2)

Xena's search for Gabrielle was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.03 A Family Affair

No spike-skinned, beast-like, incredibly hungry offspring who can't stand the sun were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.04 In Sickness and In Hell

No leapin' lice were beaten, whipped, smashed or scratched during the production of this motion picture.

4.05 A Good Day

No permanent battle scars were inflicted during the production of this motion picture.

4.06 A Tale of Two Muses

No self-righteous magistrates intent on suppressing the basic human right of freedom of expression were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.07 Locked Up and Tied Down

No rabid flesh-eating crabs were cooked during the production of this motion picture.

4.08 Crusader

Xena's best chewing tooth was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.09 Past Imperfect

Borias' goose was cooked during the production of this motion picture.

4.10 The Key To The Kingdom

No priceless porkers, of either organic or ceramic origin, were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.11 Daughter of Pomira

No blond-haired, blue-eyed Horde girls or their extended families were harmed during the production of this motion picture. Lakota toti. Bonai. Soli bonai.

4.12 If The Shoe Fits...

No fractured fables were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.13 Paradise Found

Paradise was found but not necessarily embraced during the production of this motion picture.

4.14 Devi

In memory of women's best friend: Bear, Dodger, Kali, Samantha, Taffy, Bear.

4.15 Between The Lines

Xena's chakram got Gabrielle by the short hairs during the production of this motion picture.

4.16 The Way

The producers of the following episode took liberties with Hindu deities and historical timelines, but their sole intent was to illustrate the beauty and power of the Hindu religion.

4.17 The Play's The Thing

Although no great literary works of art were harmed or plagiarized, a few thespians stole some scenes during the production of this motion picture.

4.18 The Convert

Argo's gastrointestinal condition was cleared up upon completion of this motion picture.

4.19 Takes One To Know One

Argo was once again proven innocent during the production of this motion picture.

4.20 Endgame

Pompey's reign came to a head during the production of this motion picture.

4.21 The Ides of March

Xena and Gabrielle were killed during the production of this motion picture.

4.22 Deja Vu All Over Again

No sword-wielding, card-playing, therapy-seeking French freedom fighters were deflowered during the production of this motion picture. However, rumors of Custer and Pocahontas remain unconfirmed.

5.01 Fallen Angel

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

5.02 Chakram

Xena's dark and violent past was restored during the production of this motion picture.

5.03 Succession

Ares' libido was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.04 Animal Attraction

Although the rabbit died, no other animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.05 Them Bones, Them Bones

Xena and Alti were bad to the bone during the production of this motion picture.

5.06 Purity

To obtain a copy of Joxer's recipe for Moo Shu Sauce and other Chinese delicacies visit your local bookstore or look for it on the internet.

5.07 Back in the Bottle

Pao Ssu's split personality was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.08 Little Problems

No pie tins were harmed during the making of Tharon's mask.

5.09 Seeds of Faith

Thanks to Eli's non-violent ways, many people lost their lives during the production of this motion picture.

5.10 Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire

No lyres were strung out during the production of this motion picture.

5.11 Punch Lines

Gabrielle and Argo were shrunk and permanently pressed during the production of this motion picture.

5.12 God Fearing Child

Zeus cashed in his chips during the production of this motion picture.

5.13 Eternal Bonds

Ares' virility was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.14 Amphipolis Under Siege

Post Production was under siege during the production of this motion picture.

5.15 Married with Fishsticks

No sea nymphs or other denizens of the deep were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.16 Lifeblood

Warning: The Surgeon General cautions practicing weird and grotesque Amazon rituals may be hazardous to your health.

5.17 Kindred Spirits

Many cinnamon swirls lost their lives in the making of Gabrielle's headdress.

5.18 Antony & Cleopatra

No rubberized snakes intent on destroying the Queen of Egypt were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.19 Looking Death in the Eye

Death almost died during the production of this motion picture.

5.20 Livia

Due to an overabundance of Bean and Bard Burgers, Meg's gastrointestinal problems intensified during the production of this motion picture.

5.21 Eve

Joxer's sudden and unexpected death slowed down his rapid aging process during the production of this motion picture.

5.22 Motherhood

All the Gods were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.01 Coming Home

Xena & Gabrielle's psyches were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.02 The Haunting of Amphipolis

No maggots were harmed during the production of this motion picture, although a few were found stuck to Gabrielle's teeth.

6.03 Heart of Darkness

All Hell broke loose during the filming of this motion picture.

6.04 Who's Gurkhan?

Xena's uncanny ability to recover from devastating wounds was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.05 Legacy

Despite severe air turbulence, no sand fleas were harmed during the making of this motion picture, although some experienced periodic bouts of motion sickness.

6.06 The Abyss

Virgil's appetite was suppressed during the making of this motion picture.

6.07 The Rheingold

No flying horses were harmed during the production of this motion picture, although several villagers were bombarded with aerial manure.

6.08 The Ring

Gabrielle's popularity surged during the making of this motion picture.

6.09 Return of the Valkyrie

Any similarity between our story and the classic children's fairy tale is purely coincidental.

6.10 Old Ares Had A Farm

Ares went to the dogs during the making of this motion picture.

6.11 Dangerous Prey

Raczar mysteriously disappeared at the completion of production of this motion picture and is rumored to have been living under the guise of "Prince Vhalimar Barbiqueem Raczar of Lower Alibabaston".

6.12 The God You Know

Gabrielle's undercover disguise was severely harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.13 You Are There

The concept of linear time was severely harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.14 Path of Vengeance

The disclaimer for this episode was harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.15 To Helicon and Back

No shark bait was harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.16 Send in the Clones

No Xena fans were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.17 The Last of the Centaurs

The centaur population was severely harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.18 When Fates Collide

As the Fates would have it, Caesar was once again harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.19 Many Happy Returns

No fish guts were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.20 Soul Possession

Joxer's natural process of elimination was harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.21 Friend in Need (Part 1)

Xena and Gabrielle's Flying Circus and Amateur Fire Brigade will be arriving in your town soon.

6.22 Friend in Need (Part 2)

Xena was permanently harmed in the making of this motion picture, but kept her spirits up.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

TV Series: Hercules the Legendary Journeys


The television series "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" ran for six seasons from January 1995 to November 1999. It was the brainchild of Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert.

Most television series and films that use animals have a disclaimer at the end, with a text such as "No animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture". This series developed the habit of replacing this disclaimer with a humorous text, starting from the sixth episode of the first season, with only a few omissions in the first two seasons. I'm including a full list of the disclaimer texts, together with each episode's name, season number and episode number. I've decided not to beautify the list by adding pictures to make it easier to copy and paste. As far as I know, a list like this isn't available online yet. I don't mind anyone copying this list for his own web site. That's what it's here for.

Notable disclaimers are:

1.07 - The only normal disclaimer.

1.06 and 2.05 - The only duplicate disclaimers. Almost duplicate.

2.14 and 2.21 -  Tributes to a person, rather than disclaimers.

6.08 - A disclaimer for the whole series.

The television series "Xena Warrior Princess" also used humorous disclaimers. I intend to post a list of the Xena disclaimers later this month.


Hercules complete disclaimer list.

1.01 The Wrong Path

<no disclaimer>

1.02 Eye of the Beholder

<no disclaimer>

1.03 The Road to Calydon

<no disclaimer>

1.04 The Festival of Dionysus

<no disclaimer>

1.05 Ares

<no disclaimer>

1.06 As Darkness Falls

No centaurs were harmed in the production of this motion picture.

1.07 Pride Comes Before a Brawl

No animals were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.08 The March to Freedom

<no disclaimer>

1.09 The Warrior Princess

No hydras were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.10 Gladiator

<no disclaimer>

1.11 The Vanishing Dead

No dogs of war were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

1.12 The Gauntlet

<no disclaimer>

1.13 Unchained Heart

No vicious beasts intent on taking over the world were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.01 The King of Thieves

No subterranean serpents were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.02 All that Glitters

No stuffed elephants were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.03 What's in a Name?

No mandrakes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.04 Siege at Naxos

No barbarians were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.05 Outcast

No centaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.06 Under the Broken Sky

<no disclaimer>

2.07 The Mother of All Monsters

The mother of all monsters was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.08 The Other Side

Nether Phil nor Sal nor any of the other Piglet Brethren were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.09 The Fire Down Below

No Completely-Engulfed-In-Flames-Evil-Dudes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.10 Cast a Giant Shadow

Neither Typhon nor Echidna were harmed during the production of this motion picture. They went on to lead long and happy lives with their adopted family. However, attempts to reinflate Pylon were unsuccessful.

2.11 Highway to Hades

No rabbits or spirits wandering the Earth were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.12 The Sword of Veracity

No attacking minotaurs were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.13 The Enforcer

<no disclaimer>

2.14 Once a Hero

We gratefully acknowledge the lifelong inspiration Ray Harryhausen has provided on our journey through Filmland.

2.15 Heedless Hearts

<no disclaimer>

2.16 Let the Games Begin

The nuclear blast that destroyed those fiendish Mesomorphs was purely trick photography. The Mesomorphs are alive and well and living in Poughkeepsie.

2.17 The Apple

No extremely oversize clam shell wind-surfing apparatuses housing goddesses of love were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.18 Promises

No hairy Sasquatch-like mammals were battered, bruised, burned or beaten during the production of this motion picture.

2.19 King for a Day

No slightly soused kings-to-be who finally pull themselves up by their bootstraps and realize the true meaning of leadership were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.20 Protean Challenge

No slightly discolored and impish Gods who vaguely resemble any candidate in the 1996 presidential elections were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.21 The Wedding of Alcmene

In memory of Jerry Siegel.

2.22 The Power

No manure was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

2.23 Centaur Mentor Journey

No centaurs were harmed or discriminated against during the production of this motion picture.

2.24 The Cave of Echoes

No vicious tabby cats were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, the pre-Hellenic litter box is in dire need of a change.

3.01 Mercenary

No flesh-eating sandrays were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.02 Doomsday

No silly nutty was harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, quite a few filberts and cashews sacrificed their lives in the name of progress.

3.03 Love Takes a Holiday

No metal panthers were tarnished during the production of this motion picture. When polishing your metal animals, remember to use salt and lemon.

3.04 Mummy Dearest

Any similarity between our Mummy and the foot dragging classic we all know and love is purely intentional.

3.05 Not Fade Away

No bootie-kicking, chop-sakiing she-monsters from Tartarus were harmed during the production of this motion picture. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the temple!

3.06 Monster Child in a Promised Land

Out of respect for Baby Obie, no calamari was served to the cast and crew during the production of this motion picture.

3.07 The Green-Eyed Monster

No goats were harmed during the production of this cheese.

3.08 Prince Hercules

Iolaus was not harmed or permanently stained in the production of this motion picture. In fact, thanks to the miracle of sandblasting, his skin was restored to its original color and lustrous sheen.

3.09 A Star to Guide Them

No unnamed baby of key biblical and mythological importance was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.10 The Lady and the Dragon

No fire-breathing, pre-pubescent, slightly sinister dragons were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.11 Long Live the King

No stags were bagged during the production of this motion picture.

3.12 Surprise

Hercules' party pants were not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.13 Encounter

The golden hind was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. To order a hind of your own call 1-800-55-HIND.

3.14 When a Man Loves a Woman

Hercules' strength was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. In fact, Ares is storing it in a cryogenic freezer bag deep in the Olympian Meat Locker.

3.15 Judgment Day

No family values were harmed during the production of this Blood Lite motion picture.

3.16 The Lost City

No hippy-dippy, substance-abusing, 60's reject love children were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.17 Les Contemptibles

The French accents depicted in this motion picture are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to actual accents, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Vive La Revolution!

3.18 Reign of Terror

The sheeps' political and cultural independence was restored after the production of this motion picture. Run Free Ewe Wilde Beasts!

3.19 The End of the Beginning

Neither the time space continuum, nor any previous storylines were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.20 War Bride

No leather-clad, pointy-breasted, buffont-wearing, pillow-smothering, two-faced sisters were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

3.21 A Rock and a Hard Place

No convicts were squished like a bug during the production of this motion picture.

3.22 Atlantis

Warning: Crystal-waves were used during the production of this motion picture. Pregnant women should leave the room immediately.

4.01 Beanstalks and Bad Eggs

No permanent cases of Harpies were reported during the production of this motion picture.

4.02 Hero's Heart

As Fortune would have it, Iolaus' memory was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.03 Regrets... I've Had a Few

Jaris' cause of death remained a mystery during the production of this motion picture.

4.04 Web of Desire

The original website was severely harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, through the miracle of modern technology, it was reinvented several centuries later.

4.05 Stranger in a Strange World

No heart-throwing, love-spewing, smooth-talking Ares impersonators were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.06 Two Men and a Baby

No fire-belching, levitating, neo-natal sons of a god were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.07 Prodigal Sister

The Amazon hokey-pokey was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. In fact, this catchy number is now being performed in dance clubs around the country.

4.08 ...And Fancy Free

The Widow Twanky, once again, on top of the dance world with the success of the Hercules Hustle, was not harmed or tripped during the production of this motion picture.

4.09 If I Had A Hammer

Hercules proved once again the true measure of a man is not the size of his grapes but the size of his heart.

4.10 Hercules on Trial

Due to extensive DNA testing, Hercules was proved innocent during the production of this motion picture.

4.11 Medea Culpa

No two-headed, fire-breathing, regenerating Ghidras were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.12 Men in Pink

Cupcake's sweet tooth was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, her love life experienced a slight setback.

4.13 Armageddon Now (Part 1)

Once again, Alcmene's fence was not finished during the production of this motion picture.

4.14 Armageddon Now (Part 2)

Although Alcmene's barn was blown to smithereens, remarkably she and Iolaus were not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.15 Yes, Virginia, there is a Hercules

Any resemblance between the Hercules cast and the Renaissance staff is purely intentional.

4.16 Porkules

Hermes' wings were clipped during the production of this motion picture.

4.17 One Fowl Day

No giant poultry was tripped, plucked, barbecued, deep-fried or otherwise assaulted during the production of this motion picture. Katherine's owners are orthodox vegetarians.

4.18 My Fair Cupcake

No bakeries were harmed during the production of this motion picture, although many pastries were burned to a crisp.

4.19 War Wounds

Any resemblance between King Iphicles, Hercules' half-brother, and Ares, God of War, Hercules' other half-brother, is totally unavoidable.

4.20 Twilight

Caution: Nafoline cannons are highly flammable and may be hazardous to your health. Keep away from children.

4.21 Top God

No boogie-boarding, bleached-blonde, narcissistic Gods were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

4.22 Reunions

Zeus' godhood was not harmed during the production of this motion picture, although his short stint as a mortal was somewhat intoxicating.

5.01 Faith

In order to protect the environment and for the benefit of all mankind, Imuru's beard was recycled and restored immediately upon completion of production of this motion picture.

5.02 Descent

No zombies were chomping at the bit during the production of this motion picture.

5.03 Resurrection

No magic munchkins preaching the virtues of ancient Celtic philosophy were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.04 Genies and Grecians and Geeks, Oh My

No cool blue bongs that resemble Aladdin's lamp were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.05 Render Unto Caesar

No scribes intending on writing the truth and nothing but the truth were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.06 Norse by Norsevest

No ram, stag, or any other horned species was sacrificed for Thor's helmet during the production of this motion picture. Ve Svear it.

5.07 Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge

No Frost Giants were thawed during the production of this motion picture.

5.08 Darkness Rising

Iolaus nearly lost his head during the production of this motion picture.

5.09 For Those of You Just Joining Us

Due to circumstances beyond our control, some staff members were ridiculed, laughed at and generally made fun of during the production of this motion picture.

5.10 Let There Be Light

No cast-iron Snakes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.11 Redemption

Finally, the demon Dahak was destroyed during the production of this motion picture.

5.12 Sky High

Ephiny's leg was not hurt during the production of this motion picture. However, the writers sincerely apologize to Amazons everywhere for excluding her from the big finale.

5.13 Stranger and Stranger

If you would like to be a contestant on "Wheel of Misfortune", simply drop us a postcard and prepare to kiss your bottom goodbye.

5.14 Just Passing Through

Autolycus' intestinal tract was well lubricated and, consequently, was not harmed or blocked during the production of this motion picture.

5.15 Greece Is Burning

Due to incredibly bad taste and a despicable dress code, the Fashion Police were locked up indefinitely immediately upon completion of filming this motion picture.

5.16 We'll Always Have Cyprus

The Oracle affectionately known as "Mrs. Potato Head" was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.17 The Academy

Support the United Grecian College Fund. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, much like the vacation plans of certain Young Hercules cast members.

5.18 Love on the Rocks

No fish out of water was harmed during the production of this motion picture.

5.19 Once Upon a Future King

Many giant steps were taken during the production of this motion picture. However, none for mankind.

5.20 Fade Out

No Gods or other deities were killed during the production of this motion picture. They just faded away.

5.21 My Best Girl's Wedding

No floundering fish were filleted during the production of this motion picture.

5.22 Revelations

Iolaus got a new lease on life during the production of this motion picture.

6.01 Be Deviled

Xerxos' goose was cooked during the production of this motion picture.

6.02 Love, Amazon Style

No conniving mischievous over-the-top deities formerly and presently known as Deimos were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

6.03 Rebel With a Cause

Creon's perm was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.04 Darkness Visible

No blood-sucking homicidal vampires were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.05 Hercules, Tramps & Thieves

No cat burglars intent on training their ex-husbands were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.06 City of the Dead

No pyramid schemes were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

6.07 A Wicked Good Time

Discord was a basket case during the production of this motion picture.

6.08 Full Circle

No ancient Greek myths were seriously harmed during the production of this series, although some stories were slightly altered for the entertainment and enjoyment of our audience.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (3½ Stars)


The film begins in 2015, five years after the first film ended. The four friends are insanely rich, having used their knowledge of the future to advance themselves. Adam doesn't appear in the sequel, probably due to John Cusack not wanting to appear. Lou is the father of the Internet. Nick is the world's most famous singer and music producer, after writing all the biggest hit songs of the 1980's and 1990's. Jakob, Lou's son, is rich in theory, but he has to act as his father's servant.

At a big party thrown by Lou someone shoots him, almost killing him. The three friends realise that someone has travelled back from the future to assassinate him, so they jump into the hot tub and travel to 2026 in search of the killer.

Once more the film relies on crude humour to entertain the audience. It isn't a bad film, but despite all the ramblings on the nature of time it doesn't really offer anything new. It doesn't live up to the quality and originality of the first film.

P. S. The film poster that I've reproduced above has nothing to do with the film, but you have to admit that it looks pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Hot Tub Time Machine (4 Stars)


Embrace the chaos!

Before anyone says that the idea of travelling through time in a hot tub sounds silly, let me tell you that it's no less ridiculous than a police box. In fact, it's a shame that when the Doctor Who TV series was invented they didn't let the Tardis look like a hot tub. We would have seen the Doctor's companions wearing bikinis for the last 50 years.

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Tin Drum (4 Stars)


This film, made in 1979, won the Academy Award for the best foreign language film. It's based on the novel with the same name written by Günter Grass in 1959. The novel is considered to the best German novel written in the 20th Century, and many critics claim that it's one of the best novels written in any language since the war.

Well, when such praise is heaped upon a work of fiction the question is, what is it about? The book's meaning is a subject of controversy, but some reviewers see it as a picture of the development of the 20th Century from 1900 to 1955. (The film only goes as far as 1945). There do seem to be some political messages, but they aren't consistent. I'll have to restrict myself to describing the film and leave the interpretation to others.


Oskar Matzerath is born in Danzig with full intelligence. It would be more accurate to say that he is conceived with full intelligence, because we see him in his mother's womb trembling with fear, not wanting to go out into the world. But the doctors force him out, and his life begins. He can understand everything that is said to him, but he prefers not to answer. On his third birthday he decides that he will no longer grow, he will remain in the body of a three-year-old forever. He's given a tin drum as a birthday present, which accompanies him for the rest of his life, only being replaced when it's irreparably broken. On his third birthday Oskar also discovers that he has an unusual ability: by screaming he can break glass, which he does frequently whenever anyone tries to force him to do something against his will.


Oskar lives through the difficult times of Hitler's rise to power and the Second World War. Despite being in the body of a three-year-old he has his first sexual encounters, first with a sixteen-year-old girl, then with a French midget. He joins a circus troupe, and later goes to France to entertain the German soldiers. Because of his size he's never taken seriously, but he's highly intelligent, probably more intelligent than the people around him, so he stands watching what people do, amazed by their stupidity.


I watched this film today after hearing about the death of Günter Grass. His death doesn't make me sad, because of his years of hypocrisy. For decades he pretended to be opposed to National Socialism and Fascism, before he finally admitted to having been a member of the SS, and he even wrote poetry criticising the Jewish nation's right to survive. It seems that in his last few years his mental faculties were deteriorating and he was no longer able to remain quiet. The last poems he wrote are of such poor quality that I can't understand why publishers were willing to print them. It was a sad end to a man who used to be a literary genius. We can be glad that he died before he sank any deeper, totally destroying his reputation.

Click here for a link to my previous article about Günter Grass.

Günter Grass
16 October 1927 – 13 April 2015

Pitch Perfect (3 Stars)


Becca is a teenage girl who goes to college to please her father. What she really wants to do is go to Los Angeles to become a disc jockey. She finds college life boring, but her father tells her that she would enjoy it if she gave it a chance. He says that she should join a college club, and if she still doesn't enjoy college at the end of the first year he will agree to her dropping out, and he will give her money to start a new life in Los Angeles. That's a fair deal, so she joins the Barden Bellas, an all-girl a cappella group.

The film was an enormous success, making a profit of $100 million at the box office. I find it difficult to understand why. I don't find the film particularly funny, and the musical elements are of a lesser quality than the TV series "Glee". The supporting characters aren't well developed. While watching it I got to know Becca, but the rest of the girls in the group were like strangers. Just pretty faces that I couldn't relate to.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The DUFF (4 Stars)


What is a duff, you might ask? It's defined for us early in the film. A duff, more correctly capitalised as DUFF, is a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Every group of friends in high school has one. If it's a group of hot looking girls, there is always one girl added to the group who is less attractive than the others to emphasise their beauty. There is also a duff in male groups, for instance a less athletic man who hangs out with the football players. Other types of groups can have a duff, for instance a rock band has a non-musical friend who hangs out with them. The duff is also the most accessible person in the group. In a group of hot chicks the beautiful girls are unapproachable, but it's possible for a boy to ask the duff which of the girls are still single. The duff is effectively the group's servant.

In this film Bianca wakes up to the fact that she's the duff of her two beautiful friends, Jess and Casey. Bianca isn't happy with this role and wants to be accepted as a beautiful girl in her own right so that she can date the guitarist Toby. She asks her next door neighbour Wes, the football team's captain, for advice on a makeover in exchange for helping him pass his science exams.

I love American high school comedies. Something about American schools seems both ridiculous and quaint to me. The whole clique culture is so unlike anything that I've experienced in English schools. I admit, in English schools there are also children who are "in" or "out", but it's not as stylised as in American schools. Assuming, of course, that the portrayal of American high schools in film and television is accurate, but I'm attracted to the way American high schools are shown, whether or not it's a true picture.

I found the film hilarious. So many scenes were ridiculously exaggerated, or they were parodies of teen life. Teenagers -- in this case Bianca -- are bullied by classmates, but it's so good to laugh at the situations. Of course, Bianca succeeds in the end. I didn't realise until half way through that the film was following the rules of romantic comedies, but it would be a spoiler to describe this in any detail. It's a highly enjoyable film that I'll probably want to watch again.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

College Coeds vs Zombie Housewives (3¾ Stars)


This is Dean McKendrick's contribution to the Schoolgirls-versus-Zombies genre, which used to be restricted to Japan, but is now spreading in popularity around the world.

Gary is a scientist developing a new drug to make women feel more sexual. He tests it on his wife, because she is never in the mood for sex. Unknown to him the only reason she doesn't want sex is because she's having sex with his best friend Hank every day. He accidentally gives some of the drug to Hank's wife, and his lab assistant Marilyn voluntarily tries it. The drug has mixed success. It does make the women more horny, but it seems that after taking it their main interest is in lesbian sex. Another side effect is that the women turn into mindless zombies. Uh oh. Is this the end of mankind?


Luckily three college girls live next door to Gary. They practise cheerleading every day, so they are the only ones strong enough to battle the army of zombie housewives.

I'm beginning to like Mary Carey more and more. I wouldn't say she's a great actress, but she has such obvious pleasure in what she's doing, her joy is infectious. Mary making out with Christine Nguyen must be one of the hottest scenes ever filmed.


Gremlins 2 (4 Stars)


To survive a war, you gotta become war.

This is the first time I've ever seen the sequel to "Gremlins". I had heard nothing about it, except that it's "not as good as the first film". After watching it I have to disagree with this statement. It's much better. It was made six years after the first film, a long delay for a sequel, which might explain the lack of success at the box office.

The creatures are actually called mogwais, not gremlins as in the film title. The film shows the original mogwai, Gizmo, running away after the death of his owner. He's trapped in a laboratory in the Clamp Building, a fully automated building in Manhattan. The scientists studying him don't know the (rather ridiculous) rules that we heard in the first film, so he gets wet and has lots of offspring. As in the first film, the new mogwais turn against their father and torture him. In the sequel the mogwais use scientific compounds they find in the laboratory to mutate themselves into all sorts of variations, such as a spider mogwai, a bat mogwai and a hooker mogwai.

The film makes no attempt to remain within the realms of credibility. The action and the comedy relies on slapstick. The boundary between film and reality is frequently breeched. For instance, a television show being broadcast from the Clamp Building shows a film critic reviewing the video release of "Gremlins" and giving it a bad review. Later in the film the footage breaks, and the viewers are told that the mogwais have invaded the projection booth and wrecked the film reel. I like humour like this.


"Gremlins 2" is the earliest film that I know that used after-credits footage. Was it the first? I don't know. It's become very popular now, especially in Marvel films. I wonder how many cinema visitors remained in their seats during the credits in 1990.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Into the Wild (4½ Stars)


I think careers are a 20th Century invention, and I don't want one.

The biggest problem with having a large, meticulously sorted DVD collection is what happens when you make a mistake. This happened to me today. Last week I moved house. I set up my bookcases and spent a few hours putting my DVD's back in their shelves in alphabetical order. Yesterday I decided to watch "Into the Wild", but I couldn't find it. My first idea was that I hadn't unpacked it, so I checked the contents of my not yet unpacked moving boxes. Then I thought that I might have accidentally stored it with the approximately 100 DVD's that I intend to sell. No, not there either. So I stood in front of my bookcases, going through every DVD one by one. And there it was. It had somehow been misplaced, it was between R and S, slotted in between "The Rutles" and "Samhain". That little mistake cost me more than an hour of searching.


So I watched the film again, better late than never. I bought it on June 24th, 2010, and I remember watching it twice in quick succession, the first time by myself, the second time with my daughter, Fiona. That sticks in my mind because after watching it she said it was the best film she had ever seen. I wouldn't rate it so highly myself, but I admit that it's a very good film.

The film tells the true story of Christopher McCandless from his university graduation in May 1990 to his death in August 1992. After graduating he became disillusioned with modern society and decided to drop out. He gave his life savings to charity and left his family in the middle of the night, not telling them where he was going. He adopted the new name Alexander Supertramp, maybe to stop people finding him, maybe just because it was a cool sounding name. At first he had no plans about where he wanted to go, and he did farming work to support himself on his wanderings, but he eventually formed the goal of going to Alaska. Alex (to use his new name) spent two years travelling from West Virginia to Alaska via Mexico.

I don't know what is more beautiful in the film: the scenery or the people. Living on the road Alex met with the most amazingly eccentric people wherever he went. It's only when he reached Alaska that he was completely alone, living in the wreck of an abandoned bus.

I support Christopher/Alexander completely in his life outside society. He says, "I don't understand why people, why every fucking person is so bad to each other so fucking often. It doesn't make sense to me". I could have told him why, but he wouldn't have liked the answer. It's the love of money that does it. If I want to have more money and more of the things that money can buy I have to be cruel to others to achieve my ends. Maybe some rich person might say that he's never done anything bad to get his money, but he isn't thinking it through. Wealth is a finite resource. If one person has more, others have less. The only way to finance a top footballer's salary of millions is to pay other people in other jobs less than they deserve. The top footballer -- replace the word with any other career -- hoards wealth at the expense of others.

While I respect Alex's journey into the wild, it's not something I could do. To start with, I am very sensitive to cold, so even a few days of living in the snowy wastes of Alaska would kill me. And then I enjoy the comforts of the modern technological age too much to abandon society altogether. I like to listen to music and watch films, so I need my CD's and DVD's. I'm not ashamed to say that. I accept the way I am. All I can say, with some pride, is that my pleasures are cheap. My entire CD and DVD collection is worth less than a Porsche, and it will last longer.

American Translation (3 Stars)


Aurore has an American father and a French mother. She lives in America, but she has accompanied her father to Paris on a business trip. While sitting in a hotel she sees a young French man called Chris and runs away with him. He is a free spirit. He doesn't have a home, he lives in the back of his camping van. He doesn't have a job, he makes money by playing poker. They drive to his home in Lille in the north of France. On the way Aurore discovers that Chris has a dark secret. He picks up gay men and kills them. Because she loves him she doesn't condemn him, she says she wants to help him get over his problem. She even sits and watches one of his murders so that she can understand him better.

Let's stop there. What is the film trying to tell us? People who kill others are somehow victims who need our love and understanding? We find out that Chris was sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a boy, as if that excuses his behaviour. I've never accepted psychobabble like this. If someone kills people he deserves to be punished. If someone kills people repeatedly without remorse he deserves to be punished hard. I am a strong believer in the death penalty. I'm not saying that everyone who murders others should be executed. Other factors need to be considered, in particular does the killer feel remorse for what he did, and is he likely to kill again? There's also the issue that I consider imprisonment, especially long imprisonment, an inhuman form of torture. In some American states life prisoners are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, never allowed to speak with other prisoners and are only allowed to shower three times a week. That's wrong. If I had the choice I would prefer to be executed. But the only way an execution should be carried out is shortly after the sentence. The Americans get everything wrong. They sentence a person to death, then let him sit in prison for 15 to 30 years waiting for his execution. That's ridiculous. The execution should be carried out within a month of the sentence, as used to be the case when England still had the death penalty.

While we're young (3 Stars)


This is a film that I knew I had to see. It features three of my favourite actors, Adam Driver, Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried. I have respect for Ben Stiller's acting abilities as well.

Josh is a man in his mid 40's who films documentaries. In the past he was successful, but he's been working on his last documentary for 10 years, and there is no sign of it reaching a conclusion. We see him interviewing an old man who rambles on about subjects that are interesting in themselves, but have no connection to one another. His wife Cornelia is the son of a famous documentary filmmaker. All their friends have children, but Josh and Cornelia have been trying unsuccessfully for years to have a baby. All the magic has gone out of their life. They never do anything together because Josh is too busy with his film.

While giving a lecture Josh meets Jamie, a documentary filmmaker in his early 20's, and his wife Darby. Josh is fascinated by their spontaneity and introduces them to his wife. The two families become friends, while Josh and Jamie begin to work together on one another's documentaries.

First, let me say that the film is nothing like what I expected. The trailer makes it look like a comedy. It's true, the film does have a few jokes, most of which are included in the trailer, but it's not a funny film. The film is actually very serious, dealing with some serious issues. The main issue is the ethics of making documentaries. Is it necessary for a documentary to tell the absolute truth, if slight changes through dramatisation can make it more entertaining? It seems like the comedy elements were just woven into the film to lighten it up, so the comedy is only incidental.

I walked out of the cinema feeling confused. I was trying to remember all the arguments for and against the dramatisation of documentaries, but too much had been thrown at me in concentrated bursts. I would have preferred the film without the comedy.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Chloe (4 Stars)


This is an erotic thriller with a twist. Or maybe that isn't so unusual. Most of the classic erotic thrillers of the 1990's used plot twists to distract the viewer from the low budgets and poor production quality.

The Stewarts are a perfect family. David Stewart is a professor at a film school in New York. His wife Catherine is a successful gynaecologist. Their teenage son Michael is a music student. But Catherine suspects that her husband is being unfaithful to her when he returns home from work late. As we soon find out, her suspicions are unfounded, but once jealousy has taken hold in a woman's heart nothing can persuade her she's wrong. From her surgery window Catherine can see a luxury prostitute leaving a hotel with her clients every day, so she forms a plan. She hires the prostitute, Chloe, to test her husband's fidelity. That's not fair. Chloe is played by the beautiful actress Amanda Seyfried, so what man could resist her?

As expected, Chloe soon reports to Catherine that her husband has fallen prey to her powers of seduction. But it soon becomes obvious that Chloe has an agenda of her own. She becomes part of Catherine's life, seducing first Catherine and then her son.

This is a very sexy erotic thriller thriller. When you find out the plot twist it'll be obvious that there were clues right from the beginning of the film. It's a film that you will want to watch more than once.