Saturday, 31 July 2010
A spot of rambling from Mr Jim Moon followed by a reading of a classic Adrian Mitchell poem...
Direct download - The Oxford Hysteria of English Poetry
HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links
HYPNOBOBS on iTunes
HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions where nobody goes (Bromley I believe – Ed. ), stands an ancient castle. Deep within this dank and uninviting place lives Darren, the long suffering co-host of the Thing Upstairs, Lee. But that’s nothing compared the horrors that lurk within the Black Dog Podcast – there’s always something in there, in the dark, waiting to be reviewed…
Yes folks, it’s podcast review time again - another helping of aural delights for your edification. The Black Dog is another ‘cast delving into the world of genre movies and TV. Here you’ll find in-depth discussions of all your geek favourites – from classic scfi like the Star Wars and Alien franchises to cult comedies such as Withnail and I and Monty Python.
And your hosts for these trawls through the worlds of the cult and the classic are Lee and Darren, two affable gents whose infectious good humour is only matched by their insightful opinions and in-depth knowledge. Now there are many similar podcasts out there competing for your ear time, but The Black Dog is somewhat different the usual reviewing stuff fare.
For a start, they have their own resident jingle singer, the infamous Darron Diamond – a rhinestone spangled, lurex legend in his own lunchtime. Each week his golden tones introduce the assorted regular features and segments of The Black Dog… well at least until the forces of darkness, those bitter, twisted souls seething with jealousy at his success in rocking lounges across the nation, attempt to silence him, leaving us with the mournful sound of Spinny the Hubcap clattering out an epitaph! Fortunately for us though, Mr Diamond shares the same amazing recuperative powers as Captain Scarlet and he’s always back to take the mic again.
Now some very cynical people have claimed that Mr Diamond is actually none other that co-host Darren singing in a Reeves-esque club style. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, one is ‘Darren’ and the other is ‘Darron’ – see, completely different spellings! Definitive proof that they are in fact entirely separate people… and you’d be a fool to think otherwise!
But what are these weekly features of which I speak? Well, firstly we have the introduction – each week the boys loving spoof a famous intro or title sequence. Always inventive and always hilarious, these intros get the ‘cast off to flying start. For example, their version of the famous Renton monologue that opens Trainspotting can be heard here. Then the show usually opens with some chit chat detailing our heroes’ latest adventures in Real Life – often what they’ve been watching, playing or reading. And this is normally followed by a round up of the week’s geek news.
And after discussing all the latest announcements and developments in the genre world, we have the Ten Minute Spoiler Zone. In this recently minted feature, Lee and Darren have a no holds barred spoilerific discussion which is strictly ten of your earth minutes. And there is much fun to be had hearing our heroes trying to beat the clock!
Next up is Shitty Superheroes – an ongoing investigation to expose the worst characters ever to disgrace the pages of comics. Now superheroes are often somewhat ridiculous but if you thought the Green Lantern was a bit on the silly side that’s nothing compared to assorted freaks Shitty Superheroes has unearthed. Each week, Lee presents Darren with some product of an exhausted if not thoroughly deranged imagination, usually to stunned incredulity – sample quote “That’s not a super power! That’s an affliction!”
Previous subjects under the spotlight of shame have included Squirrel Girl and Flat Man, and the likes of Plaid Lad and Estimate Boy. And as well laughing yourself stupid, I guarantee this feature will have you firing up Google to confirm that some one did indeed actually see fit to print such nonsensical characters, and to see them in all their spectacular rubbishness!
But all of this is just a prelude to the main body of the show – and here’s where The Black Dog’s patent twist comes into play. Each week the main review is either a Rose Tinted Specs or a Shit Covered Goggles. Now what the hell are they? Well allow me to explain…
In Rose Tinted Specs, an old film or TV show that is widely regarded as a classic is reviewed with a critical eye. Is it really one of the greats or is it a case of nostalgia colouring its reputation. Do we revere them simply because we saw them in our youth or because the received wisdom tells to?
Now Shit Covered Goggles is the recently introduced evil Mirror Mirror universe twin of Rose Tinted Specs. Instead of a well loved classic, a film whose reputation in the gutter is fished out and held up to scrutiny. Does it deserve its manure caked status or should it among the stars?
This novel approach of looking afresh at a film, putting aside all the critical baggage accrued over the years, yields some fascinating results. For every subject that emerges with its reputation intact, another will stumble and fall. Obviously some contextual passes are handed out – after all, you can’t criticise the effects work in 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still for not being up the standards set by Avatar, or moan a film as influential as Psycho is dull because you’ve seen its best tricks redone in countless subsequent films. However you can have a pop when you discover that the movie that thrilled when you were eight years old is actually full of acting so bad it that curls your nose hairs and plot holes you could lose a giraffe in.
Their coverage also differs from other podcasts in that while many shows have a feedback section, in The Black Dog the audience is actively encouraged to join in the dialogue. As the immortal Darron Diamond croons in the latest Rose Tinted Specs jingle -
“You’re gonna watch a film you liked when you were young,
Stick it in the player and send us feedback when you’re done”
Hence after Lee and Darren have said their piece, they open the floor to the listeners. So The Black Dog in addition to delivering informative reviews, a good proportion of the show becomes an intelligent discussion of the subject of the week; critiques transforming into dialogues. This all gives the show a wonderful dimension of community, and recently with the Shit Covered Goggles being held up to the likes of The Phantom Menace and Batman & Robin, the shows have turned into massive group therapy sessions, with all and sundry venting fan steam, exorcising geek demons and healing psychic scars.
And it has to be said, The Black Dog has an excellent supporting cast of feedbackers. Time and time again Black Dog listeners have proved themselves to be witty, erudite and frequently very inventive. And if you do your The Black Dog homework, you can be part of the fun too.
Overall The Black Dog is insightful and frequently hilarious. Lee and Darren are the perfect double act; well informed and naturally very funny. And although some weeks the subject under the spotlight may take a bit of pasting, it’s always done in good humour and they are always very fair in their assessments. For example, an early show tackled one of my personal favourites - Doctor Who - and the old classic series took some heavy fire to say the least. But I couldn’t take any offence at the drubbing my favourite show received as I was too busy laughing like a drain. But more importantly they raised some very valid critical points which the usual rose tinted vision hides, and delivered that rarest of things, a truly fresh look at the old series.
Now hosted by GeekPlanetOnline, The Black Dog Podcast can found on here and are proud members of The Legion of Tangent.
There’s a Black Dog Facebook group too – find it here.
And they are on Twitter too – follow Lee, Darren, or even the lounge king lizard himself Mr Darron Diamond by clicking their names! Sadly Spinny the Hubcap has yet to make his presence felt in the Twitterverse…
Monday, 26 July 2010
Spoiler free, my dear Watson!
Sherlock Holmes is one of fiction’s most enduring creations, and he is so firmly embedded in the public imagination that some mistakenly believe him to be real. Not only do tourists flock to Baker Street to see where the master detective took his residence but to this day he still receives letters from the misguided members of the public offering him a case. Much like his contemporary Dracula, he has appeared in so many versions on our screens, and so many divers hands have created fresh adventures for him, that his fictional weight seems to have reached a density where it may distort the fabric of space-time and hence people assume that all these stories are based at least in part upon the exploits of a real life person.
However also like the Count, he is such a familiar character, new iterations of his adventures tend to fall into one of two camps; either directors plump for a reverential approach holds fast to the traditional portrayal of the character and his world which revels in the Victoriana, or they opt to reinvent the tropes, focusing on differing aspects of the canon or radically rewriting the character wholesale. However frequently these new incarnations, whether trad or rad, are uniting in their claims that this latest version will be truer to the original texts.
And equally often, these claims prove to be somewhat dubious. Like Frankenstein and Dracula, the trouble with Holmes is that the public perception of the character has been indelibly altered by the power of the early renderings of the character. Hence in the same way that most people are unaware that originally Frankenstein’s Monster was an intelligent and highly articulate being rather than a lumbering hulk festooned in sutures, or that Stoker’s Count wore a moustache and could walk aboard in daylight to no ill effect, few realise that the Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was never described as habitually wearing a deerstalker and Inverness cape or ever uttered his famous catchphrase ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’. Therefore many elements that audiences consider to be traditional, and hence are included on screen, are in fact additions to the original texts.
Holmes' famous saying actually first appeared in the William Gillette stage productions. And his trademark garb actually comes from the famous Sidney Paget illustrations that accompanied Conan Doyle’s tales when they originally were published in The Strand, which served as the visual template for the most influential screen version of Holmes, the Basil Rathbone films. And this series of movies created the bulk of the popular conception of the characters – Rathbone’s Holmes established the typical portrayal of the consulting detective as a stern and icy logical thinker, while Nigel Bruce gave us Watson as his bumbling comic relief sidekick.
Interestingly though, these screen adventures are both trad and rad; the first two entries produced by Fox are Victorian outings whereas when Universal picked up the series they moved the setting to contemporary times, and had Holmes and Watson tangling with pulp style villains like the Spider Woman and foiling Nazi plots. And while die-hard Sherlockians may favour the Jeremy Brett television adaptations as being the definitive screen Holmes, an opinion with which I concur incidentally, in the pop culture consciousness it’s Rathbone and Bruce that most readily spring to mind.
Now at heart I am something of a purist, and as regular visitors to these pages will know, I am firmly of the opinion that if you are going to adapt a famous work of literature, then you should stay to true to the source. Yes, changes are inevitable in the translation to the screen, but this isn’t carte blanche to discard everything and produce a a work that only shares the names of the characters in common with the original. And so when I heard the internet faeries whispering that there was a new television version of Holmes in the offing and that it would be set in modern times, I put the kettle on ready for a visit from Dr Rant and Mr Swearing.
Thankfully though, these two dubious mental gentlemen postponed their appointment when further intelligence reached me that the guiding lights in this venture were to be Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Mr Gatiss I knew was a great admirer of the master detective and Mr Moffat’s modernisation of Jekyll and Hyde, another venture that I was initially dubious about as it had shed its period setting, turned out to be a great delight. And naturally being impressed with their work on Doctor Who into the bargain, I was of the mind that if anyone could pull of a contemporary rendition of Holmes, it was this duo.
And after further cogitation on the subject, I did come to the conclusion that the concept of moving the characters forward into our age was not necessarily such as bad idea. After all, the Jeremy Brett series did so marvellously bring the canon to the screen, was there any real point in trying to top it? Against such stiff competition, it does make sense to attempt something different rather than compete with these classics.
Even more encouraging though was the news that despite being initially conceived as a one-off, the BBC was so impressed they commissioned a series of three feature length episodes. And I am very pleased to report that both my faith and that of the mandarins at Broadcasting House in this endeavour has been amply rewarded. The first episode of Sherlock, A Study in Pink is both a fantastical piece of television and a great reinvention of Holmes.
Firstly they avoid a major pitfall by crafting a new case for Holmes to crack. The details of Holmes’ deductions are often so rooted his world and his times, that any attempt to move one of the classic tales over a hundred years into the future would make a nonsense of the proceedings. Rather than a mere modernisation of Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock is perhaps better thought of as an alternate universe version of Holmes where he exists our modern times, and hence A Study in Pink, while it borrows some components from the first ever Holmes adventure A Study In Scarlet (1887), is very much a separate adventure in its own right.
And despite the change in period, they have actually delivered a Holmes that is in many ways very close to Conan Doyle’s original. As they have both remarked in interviews preceding the series airing, their concept was that what makes the Holmes stories so enduring is not all the gaslight and pea soupers, but the brilliant deductions, the unravelling of the mysteries, the outré nature of the crimes and the interplay between our two heroes. And Sherlock proves that if you get these elements in the correct measure, then it really doesn’t matter when the stories are set.
And barring a couple of contemporary touches, Moffat and Gatiss haven’t messed about with the fundamentals. He may wear nicotine patches to appease health Nazis and use a mobile phone but essentially he's the same man as ever. Hence Sherlock is a reintroduction to the character rather than the dreaded reimagining. All the incisive reasoning is here in abundance - something the recent incarnation of Holmes courtesy of Guy Richie was a little light on – and rightly it drives the devilish plot forward. Benedict Cumberbatch captures not only Holmes’ intellectual brilliance but his relish of a challenge and there is great chemistry brewing with Martin Freeman’s Dr Watson; as the mystery unfolds, their relationship grows.
Although this is very much an introductory piece, A Study in Pink thankfully isn’t an origins story. In a sense, what we are actually presented with here are two mysteries; aside the titular case, we are introduced to the characters and their new world through Watson himself attempting to unravel the enigma of who Holmes is and what he actually does. It’s a marvellous mechanism that allows the episode to leap straight into the main plot very swiftly while at the same time establishing the key characters, relationships and elements of this new Holmes.
And I must applaud the decision to make the episodes in this series feature length. In order to present a proper Holmesian mystery, there are layers of deduction to be peeled back and the more usual 45 or 60 minutes just isn’t long enough to include the depth of detail that a case worthy of the world’s greatest consulting detective. Also I must praise the music, which I felt was nicely retro; an old school orchestral score that evokes the period spirit and atmosphere of the Holmes stories. Similarly the London depicted is closer to the real city than we often see, with its mix of ancient and modern buildings, and as often grimy and smoky as it is flash and shiny.
Now as I am keeping this missive spoiler free, I shall speak no more of the intricacies of the narrative. Suffice to say then this outing has great pace, masterful performances and is superbly directed by Paul McGuigan. There are some lovely original flourishes in the way the episode presents some of the deductions which I shall leave as surprise for the new viewer. So that said, let us move on to safer waters where we make discuss the details that comprise the new Holmes and Watson.
Undoubtedly there will be both purists who will cry foul at moving Conan Doyle’s creations into the 21st century, and causal acquaintances of the master detective who will disappointed that there is neither a deer stalker nor a voluminous pipe in sight*. However Moffat and Gatiss have brought us a Holmes that adheres closer to the canon than one might expect. To begin, let us examine some of the little details.
Holmes’ rooms at 221 B Baker Street are every as messy as described by Sir Arthur rather the genteel abode most screen version employ. Doctor Watson is once again a veteran of an Afghan war and is introduced to Holmes in the same manner. In our first encounter with Holmes see him brandishing a riding crop, which as any Sherlockian will tell you, was stated as the detective’s preferred weapon. And like his Victorian incarnation, this Holmes has also dabbled in illicit substances.
However where Sherlock most strongly channels the spirit of Conan Doyle is the conception of the characters. Martin Freeman presents us with a Watson that is closer to the original; capable and loyal rather than the clownish companion essayed by Bruce. As in the original stories, this Watson is more a partner in the investigations than a sidekick whose role is to provide comic relief and ask useful questions for the sake of exposition. Also like the original, he’s a man of action as well as a capable doctor, a crack shot and capable of making a few deductions of his own.
Cumberbatch’s Holmes is equally faithful. While some may baulk at the arrogance and the passion he displays, this is how Conan Doyle wrote him. Most interpretations of the role portray Holmes as a chilly thinking machine guided by the cold light of logic, to the extent that in some renditions he appears to be a honorary Vulcan. But this is just one aspect of his personality as laid out by Conan Doyle – the true Sherlock is a man possessing by a formidable double nature; on one hand the icy, razor sharp intellectual but on the other a wild bohemian in constant need of stimulation. The recent Guy Richie movie attempted to readdress this, for example drawing on the little known fact that in the original stories was stated on several occasions that Holmes was a skilled bare knuckle boxer, but in the main Robert Downey Jnr. incarnation comes across a simple thrill seeker. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock on the other hand, is far more psychologically complex – this is a man driven by his inner forces into the role of detective. Doyle always stressed how much of an outsider his intellect and talents made Holmes, and in Cumberbatch we have at last a Holmes who "detests every form of society" like the original.
Similarly the Holmes of Sherlock has also regained his wit. For all his mighty intellect, Doyle's Holmes frequently employed his brain power in dispensing sharp one liners, and it's a real pleasure to side this aspect of Holmes back on the screen.
But also of key importance is the relationship between characters. So often screen versions of this famous pair break down the relationship to hero and sidekick whereas the original stories present are far more equal partnership. But judging from this first outing, Sherlock looks set to rectify this; throughout A Study in Pink you can see the fascination with each other and the friendship developing between Holmes and Watson. By the finale, their relationship is firmly cemented and it is a refreshing return to the originals that we get to see that Holmes values Watson as a true friend rather than a mere companion in crime solving. There is a genuine warmth between the pair that bodes well for future adventures.
All in all Sherlock is a riveting watch. It manages to be solidly traditional and faithful to Doyle while being fresh and modern at the same time. And despite the change in period, I suspect Holmes novices won’t find it hugely disconcerting if they go back and read the original tales. It’s fair to say that Moffat and Gatiss have mixed the characters and flavours with the contemporary world into the perfect seven percent solution. Once again the game’s afoot!
* "I'm f**king with them on that one! Those anti-smoking c***s deserved to be royally f***ed with a meerschaum as far as I'm f**king concerned" - Mr SWEARING
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Here we go - my audio review of Predators! A first tentative foray into the world of podcasting, launching the good ship HYPNOBOBS...
Direct download - Predators
WARNING! It contains a lot of spoilers! Oh and alot of swearing....
HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links
HYPNOBOBS on iTunes
HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Perhaps the most important leap any budding film buff makes is the jump from selecting films to watch on the basis of the director rather than the cast they feature. No matter how talented your favourite thespian is, and no matter how carefully they pick their roles, they can still appear in some right old dogs. Hence would-be cinephiles soon learn that the only reliable indicator of a film’s quality is who is sat in the director’s chair. But Hollywood being the circus of insanity it is, even reliable auteurs can stumble and fall flat on their faces, whether through studio execs interfering or plain old creative exhaustion.
Of the current crop of young directors, there are few who can boast of a strike rate as impressive as Christopher Nolan. From an impressive debut with Following in 1998, he has produced a string of modern classics, and while his often strangely twisting movies may not be to everybody’s taste there can be no question of the talent, intelligence and original vision emanating from behind the camera. Nolan has the full package of directorial chops; he gets brilliant performances from his casts, he crafts wonderful visuals, he understands the value of polishing and refining a script until it sparkles, and he’s equally at home filming intricate emotional drama as he is grand action set pieces.
However after the stellar success that was The Dark Knight, could Nolan pull it off again? Although his reputation and critical credit provide him with a decent layering of armour against the dread curse of studio inference, it’s not unusual for a director to fumble the ball after the gruelling process of bringing a blockbuster into the world. But one of the key skills for any director is meticulous planning, and Inception has been in the pipeline for a long time – apparently Nolan penned a first draft about in the late ‘90s – so this is not the usual quickly thrown together little film that post-big feature directors employ as a creative palate cleanser.
And in short, Inception is another triumph for him. The Dark Knight was hailed as a masterpiece but I think Inception tops it. While his second Batman movie is a tremendous piece of cinema, Inception is actually tighter and deeper. One viewing isn’t really enough for me to be able to rate it against his other films but I think it’s safe to say that whatever your favourite Nolan flick is, Inception will be providing a strong challenge from the crown.
However it is also a real bugger to review. The nature of the film’s story and the way the narrative is layered make it very hard to write any sort of spoiler free review – as Lee from The Black Dog has remarked in both the most recent episode of that show and his review on GeekPlanetOnline, the best way to see Inception is to go in knowing as little as possible. Watch the trailers by all means – which give little away other than the basic premise and a hint of the flavour of the film – but no more!
So avoiding all discussion of what actually happens in the film, what can I safely tell you? Well I would’t normally be jumping to the conclusion of the review so soon but - just go and see it! Seriously – go as soon as you can! This is a high recommend!
You want more detail? Ok then - be prepared for a mind bending ride, but also be ready for a complex and emotionally charged story. With The Dark Knight Nolan demonstrated that an action and FX heavy fantastic story didn’t just have to be brainless eye candy, and that the tropes of the superhero genre could be used to tell an intelligent story focused as much on moral complexity and the depths of the human heart as well as Zap! Pow! antics. And Inception takes this melding of thrilling action with narrative and character depth to another level.
As well as some extremely well-thought out science fiction concepts and eye popping action, Inception has an absorbing psychological storyline. It’s a film that operates on many different levels all at the same time, with Nolan effortless orchestrating stunning thrills, amazing cinematics, an intricate plot and strong characters. And while the big sci-fi ideas presented are very beguiling and intelligently thought out, the real strength of the film is in its characters and their interactions.
And it has to said that Nolan has assembled a top notch cast for this outing. Inception is packed with wonderfully performances, but it’s hard to single any one out over another as they work together so well as an ensemble – plus it’s hard to say much about the acting without giving away plot spoilers. Suffice to say then everybody shines in this film – Nolan really knows how to direct actors and Inception has a marvellous ensemble feel to it as a consequence.
Now the film does have a long running time but the hours really do fly by. I was honestly stunned to discover it had clocked in at two and half hours long - yes, I spoiler dodged so much I went in not even knowing the running time - as the story had so thoroughly drawn me into its world. Although we are only just past the half way mark, I am tempted to hail Inception as one of the films of the year.
However, I do think that Inception probably won’t work for every one. As with any film with a twisty turny narrative, there are going to some who will delight in find alleged plot holes and logic lapses, but I think in the case of Inception this is will an exercise in splitting hairs, if not an exercise in finding faults to counter the hyperbole this movie is generating.
And undoubtedly some will be confused, if not annoyed, by its complexities, particularly those drawn in expecting something more in line with your usual summer blockbuster. But that said, I had similar concerns about The Dark Knight being too cerebral for the popcorn munching crowd, but in the end turned out to be quite unfounded considering the wide acclaim and extremely healthy box office returns. But hopefully the average movie goer will surprise us all again with an appetite for the intelligent thrills and sophisticated story telling delivered by Inception.
This is a film that deserves to seen - and I say again go see it as soon as you can. Films that can deliver action and thrills with such intelligence and panache deserve to be supported.
Friday, 16 July 2010
There is a special magic to the audio medium. It is somehow much more personal and intimate than television and cinema. Aural entertainment is free from the limitations of the visual arts; allowing the listeners’ imaginations to paint the perfect pictures to accompany the sounds, untroubled by the constraints of budgets and the expense of sets, effects and cameramen’s salaries.
And although slapstick is one of comedy’s earliest evolved organs, the essence of many a good joke is the mental image the words conjure. Hence, despite all the pratfalls, custard pies and double takes, comedy has always enjoyed a cosy relationship with the aural medium. Before the days of the VCR, DVD and the disappointingly not gifted with a catchy a three letter acronym Blu-Bloody-Ray, live performances, film and TV comedy would live on purely as sounds through the medium of the comedy LP. And while we all sit about in our pants, waiting for the next video format revolution which will force us to buy yet another edition of The Life of Brian, the oldest of the modern media, radio still forges ahead, bringing us innovative comedy.
From its earliest days, radio was pioneering modern comedy with The Goon Show and Round the Horne. And the old wireless is still the first port of call for budding comedians – to name a few recent comedy alumni, Chris Morris, the League of Gentlemen, the Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords all first manifested across the airwaves.
Indeed until the recent developments in cheap digital video, the most accessible form of recording was audio; with just a mike and tape recorder, you could create your own slice of comedy genius. Or rather not, as many of us found out in our youth. Producing good comedy is far harder than it looks – you might be able to crack up your mates but crafting routines and sketches is a different matter entirely.
And while there are great many funny and witty fellows podcasting these days, unfortunately a lot of the dedicated comedy ‘casts in the podosphere never rise above the level of the cassette recorded arsing about so many of us mucked about with in our youth. But not all, and hence I’m shining the spotlight upon the wonderful A Disappointment podcast, which is quite the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.
A Disappointment is produced by produced by Mr Danny Davies, who some of you may know as the writer of the web comic Drill Boy, and has been mentioned previously in these pages as the assistant to Napoleon R Taverner of the The Bearcast. Now hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and a member of the Legion of Tangent, A Disappointment is a sketch show usually clocking in around the 20 minute mark and appearing around once a month. And what a delight it is.
Now as intimated above, writing good comedy is a lot harder than just making sweary jibes about celebrities and removing the Michaels from the news stories du jour. And in these days when producing a sketch show often just involves just repeating the same catchphrases episode after episode until you want to garrotte all concerned with an old Stretch Armstrong, *coughs* Little Britain, it’s a real breath of fresh air to discover a show like A Disappointment that goes to trouble of presenting fresh material in each and every edition.
The format is fairly straight forward, sketches interspersed with some chat from our host Mr Davies. Often this involves tales of the latest goings on in his world; one week he may be involved in a lengthy altercation with the city of Detroit or another encountering incompetent Ghosts of Various Christmases Past. And as for the sketches themselves, some are short and punchy, and others fully fledged comic vignettes.
But unlike a lot of sketch-based comedy, A Disappointment doesn’t just visit the same roster of characters every week, which keeps the comedy fresh and unusual. As much of the material is quite diverse, there’s a wonderful feeling of not knowing what on earth the show is going to deliver next. And unlike a lot of home brewed comedy, this isn’t a case of merely aping the style and format of an established act, A Disappointment clearly has its own voice and character.
For example, the only regular feature that has appeared in all the episodes to date is The History Theatre Workshop. These surreal and darkly funny vignettes comprise of dramatic readings of extracts from some coded diaries discovering in Butleigh Manor, Somerset, with Peter Loewenstein’s sonorous tones detailing some utter bizarre goings on in the life of an enigmatic minor aristocrat in days gone by. On one hand, these readings may remind the listener of the unsettling monologues found in Chris Morris’ Blue Jam but on the other paw, they are also reminiscent of the out-in-the-noonday-sun eccentricity of Vivian Stanshall’s Sir Henry At Rawlinsons End. However, the presentations by Timothy Watson and Loewenstein could be compared to some of the weirder sketches in Big Train or The League of Gentlemen. Essentially rather than material ‘homaged’ in the way Oasis ‘homage’ the Beatles, all of the above are merely convenient reference points which highlight shared elements of peculiarly English oddness and an exquisite use of language to create character and atmosphere as well as laughs.
And make no mistake; this is a beautifully crafted show. One of my personal benchmarks for comedy is how much replay value it has, and A Disappointment passes with flying colours. The scripting is so well done that on repeating airing, you will find many funny lines you missed the first time around. And although it eschews conventional catch phrases, you will find certain quotes embedding themselves in your everyday parlance, and very soon you will be bewildering all and sundry with talk of jam spattered faces, dancing jennys and cursed marzipan.
And in addition to a delightful and infectious turn of phrase, A Disappointment contains many diverse comedy textures. While the History Theatre Workshop is slowing burning surreal humour, other sketches such as the spoof Doctor Who trails or the Sentinel insurance ads are delightfully silly, immediate rib ticklers. And if neither of these two irregular series of sketches don’t have you crippled with mirth, then evidently some tweezer-wielding, cack-handed child has managed to remove your funny bone without lighting up your red nose.
Now a word of warning, this podcast does contain adult humour and some swearing – so younger readers may not want to let their parents hear them listening to it. Now swearing is neither big nor clever … but it is fucking funny. But often in so-called adult humour, it’s merely to get a cheap laugh, like what I just done. However A Disappointment never utilises its cursing just to show how grown-up it is - each instance is a part and parcel of a proper joke. Similarly A Disappointment doesn’t plumb the depths of bad taste or dance about the offensive line for cheap laughs. And all of this is a testament to the strength of the writing – if you have this much imagination you don’t need to shock the listener into laughs. A Disappointment is refreshingly good natured and as outré as some sketches are it never removes its fingers from the buttons marked ‘fun’.
But as well as being exceedingly well written, A Disappointment is beautifully performed. And amazingly all by Danny himself – I was quite gobsmacked when the credits at the end of the first episode revealed this, as I honestly thought there was a team behind all the different voices. Now I know some of you out there may well be thinking that in this digital age altering your voice is as easy as applying a filter to change a photo into a drawing in a graphics program. However I know from my own experiments in audio that such aural transformations are actually very hard to achieve. And there certainly isn’t a plug-in available that will allow you to impersonate Parky or a BBC announcer as well Danny does. And in addition to his prowess as a vocal chameleon, he writes the music to the show too.
As is often remarked, there is just isn’t enough laughter in the world today, and A Disappointment is a great way to rectify this. Of course you could just ask your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer to procure you a supply of nitrous oxide but A Disappointment is a much cheaper, and safer, alternative!
Now hosted by GeekPlanetOnline, the show can now be found here, plus between episodes you can also check out Danny’s blog and his Tumblr Wolves. Garlic. Ghosts.... And finally as he won’t be able to hear you laughing, do follow him on Twitter and tell him how much you did.
Additionally as well having a look at Drill Boy,there's the Waste Paper comics too. And if you like your low-fi indie tunes then I also highly recommend checking out The Raudive, the band Danny plays bass in.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Mr JIM MOON - A closed mouth gathers no foot
Mr TOM GREENSLADE - It's your round!
Serial murder has been a staple of the movies since their infancy; Alfred Hitchcock’s first big success came with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), a mystery thriller inspired by Jack the Ripper and one of early cinema’s enduring classics is Fritz Lang’s M (1931) which was based on the crimes of Peter Kürten. And interestingly, the legion of celluloid slayers that have followed in their wake can be split into two groups, based upon the portrayal of the killers in these movies.
The first group take their cues from the Avenger in The Lodger; monstrous figures stalking the shadows whose features are hidden, the midnight prowlers whose true identity is a mystery and are known only by a colourful nom-de-guerre. These are the killers of the thrillers, slashers and chillers and they depict the multiple murderers as a species of walking villainy, as evil personified. And most of the movies’ serial killers fit into this category – the human monster that symbolises our fear of our fellow man, of the other.
The second and more sparsely populated group follows in the footsteps of Lang. They come to their stories armed with criminology and psychology, with the facts and forensics, and they attempt to present a truer picture of the serial murderer. Serial murderers may commit appalling acts, but most of the time they behave like ordinary members of society, leading otherwise unremarkable lives. In fact, one could argue that the real horror lies not within the details of their crimes but in the fact that they are such mundane people, that bar their secret criminal career they are utterly normal - they are not monsters, they are us.
But within this second category, we may also identify a third group – films that focus upon serial murder but do not fall into the thriller or horror genres. Here we find serial killer biopics like In the Light of the Moon (aka Ed Gein) and 10 Rillington Place that soberly reconstruct the facts of the cases they are based on. And it is into this subset that Tony falls.
Although not based on any particular case history, although Dennis Nilsen was an obvious inspiration, Tony is a new British film that follows a week or so in the life of an active serial murderer in the East End of London. Shot almost documentary style, this isn’t your usual fictional killer or your usual serial murder flick, rather it is a haunting slice of life revealing the day to day activities of our eponymous murderer. And as such would–be viewers are warned that Tony does not follow the traditional three act structure; there is a story line of sorts but it is more a loose thread connecting the events we see rather than a proper plot. And also although it is billed as a full feature, this is quite a short film. However it is longer than the average short - Tony is perhaps best described as the cinematic equivalent of a novella - clocking in at just over one hour and ten minutes
But what a compelling 74 minutes it is. Director Gerard Johnson has crafted an elegant little film that lingers in the mind long after the credits rolled. My first impression was that if Mike Leigh ever directed a movie about serial murder then the result would be not dissimilar to Tony, and judging by a quote from Sight & Sound on one of the movie’s posters – “If Mike Leigh remade Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - I am not alone in that reaction. Like much of Leigh’s work, Tony is fastidiously realistic, travelling through the down-at-heel back streets showing us a side of London you don’t normally see in the movies and meeting the everyday but slightly eccentric characters who dwell there. And similar to Leigh’s work, there is a touch of humour in Tony; capturing the same absurdities of human behaviour and the unconscious comedy of misunderstanding and social awkwardness.
However although Johnston acknowledges Leigh as an influence, in an interview he has revealed that his prime inspiration is the work of another noted British director Alan Clarke. And on a second viewing, you can see the influence of Clarke’s films and TV dramas: Tony focuses on the gritty edges of society where the neglected and disenfranchised are left to their own devices, with the city London becoming a important character in itself. Unemployed and evidently suffering with a great many mental health issues, Tony spends most of his time wandering the streets, trying and failing to forge connections with the people around him. And as we follow him on his travels we see the many different faces of London, from the seedy estates to the glitzy West End, and one feels that in a sense the ancient city is his only real friend. Although his victims are drawn from the same underclass that he inhabits, he is also preyed upon himself by the uncaring authority figures and the general populace who ignore him because he is does not fit in.
Although there are some parallels to the Dennis Nilsen case - like Nilsen Tony kills for company - there are significant differences. Nilsen was a textbook example of the everyday guy in the office who one day is revealed as a monster, but Tony is very different – he is has no ordinary life, no job, no friends; he’s a man who has fallen down the cracks in society and been forgotten about. Whereas Nilsen possess sufficient social skills to hold down a job, Tony is much more obviously mentally unwell, seeming suffering with a kind of social dyslexia – the rules of interaction and communication are baffling to him because he has evidently been marginalised all his life.
We never discover much about his personal history but we do get a few hints about his past and the film is such a vivid character study, we may infer a lot from how he acts and behaves. Apparently, the actor who plays him, Peter Ferdinando, did write up Tony’s personal history which no one else was allowed to see, even Johnson. And this attention to detail is shines through in the strength of his performance - budding psychologists and armchair criminologists will have a field day trying to construct the back-story from what we see on screen.
Ferdinando is simply quite astounding – totally believable and utterly magnetic. His performance takes us into Tony’s world and it is a testament to his acting that most viewers will end up sympathising with the character rather than being revolted. Despite the often shocking violence and horrendous scenes of him cutting up bodies, against all the odds we do end up feeling sorry for Tony. Unlike many serial killers who artfully wear a mask of normality and sanity, Tony is clearly unwell; a broken product of society’s failures, and consequently we feel sadness rather than revulsion.
And Johnson’s direction is equally dazzling – the quality of the cinematography belies the film’s tiny budget. This is a very handsome looking film, brimming beautiful shots that capture the flavour and texture of the forgotten corners of English cities and the subtleties of the performances. According to the fascinating commentary track on the DVD, remarkably much of the street scenes were filmed guerrilla style, something you’d never guess from the careful framing of the shots. Also Johnson is to be commended for spending much of the movie’s development time rehearsing the actors; building up the characters’ depth and allowing the script to grow and develop throughout this process. And having such a long period of rehearsal before shooting commenced pays off beautifully in the finished film with very natural and finely crafted performances from the cast. Like Ink, Tony proves that low budget need not be synonymous with low quality – spending time working with the cast, honing your script and carefully planning your shots costs little other than time and the investment will pay off handsomely.
Johnson and Ferdinando are definitely talents to watch. The DVD of Tony comes with the original short that the feature grew from, and seeing the leap Tony made in this transition, I’m greatly looking forward to what they will produce next. Already they are working on another feature, as yet untitled and this time with a larger budget and a more conventional narrative.
Tony will not suit everybody’s tastes; no doubt some viewers will be frustrated by the film’s open story structure, and indeed some reviewers have slammed it because ‘nothing happens’. And largely I blame the distributers’ addition of the tag ‘London Serial Killer’ to the title for this – it’s is not terribly helpful marketing as it sets up the expectation of the usual slasher/thriller runaround. But Johnston did not set out to make your typical serial killer flick, but a piece of social realist cinema – a genre where a rounded story with a neat resolution is anathema to the director’s goals, and indeed where usually ‘nothing happens’.
But while the movie could be seen as threadbare in terms of a conventional plot, there is actually a lot going on beneath the surface; there is a loose arc to the series of events which will leave the receptive viewer will several tantalising options of what will happen next. And Johnson and Ferdinando have packed so much cinematic craft into the short running time, Tony will definitely reward repeated viewings.
However in the main, Tony is all about mood and character; much like Taxi Driver - another film where nothing actually happens for most of the running time – watching Tony is essentially hitching a ride in a disturbed character’s skull, seeing and experiencing the underside of the big city through the eyes of a forgotten and neglected man. The careful observations of London, the intricacies of Ferdinando’s performance, and a atmospheric score by The The’s Matt Johnson come together to create a compelling journey through the grime corners of both sanity and society.
And although Tony lacks elaborate gore set pieces or jump scares, if you can get onboard with Johnson’s vision, the powerful atmosphere and weighty realism actually make the film far more chilling than your average psycho on the loose – a Tony could well live in the next street to you, something you can’t really say of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees or Hannibal Lecter. He’s the man you pass in the road and never notice, operating undetected and quietly cutting a swathe through the population…
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Hello chaps and chapesses!
As some of you lot who follow the Twitters may be aware, Mr Jim has been away on his hols, gallivanting about Southern Europe, drinking too much and completely failing to get off with waitresses. And he’s not done a stroke of work lately either! So then it was up to me, to step into the fray and provide a review for you good people. Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Mr Leslie, a bear of wealth and taste, and head ted here at Hypnogoria Towers. Lovely to meet me you all!
Now there are many fine broadcasts available in the podosphere – bricklayers have hodcasts, Christians do godcasts, amphibians on frogcasts, and all manner of oddcasts for every conceivable kind of weirdo imaginable. Now as some of you may be aware, several years ago there was the Revelation, when many stuffed toys revealed themselves to be sentient. And naturally, we new sentients needed a podcast all of our own! Enter Mr Jeb, a London ted!
In the beginning, there was The Lost Bearings Radio Show, an audio dramatisation of the events of the Revelation – which you may find here – put together by Mr Jeb with assistance from Marty Perrett of The BoxRoom podcast. And soon after The Bearcast was born! The first series, which aired in 2008 on the interwebs, saw Mr Jeb bantering with fellow bears Token Female and Terry about anything that crossed their minds – films, cartoons, the difficulties of being a stuffed toy, and something called ‘doctoroo’. Marvellous stuff – funny, insightful and definitely smarter than the average human. (Honestly, where you clodhoppers ever got the idea you were intelligent baffles me!)
And now after a lengthy break, The Bearcast is back! Thanks to the assistance of Mr Danny Davies, this time round Mr Jeb is joined by a new co-host Mr Napoleon R Taverner, a bear of great repute from the West country and the arch enemy of crows. And by Paddington’s Beard, it’s longer, funnier and more beer soaked than ever before, with our heroes exploring tangents where no bear has gone before.
And Series 2 is jam packed full of brand spanking new features! There’s the John Nettles Job Seekers challenge, where possible other jobs for the star of Bergerac and Midsummer Murders are debated. There’s Questions For Terry, a feature where this sagest of bears answers listeners’ queries on life, the universe and any old tosh you care to send in. Also there usually some abuse and threats from Napoleon's wayward brother Wellington, a bear psychotically dense and very, very angry they won't let him on the show. And coming over from The Box Room Podcast, there’s Ask Tim – another question based feature on ‘doctoroo’, where esoteric points of Time Lord lore are illuminated in a comedy fashion.
Just like Series One, there is the regular discussion of a strange news story, often of a highly unconvincing report of a UFO and the like. Plus the bears play a couple of kicking tunes every show – bringing you aural gems from the best new and little known artists.
But mainly it's just Mr Jeb and Napoleon bantering away, delivering so much wit you'll bust your seams laughing. Trust me there'll be stuffing everywhere bu the end of an episode if you're not careful!
Here's a sample of the wit and wisdom of Messrs Jeb and Napoleon... Have a needle and thread ready!
The Bearcast – both Series One and Two, plus trailers featuring exclusive rambling, can be found here.
Lost Bearings can be discovered lurking on Mr Jeb’s Tumblr.
The BoxRoom podcast lives over here.
Righty ho! Must dash, I’m a busy bear and there’s a honey pot waiting my attention. Ding Dong!
Friday, 2 July 2010
There will be blood and there will be spoilers
“Dear God no! For the love of Christ no! You can’t do this to me! Make it stop!”
No, that’s not a quote from the movie – that was me when I realised I was going to have to watch this flick yet again before penning this review. If you were wondering exactly why it’s taken so long to get through this marathon of Friday 13th reviews, you can lay the blame squarely on this movie; or rather my reluctance to slip this particular cinematic atrocity into the old DVD player once again.
Yes, this is the film that stank so bad, Paramount finally pulled the plug on the franchise. And it is truly horrible. Yes, they kept cutting back the budget and forcing director Rob Heddon's script through the rewrite mangle, but even so the frequent changes to the story line don’t excuse the huge swathes of nonsense this flick delivers. It’s easily the worst film in the franchise, severed hands down. And while there are a few memorable scenes, on the whole the film is so irredeemably shoddy it doesn’t even cut it in the so-bad-its-good stakes. It’s just plain bad and the only way to get any enjoyment out of this one is to drink heavily and merciless mock the nonsense as it unfolds. So then, let's cry havoc and unleash the dogs of sarcasm…
Right from the start, you know you are in trouble when instead of a proper opening theme we have a very ‘80s slice of pop-rock tosh blithering on about life in the big city. And as we see more of New York in this credits sequences than we do in the rest of the movie, I can only assume the decision to play this even then terminally uncredible song over the top of it was just a vain attempt to justify the film’s title. Look we're in the big city! The electro funk man says so!
You see the biggest problem for this outing is that Jason doesn’t really take Manhattan, in any way, shape or form... And not just because the Muppets had already beaten him to it, or that Leonard Cohen had proposed a similar manoeuvre the preceding year either.
Thanks to Paramount’s budget cuts, scene after scene in the original script were axed. So sequences of Jason wreaking havoc around the Big Apple landmarks, such as Madison Square Gardens, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State building and Broadway, were sliced away one by one until all we were left with was a quick stroll through Times Square in the film’s finale. So instead, we spend most of the running time stuck on a boat. And it is a huge let-down - really this one should have been called Cruise-Alonga-Jason.
Now when you hear the title Jason Takes Manhattan, you instantly start imagining scenes of colossal carnage. Up until now our slaphead anti-hero has been confined to the American backwoods; an isolated milieu where he only ever encountered small numbers of people. And every single person he's ever met, he's attempted to brutally slay. Hence the title of this flick has you picturing him going completely berserk in the metropolis; with tens if not hundreds of people falling to his machete. Entire squads of police dying while trying to halt the unstoppable undead killing machine. The National Guard are called into no avail. CIA, FBI, NSA and sundry other acronyms mobilised and the carnage all builds up to an apocalyptic finale where they have to airstrike a large area of Manhattan in order to stop the tsunani of slashing.
Alright, the studio coffers probably wouldn’t have stretched to all the above mayhem but you get the idea. Jason turning up in Manhattan should have been one long killing spree causing a city wide panic. So then having him stuck on boat for three quarters of the movie was a big disappointment – and for me, more of a slap in the face than The New Beginning and its-not-the-real-Jason Scooby Doo twist.
But it’s no use crying over spilt milk and pondering what could have been. However what we did get unfortunately just doesn’t really cut the mustard either. Now in terms of the direction, in fairness the film is better shot than the hobbled by 3D Part 3, but unfortunately the story contains far more stupidity than Miner’s second Friday flick – some mean feat as that wasn’t going to win any awards for coherence either. Now I’m reliably informed that in the commentary for the US DVD release, director Rob Heddon tells us that his first cut was around the two hour mark, so you may be thinking that in pruning it down to the more acceptable 90 minutes mark accounts for some of the outright weirdness in the plot. However judging from the list of cut scenes on the IMDB trivia page, although the excised material may have built up the characters more, as far as I can see none of the missing material would make sense of some of the highly annoying loopiness the film delivers.
Lordy lordy, where to start… Right, first up the damn boat. Now I can ignore the thoroughly bizarre bending of all the laws of geography of having a lake that leads to Manhattan. We’ll just let that one go, along with the fact that judging from the exterior shots of the ship we see and the interiors we are shown, it would appear that this craft was built with Time Lord technology. Nope, the thing that bothers me most is what the hell happened to the swarms of kids on board? We see a few minor cast members despatched by Jason but the rest vanish into thin air never to be mentioned again. Not even when the ship sinks. What was going on there? An oblique reference to the Marie Celeste?
Next up, why can Jason now teleport? Slasher films are notorious for having their usually slow walking killers catching up with their sprinting prey and popping up in unexpected places, but in Jason Takes Manhattan he does literally appear to have gained to the ability to materialise anywhere he damn well likes. Now presumably this ties into Things That Make Don’t Make A Shred of Sense - Even For This Series #3…
..Which is the whole business of Rennie and her visions of Jason. At first he appears to her as a normal little boy and then throughout the course of the film proceeds to gradually mutate into his more familiar monstrous form. Now firstly in the original movie, we are shown a flashback of Jason drowning and despite the brevity of the shot it is clear he was deformed then, so where on earth this normal Jason fits in is anyone’s guess. The implication seems to be that Rennie has some psychic connection to some deeply buried good side of Jason and that hulking killer we all know is some kind of revenge driven ghost. Yes, I know that sounds nutty but it’s the only thing I can think of to explain what we see on screen. Hedden has stated that the end where we see Jason seemingly transform back to a little boy is meant to represent his spirit going to rest, which sort of fits. I get the impression that this element of the film was meant to clear up the long standing questions over when Jason actually died, and how come if he died as a boy he reappears as a full grown psycho in Part II.
However none of it adds up – if Jason is some vengeance powered apparition, as his teleporting suggests, how come he has a body, which has been buried, sunk at the bottom of a lake and twice revived by electricity? While I applaud the attempt to make some sort of sense of the series’ mythos, it is done in such a way as to actually confuse matters further rather than clarify anything about Jason’s back-story. From the finale, you could be forgiven for thinking that as well as killing him, the toxic waste has caused him to physically regress in age. Indeed on my first exposure to this scene – I caught the second half on late night TV – I assumed that either a) the first half explained this or b) The New Blood - which I hadn’t seen at the time - had something to do with it or finally c) I’d had a bad pint down the pub and was now mildly hallucinating.
And if this wasn’t enough to contend with, there is also the utterly bonkers circumstances leading up to it. According this film, New York flushes its sewer system every night by pumping the afore-mentioned toxic waste through it. Yes, you did read that right! Flushes. Sewer system. With toxic waste. Every damn night. To CLEAN it!!! A large pint of WTF please barman! Considering that the New York Tourism Committee complained about the posters which featured Jason popping through the ‘I heart NYC’ logo, I’m amazed they didn’t sue when they saw the movie itself. One wonders why not … does Heddon know something we don’t?
At this point, I think we can safely say that the case for the prosecution now rests, and this flick is guilty as charged on numerous counts of Grievous Intellectual Harm, and Assault and Battery With A Deadly Weapon to whit the script. All that remains now is sentencing…
Now when watching horror flicks, you do not apply the same laws for assessing story credibility or narrative logic as one does when watching serious cinema. And when watching entries in the Friday 13th saga, we usually are not even apply a version said laws revised for the genre. After the first few entries, this franchise is operating in a bubble universe of its own making, complete with its own rules of cinema. And while the better films in the series, like the original, Final Chapter and Jason Lives, may be fit enough to survive outside this pocket critical environment, most do not. They may only be judged in relation to the following criteria - how cool is Jason, how spectacular are the deaths, is the acting competent rather than howlingly bad, and can you stand any of the characters for more than 10 seconds without wanted to machete off their heads yourself.
So then, is Jason cool is this flick? Well largely no. Kane Hodder stalks and looms well enough but the teleporting antics are frustrating and his look in this movie is frankly poor. After the superb bone-tastic Jason of The New Blood, this rendition just looks cheap - no visibly decay, just a bit of token tattering on his outfit, and mainly he just looks a bit soggy. And as for the unmasking scene, oh dear Lord! Not only does the toxic waste appear to possess the power to restore ones youth, it also has trans-species mutagenic properties too! For when the hockey mask comes off, it appears that Jason is now a melting albino chimp! Were they planning a cross-over with Planet of the Apes? Or was he trying to blend in Manhattan’s Muppet overlords?
In the absence of any sensible answers, let’s move on to the slayings. On the whole, they are fairly standard fare, nothing too shabby but possessing no real wow factor either. That is, apart from Julius’ death. Credit where credit is due, not only is this the best scene in the movie, but one of the best kills in the entire series – Jason literally knocks his block off, decapitating him with a single punch. It’s beautifully set up and executed; spectacular, very funny and a satisfyingly ironic end to Julius, one of the most annoying characters in the movie.
And speaking of which, I’ll also have to give some credit to the characters and acting. The script attempts to give our protagonists some depth and the performances are too bad either. Yes, Julius is a monstrous arse but I think he was meant to be. Jensen Daggett and Scott Reeves are pretty likeable as a leading pair, and special mention must be made of Peter Mark Rickman who has good fun hamming it up as the harsh and overprotective Uncle Charles. As well as chewing the scenery, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Jonathan Harris, in both looks and performance, which just adds to the fun – indeed, on the first viewing I was convinced I was watching Jason hunting down evil Dr Zachery Smith from Lost in Space.
But the trouble is despite trying to create proper characters, the script is so full of errant nonsense, they get very little to do that passes for basic common sense. Even Jason himself acts very out of character on a couple of occasions. As he normally slays anything or anyone in his path, it is somewhat perplexing him to see him seemingly rescue Rennie from those muggers fresh out of Clichéd Street Punk School. Similarly when he encounters the Times Square hoodlum wannabes, he scares them off by raising his mask. While it's understandably they'd leg it sharpish considering the terrifyingly poor make job lurking under there, and it's meant to be a funny scene, it's not nearly as hilarious if he’d kebabbed them all in one go.
And this is another major problem the film has; although there are flashes of humour, there are not nearly enough gags to indicate that we shouldn’t be taking anything that happens on screen too seriously. On the contrary, the stream of nonsense that is masquerading as a plot, with its psychic visions and psychological elements of Rennie’s story arc suggests that Heddon and co. set out to play this straight.
There was a decent concept behind the film which Paramount's budget cuts scuppered, and the script shows some signs that there were some interesting ideas that were mangled on route to the screen. But the problem is, Heddon is simply too competent a director to make the film so bad it’s unintentionally funny, which may be the biggest back-handed compliment I’ve ever given out. All of which adds up to a film that is very unsatisfying and the few good moments in it taunt you with what the movie could have been.
And this is the crux of the matter, Jason Takes Manhattan is just annoyingly bad rather than entertainingly so. It isn't directed with an ironic trash aesthetic which encourages us to laugh WITH the movie, nor is it such misbegotten dreck you can laugh AT it. Admittedly with a few beers, a few chums and an ample supply of Mystic Jim’s Patent Michaels Remover, you could enjoy this flick as a piece of comically bad cinema – but you will just be laughing NEAR the movie and have to supply most of the comedy yourself…