To paraphrase a well known saying, sometimes the best laid plans of mice, men and apparently Robin Pierce get kicked in the guts.
If you read my last blog, you’ll know that I was happily planning the annual shopping trip to Manchester this past Wednesday with my family. That was indeed the plan right up until real-life events caught up with us at around 7:00pm on Tuesday (a mere twelve hours before we were due to set out) as I watched the senseless rioting, looting and lawlessness that had plagued London, Birmingham, Liverpool and other cities since Sunday spread its cancerous shadow over Manchester.
What had begun as a peaceful protest following the fatal shooting of a man by the Metropolitan Police in London was quickly mutated into scenes of ugly mayhem as the original cause was forgotten and opportunistic thugs took their gangs to the streets and began burning homes and looting stores. Curiously, although poverty has been cited as a root cause of this behaviour nobody was caught stealing food for their families. Instead, designer clothing, high-end consumer electricals and alcohol seems to have been the targets.
By 8:00pm, the trip was very much in doubt, and by 9:00, we weren’t going as Central Manchester was literally under siege with battles between a mob and the police at Piccadilly Gardens was being reported by Sky News. We saw footage of a store on Oldham Street a few yards away from Forbidden Planet being ransacked, others were set alight. In a couple of hours the shopping centre we loved was turned into a battlefield. Literally.
What was worse was that I received an e-mail from my friends and colleagues at the Starburst offices in Manchester. They were unable to leave as the riots were taking place directly outside and serious damage was done to the business next door. That must’ve been terrifying.
However, the indomitable spirit of the Starburst crew stood them in good stead they remained safe and sound as they told me the following day, they were in the best place on the planet to be stuck, as they had games, DVDs and toys in Starburst HQ to keep them occupied.
Although this particular visit was cancelled, we’ll be back in Manchester soon enough as we have two visits planned in the autumn. October 30 will see Steve and myself in attendance at Alice Cooper’s Halloween Night of Fear at the O2 Apollo, and November 5 sees us with ringside tickets to a WWE event in the Manchester Evening News Arena WITH backstage passes.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying my summer break, kicking back, relaxing, catching up with some reading, some movies and some writing. I’ve written a major piece on the Planet of the Apes franchise as my August "Future Imperfect" column in Starburst, and need to get moving on the column for September - and I wouldn’t be surprised if I got started on the one for October either. Then there’s this year’s Shocktober FrightFest to plan. Long time readers will remember that from last year, and some preceding ones. Newer readers - you’re gonna love this. More details closer to the event.
One of the things I’ve been doing over the past few days has been revisiting some films that I haven’t seen since either my late teens or early twenties, that I loved back ten. I’ve rediscovered my love for the sheer lunacy and comic genius of The Marx Brothers. I saw a box set of their movies that I couldn’t resist and can’t believe how well they’ve stood up to the test of time. Comedy is, very much like horror, subjective and tastes change over time. I was disappointed how badly the TV episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus had aged. I was a big fan back in the day - but recently found them embarrassingly unwatchable on DVD. The films are great, the TV eps, not so much. So I was delighted that when watching Duck Soup, (a political comedy made in 1933) the inherent anarchic insanity of the Marx Brothers was as fresh as ever and still managed to make me laugh out loud.
That initial box set, incidentally inspired my purchase via Ebay of a second set now deleted. This will keep me chuckling for a while. Incidentally - I never realised until this past week that in their cinematic career, they only made thirteen movies - and I now have them all in my collection. If you want to check out the mayhem for the Marxes for yourself - please click on this link and the nice people at Amazon will certainly take care of your needs.
Speaking of comedy - anybody checked out Rango? If not, then you certainly should, not only do you get a wry animated comedy with the voice of Johnny Depp as a neurotic pet lizard accidentally lost in the desert, but you get the first ever full length animated feature to be created by ILM. Yep, finally, Industrial Light & Magic get in on the CGI cartoons.
All puns aside, this really IS pure magic. I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that it’s suitable for very young children, some of the visuals can be a little intense - and the script is certainly aimed toward the sharper end of the family audience. It looks great, it’s very, very funny and any adult watching it would almost immediately feel the urge to watch it repeatedly. It’s a comedy western, very surreal in parts and definitely worth checking out.
Moving on, Sucker Punch is a film I'd heard of - but hadn’t actually heard much about if that makes any sense. I knew it was Zach Snyder’s latest and I’d enjoyed both his previous blockbusters, 300 and Watchmen. I knew the film had some sort of fantasy edge to it - and basically, that was enough to secure the purchase.
It’s a harrowing movie about an institutionalised girl, committed by her abusive stepfather. Inside the psychiatric home where the physical abuse of the patients by the sadistic orderlies is routine, she escapes into a fantasy world. At the film’s grimmest, she then slips into a dream within a dream where she’s virtually a super heroine. I didn’t understand the title, until the film was over and when I did, I realised what an impactful movie I’d just witnessed.
It’s not for the faint hearted or the attention deficient, but bear with its sometimes convoluted plot and you’ll have been on a journey worth the taking. This might be one of the most powerful films I’ve seen this year, but it certainly won’t float everybody’s boat.
Another film that rocked my little sensibilities was Super.
It’s in the vein of Kick-Ass, where an ordinary guy decides to become a costumed crime fighter in the quest to win his girlfriend back from a sleazy drug dealer. It starts off as a comedy and works well, as it tackles the absurdity of the situation against a real world backdrop. Example what if you’re dressed in your ridiculous home made crime fighting gear and you’re getting the crap beaten out of you publicly? Where do you draw the line? Rapists? Muggers? Robbers? Queue Jumpers?
But there’s an edge here too - it’s not all belly laughs at a middle aged guy thinking he’s Batman or the Punisher. The film progresses to tragedy and an immense amount of violence. Structurally, there are certainly more than a few passing similarities to the admittedly superior Kick-Ass, but any film that features a vision of a message from God - voiced by Rob Zombie - gets MY vote.
And finally for this blog, let’s take a look at a documentary I’ve been after for a couple of years. Look, Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman was produced at around the time of the release of Superman Returns, and credits director Bryan Singer as an Executive Producer, with Kevin Spacey (Luthor from Superman Returns) as narrator.
With all this, you could be forgiven for thinking (as I did originally) that it was nothing but a promotional tool for the film, like those hour longs that used to be shown on TV in the eighties. You know, stuff like Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi. Entertaining fluff pieces that paid lip service to earlier movies while mercilessly plugging the new product.
But no - this 110 minute documentary fully delivers on its promise, just like Harry Knowles said it did in a review over on Ain’t It Cool. It covers the genesis of the character, all the screen incarnations from the Max Fleischer cartoon shorts and the Kirk Alyn serials of the forties, to the long running George Reeves TV series of the fifties, to Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain and finally, Brandon Routh. There are clips from a never seen TV pilot called Superpup (what the hell were they thinking?) And soundbites from some notable Superman fans such as the late Forrest J.Ackerman, Stan Lee.....and even Gene Simmons.
As I say, I’ve been trying to get a copy of this for a couple of years, but it’s only been available in the UK as part of a deluxe boxed set of the Superman films (and I’m not buying them again). However it was released on region 2 in Denmark, and this is the version I found on Amazon. The disc defaults to an English language soundtrack and only the text on the DVD case is in Danish.
Until the next time, stay low, stay sharp, stay safe.
Copyright © 2010 - 2011 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.