Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Father Of All Christmas Movie Nights

On Friday we had our Special Christmas Movie Night and I've finally got the will power together to write about it. Three children's films about Santa Claus: Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Claus the Movie and The Santa Clause.

Miracle On 34th Street (1994, Dir: Les Mayfield) is a remake of a 1947 film of the same name, and stars Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, a white haired man who replaces a drunk Santa Claus and goes on to be the best Cole's store Santa ever. There's a little girl who is the daughter of the marketing manager of the sore who doesn't believe in Santa, so they try the experimental method: she asks Kringle for a father, a house and a brother. Meanwhile the evil store across the road uses every means, both fair and foul... actually, they just use foul means, which is probably why they're the evil store. Frankly, the boss of the evil store ("Shopper's Express") doesn't seem to have a very good handle on marketing, or even on how capitalism works. He seems more interested in destroying his competitors than, say, making money. Meanwhile, after Kringle advises a customer that they can get a certain toy cheaper elsewhere and they swear undying loyalty to Cole's, Cole's come up with a compromise: If they don't have it, they'll track it down for you. It's a great bit of PR, and the best part is, they didn't have it, so they wouldn't have sold it anyway.

Still, enough economics. Let's get to the heart of this film: the court case. Heckler, who has some experience of being in court, was surprised by the events in the courtroom, and most importantly by the fact the court was sitting a all on Christmas Eve; in this country judges are too work-shy to hold court on Christmas Eve (exception: to my knowledge magistrates will hold hearings to determine bail). There's much amusing evidence (a reindeer as a witness; the prosecutor's son identifies Kringle as Santa Claus etc.) Eventually the little girl bribes the judge with a $1 bill, which happens to have "In God We Trust" circled on it, and he makes this the slightly incoherent precedent for ruling that Santa Claus exists, and also exists in the person of Kringle.

Anyway, kid's film based on a 1947 film. I've not seen either film before, but after about 10 minutes I started describing the changes each character would go through until Beretta told me to stop. But the predictability is part of it's charm, and despite everyone getting their Christmas wishes at the end, and a court ruling to that effect, the question over whether Santa Claus exists or if he just exists as the Spirit of Christmas in all of us is left open-ish. 8/10 Humbugs (That's good by the way).

No such ambiguity in Santa Claus The Movie (1985, Dir: Jeannot Szwarc); we begin with the Santa Claus origin story. A big jolly bearded guy called Claus who likes giving gifts to kids on Christmas Eve finds that he's been prophesied to become a big jolly bearded guy who gives gifts to all the kids on Christmas Eve, only some elves will make the toys and look after the reindeer and stuff[1]. All goes well until the 20th century when an elf called Patch (Dudley Moore) tries to automate the toymaking. All the toys fall apart and the bratty kids unfortunate children all burst into tears. Patch leaves and decides to make a toy so good that Santa Claus will have faith in him again. He falls in with an evil toymaker[2], who, by coincidence, is the uncle of our female child lead, the only friend of our male child lead, a streetkid who has been befriended by Santa Claus.

Of course the evil toymaker makes Patch's toys explosive, but eventually good triumphs and evil is punished and Christmas is safeguarded forever hooray! Anyway, pleasant enough, but I saw it back when I was 12? 13? something like that and felt it was for younger kids. 4/10 Humbugs (disappointing)

Finally The Santa Clause (note final "e") (1994 Dir:John Pasquin). I'll note that I voted for some Muppet Christmas nonsense before every film, but no, Heckler had to keep on with the theme. Tim Allen is giving his son a rubbish Christmas, when he scares Santa Claus, who falls of his roof and dies. Allen fails to read the smallprint, gets into the sleigh, dresses in the clothes travels to the North Pole, delivers all the gifts etc. etc. His son loves this. His ex-wife thinks he's going crazy and has Allen's visitation rights terminated[3]. Allen grows a beard and gets fat. Eventually he convinces even his ex-wife and her new partner, a psychiatrist, he is Santa Claus by giving them the gifts they didn't get when they were children the Christmas they stopped believing (The Dating Game board game and an Oscar Meyer wiener-whistle). Frankly, why is this the film that spawned two sequels? Heckler suggested we watch the sequel (it was what, 1 in the morning by then?). I said if we do, we have to watch Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause immediately afterward. He folded. 3/10 Humbugs (Bah!)

Anyway, we've fulfilled our contractual requirement to have a Christmas special, and that's the important thing. Best part: Mulled Cider (If I say so myself). Luckiest viewer: Beretta who saw half of Miracle and about a quarter each of Claus and Clause as she fell asleep, poor thing; I suspect that that was a much more interesting film, albeit a less coherent one, than any of the films we saw. She was unamused to wake up with the Santa Claus beard and hat on.

Have we learned anything from these films? Firstly, you can have too many Santa Claus/Spirit of Christmas films in one evening. Secondly, you shoudn't call elves elves, instead "the little people" is the correct term[4]. And finally, that the ony place Christmas occurs is New York City and it's surroundings, the North Pole and cold and snowy historical Scandogermany.

[1] As opposed to the actual origin story, which is slightly more interesting.
[2] We see before the senate subcommittee on toy standards, a toy panda stuffed with sawdust, nails and broken glass.
[3] "What sort of Mickey Mouse court is this?" asked Heckler. It's a Disney movie.
[4] I disagree; I understand the preference is for "The Fair Folk"; "The Little People" is to avoid confusion that arises using the term "Fairies".

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Review From The Past: The Secret Service

(Parts of this borrowed from a very close friend of mine who remains pseudonymous)

In the 1969 series The Secret Service, Father Stanley Unwin is a middle-aged Model-T driving priest who moonlights as a spy, or more specifically a counter-spy stopping various foreigners and criminals from doing bad stuff to British commercial interests. This Gerry Anderson series mixed puppets and live action.

So the usual things to happen are; Father Stanley Unwin's first response is to shrink Matthew, he uses Stanley Unwinese (a made up language demonstrated in this scene from a Carry On film) to get out of difficult situations, his Model T Ford, Gabriel drives across Westminster bridge and B.I.S.H.O.P (British Intelligence Service Headquarters Operation Priest) gives them an unlikely task.

As an example, I've put together some sort of review for my notes for the episode School For Spies. In this episode, foreigners have created a school which trains spies to blend into English society by pretending to be priests, but rather than answering to BISHOP, they're lead by the evil Archdeacon. One of them gives themselves away by preferring pop music to hymns. As is often the case, Father Unwin smuggles Matthew into the bad guys headquarters in his briefcase, but they fail to check his luggage. Trailer

For some reason this wasn't picked up for a second series, which left Gerry Anderson free for his next project UFO.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Reviews From The Past: Star Maidens

I note in this post Heckler promises that reviews will follow. But they haven't. Clearly it's time to deal with that.

He says "Star Maidens - a 1970s social commentary on sexism "

Well I suppose so. It's a 1976 Anglo-German sci-fi series in which two men from the planet Medusa, which is ruled by women in glitter, mini-skirts, sequins and outfits with holes cut in them, escape to Earth. During one of the efforts to recapture them, an Earthman and Earthwoman from the Institute of Radio Astronomy[1] end up on Medusa.

Essentially neither side can believe that the society of the other works; partly this is because Medusa is completely crazy, and partly because it's Earth in the 70s. Frankly most of the episodes were overlong, incoherent and full of predictable cliches and table-turning "You didn't act like a man at all - you showed courage and... I almost felt like an equal down there." "Thank you Octavia." "Get that man back to some useful work."

We watched this so you don't have to. If you like camp, dated, silly shows from the 70s, go ahead - the episode where some radical feminists on Earth get hold of Medusan gun and attempt to stage some sort of revolution, while 2 Medusans are trying out Earth lifestyles is especially recommended. Otherwise you can probably get by perusing this site which gets bonus points for daring to ask this question about the show "Wasn't it a bit... well, pervy?"[2]

[1] With the unfortunate acronym IRA. I can imagine their call to the Ministry when they detect the approaching spacecraft. "Hello? This is the IRA. We have an urgent warning for you..."
[2] Damn it, forgot to mention the "Perving scene" in Alien Apocalypse.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Secret Origin Of Heckler And Kochk

Like all superheroes movie review bloggers, Heckler and Kochk have an origin story. Sadly it isn't that local news outlets, hearing of our wit, charm, and encyclopedic knowledge of the last 100 years of film, drove a truck full of money up to the entrance to our movie-lair[1] and begged us to send them the least of our thoughts on sci-fi and whatever else came to mind in receipt of which they would toss bundles of banknotes in our direction. Until now the true story has remained a mystery but now I can reveal it.

It was, unless I'm very much mistaken, Thursday 10 April this year. According to my notes we dined on Chinese take-away and pink fizzy wine. We watched two episodes of Star Maidens, the film Slither, three episodes of the Secret Service and one of Buck Rogers (the 30s version).

Frankly, looking at that list, I'm surprised we came out alive, let alone formed a blogging partnership. We may have been celebrating as we had finally finished both the Secret Service and Star Maidens that night, and decided to recount our experiences for others so they wouldn't have to sit through them. Hence: We Watch Bad Sci-Fi So You Don't Have To.

As for Heckler and Kochk, we took those names in honour of the Wheelsey Police Department, who, when confronted with the fact that Grant Grant has turned into an invincible squid beast who mutilates cattle, open up their gun locker to reveal a whole set of mismatched guns rather than the rack of identical weapons we're taught to expect. Our attempts to identify them included the "other" H&K and someone blurted out "Heckler and Kochk - We Watch Bad Sci-Fi So You Don't Have To."

We spell Kochk differently to avoid search engine results for people looking for gun who can spell, and also because it amuses Heckler. He likes knob jokes.

Heckler tells the story differently, but he's wrong, or at least wronger than me.

[1] Heckler's flat. I note that it is a basement flat, or secret bunker as Heckler prefers to call it.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Review From The Dawn Of Time: Slither

For a variety of reasons I was looking at my notes and discovered the reviews of the things we watched the very night we decided to name ourselves Heckler and Kochk! As might be expected they're almost incomprehensible, firstly because it was dark when I made them, but also because we'd been drinking pink fizzy wine[1]. Nevertheless, let's take a look at our work from the very dawn of H&K.

Our main feature was Slither [2](2006, Dir: James Gunn) starring Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Desperate Housewives, Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog), a comedy/horror/sci-fi monster movie. Here are my notes, as I can best make them out

Asteroid or Meteor?
I've been to karaoke nights like that.
I honestly don't believe V__ was wearing a skirt that short[3]

At this point the picture appears in my notes.

"I'm surprised you're able to lift a mug, you've been carrying that torch for so long."[4]
Nice Bra - She's a bit ropy looking.
She's getting a horrible thing in her belly-button
Huh huh breasts huh
If only D__ would stop running his life like a 30s serial villain.[5]
Heckler and Kochk gun
Subtly knob-shaped mountain[6]
The Curling Tongs! Yes! That's the last thing it's be expecting!
It's like watching a film with a small child or possibly a giant penis on legs[7]
"Well that is some fucked up shit."
She's hidden those scissors in her pants!
He's merely full of alien semen.

Anyway, the plot. An alien arrives in some rural American town and takes over Grant Grant. Grant then impregnates a local woman with his tentacles, and she gives birth to lots of alien slugs who take over the townsfolk turning them into zombies. There's also a love triangle as Bill Pardy (Fillion) is in love with Starla Grant, Grant's wife, and despite being an alien, Grant is still in love with Starla.

But is it really the plot we're looking for in this type of film? And is it comedy-horror or horror-comedy? The trailer can't seem to decide either.

All this is beside the point of how and why we named ourselves Heckler and Kochk, although I've subtly hinted at the exact moment, but I'll answer that question another time.

Anyway the important things: The V__ film classification board has rated this film as "Gruesome". enjoyed it a lot; in general I'm bored by horror films about 45 minutes in, but this one entertained me. However Heckler disagreed, and, as in my notes, here he gets the last word: "I'm not impressed by that film for this reason: it seemed neither a horror nor a comedy film."

[1] It's the manly thing to do!
[2] Not to be confused with Slither (1973 Dir: Howard Zieff) a comedy-crime-thriller starring James Caan, or for that matter Sliver (1993 Dir: Phillip Noyce) a silly thriller about voyeurism and surveillance starring Sharon Stone and William Baldwin.
[3] This was some byplay involving Star Trek figures recreating a scene from a night out.
[4] Corrected to conform with the IMDb quotes page.
[5] I'm not sure if this was byplay or our occasional "joke" in which we identify a character in the film with a friend.
[6] This is a reference to a Tank Girl script in the back of the Tank Girl Novel Armadillo.
[7] Why we chose "We watch bad sci-fi so you don't have to" as our subtitle over "It's like watching a film with a small child or possibly a giant penis on legs" I don't know.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still: One More Time

Remakes are generally bad. Worse still, from the Point of View of Heckler and Kochk, are remakes that are bland; versions of films that are not only less interesting than earlier versions, but give us nothing to stick the stilettos of our wit into.

The Day The Earth Stood Still is released on 12 December 2008. For some reason we have not been invited to any previews. Regardless, we endorse the Crotchety Old Fan's The Day The Earth Stood Still To Watch The Original Movie on 10th December. How can you compare remake and original if you haven't seen them both?

(I note that there is some good stuff in the trailer, but it being an explicit remake means that 1. it must be compared to the original and 2. it must explain why Gort, a robot, is wearing underpants. These are the rules; I don't make them, I just enforce them.)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a 2005 Studio Ghibli film, based on a Diana Wynne Jones children's book (that I haven't read). Howl is a wizard who encounters our heroine Sophie. Everyone knows that wizards steal the hearts from beautiful girls[1], but this isn't the danger she finds herself in; instead the Witch of the Waste ages her from 16 to 90 years old[2], and tops off the curse by making her unable to tell anyone about it. Sophie leaves town and heads into the waste to look for a wizard to help her and comes across Howl's Moving Castle (Trailer has some good shots of the castle)

Sophie under the transparent alias "Grandma Sophie" becomes the castle's housekeeper, and meets up with an enchanted scarecrow, Howl's apprentice and Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle. Unable to tell anyone about her curse, she ends up having to help Howl when a war breaks out and he's drafted under two of his aliases.

It's a great cartoon, and I find it visually fascinating as it shows a fantasy-European 19th century kingdom seen through the eyes of Japanese animators. Best of all, although so brief and backgrounded that you can almost miss it, is that at the end it's revealed that the story we thought we were watching might actually be a subplot of another, bigger story that we thought was a subplot; since we've just seen a magical and entertaining film this other story is even better in my imagination.

The American cast for the English version are very good. Highly recommended.

[1] This turns out to have a grain of literal truth, as well as the obvious metaphorical truth
[2] This is Sophie, a teenager's, estimate; I'd say more like a fit 70 years old. From the interview on the disc with Diana Wynne Jones it seems this was based on something that happened to her in her 40s - from memory she hurt her back and suddenly had to walk everywhere slowly, painfully and with a cane, as though she'd suddenly become 90.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

No Movie Night: Shampoo

I can't make movie night this week, and last time when that happened and I didn't think Heckler was taking this blog seriously enough (which admittedly isn't very serious) I posted about a music video. Guess what?

It's Shampoo's 1994 hit Trouble. They were pretty much one hit wonders in this country, but were big in Asia for a while. Wikipedia says:
Shampoo combined a poppy girlishness and a love of all things plastic, kitsch, and pink (the album artwork for 'We Are Shampoo' featured a collage of Barbie dolls and sweet wrappers) with a punk sensibility.... Playing on an image that was part Johnny Rotten, part stubborn infantilism, part lipstick lesbian and part razor-sharp wit, Askew and Blake tended to confuse both journalists and record-buyers as to who exactly was their target audience.

Getting any of that from the video? Here's what I notice:

1. Although these are grown women the video makes them look like teenagers dressed up as women. Partly this is the makeup and clothes, but partly it's that the camera always looks down on them to make them look shorter. Note also that the camera always looks UP at the Dad who's waiting for them, making him look taller. Also, the girls are never in shot with the Dad.

2. Despite this, they stride across the London landscape like they own it - full of confidence.

3. I love Jacqui Blake's suit - it's really Glam.

When I hung around the College Radio Station we got sent one of the forgettable follow-up singles, Viva La Megababes (which I've just listened to for the first time in 14 years). Frankly it's rubbish. But the B-side[1] was a storming version of East 17's House of Love (I can't find a free version of Shampoo's version on the internet, although I bet I could if I knew any Japanese). Two good pop songs is more than most pop groups ever manage. Anyway I've dug myself in far enough; hopefully the next post will have some actual Sci-Fi!

[1] It was actually on a single-sided 12" picture disc.

Saturday, 6 December 2008


Tron (1982). Jeff Bridges is sucked inside a computer, where he discovers that all the programs look like the people who wrote them. The evil boss has a master control program that is doing all kinds of evil stuff. The only one who can stop it is the Tron program, programmed and played by Bruce Boxleitner. To do this they have to fight there way through a variety of computer games.

It's a Disney film and, if not entirely for kids, certainly kid-oriented and is rated "not Gruesome" by the V__ movie preview board. It looks fantastic - some of the objects look dated, but they look like a CGI company today made some retro-looking space invaders. The plot makes no damn sense at all. Bridges and the Cindy Morgan's program seem to have a romantic subplot, but it doesn't go anywhere, and when he comes out of the computer, she seems to be equally good friends with Boxleitner and Bridges. We enjoyed it immensely. Here's the iconic Lightcycle scene.

It's a must-see if only because it is constantly referenced in computer-nerd circles.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Mystery of Steve Trevor Junior

We've now finished the first series of Wonder Woman, in which she fights Nazis in WWII both as Wonder Woman and Yeoman First Class Diana Prince, with the aid of Major Steve Trevor, who appears to be part of USAAF Counter Intelligence, although he seems to perform security audits and spy hunting missions wherever something odd, unusual or just plain silly occurs. In Series 2, we move forward to "The Present Day", 1977, and Wonder Woman again leaves the amazon society of Paradise Island to find out what the hell the Society of Men is up to, and especially why they're messing about with nuclear energy. She joins up with Steve Trevor Junior, who works for the Inter-Agency Defence Command who perform security audits and spy hunting missions whenever something odd, unusual or just plain silly occurs; as Diana Prince she works for IADC as well.

During some of the more boring quieter scenes we thought about this. In 1942 Major Steve Trevor has no obvious wife or other romantic liaison, except for flirting with Diana occasionally. Clearly Steve Trevor Junior is not Diana/Wonder Woman's son, or she wouldn't have been quite so surprised to see him[1]. We're clearly meant to think that Major Trevor, shortly after Wonder Woman left got married and had a child in, say, 1944. This would make Steve Trevor Junior 33 years old. And here's the problem. Steve Trevor doesn't look to be in his early 30s, he looks to be in his early 40s (unsurprisingly as Lyle Waggoner, who played him, was born in 1935 - see pictures). Obviously, he might just look old for his age, but I have a more interesting theory.

Let's give Steve Trevor Junior a 1935 birth year. The question is now, where were Major Trevor's wife and child during the first series. And the answer is somewhere in the western US[4] after a messy divorce. The messy divorce that, despite being an excellent pilot and a complete idiot when it comes to investigating and the greatest war in US history starting, got him transferred out of his unit and to a dead-end desk job in Washington with USAAF Counter Intelligence. (I note that his boss, General Blankenship is smart but rubbish at managing hotheaded idiots like Trevor, which is why he's heading counter-intelligence rather than attempting to command a wing or air division of hotshot fighter pilots).

Clearly his many run-ins with Nazi agents, and the end of his association with Wonder Woman lead to some kind of reconciliation, to pass on the stories of his time with Wonder Woman to his son.

That's my theory, based on the very slim evidence available. Any thoughts?

Finally, no Wonder Woman post is complete without a video of her in action. Anyone for Bullets and Braclets?

[1] How do the amazons of Paradise Island reproduce anyway[2]? If Steve Trevor Junior, who appears to be the twin of Major Steve Trevor, were the son of Trevor and Wonder Woman, then I'd try and think through some sort of cloning/parthenogenesis theory, but as he isn't and it makes no sense, I'll stop here.
[2] Queen Hippolyta sculpted Diana[3] out of Clay but she also has a younger sister; despite the incredible longevity of the amazons, new ones do appear.
[3] Amazon society appears to be mostly Greek in origin, and Wonder Woman is 2700(?) years old, so why is she Latin Diana rather than Greek Artemis?
[4] Taking my cue from Lyle Waggoner's biography, it would be Kansas City.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

You Ask, We Answer

Somebody turned up on Heckler and Kochk from with this question

Was having discussion with someone about the cello and we both remembered that Stringfellow Hawke always played this classical piece for the cello on Airwolf that I really like but neither of us could remember the name.

Previously this site was almost worse than useless on this topic, but I'm now going to try and answer. Google is my friend on this one: the track is Eagle's Serenade and so far as I can tell the composer was Sylvester Levay. You can hear it in this youtube video.

Sadly, the person wanting this information has probably left, and will never return. Still, if anyone has a question for H and/or K, let us know and we'll come up with some sort of response.

On related note, the visitor counter tells me someone has gone all the way back through the archives. I can only apologise.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Heckler And Kochk Theme Song

As I'm sure you've all worked out, "Heckler and Kochk" scans to the theme tune of "Blankety Blank". So every movie night when we're grabbing beers from the fridge, pulling down the screen and cleaning the whiteboards, Heckler and I dance around to this tune. There tend to be slightly less circa 1980 minor celebrities amongst our guests though.

As it happens "Mystery Guest" also scans to it, so whenever we have a mystery guest, that's sung too.

After all that, bad sci-fi looks much more appealing.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Judge Dredd: Goodnight Kiss

Back when I was in school, especially in the 3rd-4th years (age 13-15) the weekly arrival of 2000 AD was one of the highlights. As far as I can recall I never actually bought a copy[1]. As we all knew, Dredd was too obvious, too blatant, a hero for 9 year old boys and politically unaware violence fetishists. Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog was where the action was at: a strip for both male and female teenagers and politically aware violence fetishists.

Obviously they killed him.

Dredd though is still going strong[2] and Heckler acquired Goodnight Kiss, a story of Judge Dredd co-starring Jonni Kiss, a judge killer who kills judges by snogging them kisses his victims before killing them, then passed it on to me.

So, yes. Violent. Blatant. Mostly unsubtle. Dredd has a few moments of introspection when he's crucified and hallucinates everyone he's ever killed (a bodycount that even impresses Judge Death). There's also an homage[4] of the crucifiction scene from the Conan story A Witch Shall Be Born (recreated faithfully in the movie(from 3:00)). The closest to a moment of sadness belongs to the Lawmaster bike of Dredd's partner, requesting clarification of the location of the partner. Other than being very tough indeed, Kiss only plan seems to be to get a gang of dupes to weaken his target before he performs the coup de grace.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not quite enough to buy more Dredd (not for a while - maybe when nostalgia overtakes me or the TV claims there was a film) but maybe it's time to track down some Strontium Dog collections...

[1] Something else I'm not an owner-reader of.
[2] In theory many of the stories in 2000 AD run in realtime, so having been published for 31 years, Dredd is 31 years older than in his first strip. In Goodnight Kiss, Dredd points out to Kiss that he's 30 years older than him, and has been shot, stabbed, burnt, electrocuted and had every bone in his body broken more times than he can remember[3]. The wikipedia intro is probably enough information if you're not familiar with Dredd. However, the entry seems to have been vandalised as it claims there was a film. There is no film. There is no film. There is no film.
[3] Does this include the ossicles?
[4] Or theft if you like.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Candle In The Wind: A Very Brief Review Of House Of Wax

House of Wax is a very loose remake of the 1953 film House of Wax, itself a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum, based on a short story or a play by Charles Belden called The Wax Works[1]. It has extraordinary wax effects and a superior cast grafted onto a fairly standard Teen Horror plot (kids on a road trip break down near a weird old town, they split up and nasty things happen to them). I don't have the notes with me, so can't tell you the exact time when it becomes gruesome[2], or the time that Paris Hilton starts running around in her bra and pants[3] (a role for which she won both the Teen Choice Award for Choice Scream Scene, and the Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actress). All in all, missable but some excellent effects towards the end. Some good stuff on the soundtrack too - Beretta noted New Dawn Fades by Joy Division.

From Youtube: The Trailer (gruesome), The Gag Reel (which shows one or two bits with wax effects), a pretty funny video where one of the actors has qualms about being covered in hot wax, the final bit where the House of Wax, which is made of wax, burns down (from maybe 2:40 onwards) and Joy Division's New Dawn Fades. All the videos in a playlist and also below, but it doesn't always work when you embed a playlist:

Update: I've changed the footnote numbers so they make sense. Hooray!

[1] I've done a swift google, but frankly don't feel the need to go further to track down the origin, unless we start to work our way backwards through the predecessors.
[2] I think we may have disagreed; the prologue is pretty unpleasant but more by implication than actual nastiness. V__ wasn't with us to give a definitive answer.
[3] This caused more disagreement. "Nudity at 1h4m (or whatever it was)" said Heckler. "Nude?" says I, "She's running around in her bra and pants. They're clothes! Covering up her rude bits!" "You write what you want in your notes," said Heckler, which I had no answer to.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Bruce Campbell Double Bill

Seeing how long it's been since we saw the films, it's likely that I won't finish listening to the commentary tracks on Alien Apocalypse and Man With The Screaming Brain. Heckler reviewed AA back in August, giving it 9 Bela Lugosis on his bad sci-fi scale (very bad).

The two films have things in common, other than the fact they were sold to me as a double bill for £6. Both star Bruce Campbell, and he directed and co-wrote TMWTSB. Both were financed by the Sci-Fi channel, but despite this are genuine sci-fi, if bad examples of that genre. Both were shot in Bulgaria, to save money. Both were stories that had been floating around for 15 years or so before being made in 2005.

I've briefly commented on AA via the whiteboard. To recap: after 40 years in space, Bruce Campbell and his fellow astronaut crew members return to Earth to discover it has been taken over by insectoid aliens who find wood a delicacy and so have set up a slave logging camp[1]. Other things they like to eat include heads and fingers. Unsurprisingly there is a very high mortality rate amongst the slaves, so the astronauts are captured and enslaved. Campbell's character escapes meets up with a woman in a chamois leather bikini and they go looking for the legendary leader of the Resistance "The President". They find him, but he's an old, tired man hiding in he woods so Campbell has to start the rebellion himself. In the nick of time the president and the surviving members of the US government turn up and show off their archery skills (which we always appreciate at H&K) and overthrow the alien oppressors.

From the half hour or so of commentary I heard, the references to Planet of the Apes were deliberate homages[2], the costumes in paticular and there were homages to other films as well that I forget. I admire their choice to make a new film using some of the themes and ideas of POTA rather than simply making a crap remake.

I thought I had a conclusion, but apparently not, so I'll simply warn that this film, and the following clip, contains a fair bit of headbiting and is rated as "Gruesome" by the V__ Movie Preview Board.

(This Scene lead inevitably to the comment "If the aliens can't get wood, they get head")

Man With The Screaming Brain is Bruce Campbell's directorial debut, and it shows. To a certain extent he plays to his strengths, playing a stereotypical American-abroad who judges everything by the standards of America; this despite the fact he's gone to Bulgaria to buy things up cheap from the sale of ex-state infrastructure leftover from the communist era. He's the CEO of a drugs company and a couple of stereotypically crazy scientists have invented a drug that prevents brain-transplants from being rejected and try to get him to buy it. Meanwhile his wife is bored and has sex with the stereotypically rude guide/taxi driver/ex-secret policeman. Then she walks in on Campbell snogging the maid, a stereotypically vengeful gypsy. For reasons I forget, Campbell is beaten over the head with a pipe by the gypsy, who then kills the taxi-driver who is her ex-.

Did I mention that many of the characters are stereotypes?

The scientists acquire the bodies and replace damaged brain tissue in Campbell's brain with tissue from the taxi driver. As might be expected this leads to two personalities in one body, and include Bruce Campbell recreating the scene from Evil Dead where he fights his own hand. Meanwhile his wife, thinking he's dead, confronts the gypsy who kills her. Not having a body, the scientists put her brain into a robot body. After this the film gets too silly to explain.

I'd say MWTSB is the superior of the two films as it never takes itself seriously, but just follows it's plot to the next joke, stunt or set piece. Unfortunately this gave us less opportunity to mock it as the film kept getting there first. Damn you Bruce Campbell! As for inspiration, I see some of Steve Martin's The Man With Two Brains in both the title and the film. This film is classified as "Gruesome" due to the scenes of brain surgery (visible in the trailer):

[1] logging slave camp?
[2] On the other hand, in the 300 commentary track, Zack Snyder keeps referring to stealing ideas, shots etc. from other films and keeps being corrected "You mean it's an homage".

Saturday, 29 November 2008

What's Wrong With Heckler And Kochk?

When I ask what's wrong with Heckler and Kochk, I of course mean why hasn't it been updated for ages, not what's wrong with it; that's fairly obvious. Well partly we've not been having movie night very often for a variety of reasons. Partly Heckler is a very busy man. Partly I've been ignoring a bunch of half-written reviews in drafts.

But fortunately we have a more important question to distract you from our laziness. That question is:

What's Wrong With Death Proof?

We had been warned that Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is the superior of the two films in the Grindhouse double bill. Nevertheless we were surprised at just how far from the exploitation film mark Tarantino got with this film.

Here's what Wikipedia says about Exploitation films:

Exploitation film is a type of film that is promoted by "exploiting" (often) lurid subject matter. (The term "exploitation" is a common film marketing term, used for all types of films, meaning promotion or advertising. Thus, films need something to "exploit", such as a big star, special effects, sex, violence, romance, etc.)

The problem, such as it is, is that we go in expecting a film about a killer car or a killer driver or maybe a car duel or something, with scenes of automobile-related mayhem linked by Tarantino's signature conversations about nothing much (See Trailer, also at the bottom). Instead we get a tiny bit of mysterious and creepy following of several attractive women who then spend 40 minutes talking about nothing much. Oh, and Kurt Russell explains the title of the film. [Next paragraph has spoilers]

Then there is a short period of automobile-related mayhem. (At this point the film is rated "Gruesome" by the V__ film preview board). It's violent, kinetic, and bloody. This pitch is unsustainable, so Tarantino doesn't try to sustain it, and we meet up with another group of women who spend a lot of time talking abut nothing much (although the nothing much is slightly more plot relevant and the revelation of character through talking about nothing is more to the point as they don't all die). Then (finally) there's a long car chase ending in violent and bloody death.

What we seem to be exploiting is Tarantino's reputation rather than silly and violent car stunts. This good for neither the car stunts nor the reputation.

Tarantino is famed for the excess in his movies; what is less obvious is his restraint (for example: what is the scene we don't see in Reservoir Dogs?). Here he is too restrained in the first part of the film when it comes to action, and shows no restraint for characters talking about his obsessions. All in all a failure with some points of interest.

My favourite line: Lee having been left alone with Jasper a surety for the car her friends are taking for a test drive says (says, not performs): "Gulp." (Here - shot from 7:23 to 7:48)

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Sontum of Qualace

You know, when I googled Sontum of Qualace last week, I could have sworn nothing came up. But now I get a link to this video of the theme tune:

This suggests it's not the new Qualice and Gromit film, as suggested by Heckler.

As might be expected Heckler and Kochk were not invited to the royal premiere last night. Which leaves us short on excuses on why this blog hasn't been updated recently.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Her Name is Modesty

We haven't had movie night for two weeks due to Heckler's domestic arrangements, and we aren't having it this week, and probably not next week as he's off to Oktoberfest in Munich. Clearly, it's time for me to catch up with all the things I intended to write up and never did.

A week or so ago, I finally sat down and watched all the way through the TV Movie Modesty Blaise adaption My Name is Modesty. If you don't know who Modesty Blaise is, there are two not quite consistent versions - one in a series of novels and one in a comic strip. You can choose which version you want, or both, or neither. Both series began and are set in the sixties. Modesty is a retired criminal mastermind who uses her skills and contacts to defeat actually evil criminals and Bond-style villains.

My Name is Modesty is a Modesty Blaise origin story. It's set before, or as it turns out, as she begins her career as a crime boss of her organisation The Network. She is working as hostess in the casino of the leader of a gang, when her boss is killed and a group of thugs rob the place. Modesty has to keep the leader talking to keep the other casino workers alive, until the combination of the safe arrives; intrigued by her lack of fear he asks for the story of her life.

One problem with the film is that Modesty's origin was always kept in the background of the books. This meant that whenever Modesty needed a new skill or contact, it was revealed that during her time with The Network she'd done a job/deal that involved whatever was necessary. Putting her life story (up to the age of 19?) up on the screen just feels wrong. Another problem is that her partner-in-crime Willy Garvin doesn't appear as he only joins her when she's running The Network. The relationship between Willy and Modesty is one of the things that holds the books together. Lastly, the actress playing Modesty is just too thin; she need to stand up to men not just mentally, but physically as well.

As for what works, well, it feels very much like an episode of a 60s action/adventure where Napoleon Solo, or one of Roger Moore's characters has to keep a villain talking ll night. Interestingly, Modesty doesn't show off her skills at the start of the film. usually in an action film, we see our hero in action near the start (with the promise that they will be even more spectacular in the climax). Although it's revealed that modesty has been taught martial arts, we don't see that until the end. And it's that end scene - with Modesty ripping slits in her long tight skirt for some high kicking action - where she's most the Modesty Blaise I'm looking for.

Is Modesty Blaise Sci-Fi? The author, Peter O'Donnell says no, despite a variety of psychic powers cropping up in the stories (I, Lucifer being the most obvious example). Modesty is very popular in SF circles - I spotted a reference in S M Stirling's Dies The Fire recently.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


There was no movie night last week. However I've not blogged about movie night the week before, or Xbox games night the week before that. Why? Because I'm a useless lump. Heckler and Kochk - not reviewing anything as we're too busy and uninspired.

The good news is that we did watch something on Xbox games night to warm us up - the feature length pilot episode of Airwolf - the choice of V___. Here I will attempt to capture our experience using questions and answers and maybe stuff off the whiteboard.

Q. Is Airwolf Science Fiction?
A. It's a helicopter than can fly faster than the speed of sound. It carries weaponry useful for anything from blowing down a door, stopping a car right up to sinking a Knox-class destroyer. All this on the chassis of a Bell 222 helicopter. It doesn't get any more sci-fi than that?

Q. Isn't that just bad technical details in an action/thriller series?
A. What about the way the weapons disappear into the space the wheels take up? And the fact that it has far too much equipment and weaponry to take off, let alone do all the stunts? There must be some kind of folded space storage compartment on board. Plus it has a buttock activated cockpit[1].

Q. Hmm. Very well. What is the background of Airwolf?
A. I'm glad you asked. As the pilot episode explains, Airwolf has been built by "The FIRM"[2] in order to do all kinds of illegal stuff fight the Russians (as the Cold War is still on). However it's designer, Doctor Charles Henry Moffat steals it, blows up the research centre and wipes all the files on it and takes it to Libya where he does all kinds of evil stuff with it. Archangel, the FIRM's deputy director convinces Stringfellow Hawke, the test pilot, to steal it back in return for trying to find his brother, Saint John Hawke, who is MIA in Vietnam[3]. String and his helicopter business partner Dominic Santini[4] steal it back after some unconvincing covert operations and several exciting helicopter stunt scenes. Then they hide Airwolf and booby trap it, so the FIRM have to keep looking for Saint John. Archangel convinces String to fly missions for the FIRM and the first season is all set up.

Q. Is Stringfellow Hawke his real name?
A. Not only that, but he lives in a log cabin by a lake with his cello and a hounddog. From the board:

Catch me a trout - I'll be back for breakfast.
Who would train a dog to look up women's skirts?

Q. For some reason this question appears in my notes: Does Stringfellow Hawke wear underwear?
A. In the pilot, String clearly states that he does not wear underwear. Also from the whiteboard:

Strip out of your fightsuit please, we only have 16 minutes.

Q. Does Stringfellow Hawke have any tics or characteristics?
A. At moments when he wishes to impress people with his seriousness, he takes off his shades.

Q. Can Airwolf really sink a Knox-class destroyer?
A. It seems unlikely. However I note that, although originally classified as destroyer escorts by the time of Airwolf they had been reclassified as frigates; as small a US warship you're likely to find in the Mediterranean. In addition, they're mainly Anti-Submarine ships which suggests Dr Moffat has chosen the softest target the US Navy had. On the other hand, most Anti-ship missiles seem to be in the 4-5m long range - about a third the length of Airwolf (not half as Heckler's diagram on the whiteboard suggests).

Q. What is the best part of the show?
A. The theme tune. It's not that the helicopter stunts aren't good, but they only have one mid-air explosion, and far too many shots of Airwolf are recycled or sped-up. The ground-based acting is neither better nor worse than one might expect for a 80s action/thriller.

Q. Was there anything else on the whiteboard that you want to point out?
A. Why not?

"The odds you brother is alive are 10,000 to 1"
"[That Maneuver] doesn't have a name - you don't normally See that unless you've lost the tail rotor!"
Your cream cheese senator - it's pink! Only in California.[5]
"Use Extreme Prejudice"
Wings of Awahu!
"In the Desert a body like that would wither and die in a few hours." "After a few hours with such a body what would it matter?"

Q. In the real world, how would the US have responded to such delibrate provocation by Libya?
A. In the real world, in 1986, after disputes over Libyan territorial claims to the Gulf of Sidra, and Libyan supported terrorist attacks, a bombing raid, Operation El Dorado Canyon was launched. This caused somewhat more damage than Airwolf (no, really).

Q. Are there any youtube videos that could illustrate this post?
A. Yes there are. Sadly I don't have time to dig through them, so here's a link to the youtube Airwolf search page. I have a feeling Heckler had found a couple of amusing ones, so I'll ask him.

Q. thank you, you have been most informative.
A. Yes I have. And thank you for asking such enlightening questions.

[1] According to the whiteboard anyway. The first time Ernest Borgnine gets in, the cockpit lights up when he sits down. When he gets up it goes dark. What are we supposed to think?
[2] A thinly disguised CIA.
[3] Actually, they steal all his artwork, but let's not get too bogged down.
[4] From the whiteboard: And Ernest Borgnine as Dominic
[5] No, I'm not sure what this is about either.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Day Planet Terror Stood Still

So for movie night on 14 August we had a classic tale of alien contact, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and a modern take on horror/action/zombie badness in Planet Terror.

I don't know that I can add anything to the immense amount of analysis that has been levelled at Day over the last 50 years, so I'll just say that you should see it. You should especially see it if:
1. You're thinking of watching Mars Attacks, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Independence Day (to pick three heavily influenced films);
2. You're in a world that, 18 years after the end of the Cold War, still has enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone twice over and you don't know what to do about it[1];
3. You're thinking of seeing the Re-make;
4. It's the 10th of December (2 days before the release of the re-make which The Crotchety Old Fan has declared THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY (TDTESSTWTOMD for short))

Planet Terror is as pure a piece of bad zombie action as you could hope to see. It's all about putting zombies, go-go dancers, rogue military officers and a woman with a machine gun for a leg onto our screen and getting on with it. At the end of the day it adds very little to the zombie movie genre, but it's a pleasure to watch, and the little touches and in jokes (the "missing reel" and the jar of testicles spring to mind) make it a lot of fun. Also, Bruce Willis appears to be sporting Sten's beard. This film has been rated "Gruesome" by the V___ film preview board.

[1] I really need to get together a list of Nuclear Anxiety and/or Cold War films, and see which are relevant today; TDTESS alone won't answer that question, but it's certainly on the list.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a smart, interesting comic, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Kevin O'Neill, featuring a team up of various Victorian era adventure fiction heroes. Volume's 1 and 2 of League features Bram Stoker's Wilhelmina Murray, H Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain, Robert Louis Stevenson's Henry Jeckyll[1], Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, and Hawley Griffin, an inevitable spin off of H G Well's The Invisible Man confronting a variety of unusual threats to the British Empire. There's a follow-up story, Black Dossier, which I haven't read yet.

Heckler claims to have got a DVD of the film. He is, however, wrong, as there is no film. There is no film. There is no film.

Don't believe me? Ask Alan Moore.

[1] And Edward Hyde

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Tag Shields Are Failing Cap'n!

We've tried to avoid becoming part of any meme or tag by ensuring that we have no friends on the internet[1]. As this post shows, our strategy has failed. Clearly we haven't worked hard enough at this, so our next move will be to create some internet enemies[2]! But before that, here's the 48 top sci-fi adaptions meme:

SF Signal started it.
The Crotchety Old Fan was caught in a crossfire and hit twice with it.
He passed it on to us.
There's probably a moral here somewhere.

The rules are:

  • Copy the list below.
  • Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book. [Edit: bold isn't showing up, so I've changed to Pink and Bold]
  • Italicize the movie titles for which you started the book but didn't finish it.
  • Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme. (You may of course play along anyway.)

The list:

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. War of the Worlds
  3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  4. I, Robot
  5. Contact
  6. Congo
  7. Cocoon
  8. The Stepford Wives
  9. The Time Machine
  10. Starship Troopers
  11. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  12. K-PAX
  13. 2010
  14. The Running Man
  15. Sphere
  16. The Mothman Prophecies
  17. Dreamcatcher
  18. Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
  19. Dune
  20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  22. The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
  23. Battlefield Earth
  24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
  25. Fire in the Sky
  26. Altered States
  27. Timeline
  28. The Postman
  29. Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
  30. Solaris
  31. Memoirs of an Invisible Man
  32. The Thing(Who Goes There?)
  33. The Thirteenth Floor
  34. Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
  35. Deadly Friend
  36. The Puppet Masters
  37. 1984
  38. A Scanner Darkly
  39. Creator
  40. Monkey Shines
  41. Solo(Weapon)
  42. The Handmaid's Tale
  43. Communion
  44. Carnosaur
  45. From Beyond
  46. Nightflyers
  47. Watchers
  48. Body Snatchers
A little embarrassing I know. One or two thoughts:

Jurassic Park - I would happily, or at least stoically, finished this, if I hadn't picked it up to look at in a friend's house while said friend got ready to go out. 40 minutes later they were and I left it behind.
War of the Worlds, Island of Dr Moreau, Time Machine, Invisible Man - H G Wells studied at the Normal School of Science, which later became the Royal College of Science and is now a constituent college of Imperial College London. By a staggering coincidence, along with my degree from IC, I became an Associate of the Royal College of Science. Apart from allowing me to put ARCS after my name, this link with H G Wells has lead me to read far too many of his books. If there were four I'd recommend reading, it's these four. If I was going to film one it wouldn't be any of these (or even the others that have been filmed - The First Men in the Moon. The Shape of Things to Come, The Sleep Wakes) but The War in the Air.
Starship Troopers - The book's good (even when I disagree with it), and the film is good as a Robocop-in-space. But where do they connect?[3]
Hitchhikers - grew up with the TV series, later read the books and heard the radio version. The film hadn't quite gutted it as Hollywood was expected to do as you could still see bits of the original in it. One thing that worked in the film - Ford Prefect claims to be from Guildford, but is clearly an American, which would have fit in perfectly with the original(s).
The Running Man - If there's anything of the Stephen King novel left in the film, you could have fooled me. Hmm, must add The Running Man onto our list of Arnie films.
The Iron Man - the film came out too late for me as I'd outgrown the book ("Where did he come from? Nobody knows") but it's still haunting.
The Postman - probably the only David Brin book I've not read.
Nightflyers - never seen the film. Read the novella recently when I got hold of the George R R Martin retrospective story collection. Good, but it feels a little old fashioned, probably because the whole crossing horror with space travel has reused these ideas endlessly since then.

As I said we don't have internet friends so I'm not tagging anyone. Breaking the chain will add karma to my soul and mean I never find true love and all my finances will fail, damn it, but that's the price you pay for blogging. Heckler and Kochk - breaking internet chains so you don't have to.

[1] This isn't quite true, but most of our internet friends know us under different names, and don't blog about sci-fi. Who would have thought!
[2] Maybe we'll start with The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. I read them anyway, so it would make any feud much less hard work.
[3] By a staggering coincidence, our notes from Starship Troopers 3 seem to have fallen through a time-rift from when we're going to be able to see it in the UK in September. They seem to have been distorted by their passage, or maybe that's just Heckler's handwriting (spoilers):

His Chief of Staff used to polish my brass, if you know what I mean!
It only took me 8 years to make colonel.
What I do out of uniform is off the clock General.[4]
Asking the Sky Marshall for an autograph.
Johnny Rico - Hero of Planet P.
They'd use heavier firepower, but it would damage the set.
We lost the Sky Marshall. Good we'll all hang together.
It's only 100 klicks away. - We ain't got rations for that. - You're
fat, you won't need them!
They should clone Dix so there's an army of Dix.
Controversy with a Q
He thinks God is a bug!
Sure he's gone - but he left us with a song!

[4] Heckler as capitalised General, but left colonel lower-case. Due to the different usages here, I'm not entirely sure that's wrong.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Archery Comics!

Comics writer Warren Ellis released 4 one-shot comics in 2004 asking the question what would comics look like if they hadn't been overtaken by superheros so completely? Comics grew out of the old pulp magazines, so he used old pulp genres. There was a detective story, a science fiction story, an aviation story[1] and an old-school pulp-mystery hero along the lines of The Shadow or Doc Savage story, all released under the fictional Apparat comics line.

Now he's releasing a number of one-shot comics under the Apparat line. Crécy is the first. As might be imagined it's a story of the battle of Crécy, from the viewpoint of one of the archers, William of Stoneham. There's less chivalry and "let the boy win his spurs" and more rain, sausages made from horse's arseholes and swearing, and, especially, more longbows.

Now as every good English schoolboy knows, the crossbow is not even in the same league as the long bow. A trained archer fires 10 arrows a minute, while some Italian with a bodged together machine will be lucky to get off 2 in that time. Like so many things all good English schoolboys know, and as Crécy details, this isn't true. The Genoese were professionals with well-maintained weapons, and hooks on their belts to cock the crossbow in one smooth standing-up motion. Seven and a half bolts a minute, and man-sized pavise shields to reload behind, so they are invulnerable to arrows. Longbowmen aren't invincible when their opponents are invulnerable.

After a history lesson as obscene as it's fascinating the English win the battle. I expect Ellis intended this to be part of an imaginary history or medieval war comic genre. But I can't help thinking of an imaginary archery-comic genre. Robin Hood and William Tell fill in for Superman and Batman; Wonder Woman is an amazon, so give her a bow and she's good to go. Legolas has a spin-off comic from Lord of the Rings (which has more archery in it). Archery-heroes with the names like Apollo and Artemis are obvious, and maybe Cupid too. Rambo becomes an Archery-hero, and there's a whole Trojan War cycle with Achilles and Penthlisea doing the whole love and death thing. Historical stories come in as well - Genghis Khan, Domitian (who apparently could fire 4 arrows at once) and the archers of Henry II[2].

There's maybe even room for Green Arrow in this imaginary comics genre. Maybe.

[1] No really! It first appeared as a subset of (proto) science fiction in the 19th century, was prominent amongst adventure fiction between the wars, had a few final moments in the 50s (Biggles springs to mind) and finally became indistinguishable from thrillers and adventure stories as the tropes and scenery became mainstream or were discarded.
[2] Tepus, Bowman of the Guards; Gilbert of the White Hind; Hubert of Suffolk; Clifton of Hampshire; Egbert of Kent; William of Southampton. It's like a medieval JLA but with bows!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Recycled Review: Labyrinth

Heckler and I were at the Great British Beer Festival on Thursday[1] and sadly Starship Troopers 3: Marauder isn't out in the UK or we would definitely have watched it when we crawled back to Sten's flat [2]. But that's no reason not to put up some content. I previously said I would put up my thoughts on Labyrinth (1986, Dir:Jim Henson, trailer). Here's what is in my note book:

She's wearing jeans under that medieval frock
Don't say "David Bowie" 3 times
Sten is a rubbish Goblin King (He doesn't wear enough makeup)
Not the Bog of Eternal Stench!
Is that all it does? Smell?
There's a horrible bitey thing on a stick! And it's biting another goblin's arse!
Heckler sleeps with Antonio Banderas[3]
Babies: not evil, just incontinent.

The film's been out for 20 years, so I won't recap here. I'm just going to touch on why I think this film is an improvement on Jim Henson's previous puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal (reviewed at Heckler and Kochk!). 2 main performances (Sarah the heroine[4] and Jared the Goblin King[5]) are played by live actors. Most of the rest of the cast are puppets. This emphasizes the difference between the real world and the goblin world, and between the run of the mill goblins and Jared, the tall, good-looking, androgynous rock-god-king.

There's songs (many of them written and performed by Bowie). Sarah grows up and learns something. There's some real scary bits. And, with all due respect the Sten, Bowie nails the whole goblin king thing - the combination of attractive, scary and unpredictable all at once is just right. The labyrinth itself sometimes looks a bit like an illustration in a book, but that's mainly because, as it turns out, it is.

Jim Henson obviously learnt from The Dark Crystal and built on that, with good results. As we know, it didn't do too well at the box office, but it's had a long tail with video and DVD. And I can see why - I now feel like watching it again...

[1] It sounds like we're inseparable and live in each other's pockets; I assure you that is not the case.
[2] Good Point (for fans of the book): Armoured suits make an appearance
Good Point (for me): Some theology makes an appearance
Good Point (faint praise): It's better than Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Bad Points: The rest of the film
[3] This was byplay, not related to the film
[4] Jennifer Connelly, who went on to win an Oscar in 2002
[5] David Bowie, in one of the two non-human roles that he absolutely nails.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Admiral Ackbar

While I'm putting a few posts up there's just time to mention good old Admiral Ackbar (a)who popped up in movie night before the one where we went on the road and ended up watching South Pacific.

Here is his official website;

...and here is a clip of him at his finest;


(a) he is somewhere high up in the hierarchy of the rebel alliance in the Star Wars universe. He is remembered for but one line!

The Animatrix

At the most recent movie night Kochk and I finished watching the 9 short films which made up the Animatrix. Lemat had gone home, or possibly to Casualty to get some anti-depressants after we had watched "Alien Apocalypse".

This means that in the last few weeks we have managed to finish off not only this DVD but the complete series of "Crime Traveller" and "Galactica 1980"

Anyway - back to the Animatrix - this was a straight to DVD spin off from the Matrix trilogy (a) and was meant to tell us more about the world of the Matrix itself.

All 9 of the mini films has names and - so far as I could tell - were unrelated to each other save for the theme of the Matrix.

The Matrix, we know from the original film, is a virtual reality that all of humanity (b) is trapped in letting them believe that the are living in a normal world whereas in fact they are all in pods in a post apocalyptic machine world where human bodies are supposed to be used by the machines as a power source. People don't struggle because they don't realise they are trapped. A sort of docile "battery farm" (d) if you will.

Like anything Windows based the Matrix appears to be vulnerable to various breakdowns and problems. One of the films featured a haunted house within the matrix which was in fact a manifestation of the representation of the world breaking down because the surroundings appeared to pixellate and gravity was behaving incorrectly. Another featured an athlete who was able to walk again after his muscles apparently exploded whilst he was running in some sort of international sprinting race. The Matrix is not perfect in other words - just like real life.

If you liked the Matrix you MIGHT like this but it is by no means guaranteed - indeed you probably need to understand most of the Matrix back story to have any chance of following what these films are all about.

Of course the films pose several questions for us but the most haunting question of all is whether we can know the true nature of reality or whether in fact what we see is only a shadow of some other reality. Maybe life is but a dream!


(a) Just as with the original Star Wars (ANH) the original Matrix film is a stand alone movie although it left the path open for sequels (or even prequels). Many hold the first Matrix film as the best even though in may ways the sequels are superior in most respects (eg depth of plot, action and effects). Maybe it is the heart in the original Matrix or just the fact that it was unique at the time which made it such a success. "Bullet time" filming techniques were invented for the making of this film.
(b) Well bar the likes of Laurence Fishburne's character who live in the last human city of Zion(c), and possibly Free France which as we all know is in the South Pacific. Zion by the way is way way down underground, it looks a fair bit like the wierd subterranean world inhabited by old Heckler & Kochk Cleopatra 2525.
(c) Which we remembered when we sat down - (copyright) Boney-M "By the Rivers of Babylon"
(d) Boom! Boom!

Movie Night - 31st July 2008

I have a number of comments to make in respect of last night's movie night and cannot help but agree with the majority of sentiments that have tumbled from Kochk's keyboard.

I would like mainly to talk about the film "Alien Apocalypse" which starred an "actor" called Bruce Campbell. Here he is advertising Old Spice as worn by our esteemed colleague Lemat;

SPOILER (although you are presumably reading this as we have watched bad sci fi so you don't have to) The plot of this film features 4 astronauts returning from some very non specific "Probe Mission" that has seen them come back after 40 years away. I can't remember for certain but I think they mention having been cryogenically frozen - the crew don't look all that old (a). This is inconsistent with a line later in the film in which the President of the US (b) (c) thanks Bruce Campbell's character for having sent a message back to Earth warning of the approaching alien attack fleet(d).

In a plot stolen directly from Planet of the Apes the returning astronauts find that the Earth has been taken over by giant termites (f) who have enslaved humanity to work in saw mills to feed them wood (really!? who made this stuff up). The aliens also, at least twice in film, bite off people's heads and swallow them (cue for hilarious headless body spurting blood effects). One of the aliens says "next to wood it (people's heads) is our favourite delicacy". One wonders how they decided upon thi if they normally only eat wood - I guess it must be an acquired taste!

The aliens appear to have pretty much subjugated all of humanity notwithstanding the lack of any apparent military capability on the planet bar infantry and one single armoured personnel carrier. Human slaves wear gags and forfeit a finger for each failed escape attempt. There is no obvious organised human resistance and they seem to have lost a lot of civilisation such as the concept of shaking hands and what doctors do. Also the only good looking human on new Earth has misinterpreted chamois leather as something to be worn as a bikini.

On the subject of doctors I would like to return to the subject of the "probe mission". As I mentioned we did not see the ship and we aren't told much if anything about what the mission was. The mission had a crew of four and when we first see them one crewmember has a broken leg. Let us assume that one, if not two, of the crew is a pilot what then would be the specialities of the other three crew? Well, in short, we are not told except that Bruce Campbell's character osteopath! An osteopath? I mean what sort of mission were they on? As someone who gets the occasional back twinge I know that a good osteopath is good to have on hand but equally so is a mechanic, a barber or chef! On a space mission I'm thinking that a pilot, an engineer, a navigator and probably a medic (rather than an osteopath) are probably my the highest mission priorites.

Anyway luckily Bruce Campbell's character is able to use his osteopathy skills to heal the people on Earth so that they will trust in him and follow his uprising against the alien termites. No really, that's what the film did!

I won't go into much more detail about this. For me the scene I remember most - from when I was curled up in the foetal position rocking gently back and forth to cope with this film - was Bruce Campbells screaming face in slow motion being covered suddenly in green alien goo. Like some horrific alien fetish porn film (although it is meant to be the character killing aliens with a sword). I felt ill after this and the only cure was that the film was over. Sadly this was only teh first film on a Bruce Campbell double bill - I may need some time before I can possibly cope with the second film "The Man with the Screaming Brain"

I give this film 9 Bela Lugosis on my bad sci-fi scale!


(a) Well in the sense that they obviously haven't been living in space for 40 years unless they left as children.
(b) or "USA", a collection of independent states that used to be part of the colonies
(c) The President is an old man who seems to be sitting in a very low rent looking bunker somewhere near Portland. When he later goes on the offensive against the aliens the President also wears an anorak.
(d) This film is so low budget that we never see anything of the alien attack fleet. In fact all we see of the alien technology at all are the energy weapons they carry and some sort of armoured infantry carrier about the size of a transit van. Said vehicle also seems to be larger on the inside based on the number of alien troops who are disgorged from it (e)
(e) Come to think of it we don't see Bruce Campbell's space ship either - except as a shooting star coming down from he sky. I feel cheated.
(f) Albeit these are invading alien giant termites rather than intelligent apes who have evolved and overtaken humanity (g)
(g) Disappointingly - especially given how cheesy this film is - no character says "get your hands off me you damn dirty termite!"

Movie Night 31/07/08

The Watchlist:

Batman and Robin "No matter how bad The Dark Knight is, if we've just watched Batman and Robin it will be an instant classic."
Alien Apocalypse "We've been flirting with Bad Sci-Fi for a while - it's time we took our relationship to the next level."
Lost in Space episode "That Rocket may be small, but it has enough wonder fuel to make a real blast."
The Last Three Films in The Animatrix "Wow, that is some trip."
Random Futurama episode "Sweet Gorilla of Manila!"

Other business:
Our friend S___ has been given the nom de blog Sten.
Movie night regular LeMatt asked "If I were loaded with blanks, would I be Matt LeBlanc?"

From Kochk's whiteboard:

K: "Serious objective professional and analytical reviewing this evening"
H: "Shall I draw the cock and balls now?"

Batman and Robin:

Bat Nipples!

Alien Apocolypse:

Muzzle Fetish
Evil Dead.
It's a bunch of apes on horseback. Morning Stan!
Welcome to PlankWorld™ the world of wood™!
When Conga lines go bad!
The aliens want to get wood.
If the aliens can't get wood, they get head.
Why did they take an osteopath into space?
LeMatt: I sense some headbiting going on. The aliens are a bit headstrong.
We've been flirting with Bad Sci-Fi for a while - it's time we took our relationship to the next level.

From Heckler's Whiteboard:

Morning Sten! [Picture of Sten Waving]

Batman and Robin:

That's no control lever
The Ice Man cometh
I'm afraid my condition leaves me cold to your plea.
You're not sending me to the cooler
Stay cool bird boy
If the doctor says so then it must be true
Oxbridge Academy
Hi Freeze! I'm Batman.
Your emotions make you weak, that's why the day is mine
Freeze's Rocket [Picture of Rocket] I see nothing phallic about that!
Gilgamesh Wing
You corrupt my research into some diabolical scheme of world domination
Who wouldn't want their hands on Bruce Wayne's family jewels?
I programmed my brain waves into the bat computer to create a virtual simulation
Your stupidity is terminal, now you're cured
Poison Ivy:{ Why not send junior home early. I've got some wild oats to sow
{ My garden needs tending
I respect your opinion but sadly I'm not good at rejection so sadly you'll have to die
The Bat Signal comes out of a sac on Sten's arse[1]
I hate to disappoint you but rubber lips are immune to your charms!


[Picture of Y-fronts]

Alien Apocolypse:

The aliens should have just landed at PlankWorld!
(Alien swallows space pilot's head) "That is our favourite delicacy next to wood"
The President lives, with all his men.
Osteopath in space.
Space probe mission.
The time is now [2], this is the place.

Lost in Space:

That Rocket may be small, but it has enough wonder fuel to make a real blast.
Some commander! You don't know a giro from a flux gate


Sweet Gorilla of Manila! A Letter from the Central Bureaucracy

For no apparent reason:

D___ J. P____

So, the good news is that Alien Apocalypse is what this whole thing is about: Us watching Bad Sci-Fi so You don't have to. The bad news: there's a Bruce Campbell commentary track. In theory I might review the film without listening to it. But that's for less foolhardy critics. I will take one for the team by watching Alien Apocalypse with the commentary track and THEN review it. But in case V___ is reading this from Egypt, I warn potential viewers that, in the words of LeMatt, the film contains a lot of headbiting; the V___ preview board officially rates the it as "gruesome".

[1] This would be like the planetary defence plasma bugs from Starship Troopers. That's another Earth Defence system involving Sten. Is there any way of protecting the Earth without this man?
[2] Alien Apocalypse has a line that is the title of a Moloko song; Batman and Robin features a Moloko song. At last a unifying feature to the evening![3]
[3] Red Heat and Three Kings both made the long list for second feature.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Heckler and Kochk: Two Views of WWII

Movie Night is sometimes referred to as "Hairy Belching Men Night" which is somewhat unfair to the swearing, drinking and physical comedy aspects of the evening. Last Thursday we packed up and went on the road, projector, big screen, whiteboards and all to Beretta's house for "Civilised Mixed Company Supper Party Night". Everyone was on their best behaviour, except possibly me who made slightly more mess than everyone else there combined (hardly any wine got on the ceiling). Watched: Wonder Woman: Judgement From Outer Space Part 2, and South Pacific.

So, two different views on World War 2. In Judgement From Outer Space, aliens, concerned at the development of rockets and atomics, take a look at 1942 Earth to see if we have the potential to grow into civilised, peaceful beings, or if we're violent barbarians who need to be wiped from the galaxy. Initially Andros, the alien can't see any difference from his point of view between the Allies and the Nazis. "Americans don't torture people or make arbitrary arrests" Wonder Woman points out[1]. Well, it's good to see America's moral superiority to the Nazis so clearly stated.

If I have a real problem with this two-parter it's that the US authorities are perfectly happy taking Wonder Woman and Andros' words on being a 3,000 year old superhero and an alien sent to sit in judgement on us respectively, while the Nazis insist that they can't be, and must be products of US Atom research. In the WWII I studied, it was the Nazis who liked ideas such as the Hollow Earth, and proposed the Star Aldebaran as the origin of the Aryan race; wouldn't they be more likely to accept such ideas? (Anyway, here's the theme tune: Stop a Bullet Cold, Make the Axis Fold)

South Pacific is a classic musical, and was chosen despite a stack of bad to moderate Sci-Fi a foot high being available. Sadly I didn't take notes from the Whiteboards, but here's the four most famous songs based on a non-representative sample:

Happy Talk
I'm Going to Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair
There Is Nothing Like A Dame
Some Enchanted Evening (disputed, until I pointed out that Mr S___, our RE teacher at school and something of a musical buff would sing this one, after which Heckler bowed down and worshiped the song)

And boy are there some unusual versions of some of those songs on Youtube.

Heckler noted that Nelly didn't actually do a lot of nursing (and in general, the various members of the US military in the cast had a lot of time to hang around singing). Of course, that is explained in the film; the male chorus are Seabees (Naval construction units), the female nurses. The base has been built, but they don't have the intelligence on the Japanese to commit to an offensive, so the hospital isn't full, and the Seabees can hang around doing laundry and running scams. See also the expression Hurry Up And Wait.

Anyway, it looks like we'll be back to being hairy, belching and watching some genuine bad Sci-Fi this week. Until then, all the youtube videos in one player can be found here:

[1] I suspect that Steve Trevor's USAAF Counter-Intelligence unit would be pretty happy making arbitrary arrests, and even torturing people if Wonder Woman wasn't there to act as their conscience

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Linkage and Administrivia

Heckler got a new, double size whiteboard (it's, what, A2? so it can still sit on someone's lap) and revealed it at last Thursday's movie night. In fact he took a picture of me looking at it [1]. And we still have the old one. There's good news and bad news - more movie night notes, but I didn't copy them off so won't be reporting them here.

Time to actually start a links section or two; I'll be expanding this later. Part one Kochk's Blog-U-Tron ("They Write Good Sci-Fi Commentary And You Should Read It"): The AMC SciFi Scanner talks some sense and includes John Scalzi's provocative weekly Sci-Fi movie columns. Talking of Scalzi, his own Blog, the Whatever talks about Sci-Fi a fair bit, although since AMC pay him for talking about movies, he talks more about literature. And of course The Crotchety Old Fan who apart from his deep knowledge of the history of Science Fiction is behind all kinds of interesting stuff I haven't quite had time to explore in detail, most notably the Classic Science Fiction Channel, as featured previously here, and now in the non-blog Links To The Fifth Dimension ("They do Sci-Fi Stuff So You Don't Have To"?). Of interest (as background) Planetocopia - a climatologist creates several planets (including alternative Earths). And Finally Strange Horizons, an online Speculative Fiction magazine; the reviews focus on SF and Fantasy literature, but that's all good too.

Heckler tells me that too much theology is boring. It's probably just as well I haven't seen Prince Caspian then. While I'm linking, if you want more theology, Slacktivist tells us what C S Lewis was actually writing about in Prince Caspian (the answer: beer). One final thing - in the pub G___ pointed out the Duffy Video to Warwick Avenue I reviewed looked very cheap to make. For a more expensive Duffy video I suggest Mercy

[1] "It's a picture of me staring at some crudely drawn breasts!"
"They're not that crudely drawn"

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act III

So: Tragedy.

Also pilot and origin story.

And finally, lots of extras! A real finale.

It's not the meditation on supervillainy I was hoping for, but I doubt there ever will be unless I write it myself.

I will be pleased to receive this (hopefully on the extra packed DVD) for my birthday.

We will now return to our usual programming (assuming Heckler doesn't write anything).

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act II

Well, I was wrong.

Here's the episode in jokes, which inevitably will be spoilerish:

"Billy, you're driving a spork[1] into your leg."
"So I am. Hilarious."

"... at my famously successful heist last week; I say successful in that I achieved my objective; it was less successful in that I inadvertently introduced my arch-nemesis to the girl of my dreams and now he's taking her out on dates..."

"I need to be a little more careful on what I say on my blog. Apparently the LAPD and Captain Hammer are among our viewers."

"I wanna be an achiever. Like Bad Horse."
"The thoroughbred of sin?"
"I meant Gandhi."

"Apparently the only signature he needed was my fist. But with a pen in it. That I was signing with."

"See Penny's giving it up. She's giving it up hard. 'Cos she's with Captain Hammer. And these [brandishes fists] are not the hammer. [walks away. pause. returns.] The hammer is my penis"

I note of course that the duet at the beginning, where Horrible is in utmost despair and Penny is deliriously happy from the same events, and they're singing the same song with slightly different words and emphasis, is, despite not being funny at all, really good.

Am I foolish enough to predict what happens in Act III? Well the only thing I can see for certain is that Horrible tries to kill Hammer and fails. What happens then is up for grabs. Probably Bad Horse turns up and maybe Hammer and Horrible have to combine to defeat him, or maybe Hammer is revealed to be in partnership with him, or maybe he doesn't turn up and it's just singing cowboys. As for Penny, I'd like her to clear off away from these lunatics at the end, or a second best would be her falling for Bad Horse. Girls love horses, and they love a bad 'un. What could be more natural than that?

[1] The spellchecker doesn't have spork, but does offer "Spock" for it. Crazy.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Act I - more thoughts

I had a few thoughts while, um, dealing with some laundry, and the last post was a bit full of OMG!-ness so here they are:

Dr Horrible seems to be young, hungry for power and success, net-savvy but not yet very successful - his blog has something of a cult status, but isn't read and analysed all over the planet as, for example Lex Luthor's blog would be. Evidence: applying to join the Evil League of Evil and that he doesn't have his own washing machine (has he used the parts for one of his devices?).

Supervillain plans tend towards one of two paradigms; EITHER they ignore the existence of Superheroes entirely (this being a kind of genre blindness) and so they tend to fall apart when a walking muscle jumps on top of the van and destroys the device controlling it; OR they aim their plots directly at their superhero rival, often at the expense of their other goals. Having gone for the first option in Act I I would anticipate Dr Horrible trying to attack Captain Hammer in Act II. From the plot so far, I would expect the classic plan - make the superhero look to be not a hero at all.

SuperHERO stories always come down to punching[1]. But this is a SuperVILLAIN story. And it's only Act I.

UPDATE: That's a very long shot at the beginining - Neil Patrick Harris talking to camera for 3 minutes

[1] As Joss Whedon is aware; the three volumes of Astonishing X-Men I've read illustrate this clearly.