Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Block Party

Let's be honest - much like the red squirrel, and well-mannered children, the high-concept movie is rarely seen alive and well on our shores any more.

This great nation once spent the best part of the 20
th century knocking out naughty nudge-nudge comedies, Gothic horror movies, super spy epics and the like. The high class of our studios, staff and tea led us to become the address of choice for the average Spielberg-Lucas popcorn purveyor during the initial age of the blockbuster, especially since the studio system in Hollywood had thrown in the towel and their dream-factories largely plowed into parking lots.

Take a gander at our present day multiplexes, and that era seems to have existed in another world, let alone another generation. Aside from a handful of recent examples, genre flicks are a thing of British cinema's past - unless you consider "
Po'boy loves ballet instead of working down t'mine" a prime example of high conceptuality.

To a great extent what remains of our "film industry" has spent the better part of this generation like a NOW compilation, replaying recent hits by spewing out one
unwatchable mockney-gangsta scuzzfest or posh-chap pratfaller after another in the vain hope of a winning roll of the dice.

So the idea of
someone in the UK getting the opportunity to make sci-fi horror that plays like the Warriors versus Alien seemed a bit more far fetched than the film's concept itself, which isn't to suggest in any way, wasn't a doozy in the first place:

Inner City versus Outer Space. An example of fine genre thinking in a nutshell.

Well guess what - against all odds, that film has been made, and by a someone who has proved to be the titanic cinematic talent they have long since threatened, but were far too lazy (in his own words) to be - Joe Cornish.

In a genuine case of believing the hype - Attack the Block is the movie we all wanted it to be - if, like me, you were wanting it to be genuinely flipping marvellous.

Paying tribute to the genre classics of our youth without plagiarising, Attack the Block goes toe-to-toe with American action movies whilst remaining a resolutely British film - bereft of the pathetic pandering to overseas audiences that immediately cheapens any movie. This is cinema to celebrate.

Jumping off from a genuine experience of a late-night mugging,
Cornish's film asks the question of what exactly would happen if aliens landed on a South London estate, and how the tabloid view of aggressive, violent, feral and territorial teenage gang members would fair against extra-terrestrial adversaries who reflected those facets back at them (with the addition of massive mouths full of day-glo teeth, to boot).

It used to be that genre film was the de rigueur outlet for up-and-coming film-makers to learn and ply their trade, since exploitation movies could be made for six-pence-ha'penny as long as they included blood, bullets and a few boobs. Since producers cared not a jot what else was included alongside these sleazier aspects, the low budgets of these films would allow some of the finer film-makers license to introduce a touch of social commentary into their work - something missing in these days of contemptuous direct-to-dvd crap featuring shitty CGI-octopuses.

With a cast and crew featuring many first timers, Cornish utilises them all to create a work that at once seems fresh but familiar, showing an astute understanding of the give and take relationship between film-maker and viewer when it comes to what you do or don't show. Rather than spray a
CGI money-hose on the proceedings, clever use of in-camera effects and on-set aliens creates an energy and immediacy seriously lacking in the majority of by-the-numbers big-budget bloat-fests we're presented with these days.

Taking a leaf out of the films gorged on in his youth, Cornish has produced a worthy successor to the likes of Gremlins, Goonies and Ghostbusters - a home-grown, rollicking roller coaster that - like last years Scott Pilgrim - deserves to become a cult classic for this generation. It'll be a crime if the poster from this film doesn't immediately start to adorn student bedroom walls up and down the nation.

Kind of makes me wish I was 14 again so I could experience that rush of
inexplicable, all-encompassing joy from an adventure that could happen just around the corner. In truth, it's fantastic that someone from my generation of video-shop drop-outs has produced a film that takes a great concept and runs with it, whilst thoughtfully dealing with some very real issues with aplomb.

You should already be aware by now that Adam & Joe are kings of all media - but Attack the Block proves Cornish has the potential to become one of
the genre film-makers of his generation. It's no-joke that our film industry desperately needs a few more people who want to make great entertainment, as opposed to just wanting to "make films".

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boot Sale Bonanza

It's that exciting time of year again, when every weekend morn the green and pleasant fields of England ring to the sound of hard-nosed bargaining, the rattle and rustle of cold hard cash or crisp pound notes changing hands, not to mention the wailing of snotty-nosed kids decrying dropped ice lollies.

It's Car Boot Sale season, which means a bo
nanza for those of us who foolishly like to pick up the shite others wisely discard. For the pleasure of spending a morning offloading clutter long since past it's usefulness sellers obtain extra space and spare cash, whilst I gain the exact opposite. I do this for no apparent purpose other than force of habit...

Growing up in the countryside, the occasional Car Boot sale was always welcome distraction, but with the parents controlling the purse strings via the tactical deployment of tiny amounts of pocket moment, one was somewhat hampered when it came to the amount of crap one could reasonably escort home.

Now, long since unhindered by any sort of immediate restrictions I can happily buy any old rubbish that takes my fancy - only to suffer repercussions after the event due to dwindling shelf space and ever decreasing support for this type of behaviour from Mrs Poptique...

I used to "do" eBay full time, over ten years ago when I temporarily left the exciting media whirlwind to pursue bric-a-brac and distribute it to all four corners of the globe. Those glory days of easily coming back from a Boot Sale with carload of collectibles are also long gone. Firstly, a large majority of potential Car Booters now regularly offer their discards for sale online without the need of a go-between.

What gems remain offline and do become available in fields up and down the nation are almost immediately hoovered up by the joyless, blank-faced Hawks who pounce the second carboots are unlatched. With nothing but Amazon hit-lists and a vague notion of what's worth what, the Hawks seem to sweep down with the dawn and soon scurry away, bags bulging, back to the desktops from whence they came.

The only thing I genuinely have against these hawkers morally, and personally, is they really don't seem to take any enjoyment from picking up the assorted rubbish I still take great pleasure from. The somewhat pathetic joy I experience when chancing by a random silver age Marvel comic, a beautifully boxed NES game, or super-strange print, combined with careful consideration of the journey that item has taken before arriving in my grubby hands seems completely lost on the trolls who trawl the opening moments of Boot Sales these days, looking only for recognisably collectible commodities to shift on.

Of course, I'm being ungenerous and arrogant in the supposed superiority between the "Collector" and the "Hawker", but balls to it - this is my blog so ya boo sucks to the lot of them. Those buying for fun rather than pure profit will also take precedence on the respectometer as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, that preamble leads me to the point of this entry - to alert readers regular and irregular alike that every now and then I'll post a bunch of images from recent boot sale finds in a similar, flag waving, "look what I got" fashion. To this end, here's a bunch of bits and bobs I recently acquired and bought home to scorn and loud discontent - very much like a tatty cat innocently dragging in a half-deceased toad or two...

Is it possible to have too many Corgi Batcopters? Yes.

The sculptor of this wee Corgi Jnr Wonder Woman car might well have been a misogonist - having given the Star Spangled Amazon the body of a builder on benefits and the face of an uprooted Easter Island head...

Lucky me - I picked up a stack of Smash comics from the mid-60s, the first publication in the UK to feature reprints of silver age Marvel characters - in this case the Hulk and subsequently Daredevil. Due to the success of DC's Batman show, the caped crusader got cover duties, with sparsely coloured repastes of his newspaper comic strip adventures. A rare case of DC & Marvel super-heroes co-existing in the same book!

A little bit further on I also nabbed some self-published Marvels from the early 70s - including the first edition of the long-running Spider-man Comics Weekly. Woo, and indeed, hoo. In the same stack was a few things dating back 60 years - including a nice copy of Adventure from 1950 (and not to be confused DC's Adventure Comics, either..!)

Battered and bruised, but still working like a charm, this is a 1965 Tom & Jerry music box, or jack-in-a-box. Turn the handle and Pop Goes the Weasel chimes along until a ragged Tom jumps out.

Highly amusing for at least 30 seconds.

What makes this a particularly attractive addition to my collection are the jaunty Chuck Jones era illustrations that adorn it's tin sides. I was never a fan of Jones' version of Tom & Jerry during the constant rotation their entire output was given on the BBC when growing up, but these are pretty nifty.

Here's Jerry being a right bastard to a happy-go-lucky Tom. As seen below, 60s Tom would rather spark up a biffter and smell the flowers - good lad. Sadly for him, 60s Jerry is a complete shit.

Cleaned up I'm sure this will make a nice addition to my desk area - especially since placing it elsewhere in the flat would most likely result on instant banishment to some out-of-sight location...

What's this nasty pile of stinky vinyl?

Surely it can only be one thing...?

It's that smarter-than-the-average-bear, Bilko rip-off Yogi Bear - in the guise of a 60s inflatable Bop Bag. Who'd what to bop good old Yogi though? Not me.

A face only a mother could love.

And here's Yogi's rapidly deflating rear-end. Made in Scotland - a long way from Jellystone Park.

And just incase you start to feel sorry for Mrs Poptique, having to put up with such dreadful items dotted around her abode, then have a gander at the rather nice fencing French fillies I picked up to appease her...

Not a bad haul at all, if I do say so myself...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Jiminy Crackhead

Rising up over the skyline once dominated by the near-mythical Crystal Palace this weekend was a sight best described as mildly terrifying...

The fearsome fixture in question - a fibreglass facsimile of loveable Disney advise-dispenser Jiminy Cricket with his finger held aloft, perhaps indicating an all-powerful wrath from above that will soon befall us...

At some point it's recent history someone has seen fit to give him a Gok Wang style make over - changing hs friendly visage to that of a crack-addled Joker wannabe rising up from the flames of hell itself, complete with green hair and a razor-blade smile...

A charming, albeit only temporary, landmark I'm sure you'll all agree - plus a mind-boggling transformation that takes me back to the
woeful Whippywatches of yesteryear...