Posted on: April 2, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

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Posted on: March 26, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

Rise Of The Dead: Top Zombie Films Of The Past Decade

The 21st century has seen the once humble, cult figure of the zombie turn into popular and much explored genre. The walking dead even have their own hit television show, funnily enough, it’s called The Walking Dead. So with Juan of the Dead and The Return of the Living Dead released on 4th June, what better time than corral together a few examples of 21st century zombie cinema and take a quick flippant look at what made them so memorable?

The zombie, if we go back to Haitian mythology, was a person drugged by a wicked witch doctor working, quite possibly, at the behest of a plantation owner who wanted slaves to work for nothing. Haitian peasant society lived in fear of the Bokor, a priest who dealt exclusively in the dark arts and could create ‘zombies’. But what’s this got to do with the on-screen flesh-eating kind? Well not a lot, really. Several early movies used the Voodoo zombie in such works as White Zombie (1932) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943) but it was George A. Romero and his ghouls who caught the cinema-going public’s imagination.

Flesh-eating zombies would be the greatest twentieth century horror creation but it reminded more or less a cult consideration until the 1990s. Capcom’s Resident Evil games were hugely influenced by Romero’s and others including Lucio Fulci, and thus the rise of the dead occured. We might not like it (especially anybody with a brain) but Paul. W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil (2002) flick was key in the popularity increase because it gave the zombie some mainstream cred. Then along came Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2004), which isn’t even a zombie film. (Sorry but it isn’t.) However, that film’s origins lie in Alex Garland one day having an idea: “What if zombies could run?”

As author and filmmaker Clive Barker once said in his A-Z of Horror show, about the nightmarish quality of the zombie, and this is a paraquote: “It’s because there’s so damn many of them.” Indeed. Zombies are simply dead human beings come back from the grave to feast on the living. The origins of why this occurs have been played with by filmmakers since Romero’s time. It links in with fears of bioweapons, our fear of death and the decay of our own bodies. Zombies have even been subjected to Marxist interpretation.

The past ten years or so have seen a massive influx of titles which cater to all ‘tastes’. Frank Darabont kick-started a zombie television show with The Walking Dead and George A. Romero has produced three new ‘Dead’ pictures alone. Zack Snyder took Alex Garland’s ‘fast zombies’ notion and turned in a decent remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004). B and Z movies have given us everything from ‘Colin’ and ‘Zombie Strippers!’ to the wonderfully-titled ‘Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead’. Hell, even Brad Pitt has got in on the undead act and will starring in World War Z in 2013. It is a real smörgåsbord ranging from big budget to no budget, so eat it up!

Shaun of the Dead (dir: Edgar Wright)

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright outed themselves as zombie lovers in an episode of Spaced and from that decided to make a movie all about the undead hordes. Shaun of the Dead is without a doubt one of the funniest and most endearing horror-comedies in recent times. Endlessly quotable, quintessentially English (end of the world? best get down the pub for a few pints) and packed with laughs. Shaun is a zombie classic and really, really funny.

Dawn of the Dead (dir: Zack Snyder)

Zombies cannot run. It’s a fact even within the confines of movie logic and suspension of disbelief. It’s like asking somebody to accept that ameobas could go to university and get a PhD in, like, astrophysics. or something. Or not. Zombies running is controversial when put next to Romero-style shuffling walking wounds. However, in Night of the Living Dead, it must be said, the zombie that attacks Barbra and her brother Johnny is pretty fast on his feet. And zombie cinema is littered with zomboids that are fleet of foot. But running like Linford Christie (on speed!) is a bit much, yet Snyder, far from disappointing with his take on the modern zombie movie, made a pretty decent stab at things. Getting Sarah Polley to headline was a smart move and this re-hash doesn’t even bother to ape Romero’s master work. It does its own thing and gets by. Zombies running though, what the fuck?

Land of the Dead (dir: George A. Romero)

Fans had to wait a whole twenty years for Romero to make another ‘Living Dead’ movie. Twenty years, man (Say it like Jeremy Piven in Grosse Point Blank). Land of the Dead split audiences and barely made a dent at the box office. For the first time in the movie series’ history this production was backed by a major studio (Universal). In Land of the Dead, zombies and human co-exit almost peacefully – like George Bush promised between humans and fish. This is a very political movie and Dennis Hopper is said to have based his character, the evil Kaufman, on Donald Rumsfeld, then defence secretary and raging neo-con. Land is a brutal movie marred by the odd dodgy CG effect and totally abysmal cameos by Pegg and Wright. I’m sure they loved it and were honoured at their little moment, but it sticks out like a sore bleeding thumb. Land also features the wonderful line “Zombies, man. They freak me out.”

Evil – in a Time of Heroes (dir: Yorgos Noussias)

Greece might be in the shit at present but they produced this madcap zombie flick which features – honestly – Billy Zane playing a warrior monk who turns up at random intervals to kill zombies. It isn’t entirely surprising that a reading of this movie can be seen to reflect current economic woes but most audiences will enjoy it for being completely and spectacularly mental. Definitely one to seek out.

Pontypool (dir: Bruce McDonald)

Bruce McDonald’s low budget zombie flick is a rare example of having literary origins as it’s based on a novel entitled ‘Pontypool Changes Everything’ by author Tony Burgess. It might sound, too, like a drama set in a small Welsh town but is in fact Canadian in origin. This is a little seen gem and its director even claims Pontypool is not really a zombie film at all, though most will say it sails so close, that it is. The premise is pretty original and features the English language being infected by a virus. McDonald might demure at the zombie tag but given we’ve just had a real life news report of a mad druggie eating a victim’s face off on a Miami highway, sounds like zombies all round to me.

The Horde (dirs: Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher)

Mon dieu the French love their horror painted black. This recent edition to the zombie genre is so downbeat it might have you reaching for the bottle and chaining smoking Gauloises whilst declaring “What’s the point? People – living or dead – suck.” The Horde sees a cops versus drug dealers narrative interrupted by an outbreak of the living dead. Trapped inside a tower block, the two sides join forces to save themselves but neither trusts the other and soon are back to arguing and even shooting each other. There’s no doubting this John Carpenter-influenced movie went on to influence Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. No two ways about it. If you like your horror with a Gallic flavour and don’t mind subtitles, definitely seek this poisonous bonbon out.

Zombieland (dir: Ruben Fleischer)

Zombieland contains possibly the great cameo ever. Bill Murray turns up in the movie after the survivors pitch up at his house. Murray has been surviving the zombie apocalypse by dressing up as one of the undead. He’s been playing golf when he finds Columbus, Talahassee and two girls in his house, Wichita and Little Rock. The trio convince Murray to play a prank on poor Columbus, who ends up shooting Murray. As the actor lays dying, he’s asked by Little Rock if he’s any major regrets. Murray’s reply, ‘Garfield, maybe,’ is a gem.…

Posted on: March 26, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

Re-Viewed/Re-Assessed: KEOMA (1976)

Enzo G. Castellari’s 1976 spaghetti western, Keoma, is a divisive film among cult cinema enthusiasts. For those who enjoy its unique approach, some kind of masterpiece emerges; bolstered by an excellent performance from Franco Nero as the hero, whose fight against his own brothers and a local landowner, ends in tragedy.

“A man born free can never die!” is the slogan-like rally call at the film’s close. Indeed, it is the mythic essence of the American spirit which Keoma bravely fights for at a strong personal cost. Of course Italian westerns were long viewed as inauthentic product mimicking American cinema (and poorly, say the critics at the time) and yet such writers as Sir Christopher Frayling saw much more too these occasionally wonderful movies. His book, Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans From Karl May to Sergio Leone(1981), is an absolute must-read for those interested in the spaghetti’s historical development and textual analysis. As Frayling rightly noted:

“Spaghetti westerns changed the face of the most venerable and characteristic genre of American cinema. They represented an extraordinary and potent cross-fertilization of American and European cultures.”

The sentiment in Keoma is that fighting for freedom against tyranny and to live without fear are just causes. This not the standard type, certainly the cynical Leone variation, where possession of money and gold is a key instigator for events. Neither is it a straight forward revenge saga. Keoma is a film about a haunted hero striving to do good deeds by ridding the world of bad men.

Another interesting spin presented in Keoma is that of racial harmony between several ‘good’ characters. Keoma is a mixed race former soldier with a white father and native American mother. His half-brothers tease him and only the father instils in him a sense of worth and courage. Their bond is beautifully played by Nero and actor William Berger and provides this film with real heart. Castellari clearly evokes the American Constitution’s notion that all men are created equal. Keoma is also great friends with Woody Strode’s George, a black ranch hand who helps the gunslinger out when trouble looms. The multicultural aspects of this western are definitely idealistic but also wholly positive.

Historically, it is perhaps suspect based on the evidence, but films can present (then) cultural changes and attitudes as part of the revision. Kevin Costner won Oscars for Dances with Wolves (1990). William Shannon, Keoma’s father, is a forward-thinking sort who recognises the superficiality of racism and seemingly rejects notions of racial inferiority. The colour of one’s skin is nothing more than that. Keoma has an anti-racism message at its core which might surprise in its effectiveness.

Keoma, historically, sits in a period of great changes in Italian cinema and the western genre. In Italy, these later movies were known as ‘crepuscolo’ westerns, which focused on a gloomier atmosphere and tended to be more violent than the norm (which is saying something for Italian cinema). Before this – after the Leone and Corbucci imitators ran their course – spaghetti westerns got a bit strange with Eastern elements such as kung fu making their way into movies. But what to expect when literally thousands of these pictures were made over the course of a decade and a half?

Of course Keoma seeks an idealistic view, and history shows the European-expansionist method of enslaving and removing non-whites didn’t leave much room for making friends. However, multiculturalist aspects were creeping into westerns by the late 1960s and into the 1970s, where revisionist westerns began to deconstruct the self-aggrandizing myths and asked questions about the nation’s history. Some pictures even found time to equate past wrong with current conflicts such as the Vietnam War. The spaghetti westerns were seen as inauthentic products but they too helped and influenced US westerns hugely – and not just in terms of aesthetics.

Keoma’s main narrative thread sees a war veteran returning to his hometown of Skidoo City and finding it in conflict and disarray. Keoma’s half-brothers are in cahoots with Caldwell (Donald O’Brien), a landowner, and they have a grip on the town that disturbs the returning soldier. Realising the town cannot live this way, Keoma sets about disrupting things and teams up with George (Strode) and his father to free the place.

One of the most striking visual elements of the film resides in the moody atmosphere (as noted previous) aided by stark landscapes and decrepit sets shot by Aiace Parolin. Castellari shot his movie on ruinous sets at Elios Studios and locations such as Campo Imperatore, up in the mountains close to L’Aquila. It almost seems fitting a symbol for the state of the western itself. A plague has gripped the town, too, forcing locals to be suspicious of strangers. Keoma is their saviour.

Keoma was written on the hoof after a script, based on an initial treatment by actor and writer Luigi Montefiore, was rejected as “Bullshit,” by Castellari and Nero. The Italian director told me this himself when I met him for an interview in May 2012. The origin of the film was actually envisaged as a sequel to Nero’s breakout movie Django before turning into something else. It is quite a revelation because Keoma seems a very tightly scripted and inventive picture of strong elements (such as Shakespearean tragedy). Castellari informed me that in fact a lot of the scenes were made up on the day of shooting or in re-writes done the previous night. It’s not the way to make a movie, he said, but nothing else could be done given the time frame.

In Keoma, a witch (Gabrielle Giacobbe) appears at intervals to either guide or warn the gunslinger. She is spectral and yet seemingly very much corporeal and of this earth, as Keoma leaves her in charge of a newborn baby at the film’s climax. There is something supernatural in the way she just turns up, but again, this gives Keoma a frisson of oddity and provides that Shakspearean-tragic flourish of a man having to fight his brothers and avenge a slain father.

Castellari’s techniques are at times positively avant-garde. The editing is excellent (by Castellari’s regular cutter Gianfranco Amicucci) and sometimes the director blurs time and space into one continuous shot so that past and present create a seamless line. One scene features Keoma and Shannon talking yet their lips do not move. This is not poor dubbing work at all. The conversation we are privy is taking place after events currently depicted – Keoma and his father are practising their aim by shooting at a swirling target. The scene cuts to them sitting on a porch and we’ve caught up in the current timeline.

Castellari has been dubbed the ‘Italian Sam Peckinpah’ due to his fondness for violent pictures and use of slow motion, as seen famously in the American director’s The Wild Bunch (1968; another elegiac western. Castellari loves to employ slow-motion as bodies fall after being pumped full of lead. As film historian Howard Hughes in Cinema Italiano(2010) jokes: “There are more pirouettes in Keoma than Swan Lake.”

The director uses slowmo for countless shots and the best example occurs when a gang charge with their horses (and fall down). The reaction shot (focusing on Keoma) is filmed in the standard twenty-four frames per second. Then a reverse shot will play the same (slowmo) and once more back to twenty-four frames. It borders on the surreal.

One of many accusations levelled at the spaghetti western is the style over substance argument. Yet Keoma, in its own way, demonstrates a perfect harmony of both. Where the film comes in for lots of criticism – even from those who like the film – is the music by the DeAngelis brothers and songs by Sybil and Guy.

At Cine-Excess V, in 2011, guest of honour Franco Nero spoke about Keoma, in very warm terms, and he did laugh at the reputation the songs by Sybil and Guy have. He initially wanted a Leonard Cohen-style music accompaniment and an early rough cut did use the singer’s music to gage what effect such a tone would have on the film. The songs narrate the action and some find this most off-putting, especially, since the duo’s hearty OTT style and very strange croaky vocals is defiantly unique. Yet the music does not cause too much of a hinderance, and can be taken as adding another layer of peculiarity to the film.

Nero is superb as the lead and throughout the 1970s, he worked with Castellari on a handful of iconic pictures such as The Marseilles Connection (UK title), which kickstarted the whole poliziotteschi subgenre, largely inspired by such films as Dirty Harry (1971) and The French Connection (1971). Once again, the Italians brought their own sensibilities to American genre pictures. Castellari and Nero have remained friends for well over forty years and so high does the director hold his sometime leading man in esteem he once stated:

“I think that to have an actor like Franco Nero is one of the best things that can happen to a director … if it had been possible, I would have made all my films with him.”

Nero is highly effective as Keoma and is a world away from the Django character, an iconic of cult cinema if ever there was one – with his Gatling gun hidden in a wooden coffin. Keoma is a man of inherent goodness and in one none-too-subtle scene, gets strung up and strikes a Jesus Christ pose. The scene in which Shannon is killed in front of his dear son is beautifully staged by Castellari wringing it for every drop of emotion before the devastating pay-off. Keoma would ensure the spaghetti western’s last breath was gracefully drawn.…

Posted on: March 26, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

Al’s Anime Annex – June 2012

Bonjour, my petit dejeuneres! As you may have guessed I can’t speak French, but what I can do is give you a pop at winning the “ridiculously cinematic, action-packed” Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society Blu-Ray. Now, don’t tell anyone, but I was gonna shut it down on the 27th, so get any entries to me by midnight tonight and we’ll keep it on the down low.

You can probably tell that I’m feeling saucy, so we’re also going to do the Annex a bit different this month and see what happens. Did you check out Baka and Test or Clannad yet? Great right? Well there’s some great stuff this month too. Firstly, let’s talk about Bleach. Now I was very dismissive over the last episodic batch of Bleach I saw, but I recently watched the first three Bleach movies on Blu-Ray. They all came out on the 28th of May but I didn’t get ‘em in time to include them in last month’s Annex, sorry about that. The first one, Memories of Nobody, is the best and as well as being exciting and touching – also may have helped me put my finger on how I do like my Bleach.

I got won over by Memories of Nobody from the start: Soul Reapers Ichigo and Rukia get into a big barney with a massive, monstrous Hollow. With swords and a soft rock they kick it’s ass and then hear about something strange afoot at the train station. There they get mobbed by a swarm of ghost-looking things with big pink cones on. Senna, a strange and spoilt girl appears and sucks all the ghosts up and away in a tornado she conjures with her zanpakuto. Rukia goes back to the Soul Society while Ichi gets left behind to babysit Senna. He pretty much ditches her straight away in favour of trying to find out what the ghost things were and where they’ve come from. It turns out that a new dimension has sprung up between our world and the Soul Society and the ghosts are “Blanks” that are leaking through.

We remain mostly earth bound and spend a lot of time with Ichi trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious Senna. The groundedness of Memories of Nobody is probably why I liked it so much. When Bleach spends all its time in the Soul Society I kind of tune out and I think that’s because of two things. Firstly, it makes it harder to identify with what’s happening when it’s not going on in the real world. Secondly, when stuff is going down in the non-real world you don’t worry for characters as much, as the fantastical/magical setting comes with an in-built feeling that there’ll always be some spell or special move that’ll save the day. And as original as the land of the Soul Society may have once been, this kind of setting is commonplace now and spending all our runtime there can strand you in a generic setting, leading to the complacency that comes with over familiarity. That was three things.

We do end up in an otherworldly backdrop for the finale where Ichi must battle The Clan of Darkness (a bunch of baddies in armoured bras) to save Senna, but because we’ve put the legwork in in our reality it packs a lot of punch and Memories of Nobody is both bruising, but also heartfelt and sweet as a result. This one gets a big “yes” from me. Bleach Movies 2 and 3 do not.

Bleach Movie 2, The Diamond Dust Rebellion, is boring. I never felt emotionally invested, mostly because the focus is on Lieutenant Matsumoto and Captain Hitsuguya. They’re perfectly serviceable characters… actually, no. Shut up, they’re not. Matsumoto is just the contractually obligatory character with the breasts large enough to exert their own gravitational pull and Hitsuguya is still a jerk, no matter how much sympathetic backstory you try and retroactively foist on him. A powerful artefact called The Oin is being moved so it obviously ends up getting nicked. In the wake of the battle and theft Hitsuguya gets the blame and goes on the run to clear his name. It’s a rather dull affair that’s narratively not done enough with to be able to support a feature length duration, with main characters who you could take or leave, but would probably happily leave. Two sisters flit around the edges with red and blue miniskirts, a flaming sword and an electro whip; but there’s not much more fun than that to be gleaned.

I watched the three of these in a row, so it was with a resigned sigh that I slipped the Blu for Movie 3, Fade to Black into my player. However, it turned out to be far better than Diamond Dust, just not as much of an actual “film” as Memories of Nobody. Mayuri, who looks like Venger from Dungeons & Dragons’ bleached skeleton on prozac, uses an enormous pipe organ to create some poisonous stuff, he then takes a slice to the neck from an unseen assailant, forgets who he is and unleashes his creation, which is now in the form of white sludge, all over the city. Like a flood of toxic melted marshmallow, the sludge floods the town petrifying anyone unfortunate enough to be in its path and also conjuring up a ginormous screaming baby with a beard of swords.

Meanwhile Rukia finds herself erased from existence and stuck in a hut with an overly familiar brother and sister who totally have an ulterior motive in keeping Rukia on lock down. Ichigo and Kon (the cuddly toy lion that controls Ichigo’s human body for him when he pops out of it to do his soul reaping) are the only ones who still remember who Rukia is, but unfortunately and annoyingly for them no-one else remembers who THEY are either! Harsh. It’s a bit of a slog, but the harks back to Ichi and Rukia’s first meeting are touching and it’s good to get a nice, big dose of Kon. All three Bleach movie Blu’s are devoid of any bonus materials and the picture isn’t perfect – there’s colour banding evident in all of ‘em.

It’s another feature next – Roujin Z. From the director of Blood: The Last Vampire and the writer of Akira, this one is something special. The Ministry of Welfare of the future are more like a band of panto villains than a government department. Hoping to put a stop to Japan becoming “a nation of wrinklies” they invent the Z-001. A machine to keep the elderly out of sight, quiet and no longer a burden on care workers. It’s a big, atomic reactor powered, mecha-bed that takes care of bathing, ones and twos, feeding, dressing and exercise. Once test subject Mr. Takazawa gets wired in though the Z-001 becomes a geriatric Transformer: escaping and going on a destructive rampage to the beach. Takazawa’s former carer Haruko, along with her friends and an elderly hacker must unite to try and make sure robo-Takazawa doesn’t do too much damage or get destroyed by the Ministry of Welfare baddies who are hot on his wrinkly tail.

Roujin Z is a wonderfully animated, sharply observed, exciting and emotional film; focussing on issues of dignity, the disdain for the care of the elderly and even throwing in a big, robotic punch up. The relationship between Haruko and Takazawa is sweet, but not cloying or creepy and one of the baddies gets a cracker of an arc. Roujin Z is like if you put an old man who just wanted to go to the beach in Robocop: Part old man. Part life-support machine. All pop.

Talking of Robocop, next up is Spice and Wolf, which has absolutely nothing to do with Paul Verhoeven’s hyper-violent masterpiece. Set in a sort of middle ages fantasy world Spice and Wolf is a series about the adventures of Lawrence and Holo. Lawrence is a travelling merchant who one harvest time returns to his cart to find that it now contains a naked lady with the ears and tail of wolf. She is Holo – the spirit of a good harvest in (almost) human form.

The pair slowly realise how good they are for each other and embark on a series of adventures that are, unusually, not magic or fighting based, but all about the art of trading. Buying, selling, currency exchange, assets, investments, manipulating market value – it’s all here and it’s all a lot more fun than it was in Business Studies. I’m really digging this current trend toward inserting getting your GCSE’s into anime and especially liking how it does feel like forced edutainment, but an interesting, yet informative twist.

 …

Posted on: March 24, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

The Consequences Of Discovery in Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS – Part 1

If Alien (1979) was a movie very much about running away from something then Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s latest picture, is very much about moving towards. Yet far from answer questions raised by either we are left sort of hanging in suspense … is this a cruel tactic or challenge? Some will no doubt find the approach annoying and accuse the writers of not having thought out the story, but isn’t there something much more interesting at work if we bring our own ideas and judgements to the table? It’s not as if Scott doesn’t spell certain things out: he just doesn’t want to flog everything wholesale. Stanley Kubrick never gave many answers to his and Arthur C. Clarke’s infinitely more weird saga, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and some claim it the best film ever made. Not just in the realm of sci-fi: its merits push beyond the boundaries of genre cinema. And why do we need everything explained and tied up in a neat little bow? If you want dunderheaded spectacles with easy answers watch a Michael Bay film…

Prometheus is definitely big enough to carry its flaws in narrative and characterisation because there are other things at play. Story is but one component of a film and does not represent its sole worth. It clearly fits into the type of traditional cautionary tale seen before in sci-fi cinema and literature – the perils of being too inquisitive and ‘wanting to know the mind of God’, as Dr. Moreau might have said. Do such ambitions make ‘God’ redundant if we are equal to his ‘achievements’? Of course you’d have to accept the notion God is a presence in the universe in the first place for this to work (and Satan too). If you’re an atheist or antitheist it won’t cut the mustard – much like, say, the demonic possession film. This question of where God sits in Prometheus, based on the discoveries made by its various characters, is quite possibly only going to interest academics … if they’re even moved to be interested. Just when we think we can remove the Almighty, lead protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (a scientist with ‘faith’ played by Noomi Rapace) counters with (referring to the engineers) “Well who made them?” Shaw wants her God cake and to eat it too. She has that get out of gaol free card: faith. Two other major questions posed in the narrative, also: ‘Are we meant to find the ultimate answers and are we mentally prepared for what they could reveal?’

Rather than discuss whether or not the film is ‘good or bad’, this piece wishes to explore some of the ideas and themes found (or maybe just imagined – but with good intentions) and reveal its hidden depths. You might find much to argue with or think some reasoning plain wrong. And if you think ‘What’s the point of this analysis, the film was total rubbish?’ Then one can reply “the merit of anything is entirely subjective.” These considerations are entirely up to you, of course.

Prometheus does exist in the same ‘movie reality’ as Alien, but not the same setting or a run up to directly related events. For a whole year discussion has reigned supreme on just what Prometheus actually will be. Expectations have been insanely high and whipped up into frenzy by a marketing campaign equivalent to a blitzkrieg. We now can say Scott has used Alien as a springboard to chase a new dream and story. It also allows for new design and conceptual possibilities to be aired whilst paying tribute here and there to Ron Cobb and H.R. Giger’s iconic sets. The trillion dollar spacecraft Prometheus is a first class piece of technology carrying very important people. The Nostromo is essentially a space truck/cargo ship. It wasn’t designed for rich travellers.

As the sequels to Scott’s 1979 classic developed the xenomorph killing humans scenario, somewhat repetitively, Prometheus explores the alien beings known bizzarely as the ‘space jockey’. But first, let us go back to the future … the year is 2122 and the Nostromo is returning from a deep space mission carrying mineral ore back to Earth. It is safe to assume that humans have been charting the stars and solar systems for a while and haven’t encountered anything odd or dangerous. What the crew take to be a distress signal (it’s actually a warning) is investigated and one of their number is attacked but seemingly unharmed. Overriding quarantine protocol insisted upon by Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (a scene mimicked in Prometheus) sees that something ‘alien’ is indeed brought onboard the ship. Kane (John Hurt) is actually with child (Star Child becomes Star Beast) and delivers, in a shocking take on giving birth. When he gives birth things take a turn for the decidely bad. A routine ride home becomes survival horror.

Only the android medical officer, Ash (Ian Holm), is intrigued by this meeting with an alien being and – under top secret company orders – charged with securing it for inspection. Ash even refers to it, in one scene, as ‘Kane’s son’. This unwanted child conceived by rape must be destroyed as an abomination and deadly threat, and to hell with preserving it. The xenomorph, as it became known, is a pure killer – a perfect organism – and the remaining crew hunt it down in the bowels of the ship without realising they are the prey. That is the narrative of Alien. Dan O’Bannon’s original script had been extensively re-worked by Walter Hill and David Giler into a terse and tense slasher movie in outer space.

However there is another alien in Scott’s picture that nobody – certainly not subsequent filmmakers – seemed to think much about. Even fans, beguiled by Giger’s ultra-weird killing machine, seemed to only refer to it in passing. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection (1997) pretty much killed the series and there seemed nowhere to go but cross-polinate the series with another iconic monster, the predator creature, from John McTiernan and Stephen Hopkins’ Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990). Paul W.S. Anderson gave the world ‘Alien Vs. Predator’ (2004). One might fancy imagining for a second or more that this ridiculous entry – which makes a total mockery of the Alien series (but not neccessarily the Predator flicks) – spurred Scott on to make Prometheus and cast them out of the canon for ever.

The stupidity and tragedy of the Alien sequels was focusing on Ellen Ripley. Yes, she was a refreshing heroine but the films showed little imagination in attaching itself to one character and her encounters with the xenomorphs. Scott has proved with Prometheus that this world is much richer. Yet they became as ludicrous as the Jaws sequels in that the great white shark seemed to have a personal vendetta against the Brody family. Ripley just cannot get away from the bloody things. It created a poor (but successful financially) movie mythology and one senses Scott always understood this folly. So the director chose to go backwards but not directly to the source at LV-426. Prometheus explores, much like Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi extravaganza, our origins and our potential future. The myth of Prometheus, too, provided a handy symbolic context.

Connecting the dots between Alien and Prometheus is near pointless given there’s no matching of events from one to the other. Scott was not lying when he said that his latest provides good DNA for Alien. That really is all. We do not return to LV-426 nor do we discover how the engineer/space jockey crash-landed on that planetoid with a cargo of eggs. We can assume since the Prometheus spacecraft did not return from its maiden voyage that the Weyland Corporation, who we know are terraforming other planets, would prepare a contingency plan so that any subsequent and chance encounters with alien lifeforms be investigated, however, that is a wild stab in the dark bordering on fan fiction (for which I apologise).

If academics and film studies students had a veritable field day analysing Alien and discovering an abundance of subtexts, largely read as Freudian, it seems entirely wrong-headed to accuse Scott’s latest of lacking ideas or calling its grand themes somehow ludicrous. The focus here is very much offering a fancy, sci-fi alternative to monotheist creation myths and Darwinism. Imagine our origins engineered by aliens! Are we to scoff at the idea that this somehow sits as a very silly premise compared to an almighty God creating the world in seven days? … Only seven?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey seems a major inspiration for Scott and his film. Funnily enough, Scott opens Prometheus with a direct quote from that film with ‘a’ world appearing from a slither of light. (There’s no real indictation it is Earth we see in the opening shot or sequence.) Here we have the action-adventure version as opposed to the type of flick critic Renata Adler said was “somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring.”

Prometheus is an existential sci-fi horror film that might not satisfy genre fans and audiences expecting an Alien repeat. Bigging it up as ‘the new Alien’ is something the marketing campaign did not discourage. Yet the warning signs were always there and it is fair to say Ridley Scott is not a filmmaker to repeat himself and this was never going to be a straight prequel or offer fans the same old chestburster action and characters running around corridors in the dark waiting to be picked off by the xenomorph. Instead, we get an ambitious and tantalising epic which bravely leaves questions, largely, unanswered. If Alien was a film about the dark then Prometheus is all about light. The dimly lit corridors and the isolated innards of a spaceship are replaced with, for most part, grand vistas and spectacular set pieces.

Scott has also been heavily influenced by Erich von Däniken’s tome, The Chariots of the Gods, a work discredited by religious and scientist types as completely bonkers and fraudulent. Yet it gives Prometheus a premise and something to work with. Brian De Palma touched on the subject a little bit in Mission To Mars (2000) and even the Scientology cult posits that we humans have alien origins.

As noted previously, of the Prometheus’s crew Shaw is the ‘true believer’, but finds her Christian views changed irrevocably into something more unknown. She might have gotten away with her answer to Holloway’s assertion that her crucifix is useless, but Prometheus is a film where at least Christianity and therefore other major religions and minor ones too, are seemingly discarded because these characters find something no other religion can provide: proof.

The crew of the Prometheus find, at the other end of outer space, that where they’ve been taken to is some kind of military installation or outpost, not a new civilisation. God might move in mysterious ways, but he doesn’t “build in straight lines.” What the scientists find is a further clue left behind by the engineers. Something happened here that cannot be explained but there are skeletel remains strewn in the corridors inside the pyramid. Perhaps it was an outbreak of some kind experienced. Could it also be the planet from the opening sequence and is this a slight of hand on Scott’s part? During the second and third acts, we understand what the liquid can do – cause mutation and alter things with terrifying results. “We were so wrong,” Shaw laments near the film’s tremendously exciting denouement.

The engineers might be our makers but they have no particular attachment to us. We are not their beloved children: we are Frankenstein monsters en masse, perhaps. We learn that the engineers were heading to Earth in order to erase humans from existence … why? That is a marvellous question left hanging! Rather than admit defeat the two survivors: Shaw and android David (Michael Fassbender) lift off at the finish and go in search of answers, meanwhile in the ejected med lab, …

Posted on: March 24, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

Special Review: MANIAC (dir: Franck Khalfoun)

So there was still a 1980s horror classic left to remake. After a wave that started over a decade ago and saw anything from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to A Nightmare on Elm St being badly remade with all the flair of a cheap music video, it is now the turn of the lesser known yet infamous video nasty Maniac (dir: Bill Lustig, 1980). I look forward to the reimagining of Killer Klown from Outer Space and Rabid Grannies.

The original Maniac was no masterpiece but certainly a cut above other slashers of the era, thanks to the unforgotteable performance by the late Joe Spinell, adding psychological depth to his character which had more to do with Norman Bates than Michael Myers. Having French director Frank Khalfoun at the helm of this new version initially inspired no confidence, and the ones who saw his previous effort P2 (yes, both of you) would understand why. The presence of Alexandra Aja as a co-producer however, alongside original director Lustig, and bizarrely Thomas Langman (The Artist) was a good omen. The director of Switchblade Romance had previously showed his love for the trashy gems of the ’80s with his recent and superior remake of Piranha 3D.

This new film, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last month, only keeps the basic story arc. Just like in the original, we follow a seriously disturbed man, Frank (Elijah Wood), with some unresolved mummy issues, who goes out at night on the hunt for women. Unable to connect with them on an emotional level, he invariably ends up despatching them in gruesome ways before scalping them and stappling newly acquired trophies on beloved mannequins he keeps in his store (nice!). Will a chance encounter with French artist and free spirit Anna (Nora Arnezeder) and the friendship that ensues offer him the chance of a way out of his murderous madness?

From the very first scenes, it becomes obvious that we are in safe hands. The director of photography (Maxime Alexandre) has managed to create an image that is very faithful to a certain type of horror films of the 1980s, all in neon lights at night . And the tense, electronic soundtrack, which would not have felt out of place in a John Carpenter film of the time, adds to the atmosphere (speaking of music, a reference to a thriller/horror classic had the audience chuckling). Director Frank Kahlfoun also does a great job of recreating the menacing, sleazy look of American cities of the 1980s, which looked so dangerous in films such as Taxi Driver (1976) The Warriors (1979) and Cruising (1980). In fact, bar a few scenes set in a very modern looking art gallery and a loft, the film could have easily taken place at that time.

In the biggest departure from the original however, the killer here is not an middle aged, overweight man but a nerdy, slightly creepy younger man. In a bold move, the action is filmed entirely from his point of view, with the actor only glimpsed at in the few scenes where he is seen in a mirror. And it is all to the credit of Elijah Wood that he makes his presence very much felt throughout, mainly through his voice. The camera only ever “cheats” once (well twice actually!) as it moves away from him just as he is committing his most brutal, wince-inducing murder, which is guaranteed to make you look away. The fact that he nails this tortured and psychotic character so well will not come as a surprise however to anybody who saw him play an equally deranged killer in Sin City.

And the first, gruesome murder in the opening scene is a great throwback to the schlocky horror of the video nasties, paving the way for what is to follow. In fact, the whole film is incredibly violent, but never in a titillating, torture porn kind of way. Just like the original, this is not just a slasher, we are left with an ambivalent feeling towards the lead and possibly some sympathy, even as his violent murder spree escalates. This is the sad story of a man struggling with his demons, faced with a glimmer of hope and a doomed romance. This part, while a vast improvement from the original, which had the wonderful Caroline Munro play his love interest, still feels undevelopped and could have done with a few more scenes to flesh it out.

But this is a minor niggle, and a brilliant, ballsy ending leaves no doubt that this is not just a superior horror but a case study on how to make an intelligent remake that respects and even enhances its source material in the process. This new version resolves the pacing issues of the original with a better script, offering a more tense and gripping experience, and just as involving.

You could argue that horror directors, rather than look back and imitate past glories, would be better off coming up with some original material and take the genre to some unchartered territories. But when it is done with such respect and talent, this is the sort of tribute can only be applauded.…

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Posted on: March 19, 2020 Posted by: Joshua Brown Comments: 0

What to think about the Joker123?

The joker123 is an online stage made for individuals of various age bunch who are keen on messing around online as well as in bringing in cash on the web. So as to play the joker, an information on the trusted and authority locales that permits individuals to securely play the game unafraid of being tricked or hoodwinked is required. This is on the grounds that there are a few phony destinations that guarantee to be the JOKER123. It is along these lines imperative to know the genuine locales. There is an official permit that supervises the presentation of the authority joker123 site. You can likewise utilize the joker site id interface server to get to the genuine authority site.

There are a few connections that could be utilized to play online joker betting. These connections would be clarified beneath. These connections could be gotten to utilizing a PC, an android gadgets or other comparative gadgets.

The connections could be gotten to effectively to make sure about an opening on the web and play the game. A daftar space on the web and the joker123resmi could be used also.

There is a boundless exhibit of elective destinations. These locales are structured in view of the troubles that are regularly confronted with the fundamental site. This trouble might be on the grounds that you visited a site that has been obstructed by the legislature. At the point when this occurs, the need to get to the site through an alternate course happens to the embodiment. The elective joker joins offers a great deal of advantages which are quickly examined beneath. ‘

  1. Capacity to contact the administrator: The elective connections are outfitted with the capacity to contact the administrators in situations where trouble is experienced. These administrators when reached would have the option to offer you a 24 hours administration.
  2. Help the exchange procedure: With the elective joker joins, you would have the option to do your exchange procedure successfully. The two stores and withdrawal should be possible with the elective joker connect.

3. Hostile to twist connect: The elective joker interface can’t be blocked; thus, players need not stress over being blocked while they are playing. This is on the grounds that the elective connections have a sheltered permit that improves smooth running.…