Classic films you have to watch… Being John Malkovich

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Imagine a world where reality as we know it is somewhat warped, where you can enter through a portal and become someone else. What if that portal was located behind a filing cabinet on a floor between floors on a purpose built office block? What if that someone else was John Malkovich?
Welcome to the surreal and wonderful world of Spike Jonze.
When I was younger, I wasn’t much of a film fan. I was always short of cash and very rarely went to the pictures; I would wait until the Christmas TV bombardment or rent them on VHS. However, there were certain classics that I just had to go and see: Star Wars, ET, Gremlins etc. Then there were the ones which friends would say, “You have got to go and see…” Being John Malkovich was one of these. It starts off with John Cusack as a down at heel puppeteer who is forced into getting a banal job in an office as a filing clerk. Then one day he discovers the aforementioned portal into the would of John Malkovich. Anyway, surrealism and dark humour ensues leading to the climax of the film which I would love to describe, but quite frankly words fail me. All I can say is that you have to watch this film. Your life can never be complete without it.
For me, the best scene is when Malkovich (played wonderfully by himself as a complete Hello magazine stereotype) enters the portal and hence ends up in his own soul. He is confronted with this insane world where everyone is him. Every time I watch it my jaw hangs and I am taken beyond the limits of human hilarity!
Oh! There is also the flashback sequence of the chimp… I will say no more.
Just go out, buy the DVD now and watch it!

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Classic films you have to watch…. Hawk the Slayer.

hawktheslayerLet me take you on an adventure, to a fabled land of long ago where the miraculous used to happen; films were once played on tapes. Yes, children: tapes! I know, as incredible as it seems, there was once a time before streaming and downloads (just forget DVDs and Blu-rays; they’re being retconned out here) and this technology was so marvellous and amazing that you used to have to sell your aunty’s kidney in order to purchase what was called a VHS or (even-rarer) a Betamax player.

Anyway, during this sepia-tinted time of wonder, little A.S.Chamber’s mummy used to have a job cleaning at a clothing store in a small market town and above this store was a shop that sold and rented out such tapes. (At this point everyone under sixteen is looking at each other and shrugging in a manner that says “What is the old guy on about here?”) So it was that, during the long, hot summers of my youth, I was deposited in front of the TV in the video store and given two things: a remote control (attached to the player by a cable, no less) and free run of the rental stock.

After a few false starts (My mother sort of did not approve of me watching Friday The Thirteenth or I Spit On Your Grave, I wonder why..?) I finally latched onto a little gem which I still carry in my heart to this very day: Hawk The Slayer.

So, the basic plot is: evil older brother stomps around a curious version of Middle Earth looking like a Tolkein version of Darth Vader whilst valiant younger brother rounds up a mythical Magnificent Seven to take him out, free the land and avenge the death of his beautiful wife.

Right, so not that imaginative, I agree. It was a blatant attempt to draw followers of Star Wars over to a more fantasy-based genre and, to be honest, it didn’t really work for the masses. However, it has a core following which I could probably count on most of my body’s digits, so that has to count for something. Surely that makes it a cult movie?

But all that aside, it had two things that just spoke to a young author in the making. First, the evil brother’s last words were, “I’ll wait for you at the gates of Helllllllllllllllll……..” and, even better, it had a sword controlled by the mind of the younger brother, Hawk. I mean, this sword could FLY! I so wanted one then and I still yearn for one today. Admittedly, it was probably an idea conjured up by scriptwriters that would allow him to draw the sword from an unreachable scabbard across his back, but all the same, it was cool. So cool that, years later, I pinched the idea and utilised it in Fallen Angel a book due for release at some point in the future.

So, yes, if you haven’t seen it yet, pick it up cheap as chips on Amazon, switch off the more cynical half of your brain and just enjoy Hawk The Slayer.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you like what you see, please click on the “follow” button.

Also feel free to visit my website (www.aschambers.co.uk), follow me on Facebook (A.S.Chambers) or stalk me on Twitter (@ASChambersUK) where you can find various bits and bobs regarding books, films TV series and whatever drops into my lap.

If you fancy a bit of bedtime reading then please drop in on Amazon and purchase The Casebook of Sam Spallucci.

Whatever happened to… Juliet Landau?

The pixies in my head whispered it to me.” – Drusilla.

 

Drusilla

Drusilla

Juliet Landau is probably best known for playing my favourite character in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the deadly, alluring and incredibly mad as a bucket of frogs Drusilla the vampire. For those of you who are not familiar with the Buffyverse (shame on you), Drusilla was a virginally pure victorian girl who the vampire Angelus drove mad and turned into a vampire. She then became the paramour of another one of Angelus’s offspring, Spike. Together, Spike and Dru rampaged around most of the known world before ending up in Sunnydale and confronting Buffy and becoming (in my humble opinion) two of the best characters in the series.

Juliet was no stranger to the acting world before she joined the world of the Slayer. Her parents were, in fact, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, the lead characters in Gerry Anderson’s live-action sci-fi series Space 1999 and she had small roles in various tv series and films, the most notable being Loretta King opposite her father in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994).

However, after Buffy, whereas a lot of the other main characters found roles in other TV series and film franchises (Bones, How I Met Your Mother, Scooby Doo, Little Britain), Landau seemed to vanish, which seems quite perplexing for such an animated actress.

The main reason as to a lack of visibility is that she turned more towards voice acting in animations: Ben 10, Star Wars The Old Republic and Green Lantern to name but a few.

Juliet Landau

Juliet Landau

 

As well as this, she has been acting on stage in plays such as Awake & Sing, Failure of Nerve and Al Pacino’s The Three Sisters. She has also been turning her hand to directing. In 2008 she directed Take Flight, a documentary film about Gary Oldman and has also written short films as well.

 

However, perhaps the biggest news for sci-fi and fantasy followers is that in July 2013, Big Finish announced that Landau was to lend her voice to a future incarnation of the time lord Romana in the Doctor Who audio story Gallifrey VI.

I can’t help but wonder what The Doctor would think if his former travelling companion had come out with a line like, “Spank us till Tuesday, we promise to be bad if you do.” I think it might have made both his hearts beat a touch faster, don’t you?

 

Thank you for reading this blog. If you like what you see, please click on the “follow” button.

Also feel free to visit my website (www.aschambers.co.uk), follow me on Facebook (A.S.Chambers) or stalk me on Twitter (@ASChambersUK) where you can find various bits and bobs regarding books, films TV series and whatever drops into my lap.

If you fancy a bit of bedtime reading then please drop in on Amazon and purchase The Casebook of Sam Spallucci. (It’s only £1.53 on Kindle – what a bargain!)

Films You Have To Watch: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

goodbaduglyAs anyone who has read my vampire western short story entitled High Moon will know, I’m a big fan of westerns – especially the spaghetti westerns. There’s just something that grabs me about them. Perhaps it’s the wide, open vistas. Perhaps it’s the sound of pounding hoof beats. Perhaps it’s the random sporadic killings. I’m not sure, but out of all this genre my ultimate favourite has to be Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I can just crash out on my well-loved sofa with beer and freshly microwaved popcorn and let the whole epicness of the masterpiece bathe me in its panoramic beauty.
It starts off with perfect introductions to the main characters, painting a precise picture of their individual, flawed, characters and then progresses to knit their progressing narratives together against the background if the brutality of the American Civil War in the hunt for buried treasure. What more could you ask for?
And as for the music… I have this soundtrack on my music system and every time it randomly blasts from my speakers my living room is transported into the Wild West and I’m Clint Eastwood riding my horse through the sun-baked desert of New Mexico.
Then there’s the acting… I just can’t begin to talk about this without drooling in rapture! Eastwood as the enigmatic Blondie, Van Cleef as the ruthless Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach as the wheeling dealing Tuco; they just work together perfectly. The final Mexican stand-off in the centre of the midst of the graveyard is cinematic history.
But perhaps the thing that blows my mind about the film is that it was actually a prequel and set before the Dollars movies in order to flesh out the story of the Man With No Name (towards the end we actually see him obtain his Leevancleef002eponymous poncho). There wasn’t a Gungan in sight. Perhaps George Lucas should have studied this before he penned Phantom Menace?

 

Thank you for reading this blog. If you like what you see, please click on the “follow” button.

Also feel free to visit my website (www.aschambers.co.uk), follow me on Facebook (A.S.Chambers) or stalk me on Twitter (@ASChambersUK) where you can find various bits and bobs regarding books, films TV series and whatever drops into my lap.

If you fancy a bit of bedtime reading then please drop in on Amazon and purchase The Casebook of Sam Spallucci. (It’s only £1.53 on Kindle – what a bargain!)

Review of Monsters University

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So, I’ve just got back from watching Pixar’s long-awaited sequel (has it really been 12 years?) to Monsters Inc. We travel back in time to when Mike and Sully meet on the campus in their freshman year and follow them as they both end up in the underdog frat house and try to prove themselves in the scaring championship.
And that’s unfortunately it. There’s no subplots, no thought as to what else might be going on in the background, na da, nothing, zip. What we essentially have is an animated buddy movie set at university which is a real shame because the animation is, once again, outstanding. There was a scene where Mike and Sully get trapped in the human world and we see them sat on the shore of a lake in the moonlight. It was truly captivating as were most of the creations that filled the screen. I just did not connect with the movie until over an hour in and, by then, it was too late. Yes, there were the quirky characters; yes there were hilarious jokes and references to the other movie but it just seemed so predictable.
In short, it seemed far too Disney. They even made numerous references to collectible scare cards which were even plastered all over the credits. Now call me sceptical, but how long until we see those in the shops?
So, in short, if you have time to kill, sure, go and see the film but don’t stump up for the 3D and definitely don’t expect to find yourself engaged as much as you might like to be.
Sorry, Pixar. Monsters University grade card read, “Could do better.”

The late, great… Douglas Adams.

Douglas AdamsEven as I start typing this, I am quietly chuckling to myself. How can I not? This was the creative genius who gave us The Bugblatter Beast of Traal, Pan-galactic Gargle Blasters and Marvin The Paranoid Android. Oh, and don’t forget, without Adams we would never have realised that the meaning of life was 42!

When most of the planet was going sci-fi crazy after watching Luke Skywalker thwart the evil machinations of the not-yet-paternal Darth Vader whilst mooning over his gorgeous secret twin sister, Leia, Douglas Adams was working on a piece of fiction which would turn around and say, “Actually, you know all those aliens out there? Well, they’re rather like us, just a bit dafter.” I am, of course, referring to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The thing which I enjoy most about the books is the way that Adams could take totally mundane items and bend them to his surreal imagination. A fish became an intergalactic translation device. A pint of beer became a relaxant for a teleportation device. A bureaucratic demolition official could torture you with his god-awful poetry. I think this approach to writing is something which inspired me as an author so, in The Casebook of Sam Spallucci, I ended up fashioning actors from a suburban sitcom who were in fact inept Satanic cultists, a vampire who liked dressing up as Spock from Star Trek and a keeper of a children’s zoo who (when the moon was full) transformed a crazed werewolf. In short, if it wasn’t for Adams, I would not be writing today.

Hitchhiker’s was a work that went through a number of transformations. It started out as a radio play, then became the ever-growing trilogy of books. For a while, it was a computer adventure game. (I slaved over that for days on my old Atari 800xl. Never got anywhere.) Then, finally the film was released in 2005, a few years after Adams’s died in 2001. It’s because of this huge legacy which he left that many people forget that he worked on a number of other projects. There was Dirk Gently, and The Meaning of Liff to name but two books. We must also remember that be worked on Doctor Who. Shada, which was finally turned into a radio play for the eighth Doctor by Big Finish, was originally penned by Adams. He also wrote The Pirate Planet and City of Death for the fourth Doctor.

As well as his writing, he was also committed to his personal beliefs. He described himself as “radical atheist” and was a good friend of Richard Dawkins. He also had strong feelings regarding environmentalism as was shown in his radio series Last Chance To See and various other activities he undertook promoting awareness in our environment, such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro dressed in a rhino suit!

The world definitely became a tad drearier when Adams died, I just hope that whenever people read, watch or listen to his works, his legacy will uplift their spirits and empower them to stand up against (or lie down in front of`) the impending bulldozer.

Marvin The Paranoid Android

Thanks for reading this blog. If you like what you see, please click on the “follow” button.

Also feel free to visit my website (www.aschambers.co.uk), follow me on Facebook (A.S.Chambers) or stalk me on Twitter (@ASChambersUK) where you can find various bits and bobs regarding books, films TV series and whatever drops into my lap.

If you fancy a bit of bedtime reading then please drop in on Amazon and purchase The Casebook of Sam Spallucci. (It’s only £1.53 on Kindle – what a bargain!)