Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Terror (4 Stars)

In 1806 a French officer, Andre Duvalier, loses his regiment and collapses on a beach in northern Germany (actually Prussia, because at that time Germany was a geographical area, not the name of a country). He is helped by a mysterious young woman, Helene. After falling unconscious again he wakes up in the house of an old peasant woman who denies that any young women live in the vicinity. The only other building is the castle of Baron von Leppe, so Andre goes to the castle in search of Helene. The baron also insists that there is no Helene, but the portrait of the baron's wife who died in 1782 looks uncannily like Helene. Andre remains to solve the mystery.

This is a great film with excellent performances by Jack Nicholson as Andre and Boris Karloff as Baron Von Leppe. The over-dramatic music and the dark gothic castle capture the atmosphere of the 1930's horror films. Why don't they make films like this any more? This is a real horror film. On the other hand, the plot twist at the end of the film is unnecessary. The classic horror films had simple plots, they didn't need surprises.

The version of the film that I have on DVD is very poor quality. In many scenes the picture fades and the colours swim. I've read that a remastered version was released in 2011. That would be worth seeing.

The friendly reception of a French soldier in Germany seems difficult to accept. In 1806 France was waging war against Prussia. This led to the French army taking Berlin in October 1806. I can't imagine that any Germans, noblemen or peasants, would have welcomed an officer of an invading army as a guest.

World Map 1806
Green: France (and allies)
Blue: Prussia (and allies)
Grey: Independent

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet (4 Stars)

This is a curious film made in 1969 under the supervision of soft porn pioneer Harry Novak. It shows an erotic version of Shakespeare's play being performed in front of a drunken bawdy audience in the early 17th Century. It uses many original lines from the play, but changes are made in order to integrate additional sex scenes. Throughout the play there are comic interjections in the style of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In". It's uncertain whether the interjections are by the 17th Century actors or by the 20th Century actors playing them. That's one of the problems of multi-level films.

The downside of this film is that the humour simply isn't funny. The upside is that it is amazingly erotic for such an old film. The women in the film look much more "perfect" than nudes in any other films I know from the 1960's.

Monday, 29 July 2013

General: New Blog Layout

Today I made the first changes to the layout of my blog since I started writing in 2010. I've been experimenting for the last few hours, so anyone who's been reading might have seen the mess while I was in the middle of editing. I decided against using a background picture. My principle is "content over form", i.e. I don't want to do anything that makes the page look better if it distracts from what I've been writing. I might use a subtle background image, if I can find one, something that is almost one colour, maybe just a mixture of blue and white.

I've removed the Amazon search boxes. They slow down page loading times, especially on slow computers. I might add Amazon banners as simple links, if I can find matching banners for, and I might have to make them myself. There are plenty of banners online, but each country offers them in different sizes. My blog isn't intended primarily to make money. I want to write something informative for my readers. If there are any ads they have to be subtle and non-intrusive.

I've increased the width of my posts, but also increased my font size, so I'm writing the same amount of text in a larger space. The main advantage of this is that I can include bigger pictures. I've made the contrast between followed and not followed links more drastic to assist new readers who want to go back and read my whole blog.

After a few months of low reader numbers I've been picking up again this month, but I've noticed some fake traffic. For instance, I have a Russian "reader" who clicks through my November 2010 posts a few times a week. It's obviously a robot, not a real reader. I would rather have low traffic and know my posts are being read than high traffic that is bloated with fakes. If you're one of my genuine readers please acknowledge you've read a post by clicking on the "Like" or "Don't Like" buttons... or better still, leave a comment. And most of all, please comment on the changes to my blog format. I would like to hear what you think.

Seven Psychopaths (4 Stars)

Marty is a Hollywood screenwriter suffering from writer's block. He's writing a script called "Seven Psychopaths", but apart from the film's title he has written nothing; he doesn't even have names or backgrounds for the psychopaths in his story. Marty's best friend Billy is an unemployed actor who believes in Marty's talent and does his best to encourage him. He puts a classified ad in a Los Angeles weekly magazine asking for psychopaths and serial killers to visit Marty to be interviewed.

That would be enough meat for a plot in itself, but there are further complications. Billy has a part-time job. Together with a partner he steals dogs from rich people and returns them for the reward, claiming that he "found" them. This works well until he steals a Shih Tzu from a gangster who hunts him down. Far from being scared, Billy suggests that the manhunt and the final showdown should be used as an inspiration for Marty's script. He drives Marty into the desert to witness the action.

At times the story is difficult to follow. It's difficult to tell which of the psychopaths are real and which are fictional characters in the screenplay. Even when a character seems to be fictional we later discover that he's based on a real life character. At first I tried to count the real psychopaths, but it got too complicated. In some cases one fictional character was based on more than one real life character. The film studios felt the need to name the seven and made the absolutely awful film poster that I've included below. The poster includes Marty (third from left) who isn't one of the psychopaths. Neither of the two women in the poster are psychopaths. I wouldn't classify the gangster (on the right) as a psychopath either, but that's arguable. Not that it really matters. It's still a good film, worth watching.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

TV Series: The Almighty Johnsons

There's not much good stuff on television these days. Sure, there are a few good series. I love "Dexter", I love "Glee", and I recently discovered the French tv series "The Returned". But the good series are few and far between. In my opinion the 1990's were the golden age of tv series. There were so many good series that it was a joy to turn on the television in the evening. Now it's like finding a needle in a haystack. (If a series overlaps the decade boundary I include it with the decade when it started, so for instance "The Sopranos" was a 1990's series).

So what's the best series on television today? This is it. "The Almighty Johnsons" is so fresh and original that I can't get enough of it. I'm sure that I bore my friends by telling them they must watch it. It's their own fault for not listening to me; if they watched it I wouldn't have to repeat myself so much.

The principle characters are four brothers, the Johnsons. From left to right in the picture above,  Anders, Axl, Mike and Ty. They live in Auckland, New Zealand, and they are the descendants of Norwegian settlers. But they are also reincarnated Norse Gods. They are really Bragi, Odin, Ullr and Hod. For the past 150 years the Gods have been reincarnated as mortals with limited powers, living normal human lifespans in different bodies, but if Odin fulfils a quest (which I won't go into here) they will all regain their full powers and rule the Earth.

They aren't the only Gods walking around in human form. There are others, all descended from the settlers who travelled on the same ship from Norway to New Zealand. Some of the Gods are helpful, some are selfish, and some even want to prevent Odin completing the quest for reasons of their own. The series concentrates on Odin's quest, while also showing how difficult it is to be a God and lead a normal life in a 21st Century city. Even Gods have to pay the bills, so they have to blend in and go to work... when they're not too busy battling one another or partying.

Odin and Thor

It's a different take on Norse mythology to the one in the recent Marvel films. There are familiar characters, such as Thor and Loki, but they bear little physical resemblance. The series is sometimes described as a comedy, but I disagree. It has humorous moments, but they're on a par with the comedy in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The humour comes from presenting mystical or divine things in very mundane ways.

Click here to view a trailer.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Die Schulmädchen vom Treffpunkt Zoo (4 Stars)

In 1978 Christiane Felscherinow wrote an autobiography about her life as a teenage heroin addict, "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo" ("The Children of the Zoo Train Station"), which was translated into English as "Christiane F: Autobiography of a Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict". (Note: Bahnhof Zoo was the main railway station in West Berlin before reunification). In 1981 the book was filmed as "Christiane F". That was the official film version, made with assistance from Christiane Felscherinow. But three years earlier, immediately after the book's release, an unofficial version was made, directed by Walter Boos.

The name of this film is best translated as "The Schoolgirls who met at the Zoo Train Station". As you might guess, a film with this name and this director has more in common with the Schoolgirl Report films than the book it was supposedly based on. There is a small amount of drug usage in the film, but the emphasis is on showing nude schoolgirls. Certain scenes, such as two girls blackmailing a teacher to give them better grades, are obviously outtakes from the Schoolgirl Report films. The film shouldn't be taken too seriously.

The film is noteworthy as being the first film made by actress Katja Bienert, who was 11 at the time the film was made. Despite her young age she had a very voluptuous body. Her second film was "Schoolgirl Report 13". Over the following few years she made a series of films for the Spanish director Jess Franco, as well as posing nude for German magazines. In the late 1970's and early 1980's she was the quintessential German Lolita. German magazines such as Quick wrote about her with sensational headlines such as "12-year-old sex star", but in a recent interview she laughed about her nude scenes and called them "harmless".

Katja Bienert in school

The Barkleys of Broadway (3½ Stars)

This is an enjoyable film, though I wouldn't rate it as highly as "Easter Parade", which was made in the same year (1948). The film seems like it's based on the lives of the two main actors, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the similarity with their lives is just coincidental. Originally Judy Garland was cast for the part of the leading lady, and the script was already complete when she was replaced by Ginger Rogers at the last minute.

In the film Josh and Dinah Barkley (Fred and Ginger) are a married couple who perform in musical comedies on Broadway. They are at the peak of their career, but the stress of both working and living together has its toll. They split up. Dinah moves into serious dramatic acting while Fred continues with musical plays. Only at the end do they reunite, both as a married couple and as a stage duo.

In real life they were never married, but Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were a successful team in various films. Their names are still connected today when people talk about Hollywood musicals. Together they made nine films. Then Ginger went on to play in dramatic films while Fred continued as a dancer. But after 10 years apart they reunited for this, their tenth and last film together.

I like Fred Astaire as a dancer. I admire his grace and elegance. But I have to say that Gene Kelly is my favorite musical star. He began to make films later than Fred, and he was definitely inspired by him, but Gene has a little something extra; maybe it's charisma, maybe it's something else. Gene Kelly just makes me smile whenever I see him on screen. He reminds me of Jackie Chan in his antics. Jackie says that Buster Keaton is his main influence, but I can't help thinking that he learnt from Gene Kelly as well.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Ninth Day (4½ Stars)

Sometimes a story is so absurd and yet so sinister at the same time that it's difficult to believe it's true. And yet it really happened, in January 1942.

During the war dissenting priests and other Christian leaders were sent to the Pfarrerblock, the Priest Block, in the Dachau Concentration Camp. Henri Kremer, a Catholic priest from Luxemburg who has been locked in the camp after aiding the French resistance, is sent home for a nine-day holiday. If something sounds too good to be true it usually is. After two days he's invited to meet the German officer Untersturmführer Gebhardt and he's given a job: he has to speak to the Bishop of Luxemburg and convince him to make a statement supporting Hitler and the Third Reich.

The rest of the film is fascinating. After reading the last paragraph it might seem like a simple case of a religious man having to stand up for what he believes in. Not at all. Gebhardt has received theological training and decided only two days before his ordination to priesthood that he could best serve God if he joined the SS. The two men spend days in theological arguments, and whatever seemed black and white at first becomes a murky grey.

The film is slow, with very little action, but it's intense and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to people, religious or not, who want to watch a film that will make them want to sit and discuss it for weeks.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Der Mädchenkrieg (3½ Stars)

This is a film of epic proportions based on a best-selling novel by the East German author Manfred Bieler. The title translates literally as "The girls' war", but the novel has been published in English as "The Three Daughters". I haven't read the book, but director Bernhand Sinkel (shown above) says that he had to leave out over half of the story to prevent the film becoming too long. Even so, the film is almost three hours long. The following review contains more spoilers than I usually include, but since I doubt my English-speaking readers will ever be able to see the film I think you will forgive me.

The film begins in 1936. Dr. Sellman moves from Dessau (Germany) to Prague (Czechoslovakia) to become the manager of a Czechoslovakian bank. In the film he's a widower, and he takes with him his three adult daughters, Christine, Sophie and Katharina. The three girls soon have three suitors, who each approach the father to ask for permission to marry the girls on the same evening. Jan, who wants to marry Christine, is the owner of a large porcelain company. Pavel, who wants to marry Sophie, is a successful music student. Karol, who wants to marry Katharina, is a less successful music student. Jan marries Christine; Sophie turns Pavel down because she doesn't love him; Katharina is forbidden to marry Karol because he is a Communist, but she continues to meet him in secret.

After marrying Christine Jan begins an affair with Sophie. Pavel finds out about the affair and blackmails Jan for enough money to finance his studies. In 1938 western Czechoslovakia became part of Germany. This was a peaceful "invasion", welcomed by the ethnic German majority. The Czech army laid down their weapons and requested to join the German army. Eastern Czechoslovakia remained independent at first, but later in 1938 it was invaded by Poland. Germany repelled the Polish forces on the request of the Czechoslovakian government.

Christine is given control of the porcelain company, because ethnic Czechslovakians are not allowed to own large companies. Sophie reveals her relationship with Jan to Christine in the hope that she will leave him, but Jan and Sophie are involved in a near fatal car accident. Sophie sees this as the voice of God and becomes a nun. Christine nurses Jan back to health, and they remain married even though they now hate one another. Christine becomes a Nazi, and her house becomes an important social highlight for high ranking German officers. Katarina is active in the Czechoslovakian resistance, and she flirts with the officers in her sister's house to win information.

The convent becomes a hospital, and during the war Sophie devotes herself to caring for the wounded. In 1945 she has to flee, because the Russian army is executing Germans as it advances, even nuns. She returns to Prague where she meets Pavel again. At first they become lovers, but she can't resist Jan. Pavel kills Jan in a jealous rage. Katharina wants to marry Karol, but he rejects her because it is "unacceptable" to marry a German. The girls' father is killed during a battle between Russian and German troops. Czechoslovakia is given back its independence, nominally, but it soon becomes clear that they are only independent as long as they do what Russia says. Ethnic cleansing is carried out in the region; of the 3.5 million ethnic Germans who lived in the area before 1938 only 40,000 remain today. In 1946 the three girls return to Germany in time to save their lives. They arrived in Prague rich and single, they leave poor and single.

This is a remarkable piece of fiction that reminds me of classic Russian authors such as Tolstoy. It speaks of love and betrayal against the background of international conflicts. The reason for my relatively low rating is that the film is too compact. What I mean is that even though the story has been shortened, three hours is too little to adequately portray a tale of this magnitude. It could have been done more justice as a 13-week television series.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Night Call Nurses (1½ Stars)

I don't normally have any limits when it comes to films. I'll watch anything, and if I don't like it I'll just shrug and give it a low rating. But this film crossed the line in the opening minutes.

A beautiful woman goes onto the top of a building. She strips naked, then throws herself off. Bam! Dead! I find it disgusting that suicide is used as an excuse for sexual tittilation. I almost turned the film off there. I hoped it would get better. The only improvement was that there were no more suicides, naked or otherwise.

Im Schatten der Macht (4½ Stars)

This is a true film about the events in 1973 and 1974 that led to the resignation of the German chancellor, Willy Brandt. The film doesn't deal with Brandt's politics, except for mentioning them in passing, so I won't go into them here. Despite feeling sorely tempted! Instead, we hear in great detail how other politicians, in particular Herbert Wehner and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, conspired to remove him from power.

In 1973 Günther Nollau, the head of Germany's supreme court, informs Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the Interior Minister, that there is strong evidence that Günter Guillaume, Chancellor Willy Brandt's closest friend and personal adviser, is an East German spy. The two men decide between themselves not to inform Brandt, using twisted arguments that are merely rationalising that they are afraid of losing their own jobs. The German secret police observes Guillaume behind Brandt's back for over a year before finally making an arrest.

One of Guillaume's functions was to discreetly bring women to Brandt when he was travelling, sneaking them into hotel rooms or trains. After the arrest the interrogators are more interested in this aspect than in finding out what secrets he passed to the East. Despite all else Guillaume feels friendship towards Brandt and doesn't want to betray him, but rumours leak out and exaggerated reports of Brandt's affairs are published daily in German newspapers. Herbert Wehner, the fraction leader of the SPD, Brandt's party, negotiates in closed rooms to replace Brandt with Helmut Schmidt. Finally Brandt resigns to avoid further scandals which would harm his party.

That's a very short description of a very complex political affair. The film needs almost three hours to tell the tale. It performs the amazing task of putting us into Willy Brandt's head. I've known his name for years, but after watching this film I feel that I know him for the first time. He is so likeable, a man that anyone would like to sit and drink with. Michael Mendl has a reasonable likeness with the real Willy Brandt, but I can't say the same for the other actors. Many of the supporting characters are famous politicians, faces that are still well known in Germany today, so I feel disappointed that the actors in the film weren't picked more carefully. Ironically, the actor who plays Günter Guillaume is Matthias Brandt, Willy Brandt's son. I'm sure that his personal input was an advantage in the making of the film.

The film has reinforced my long-standing dislike of Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Though I'm sure he did nothing that was technically illegal, his political maneuvers were highly immoral. Despite the relatively small support for his party, the FDP, he fought tooth and claw to keep high political offices for over 20 years. Only a few years later, in October 1982, he orchestrated the collapse of Helmut Schmidt's government in his quest for power. A film about Genscher's life and career would be of great interest, but it can't be filmed while he's still alive; directors would be afraid to tell the truth.

Monday, 22 July 2013

It came from beneath the sea (4 Stars)

Havoc! Chaos! Destruction! Male chauvinism!

This film might be only 60 years old, but the portrayal of male-female relationships could be from the dark ages. Lesley Joyce is a university professor, a strong independent woman, you might think. But as soon as she meets submarine commander Pete Matthews she becomes weak and melts into his arms. He's a man who takes charge. He doesn't ask her if she wants to dance, he tells her to dance with him. He's pure neanderthal, but she likes it. The film includes a few small speeches about modern woman, but they seem patronising, and the film's action contradicts what is said.

Until now I've always avoided coloured versions of black and white films. I've always said that films should be viewed the way they were intended. In this case I had to rethink. While watching I flicked between the original and coloured version for a few minutes, before finally deciding that the coloured version is superior. Ray Harryhausen's giant octopus looks much more realistic in colour. I might even go back and watch "Plan 9 from outer space" in colour.

Iron Man XXX (3½ Stars)

This is a well crafted pornographic version of "Iron Man" with Axel Braun's usual attention to detail. I don't know why this film is called a parody. It features the real Mandarin, whereas the Mandarin in "Iron Man 3" is a parody. The film is based on the Iron Man films, not the comics, unfortunately. Nick Fury appears in an after-credit scene to invite Tony Stark to join a new team. Perfect! Dale Dabone is an amazing Robert Downey Jr. lookalike.

There are a few small criticisms that I have. The Iron Man Mk. 1 suit is poorly designed. It isn't even a full suit, it's just metal plates that don't even cover the whole of Tony's body. The other criticism is the casting of Lexi Belle as Pepper Potts. She's much too attractive. The whole backstory of Pepper Potts in the comics is that she's a Plain Jane that Tony Stark doesn't notice while he's dating beautiful rich women. Even Gwyneth Paltrow in the films is too attractive, despite attempts to make her look plain.

I wish Vivid wouldn't sell its DVDs in such cheap cardboard packages. The plastic things that hold the disc in (tabs?) break too easily. Since the pictures are printed on the box, not on a paper inlay, I can't just put the DVD in another box. Shoddy packaging for great films.

P.S. If you decide to buy this film, make sure that it's the one I reviewed above, directed by Axel Braun. There's another film with the same name directed by Robert Black and published by Extreme Comixxx.

World's End (5 Stars)

I went to the cinema yesterday evening with some trepidation. I bought my ticket, expecting this to be the best film of 2013. If you have such high hopes you're sure to be disappointed. Right?


The film lives up to everything I expected of it, and more. Yes, it is the best film of 2013 so far. Simon Pegg is brilliant in every role he plays, but when he teams up with Nick Frost their films reach heady summits of brilliance.

It's a buddy movie. Gary (Simon Pegg) grows up in the cute little English town of Newton Haven. After leaving school Gary and his four friends, Andrew (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) decide to go on a pub crawl, a typical English outing, in which a group of people drink one drink in each of a series of pubs. Their pub crawl follows what they call the "Golden Mile", a route that links all of Newton Haven's 12 pubs. Unfortunately, the boys get drunk and never complete the pub crawl. But it was the best day of Gary's life.

20 years later the five friends have moved on. They live in different towns and are no longer in touch with one another. Gary is living a miserable life, and decides he wants the old days back. He finds his four friends and reunites them to repeat the pub crawl of their youth. The same path, the same pubs, starting at the First Post and ending at the World's End. The middle-aged men are ignited with rediscovered teenage idealism, but the pub crawl isn't an easy task. On the one hand, they've all become respectable and can't drink as much alcohol as they used to. On the other hand, Newton Haven has been taken over by alien invaders. Gary and his friends are caught up in a frantic race from pub to pub, trying their best to finish their drinks while saving the Earth.

The film hasn't been released in America yet. My American readers have to wait until August 23rd. Don't make any compromises. It's worth seeing on the big screen.

Click here to view the trailer.

P.S. Is there anyone else who's old enough to remember how good YouTube was before Google bought it and ruined it by adding all those ugly ads? Microsoft might be the Great Satan, but Google is trying its best to usurp that title.

Dark Knight XXX (4½ Stars)

This is one of Axel Braun's best films so far. In it he takes a different path to his last Batman film. "Batman XXX" is based solidly on the 1966 Batman film. That was a very high standard to live up to, but he succeeded in achieving his goal. This film draws together elements from all three films in Christopher Nolan's Batman Dark Knight trilogy (with the injection of elements from the 1997 film "Batman & Robin"). This makes it a much darker, much more desperate film. Characters from the first film return (Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, the Joker and Commissioner Gordon), but none of them are played by the same actors. This might seem like a shame, since the original actors did such a good job, but Axel's decision to make changes was correct. Out with the old, in with the new.

Brendon Miller, who played Thor so ably in "Avengers XXX", stands out with his performance as the Joker. He has managed to imitate Heath Ledger's mannerisms without veering into mockery. I don't like Aiden Ashley as Catwoman, but I have to be honest, I don't think Anne Hathaway was a good choice as Catwoman either, and that is who she is based on. Halle Berry would be a good Catwoman, as long as they get her costume right next time.

The film ends on a cliffhanger. Does that mean we can expect "Dark Knight XXX 2" soon?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Off-Topic: EDL Rally, Birmingham, July 20th 2013

Yesterday there was a rally by the English Defence League in Birmingham. I hadn't intended to be there, but I was caught inside a police cordon while walking home after meeting friends. Since I had little other choice, I decided to stay and observe what was happening.

The EDL is described in the press as a right wing racist organisation. They are certainly very vocal in their opposition to Islam. The EDL are put on a level with the British National Party. However, some people that I respect as independent thinkers, such as Pat Condell, disagree with this picture of them. I pride myself on my ability to make up my own mind, so I sat on the sidelines and watched and listened.

My first impression, as the EDL members walked to Centenary Square, was negative. Rather than a political rally it had the atmosphere of a football match. People were singing loudly and unintelligibly. I was amused that the EDL chant, "Eee, Eee, Eee Dee Ell" sounded identical to the ridiculous left-wing student chant of the sixties and seventies: "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh". The lowest common denominator of all populist movements is a mind-numbing repetitive chant.

After arriving at Centenary Square the police boxed in the EDL rally on all sides in a tight cordon. To me this smacked of police brutality, but I soon realised that this was necessary. On the same day there was a rally of the UAF (Unite Against Fascism), a loose amalgamation of left-wing and pro-Islamic groups, in Chamberlain Square, on the other side of the old Birmingham Central Library. They were marching towards Centenary Square in an attempt to disrupt the EDL rally. The police did an excellent job in keeping them away. As an act of provocation, it would have been successful. Some of the more hot-headed EDL members tried to get through the police cordon by breaking into an adjacent building site (the new Birmingham Central Library). This led to the only violent clashes that I saw. When the police tried to protect the building site they were attacked by EDL members who threw bricks at them. The police held them back firmly but fairly, and the skirmishes only lasted a few minutes. When things had calmed down EDL's own stewards formed a second line in front of the cordon, appealing to their members for calm.

The peace in the square gave me a chance to listen to the speeches. That was what interested me most. I also had an opportunity to speak with a few people. It soon became apparent that the EDL is a non-political movement. Even though the speakers were quick to point out faults of the ruling parties, they have no political aspirations of their own, unlike the BNP. They see themselves as a voice of reason, calling on people to use their common sense and stand up for democracy, law and order. They don't want to change the laws, they want the existing laws to be applied more stringently.

I saw no evidence of racism in the meeting. The majority of the visitors were white, but there were also black supporters (presumably of Caribbean origin) and a very noticeable EDL Sikh division. This was significant to me, not just because the Sikhs aren't white, but because they follow a different religion. The EDL is open to people of all religions, as long as they accept British (or rather English) law and order. The Sikhs are well known for this. During the time in which India was a British colony, the Sikhs were the ones who recognised and embraced British culture. There are currently many Sikhs in England who are members of the army and police force. Compare this with the very small percentage of Pakistani Moslems who serve in the police or army. (Pakistan was a part of India that split away after India's independence).

The EDL are not only tolerant to other races and religions, they also accept alternative lifestyles. One of the speakers was openly homosexual, and he affirmed the right of people in England to be gay if they want to. This is in contrast to Islam, which calls for all homosexuals to be killed.

Yet another speaker expressed solidarity with Israel. He contrasted this with the standpoint of both Moslems and the UAF. Over the last 30 years anti-Semitism has become prevalent in left wing groups, using the alleged theft of Palestinian land as an excuse. The EDL is the true voice of tolerance in England.

All movements attract a violent fringe. After the end of the rally I witnessed a group of youths donning masks. An older man approached them and told them to take off their masks. He said that they were a shame to the EDL and didn't know what the EDL stood for. I was impressed to see that the young boys, all aged about 16, obeyed him. That was the one occasion when I broke my neutral stance. I spoke with the man, praising him for what he had said. The EDL is a peace movement, a movement that opposes hatred on all sides, both inside and outside of their movement.

On the other hand, if you read the headlines in the official press you get the impression that the reporters were at a different meeting. The BBC writes "EDL Birmingham protest: Bottles thrown at police". The Huffington Post writes "Police arrest 20 during English Defence League rally". If you read that you must think that it was all about violence. I was at the meeting for over three hours, and the outburst of violence lasted a few minutes. Is that all the reporters saw? Is that all they wanted to see? The news reports don't mention the content of the speeches at all. They don't write that it was a happy meeting of racial harmony. Why was this? I think it's because the reporters were prejudiced. They made their mind up beforehand what they wanted to write, and when they arrived they pounced on any small occurrence that backed them up.

My conclusion is that the EDL are not racist. They are not Fascist. They are not even right-wing. They are being targeted by the UAF because left-wing groups hate their pro-Jewish and pro-tolerance stance. They are feared by the general public because the media is painting them in a false light. I advise my readers in England to go to their next rally and decide for yourself. Make up your own mind. It doesn't mean that you have to become a member. I don't intend to join the EDL, I prefer to stand back, watch them and tell the truth as I see it.

Please watch this video by Pat Condell. Unlike me, he hasn't had the advantage of visiting an EDL rally in person, but he puts across his views more eloquently than I possibly could.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Schoolgirl Report 13 (4 Stars)

All good things must come to an end. The Schoolgirl Report films began in 1970 and dominated German cinema for a decade. It's now 1980, time for the 13th and last film in the series. During the 70's the Schoolgirl Report films were much imitated. In the 80's nobody cared any more. Times had moved on. The era of the Aufklärungsfilm, literally translated enlightenment film, was now over. Germans had been enlightened. Now the market was ready for real pornography, and the recently available videotape technology offered a good medium. That's a shame. Films like those made in Germany in the 1970's will never be made again.

It's interesting that after 12 films featuring the music of Gert Wilden he's been abandoned for this film. There must be a story behind it, but I don't know what it is. Maybe someone can ask him. He's 96 now and still fit. He says that music keeps him young. Another difference is that this is the only film in the series in which the main actors are named in the credits.

Gert Wilden in December 2012

The outer frame takes place in a classroom where a group of teenagers are rehearsing a performance of "Romeo and Juliet". The teacher criticises them for saying the lines without feeling, to which they reply that Shakespeare is old-fashioned and they can't relate to him; today sex is more important than love. The teacher tries to explain that Shakespeare's words are as relevant today as when they were written. One by one the young actors tell stories to their teacher, sometimes disagreeing with him, but he always contradicts them.

1. Peter tells the teacher about a story he read in the newspaper. A shopkeeper was found stabbed to death in his apartment, and the only suspect was a 16-year-old Greek girl, Irina. The police detective interviews her, which means we move into a nested frame. How I love German Rahmennovellen! Irina's friends had egged her on to steal from a shop. She stole black panties from a small clothing store, but the owner saw her. He said that he wouldn't call the police if she modelled the panties for him. He also asked her for a written confession of the crime. He then used the confession to blackmail her into having sex with him every day that week. She told her boyfriend Niko about it, but he was angry and broke up with her. However, she denied having killed the man, insisting he was already dead when she arrived. Before the police could take her away Niko arrived and confessed to the crime

The wonderful Rosl Mayr
2. Erika tells a story that she has heard from her friend Janna. Achim made a bet with his friends that he could have sex with Janna within a week, and he would present her panties as proof of his conquest. Janna heard about the bet and swore he would never succeed. Playing along, she took him home and told him she knew about the bet, but it didn't matter. She took off her clothes and handed him her strangely old-fashioned panties, along with a signed note saying "These are Janna's panties". They jumped into bed, but before they could start Janna's grandmother knocked the door. Achim ran out onto the balcony naked, clutching the panties in his hand, which he used to cover himself. When he climbed down from the balcony his friends were already waiting for him. Despite his embarrassment he boasted about his victory. His boasting was cut short when the grandmother, played by the delightful Rosl Mayr, came out and said they were her panties. Her name is Janna as well, and it was her signature on the note.

3. Peggy talks about visiting her friend Daniela in an alcohol rehab clinic. While there Daniela told her how she came to be there, once more a nested frame. Daniela first started drinking after her father's suicide when she was 15. At first it was only small amounts. Then she was visited by her cousin Stefan, and she fell in love with him. For a few weeks he took her out and introduced her to the glamourous night life of Munich. She wanted sex with him, but changed her mind at the last moment because she was too nervous. Stefan got angry, hit her and raped her. After this she drank more heavily. She got a new boyfriend, Werner, but he was clumsy during sex and she didn't enjoy it. The only thing that made her happy was alcohol. Since she was still only 16 she didn't have enough money to buy herself drinks, so she began to work as a prostitute. Eventually she was thrown out of a moving car by her "friends", leading to her being sent into rehab.

4. One of the other girls tells a story about something that happened in school. Two girls wanted to have sex with two boys. The boys said they were experienced, the girls said they were experienced, but in truth they were all virgins. Typical teenagers! They went to a barn to have sex, and one of girls took her little sister Rolli along to watch the bikes. While she was sitting alone a charming young man sat and talked with Rolli. In the barn everything went wrong; two hikers wandered into the barn, the haybales collapsed and the teenagers ran away in panic. At the end of the story they complained that they were still virgins, but Rolli happily sighed "I'm not a virgin any more".

5. Thea tells a story about her friend Ingrid. Ingrid's boyfriend Michael was two-timing her with a French girl called Claudi. Michael's best friend Walter was supposed to distract Ingrid while he was on a date with Claudi, but things went wrong and the two girls met. Cat fight! They ripped each other's clothes off and fell into a lake. Michael and Walter pulled them apart. Ingrid got romantic with Walter, and Claudi forgave Michael. So, in this respect the 13th film is like the previous 12 films in the Schoolgirl Report series. Whatever happens in the previous scenes, in the final scene we have a happy ending.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Karin König as Rolli --- German schoolgirls never wear bras

Here are links to all my reviews of the Schoolgirl Report films:

Schoolgirl Report 12 (4 Stars)

When I was writing about "Pornorama" yesterday I remembered that I haven't yet finished reviewing the Schoolgirl Report films. My last review was in December.

Walter Boos returns once more as director for the 12th installment of the series. He has noticeably more creative energy than Ernst Hofbauer, who seems to have burnt himself out. A new idea has been picked for the film's outer frame: the staff of a high school newspaper have asked their readers to send letters describing their sexual encounters. They read the best five letters which they intend to publish in the next edition of their newspaper.

1. The first letter comes from a 17-year-old girl called Anna. Her parents are both dead, and she shares a house with her brother Helmut, an airline pilot who is 15 years older than her. He has been married, but he was divorced after a year. Helmut takes Anna out for a meal, but he sees his ex-wife who mocks him, so they leave early. Anna is sorry for him, so when they get home she kisses and seduces him. Helmut tries to resist, but he's no match for his sexy young sister. The next day Helmut crashes his car on the autobahn and dies. Is it an accident or the result of a curse on an evil relationship? Anna will never know.

2. In the next letter Barbara, 18, writes about a school outing to a wild life park. She's bored by the teachers applying Darwin's theories to wild boars, so she runs into the bushes with her boyfriend Heiner. He wants sex, she doesn't, so he leaves in a rage. When she returns to the class it's lunch time, and her friends tell her that there's an older couple having sex in the woods. Barbara watches them and gets so excited that she chases after Heiner and drags him into a barn for sex. The other girls in the class also see the couple, and they all grab a boy for sex. Each couple thinks they are alone in the barn, but then they all fall on top of one another

"Look! A naked man!" --- "Where?"

3. Gabi, 17, writes that she suffers from migraine every time she has a Latin test. Her mother takes her to see a doctor, but makes a mistake and takes her on Wednesday afternoon when the practice is closed. The only person in the practice is a plumber who is just finishing repair work when they arrive. They mistake him for the doctor, and the plumber makes Gabi take her clothes off for the examination. Interestingly, this segment uses Meyer-esque sound effects for comic effect. After the examination the plumber has sex with Gabi as part of the treatment. German girls are so naive! Just as they finish the real doctor arrives. Gabi's mother faints when she realises her mistake. The doctor carries her into the next room and decides that if everyone else has had sex, he should have sex with the mother as well.

4. The next letter is from Etta, 17. Etta is academically the best girl in her class, but she has a tough life at home. When she was 12 her brother hanged himself. As a result her father started to drink. Because her father drank her mother was having sex with different men every day. She wasn't disgusted by this, on the contrary, she was excited by the sight of her mother having sex. Etta becomes addicted to masturbation and has to do it many times a day. Even when she gets a boyfriend, Paul, a boy in her class, sex with him isn't enough for her, she still needs to masturbate whenever she can. She meets the owner of a junk yard, Adi, who gives her a drug that makes sex better. We're not told what it is, but it's expensive, and in order to buy more of it she has to become a prostitute. Paul gladly acts as her pimp. She begins to feel depressed, and at the end of her letter she is considering suicide.

5. The newspaper staff want to go home, but they have time for just one more letter. Nina is 17, and her family are acting as hosts to an exchange student. They expect that Nicky will be a girl, but it's actually a boy. Nina immediately likes him, but he shows no interest in her, he spends all his spare time training for a boxing championship. She makes many attempts to attract him, without success. Even when she sunbathes naked in front of him he resists her, although we as viewers witness him getting nervous. Eventually, four days before he has to leave, she resorts to desperate measures. She lies naked in his bed waiting for him, and when he finds her she pulls him on top of her. Success at last! Love always wins in the end. Or is it lust? Whichever it is, when a naked 17-year-old schoolgirl is involved it's an irresistible force.

I mentioned this in my previous reviews, but since it was a long time ago I'll repeat it here: as sleazy as the Schoolgirl Report films sound from my descriptions, they are now recognised as an integral part of film history and modern German culture. The films are on sale at and have been rated a certificate 16.

Pornorama (4½ Stars)

The film takes place at the end of the 1960's in Munich. Germany is being shaken by terrorism, and students are protesting in all large cities. Bennie (Tom Schilling) is a 20-year-old boy who wants to become a film director. His only way to get started is to join the police force and work as a cameraman filming demonstrations. The film then tells two separate but interwoven stories.

In the first story, Bennie's older brother Freddie (Benno Fürmann) suggests an easy way to make millions. Bennie should direct a "sex education film" like the ones just becoming popular in Germany. (An example is the series of Schoolgirl Report films that I've frequently reviewed in this blog). A friend who owns a pizzeria will fund the film, as long as his friend Gina can have the main role. The film will show how women get sexually aroused by using the pedals of a sewing machine. It seems easy, until Bennie finds out that Gina doesn't speak a word of German. It gets worse when Gina refuses to get undressed for the sex scenes.

The second story is a love affair between Bennie and a student he meets while filming a demonstration, Luzie (Karoline Herfurth). It's a difficult relationship; he's a policeman, she's a Communist, he's a virgin, she's sexually experienced. Bennie persuades Luzie to star in the film, but he doesn't let her know it's a sex film. He presents it to her as a protest film against bourgeois morality.

The film is a comedy, but it still captures the essence of the soft porn films of the 1970's. The truth is sometimes funnier than fiction.

I realise that I've watched three films starring Karoline Herfurth in one day. It wasn't originally planned that way, but after watching two I thought I might as well add a third. Why not? She's a brilliant actress, and she's beautiful too!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Promising the Moon (3½ Stars)

This German film is a sad story about unfulfilled love. It begins in 1933 on a beach in Latvia. Juris promises Marga he will always love her. Two years later get married, but Juris soon falls in love with another woman, Ieva. He makes no secret of it, staying away from home for days on end. In 1939 Marga tries to repair the marriage by arranging for Juris and herself to move to Germany, but he refuses to leave. When the Russians invade Latvia later in the year Marga plants resistance leaflets in Ieva's shop, causing her to be sent to prison in Siberia. Juris remains with Marga, but he never loves her. In 1941 Germany liberates Latvia, but in 1945 the Russians return, forcing Juris and Marga to flee to Germany together.

In 1991 Latvia is still fighting for its freedom. After finding photos of her parents Marga's daughter, Sofia, travels to Latvia to find the truth behind the secrets that her mother has kept from her all her life.

Call me a romantic fool, but I find it very difficult to enjoy a film with a story like this, however masterfully it's told. Marga loved Juris all her life, but the love was never returned. That depresses me. Not even Karoline Herfurth's wonderful performance as Marga can make me rate the film higher. For those who are nevertheless interested in the film, it has only been released in Germany, but the German DVD contains English subtitles.

Vincent wants to sea (3½ Stars)

This is so annoying. Who picked the stupid name for this film? I haven't been so annoyed by a film's name since "Inglourious Basterds". The original German title of the film is "Vincent will Meer", i.e. "Vincent wants sea". A direct translation would have been suitable, but some joker in the film distribution offices thought differently.

The title character, Vincent, is a 27-year-old who suffers from Tourette Syndrome. His father, a CSU politician, can't deal with him, so he puts him in a special clinic for people with incurable mental illnesses. I have to explain what Tourette Syndrome is, because I knew almost nothing about it before watching the film. The symptoms are involuntary twitches, unwanted even though the person feels them about to happen in advance, like a sneeze. In the case of adults the twitches are accompanied by outbursts of foul language. The causes of Tourette Syndrome are unknown, and there is no cure, but in most cases it begins in early childhood and stops by itself in teenage years. Adults with the disease are socially inept and unable to fit in with others.

At the clinic a romantic relationship develops with Marie, a young woman suffering from anorexia. Afraid that she will be force fed, Marie steals the keys of the psychiatrist's car and flees with Vincent and Alex, a patient suffering from OCD. Vincent says he wants to drive to Italy to see the sea, so the three drive southwards, with Vincent's father and the psychiatrist in hot pursuit.

I have sympathy with the father. Tourette Syndrome is a very difficult illness to deal with. If it were my son I would have trouble accepting him. I would try my best, of course, but I don't want to judge others for pushing their child away when I'm not sure that I wouldn't do the same myself. The film won many awards in Germany, and I do admit that it is heartwarming at times, but Vincent's illness makes him visually an unattractive character.

Heino Ferch (Vincent's father) and Karoline Herfurth (Marie) are two of the best actors I know. Karoline is so thin in the film because she starved herself for the role. In an interview on the DVD she said that it was a very difficult role for her to play, because she couldn't prevent herself from identifying with Marie, and she was beginning to hate herself. The role was eating her up. That's sad, but it shows what a good actress she is.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

One Eyed Monster (3¾ Stars)

I promised in my tribute to Charles Napier that this month I would buy one of his films that I hadn't previously seen. I picked "One Eyed Monster" because it seemed like his biggest role in recent years. The scenes with Charles show off his talent, but it isn't as big a role as I expected. The film's main role is played by Amber Benson, who is best known for her role as Tara in "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer". She survives to the end, Charles gets killed early on.

In February 2007 ten people went into the remote mountains of northern California to shoot an adult film. Then something happened... something no one expected, but everyone saw coming.

This identifies the film immediately as a cabin-in-the-woods genre movie, except it's a cabin on a high snowy mountain. Instead of horny teenagers we have horny porn stars. Some of them are teenagers anyway; one of the stars is a 19-year-old stud who's making his first porno. Laura the make-up girl, played by Amber Benson, is probably a teenager as well. Ron Jeremy and Veronica Hart play themselves as the veteran porn stars in the cast. They are ridiculed by the younger guys, because (as Veronica puts it) "being a 47-year-old porn star is like being 103 in any other job". Laura doesn't join in the ridicule because she has a crush on Ron.

The filming doesn't go as planned. The film crew get caught up in an alien invasion. An alien being possesses Ron's penis. The penis detaches itself and begins to kill all the crew and actors by entering them and burrowing through their bodies. The only help is from Mohtz (Charles Napier), the inhabitant of a nearby cabin, an ex-soldier who has already met killer penises while serving in Vietnam.

This isn't the first film with this topic. "Pervert", made in 2005, featured young women being stalked by a killer penis. This looks like the beginning of a new genre, dicksploitation films. I thought that I'd invented the word, but I found that it's already been used to describe films that show penises being cut off. Okay, in those films the penises are dead meat and in these they're living creatures, but in both cases it's about detached penises, so let's share the word. I issue a challenge to my readers: how many dicksploitation films can you name? It can't be something that just happens in passing during a film, it has to be something that either happens repeatedly or if only once as the main attraction of the film. It has to feature complete penis removal, castration isn't enough. Probably the first ever dicksploitation film was Marco Ferreri's "The Last Woman" (1976), in which Gerard Depardieu cuts off his own penis with a chainsaw.

Ron & Veronica then
The DVD contains a few extras, the best of which is a conversation between Ron Jeremy and Veronica Hart in which they reminisce about the good old days of porn. Evidently the pay for porn stars hasn't kept up with inflation over the last 30 years. In 1980 porn stars were paid between $300 and $600 per sex scene, whereas today the pay is between $800 and $1000, slightly more for anal sex. It was particularly "cute" to hear Ron and Veronica talking about their first meeting in 1981. They met in a restaurant. Veronica asked Ron if it was true that he could suck his own penis. Ron took her into the bathroom for a demonstration. Veronica loved it so much that she joined in, double fellatio on his penis. Ron says that it was the sexiest thing that he ever did, and he's never repeated it since.

Ron & Veronica now

Primer (4 Stars)

A group of scientists invent a machine which can send a person back 21 hours in time. Rather than report their results they use it to make money by playing the stock market. Scared they might create temporal paradoxes, they hide in hotels during the time when their doubles are also alive. But their caution doesn't work. Things go wrong, and they have to struggle to put it right again.

I bought this film after seeing it in first place in a list of the world's most underrated sci-fi films. It was a good recommendation, but the list overall was faulty. "Dark City" was in the list, and that isn't underrated, is it? I thought it was a well known sci-fi classic. To be "underrated" a film has to be unknown to people who would like it if they saw it. As soon as the film becomes known and appreciated it's no longer unknown. Or at least, that's one definition. Another definition is that a film is underrated if it's really good despite most people saying that it sucks. That's a tough standpoint to defend, though, because usually the majority are right. A third definition of "underrated" is a film that was a box office failure, but people who see it later on DVD like it. Ah ha! In that case "Donnie Darko" would qualify as an underrated film.

I personally like to think of an underrated film list as something subjective. It has to be my own personal list of films that I think are good, even though others who like that sort of film haven't seen them. That would make them non-rated rather than underrated. My personal list of the most underrated sci-fi films is
  1. Timecrimes
  2. Triangle
  3. Outlander
Two out of three are time paradox films. That's probably not a coincidence. Maybe I should add "Primer" to the list and make it three out of four.

Monday, 15 July 2013

R.I.P. Cory Monteith

May 11, 1982 – July 13, 2013

The brightest flames burn out fastest. Bye bye, Cory, and thanks for the music.

The Wizard of Oz (4 Stars)

This was the ninth and last film shown at the 2013 Outdoor Film Festival at Brindley Place in Birmingham. Today two films were shown back to back, "Madagascar" and "The Wizard of Oz", but I arrived too late to see "Madagascar". For me it was an emotional to see the film again. It was the first film I ever watched. I don't remember how old I was, but I went to see it with my mother at the Avion Cinema in Anchor Road, Aldridge. Before anyone says that I might have seen a film on television at an earlier age, I'm certain that I didn't. My parents didn't own a television until I was at least six years old.

I only ever went to the cinema six times with my parents.
  1. "The Wizard of Oz", the Avion (Aldridge), with my mother
  2. "Call me Bwana", the Avion (Aldridge), with my mother
  3. "2001: A Space Odyssey", in Walsall, with my father (not sure which cinema)
  4. "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", in Walsall, with my father (not sure which cinema)
  5. "The Magnificent Two", the Imperial (Walsall), with my mother
  6. "Z", the Clifton (Great Barr), with my mother
As far as I remember, those were the only two occasions that I ever visited the Avion. It was closed in 1967 and became a Bingo Hall. It was used for Bingo until 2009, but the building itself was never altered, apart from minor repairs. It was always "The Avion". The building remained empty for the next four years, but it was recently acquired by Wetherspoon's, and it re-opened last Tuesday, July 9th. This is good news, because Wetherspoon's has a record of retaining old buildings in their original design.

Here are links to my posts for this year's film festival

Most years I like to visit a few venues for Birmingham's annual jazz festival. For one week jazz bands play in bars and restaurants throughout Birmingham. I missed out this year since it was running at the same time as the film festival, but after watching "The Wizard of Oz" I went to the Slug & Lettuce to listen to the Digby Fairweather Big Four. No, I'd never heard of them before, but they were very good. They became a Big Five for their second set when they were joined by a guest singer. The music was very laid back and relaxing, a perfect way to cool down after sitting outside watching a film in burning sunlight.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

If not us, who? (4 Stars)

This true film tells the story of Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin from 1961 to 1970. They meet while studying literature together at the University of Tübingen in south Germany. Bernward founds a publishing house with the intention of reprinting the books of his father, Will Vesper. Will Vesper had once been recognised as Germany's greatest living poet, but he had fallen into a bad light due to his support of Hitler. It soon becomes apparent that there is no market for his father's books, so he begins to print revolutionary pamphlets. At first Gudrun supports him, but as time progresses she begins to think that writing isn't enough, there has to be action. After meeting Andreas Baader in 1967 she leaves Bernward, leaving their son Felix with him.

It's obvious to compare this film with "Baader Meinhof Complex", which deals with the years 1967 to 1977. The films overlap in the portrayal of the years 1967 to 1970, but they are very different. The films pursue different goals. "Baader Meinhof Complex" is a historical portrayal of the big decade of German terrorism. "If not us, who" is a love story, which attempts to show us the thoughts and motivations of the two main characters, why they loved one another and why they split up. While it's not as exciting as the other film, "If not us, who" succeeds in its goal. It puts us into the head of Gudrun Ensslin. In "Baader Meinhof Complex" she appears remote and psychopathic, but here we see her naive idealism and her genuine intentions of doing good, however many people she needed to kill to achieve her goals. Bernward Vesper isn't mentioned at all in "Baader Meinhof Complex", so it's fascinating to see this man who was a big part of Gudrun's life before she met Andreas Baader. He's a tragic character, torn between his hate for Fascism and his love for his Fascist father.

Andreas Baader is only a minor character in the film, even after he becomes Gudrun's lover. He's almost like a ghost floating through the scenes. We see him, but we don't know him. That isn't the film's intention. If we want to get to know Andreas and his motivation we have to watch the other film.

Overall, this isn't an easy film to watch. Only those who already have an interest in Gudrun Ensslin will enjoy it. That includes me.

P.S. In the final "what happened next" texts we read that Gudrun and Andreas committed suicide in 1977. There are no facts that support this theory. They were murdered.

Mary Poppins (4 Stars)

This was the seventh film shown at the 2013 Outdoor Film Festival at Brindley Place in Birmingham. Today two films were shown back to back, "Shrek" and "Mary Poppins", but I arrived too late to see "Shrek". It was the smallest turnout so far. I estimate that no more than 50 people were present. The problem was the direct heat. It was almost 30C, and there was no shade for people watching the film. Many parents who came with their children left before the film was over. Of the film club, only Shirley and I attended. In the heat it was difficult to stay awake, and Shirley finally succumbed, as the photo shows.

The film takes place in 1910. Jane and Michael Banks are two young children who are constantly being ignored by their parents. The father is a banker, so full of a rigid, ordered schedule that he has no place in his life for playful, spontaneous children. The mother is campaigning as a suffragette, and being able to vote is more important to her than taking time for her children. The children continually rebel against the nannies hired to look after them, but the parents are too blind to see this as a cry for help. In steps Mary Poppins, a mysterious woman who arrives and becomes the first nanny that the children care for.

The film is a magical fairytale. It doesn't have the same hold on me now, but I remember it fascinating me when I was young. Who is Mary? A witch? A fairy? An angel? It doesn't matter. What matters is that she loves the children, and she wants to heal the alienation with their father. A weakness in the film is that the mother is also uncaring for the children, but no attempt is made to bring her closer. Maybe the reason for this is that the mother's goals are more idealistic than the father's.

For those who want to buy the film on DVD it costs £7 (approx $11) from Amazon in England, but Americans have to pay $56.95 for it. Something is seriously wrong here.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

This ain't Dirty Jobs XXX (4 Stars)

This is a well crafted parody of the American television series "Dirty Jobs". Actor extraordinaire Evan Stone is the host who guides the viewer through five scenes. I originally intended to lower the rating for tasteless sections that I found extremely unsexy, but then I realised that it's what the film is all about: dirty jobs.

The first two scenes take part at Hustler headquarters. In the first scene Evan Stone shows how couples have sex as part of the daily job of being a porn star. That's a dirty job? I've never liked the idea of calling sex dirty.

In the second scene Evan shows us how Hustler performs its own quality testing for its sex toys, in this case dildos.

In the third scene Evan is a cleaner in the restroom of a top Hollywood club. In one of the tasteless moments I mentioned above he takes (to use his own words) faecal matter out of a toilet and tastes it to identify what the customer has been eating. Icky.

In the fourth scene Evan is cleaning horse stables. He demonstrates how to use a rake to separate horse shit from the hay, so that the hay can be reused. I've learnt something new. Incidentally, in Germany they call horse droppings "horse apples". That's kind of cute.

In the fifth scene Evan is cutting down overhanging branches from trees. Evidently, in California trees and bushes have to be at least 20 meters away from houses to prevent fire spreading.

Mamma Mia (4 Stars)

This was the fifth film shown at the 2013 Outdoor Film Festival at Brindley Place in Birmingham. Today was a special day for me; I actually managed to get a beanbag. It was amazingly comfortable. I didn't have to keep changing positions like I did when I was sitting on my own pillow the last few days.

This is a film I've wanted to see for some time, and I wasn't disappointed. Donna Sheridan is a single mother who runs a restaurant on a small Greek island. Her daughter Sophie is about to get married. Sophie has never known her father, but shortly before the wedding she reads one of her mother's old diaries and finds out that she slept with three men within a short time. Since any of them could be her father, she invites all three to the wedding. All three men gladly accept Sophie as their daughter, so she quickly advances from having no father to having three fathers.

The crowd loved it, both young and old. As you can see from the photos, they expressed their enjoyment by dancing and singing along. Those who felt too warm danced in the water.