Archive for Colin McLaren

Shave and a Haircut

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2015 by dcairns

15.06.14. LM Barney Thomson Ltd. The Legend of Barney Thomson, 43 INT BARROWLANDS BINGO Barney spots Charlie at the bingo * Cast approved flagged in Green only Production Office Suite 1:09, Red Tree Business Park, 33 Dalmarnock Rd, Bridgeton, Glasgow Graeme Hunter Pictures, " Sunnybank Cottages " 117 Waterside Rd, Carmunnock, Glasgow. U.K.  G76 9DU.   Tel.00447811946280 graemehunter@mac.com

I can’t really review THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON because I’m very good mates with the screenwriter, Colin McLaren. One drunken evening in 2001 we watched five Scottish state-funded short films back to back, got a bit cross about them, and wrote CRY FOR BOBO as the farthest possible opposite we could conceive of to Scottish miserablism.

And, frustratingly, I can’t give you any gossip either, because I don’t know very much and I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone. I mean, I know who modeled for the prosthetic severed penis, but I just can’t tell you. (His name does not appear in this post. But there’s a clue for you — it’s a man.) And I know whose mum Thomson’s performance is partially inspired by, but I don’t think I should go into that either.

Robert Carlyle, making his feature debut, directs and also stars as the titular Barney, a put-upon barber in Glasgow. And the city has never looked better — Glasgow has its own mythic sense of itself, and the film taps into that with expressive, red-soaked visuals. Carlyle seems like a real director, not just for the strong performances he elicits, but for his visual sense and narrative control.

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Chief among these is Emma Thompson, barely recognizable in startlingly convincing old-age makeup and a gravelly Glaswegian accent, swearing her head off as Barney’s appalling mum. When Barney accidentally kills a fellow barber, it’s to mum he turns, at which point the plot’s grisly black comedy really starts to ramp up, with rival detectives Ray Winstone and Ashley Jensen closing in on the nervous hairdresser and mum being perhaps more a hindrance than a help.

Oh, there’s also Stephen McCole (the bully from RUSHMORE), and a trio from Colin’s previous feature, Martin Compston, James Cosmo and Brian Pettifer (having a very good year, what with his turn in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell). And Tom Courtenay, who’s HILARIOUS. His timing

But you can’t really trust me on any of this, since Colin’s a mate. So probably you should just see the film for yourself, right?

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The Adams Family

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2015 by dcairns

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“I feel like I’ve joined a family!” burbled Fiona, who is now a submissions editor at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“The Adams Family,” suggested Diane Henderson. Mark Adams being the new creative director, you see.

Anyhow, one film Fiona spotted in her viewings was BEREAVE, which got programmed and now she’s hugely looking forward to meeting the filmmakers, Evangelos and George Giovanis, and their stars Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour, who are all coming. The latter two are doing an In Person event each. Also In Person: Ewan McGregor, Johnnie To, and Seamus McGarvey interviewing Haskell Wexler, which is unmissable.

Also of interest to me: FUTURE SHOCK! a documentary on 2000AD, the comic book that warped my young mind; seasons on Walter Hill, American TV movies of the seventies (Michael Mann, Steven Spielberg, Tobe Hooper, Sam Peckinpah), and Mexican cinema, featuring a few revivals of classic cine dorado offerings MACARIO and MARIA CANDELARIA.

Fiona and I are equally excited about Neil Innes, whose The Rutles is showing.

I’ve written four reviews for the program this year, on MISERY LOVES COMEDY, IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG, THE CHAMBERMAID LYNN and, um, something else. Maybe more on that later.

The long-awaited new Peter Bogdanovich, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY appears! Which I think used to be listed on the IMDb under the title SQUIRRELS TO THE NUTS, a CLUNY BROWN reference which indicates his heart is in the right place. The cast is a VERY exciting medley of P-Bog favourites, including Tatum O’Neil, Cybill Shepherd, Colleen Camp. Austin Pendleton, Joanna Lumley, with leads Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Imogen Poots. I’m going to give it a shot.

COP CAR stars Kevin Bacon but second lead is Shea Whigham, and that’s enough to get me seriously stoked. Whoh!

They’re showing ROAR! That’s the one WTF decision. Otherwise, you get revivals of THE THIRD MAN, WATERLOO, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, DREDD (3D), THE BRAVE DON’T CRY and the newly-restored, de-Weinsteined director’s cut of 54. I saw the original release version, about the popular disco for heterosexuals. I’m assuming the new cut will be about 89% less heterosexual otherwise I’m still not going to be satisfied.

Animation: Barry Purves, possibly the best stop-motion artist in the world, is attending with his oeuvre. And from the sublime to Ralph Bakshi: three of his seventies features are screening. Plus Pixar;s INSIDE OUT and three shows of shorts (not enough, in my view).

I always pick a random smattering of the Black Box screenings, which is the experimental strand. I never know what I’m going to get, because it’s not really my area, but I’ve learned to trust the programmers there.

Most exciting, for us: though this is the first time in two years we don’t have a film in the fest, our great friend Colin McLaren, who wrote DONKEYS, does, and it’s the opening film. Robert Carlyle stars and directs with an unrecognizable Emma Thompson in THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON (see top). More soon…

The Frankenheimer Monster

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2013 by dcairns

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Had heard great things about how bad John Frankenheimer’s PROPHECY was, but we still couldn’t believe our eyes. Actually, it’s a movie that gets magically worse as it goes on, starting kind of OK and actually starting to get interesting until the giant mutant grizzly bear wobbles onto the screen.

Like GODZILLA VERSUS THE SMOG MONSTER, this is a film with something to say about pollution. How it’s bad, and stuff. But the technical details are kind of plausible, and the human cost evoked with some conviction, until the giant mutant grizzly bear wobbles onto the screen.

Frankenheimer always delivers technical competence and guts at least — this movie compares favourably with his delirious, delightful, godawful ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, in that the technical competence and guts are stretched awful thin at times — you now have an unpleasant mental image of intestines being stretched to snapping point, I know, and I wouldn’t have handed that to you for anything in the world except that it’s kind of an appropriate image to carry in your mind when considering PROPHECY. Until the giant mutant grizzly bear wobbles onto the screen.

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Sadly, this isn’t the monster.

Makeup effects by the Burman brothers — Thomas and Ellis Jnr, who also worked on THE MANITOU, making them masters of late seventies Amerindian prosthetics movies (what, no NIGHTWING?). They have some good credits, and some really bad ones, though I’m disinclined to blame them for HOWARD THE DUCK — life is so much simpler if you just blame George Lucas for every awful thing involving George Lucas. I don’t want to blame them for PROPHECY either, and the script (by OMEN guy David Seltzer) is certainly guilty of multiple compound stupidities. Frankenheimer seems to be doing everything a profoundly drunk, talented man can do to disguise the bad moments and capitalise on the good ones, until the giant mutant grizzly bear wobbles onto the screen.

When it does, replacing the tentative feeling of “this movie might actually be OK” with one of “this movie just became awesomely terrible,” it’s tempting to wonder what could have been done to salvage the bad bear suit. Can a movie about a giant mutant grizzly bear get by without a convincing giant mutant grizzly bear? Well, of course it can — look at JAWS. Of course, the giant mutant grizzly bear in that movie was a shark, and it swam underwater, and you could keep it offscreen. When it did appear, it looked fake as hell, though, and yet the movie survived.

The problem with the bear suit is that it moves like Godzilla, ie like a man in a costume wobbling about. Slow-motion might have helped, and keeping the goofy thing in silhouette for maybe 95% of the action might have helped. POV shots might have helped. God knows, Frankenheimer doesn’t linger on the beastie, anymore than he lingers on the Goodyear blimp nosediving the football stadium in BLACK SUNDAY, but even allowing the fucker to take a single step exposes it outright as the laborious make-believe of a sweaty man in a hot costume. He might as well be dressed as Minnie Mouse.

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The best monster shot because it’s eerie, and the monster is too far away to make out.

And then the movie ends, and we’re waiting for some horrible pay-off to the fact that leading lady Talia Shire is pregnant, and she ate the fish from the polluted river, and the mutagens are raging within her. And instead, as she and her hubby are airlifted out, another giant mutant grizzly bear wobbles onto the screen.

My good friend screenwriter Colin McLaren refers to the “closeup of a bee” ending, that staple of 70s horror movies that says “the Whole Thing is going to Start All Over Again…” and reflects the fact that 70s filmmakers and their audiences expected to be unsettled, rather than reassured, by horror movie endings and movie endings in general. Of course it quickly became a cliché and wouldn’t unsettle anyone anymore by the time of PROPHECY. But while ending Q THE WINGED SERPENT with a shot of a giant egg may be knee-achingly predictable, ending a giant mutant grizzly bear with a close-up of ANOTHER giant mutant grizzly bear is just hysterically pathetic. And this one looks like a glove puppet. It’s not even uglier than the first one.

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I think my search to find the most stinking John Frankenheimer movie is over. Back to the good ones, if I can identify them.