Eraserhead


Viewed – 21 October 2020 Blu-ray

And the award for strangest movie I’ve ever seen goes to… yes, I’ve finally watched surreal genius director David Lynch’s bonkers 1977 debut. I went into this prepared for a strange and unique experience – but wasn’t expecting how entrancing an experience it was. Jack Nance (credited as John Nance) plays Henry, an oddball character in a rather awkward relationship with a girl, who has a baby who turns out deformed and premature.

Strange days…

Yeah it’s a weird story filled with surreal images that cover anxiety, nightmares and hallucinations. This is shot in eye-catching black & white, emphasising lingering shots, a creepy industrial setting and a constant soundscape of exaggerated effects from steaming radiators to grinding of teeth (and one unnerving moment of puppies suckling on a dog). Lynch’s eye for bizarre imagery, uncomfortable character interactions (including a very strange dinner table scene) foreshadow where he went with movies like Blue Velvet and Lost Highway. Clearly he was a unique voice in movie making from the start.

Not as scary as some of Lynch’s other work and a simpler concept overall, but the imagery is mesmerising, strangely amusing at times and quite revolting at others. An interesting, bizarre and strangely entertaining debut.

The Blu-Ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Colection has a brand new 4K restored image, that although in black & white looks clean and atmospheric. The uncompressed stereo soundtrack especially showcases the often unnerving sound effects. However it’s in the extras where this release excels; archival footage with cast and crew, an 85 minute documentary from 2001, directed by David Lynch, and there’s also several of Lynch’s suitably strange short films, along with a second documentary from 2014. The release also comes with a comprehensive booklet that includes an interview with David Lynch, taken from filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s book ‘Lynch on Lynch’. As a long time fan of the director, this is solid gold.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

I’m Thinking of Ending Things


Viewed – 19 September 2020 Netflix

Writer / Director Charlie Kaufman has a reputation for off-beat, unusual movies but I’ll admit I’ve only seen one of his – Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (which he wrote) that I remember liking for its surreal themes and imaginative imagery. So checking out the trailer this looked like it had a similar quirky vibe. Lucy, a young woman is on a road trip with her boyfriend Jake to visit his parents. However she’s struggling with uncertain feelings about their relationship and is considering breaking up with him. However during their journey and stay at the parents farm, Lucy’s neurotic uncertainties cause various strange things to occur.

Stranger Things…

This was an odd experience. It’s initially a relationship drama but quickly tumbles down the rabbit hole of surreal imagery, time-jumps that seem to only be happening in Lucy’s head and plenty of pondering on life, mortality and relationships that gets a bit ‘much’. Occasionally the movie seems to hit pause for long inner monologues from Lucy that get rather pretentious, reciting poetry and insecurities that made me rather frustrated with her character. She came across utterly self-absorbed. Also occasionally the (admittedly clever) surreal moments seems to be there just to be odd and wacky (the dog that keeps shaking, disappearing and reappearing), which would have been fine if the movie had more of a sense of humour. Instead we get an overly pessimistic tone that doesn’t shift, and ultimately goes nowhere. David Thewlis and Toni Collette turn up as the patents, playing their characters at various ages, which did prove a highlight.

I’m sure theres plenty of meaning hidden amongst the oddness, and realise it’s all about life, ageing and the passage of time. However overall this lingered too much on the mundane and shy’d away from a potential to be more fun instead of just depressing. Disappointing.

Verdict: Poor

The Fisher King


Viewed – 16 April 2019. Blu-ray

After the sad passing of gifted comedienne and actor Robin Williams in 2014, I think it’s taken me until now to watch one of his movies again. Yet having sat through this, everything I loved about him came flooding back. He certainly was one of the most likeable and versatile presences in anything he appeared in and this 1991 fantasy-drama is no exception.

Directed by master visionary Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys) this has Jeff Bridges as a shock-jock radio DJ who’s outspoken show inadvertently leads to a shooting in a local restaurant. Disgraced, Bridges falls on hard times and stumbles upon the plight of local ‘bum’ Perry (Williams) who comes to Bridges’ aid after some youths attack him. However, Perry isn’t playing with a full deck and believes the Holy Grail is held in some wealthy tycoon’s house in the middle of New York.

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This is quite mad-cap stuff with Gilliam at full tilt delivering fantastical yet captivating imagery (grand central station turning into a ballroom) and filling the movie with a wealth of oddball creations. Yet this is also a story of redemption and salvation and Williams delivers a laugh-out-loud zany performance that’s also filled to the brim with heart. Bridges is also on fine form (with hints of ‘the dude’ prior to The Big Lebowski) and goes on a real character journey.

At times Gilliam’s direction and emphasis of the weird and bizarre gets a bit ‘much’ and takes a little bit of adjustment to fully appreciate. However at its core the movie is equal parts magical, heart-breaking and feel-good making for a genuine cult classic.

The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of Criterion boasts a pleasingly crisp and vibrant image. Although mostly filmed in a subdued style, various details make it look more expensive than its low budget origins, helped I’m guessing by Gilliam’s unique eye. A noticeable shimmer does rears it’s head now and then though. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is also clear and effective-enough, if not particularly showy. Extras consist of several worthwhile featurettes, although none new for this release. A highlight though is Terry Gilliam’s commentary from the 90’s. There’s also a poster-like booklet with its own write ups on the movie. Solid treatment for a still very unique and enjoyable movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

A weekend to remember


I wouldn’t say I’m a massively outgoing person as far as venturing far and wide, but in recent years I’ve tried to broaden my horizons, at least when opportunities arise.  Two such opportunities arrived the weekend just gone, not entirely planned as such but I jumped at the chance to go and see my favourite band once again … and then another opportunity came around to see a personal favourite TV sketch show’s live tour.

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Probably over a year ago I booked tickets to see Garbage again in London as well as meet up with a friend I’d made last time I went.  Some months later VIP meet & Greets were announced, and so yeah, once again I was going to meet the band and get a photo taken.  The whole experience this time around was even better than I’d experienced in 2016 at The Troxy.  For starters at Brixton Academy, the meet & greet q&a part of the VIP experience was in the same room where the photos were to be taken and it was a small, intimate affair with me sitting amongst 50+ fans within touching distance of the band (!!).  It was so surreal as it wasn’t as if I was sitting before my favourite band, but almost like old friends … it all felt so nice and relaxed and really f’ing cool.  I didn’t say much, as I knew I’d clam up (again) but did get a chance to say how fantastic I thought they were and that Version 2.0 (of which the tour was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary) was my favourite album of all time, by any artist.  I got my photo taken which turned out to be more of a fun thing, with me posing with the band and all pretending to be zombies, with outstretched arms etc. lol.

The VIP experience also meant early entry so I was pretty much at the front (one short girl in front of me, so I had an awesome view) and what was the actual concert like?  In short Garbage (Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker) were on electrifying form, belting out the hits as well as more obscure b-sides both word-perfect and with an energetic response from a sold-out Brixton Academy crowd.  It was intense, heart-pounding, utterly feel good and the best I’ve seen them perform.  Garbage are such a skilled and talented band and once again delivered an evening of rockin’ good entertainment that didn’t disappoint.

LoG

Two night’s later I was heading off to Liverpool to see The League of Gentlemen at the Echo Arena and this British sketch comedy four-piece that started out on radio before creating a cult TV show of the same name were utterly brilliant.  They went through a plethora of their most famous sketches and iconic characters to deliver a 2hr+ show of bonkers humour, one-liners, political satire and toilet humour with no end of imagination and charisma.  Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gattis and (behind the scenes / co-writer) Jeremy Dyson are one of the best comedy groups Britain has spawned since Monty Python and that … is not said lightly.  Translating the sketch-based comedy of the show worked well on stage and the sets and costumes were all very well done and seemed to go off without a hitch, aided by what appeared to be some funny ad-libbing and natural glimpses of the guy’s personalities.  This show was partly a celebration of their 20th anniversary as well as a hinted at farewell to the characters unless this talented four-piece find a way to work together again at some stage … we’ll see.  For now though, me and a couple of friends as well as the sold out crowd had a ball.

As far as my usual weekends go, this was pretty intense, rather exhausting but utterly fulfilling, creating memories I’ll look back on for years to come.  So a big shout-out to Garbage and to The League of Gentlemen for making the past few days so very special.

Craig.

Peaking at the Garbage


See what I did there?  Yes, this post is primarily about two big loves of mine…Twin Peaks and the rock band Garbage.  First more of an update on what’s going on with my favourite band.  Firstly they are working on new music!  This is reported to be a song they hope to release in time for a forthcoming tour.  Shirley Manson, lead singer and general all-round bad-ass, has also contributed her vocal talents to the soundtrack of TV show ‘American Gods’ with a song she worked on with composer Brian Reitzell (Hannibal, 30 Days of Night) called ‘Queen of the Bored’ and well, it’s super cool.  Video-link below:

GirlsRockLondon ShirleySecondly Shirley is visiting London to attend the summer-camp music school for girls known as ‘Girls Rock London‘ as a Patron giving talks I presume on what it’s like to be a woman in the music business, conveying her 30+ years experience to the attendees.  Should be very interesting.  Here’s a picture of her as posted by the event organisers.  Yeah, she’s looking great as usual.  Now as mentioned earlier the band are preparing to go out on tour – with none other than legendary band ‘Blondie’ for the rockingly-titled ‘Rage & Rapture Tour’ which kicks off in July.  Around the same time the band will also be releasing their autobiography entitled ‘This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake’ … so an eventful time for Garbage and a great time to be a fan of this pioneering and acclaimed band.  Although they seriously don’t get the recognition they deserve these days; even 20+ years after they began, Garbage don’t answer to nobody and do their own thing, their own way … which is pretty damn cool.

Twin Peaks

On the TV front of course the big event has been the (very) long awaited return of Twin peaks – you know, that quirky little soap opera about a murdered girl that ran in the early nineties, got cancelled after it’s second season and also spawned a (mostly) reviled movie that later gained cult appeal.  Now it’s back and if you thought the original was ‘a bit weird’ … well, David Lynch, series creator and all-round genius (or madman, I’m undecided) has been let off his leash and delivered possibly the strangest, darkest, freakiest and most daring TV show in years.  I’ve watched 3 episodes so far of the 4 that have been revealed, and even though I’m loving it as a Lynch aficionado – it’s also really messed with my head and I can certainly understand if even die-hard Peaks fans could get turned off.  Just watch it though – you just have to give it a go and make your own mind up.  It’s that kind of experience.  Even if you end up not liking it.

To celebrate the release of Twin Peaks, I also picked up the newly-restored version of Lynch’s Oscar-winning surreal drama Mulholland Drive and will be watching and reviewing it soon, so watch out for that.

Well that’s all from me for now.  Check in again soon and I’ll have more stuff to show you…probably.

Craig.