Sunday, 15 December 2019

"The Assassination Bureau" (1968) An unappreciated treasure

Paramount Pictures did not give this stylish (and quite expensive) adventure/comedy much love in 1968. The US release added "Limited" to the title to make the title less dark.
Michael Relph's art direction is especially noteworthy. Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas would star together a few months later in the Bond flick "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

The sumptuous Assassination Bureau conference room

Venice palazzo

The ficticious Ruthenian castle is actually Karlstejn Castle, 30 km SW of Prague

Monday, 18 November 2019

Classic Horror Movies available on You Tube

German influenced design

The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) Vincent Price Horror/Comedy
The Ape (1940)
The Bat Whispers (1930)
The Black Raven (1943)
The Black Doll (1938)
The Body Disappears (1941)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) *
Cry of the Werewolf (1944)
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920) *
The Ghost Train (1941)
Horror Island (1941)
House of Dracula (1945)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) *
Invisible Ghost (1941)
The Lodger (1944)
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Mummy's Ghost (1940)
The Mummy's Tomb (1944)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Nosferatu (1922) *
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) *
Phantom Ship (1935)
Premature Burial (1962)
The Thirteenth Guest (1932)

* Silent Movies

Friday, 15 November 2019

"Road House" 1948 A forgotten film noir

Not the one with Patrick Swayze.

The things you find on YouTube (and it's a good copy) - like this 95 minute film noir gem. Killer cast. Directed by Jean Negulesco (before he was called "the first real master of CinemaScope").
Ida Lupino singing classic by Johnny Mercer "One for my baby (and one for the road)"and Alfred Newman ("Again"). Richard Widmark again plays a psychopath (one year after his debut in "Kiss of Death").

Joseph LaShelle's fim noir photography

Intriguing set design - rustic, ski-chalet plus a bowling alley

Shadows and ceilings... tick, tick.  We are definitely in noir territory.

Atmospheric setting for the movie's climax

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Highlights of "Mr Robot" Season 4

In Mr Robot's fourth and final season, Sam Esmail once again demonstrates that likes to play with his audiences' expectations and indulge in an array of cinematic pizzazz.

  • Phillip and Angela's first (and final) scene in Episode 1 "401 Unauthorised"
  • Whiterose's back story in Episode 3 "403 Forbidden"
  • Everytime Janice (Ashlie Atkinson) appears as the creepy taxidermist/ killer (Episodes 1, 2, 5).
  • Tyrell Wellick's final scene in the snow in Episode 4 "404 Not Found"
  • Episode 5 "405 Method Not Allowed",  a heist/chase movie with no spoken word (except 2 lines of dialogue) for the entire 50 minutes.
  • Episode 7 Riverting, filmed like a play, confined to two rooms, broken into 5 acts. Powerful Bernard Herrmann-esque score.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Guilty pleasure thrillers and horror movies you can watch on YouTube

"The Evil" AKA "House of Evil" (1978) Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet
British classic (made for BBC TV) "The Stone Tape" (1972)
"Cry of the Werewolf" (1944)
"The Salzburg Connection" (1972)
"When Eight Bells Toll" Anthony Hopkins *
"Shout at the Devil" (1976) Lee Marvin *
"Biggles: Adventures in Time" (1988) Peter Cushing *
"Gold"(1974) Roger Moore *
"A Study in Terror" (1965) Robert Morley *
"Witchfinder General" (1968) - Vincent Price *
"Under the Volcano" (1984) Albert Finney *

 * Film Vault on YouTube have remastered versions of dozens of movies

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Classic 1970's made-for-TV horror movies still available on YouTube

  • Scream Prettty Peggy
  • The Cat Creature
  • Satan's School for Girls
  • When Michael Calls
  • How Awful About Alam
  • Crowhaven Farm
  • Taste of Evil
  • Sweet, Sweet Rachel
  • A Howling in the Woods
  • Home for the Holidays
  • The Night Stalker (1972)
  • The Norliss Tapes
  • She Waits
  • Horror at 37,000 Feet
  • Crawlspace
  • Satan's Triangle
  • Trilogy of Terror

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Sparkling wine too sweet? Here's the answer...

  • Add a drop or two of Angostura Bitters to take the cloying sweetness from some sparkling wines/prosecco. There are also less expensive bitters on the market.

  • A splash of cheap vodka also does the trick.

Friday, 11 October 2019

"Plebs" Season 5 Review

Episode 1 was a huge disappointment. The thing with the 3 lads in previous series was that they were naughty but still likeable. In "The Vineyard" they were odious and quite cruel. Not a laugh in 22 minutes.
Episode 2, set around a Roman secondary school, raised a few laughs, mainly from Grumio's pugilistic exploits.
Episode 3 "The Banquet" was a further improvement, a nifty whodunit.
Episode 4 "The Grumbrella" - anything with Phil Davis and Maureen Lipman (returning from the last season) is always worth watching.
Episode 5 A one-joke affair about (football) hooligans.
Episode 6 "The Dig" has Tony Robinson (Baldrick/Time Team) playing (appropriately) an archaeologist.
Episode 7 about real estate hucksters is one of the worse, unless you like seeing Jonathan Pointing's (Jason) bare bum.
Episode 8 "The Wedding" colourful sets, colourless dialogue. Final.

Joel Fry (Stylax) is sorely missed, though.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

"The Institute" by Stephen King - mini review

Stephen King's new thriller is a mixed bag - part "The Manchurian Candidate", "Firestarter", "The Adventures of  Huckleberry Finn", "The Body"/"Stand by Me", "It" and even some parts of the King/Straub novel "The Talisman".
The narrative is compelling and the political themes intriguing. Once again Stephen King returns to familiar ground - exceptional 12 year olds in danger. But noone does it better.
Netflix's "Stranger Things" clearly gives the nod to these King novels.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

"American Horror Story 1984" Season 9 What a campy hoot!

Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have nailed the mid-80's, starting with the gloriously cheesy opening titles.
If you grew up in the 80's, you'll appreciate the references. The first episode certainly put the camp in summer camp.
Camp Redwood is definitely modelled after Camp Crystal Lake in the "Friday the 13th" slasher movies. The cast is made up predominantly of unknowns - Emma Roberts is the only actor (so far) from previous AHS seasons. Trevor Kirchner as the camp director with the porn-tash and over-stuffed lycra shorts was a comic highlight, along with Tara Karsian as world-weary Chef Bertie.
Let's hope the producers can keep the standard up in coming episodes.

Update: Things go bat-shit crazy by the second half of Episode 4. After a bonkers switcheroo involving Margaret and Mr Jingles, the new plot twist is demonic possession. More boxes have been ticked.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

The weirdest place in Vietnam - Bana Hills French Village

Fifty minutes by car from Danang, Vietnam is the SunWorld's Bana Hills theme park and French Village (containing five Mercure hotels). The park is reached by an amazing cable car system.
As the mountain is 1487 metres above sea level, the weather can vary drastically. It can be 10-15 degrees Celsius cooler in French Village. When the mountain top is covered in mist, the mock-French buildings look more convincing and definitely atmospheric.
Daytrippers swarm into the park by 9 a.m.. The main attractions being the eye-popping "Golden Bridge", the four level indoor amusement park and the Instagrammable French Village.

In 2020 another large hotel (MGallery) and a castle complex will be opened.

Tip: Cable car ride/entrance to park costs 728,000 VND (about US$32), but if you stay overnight the admission is only 450,000 VND (about US$20).
The entrance at the top of the cable car station, looking suspiciously like Universal Studios theme park entrance
The fog-shrouded French Village from Hotel De Nice

A mini-Notre Dame
Fantasy Park (inspired by the writings of Jules Verne)

Hotel pool

The crowds disappear by nightfall.

Hotel de Lyon

The Golden Bridge - go early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds

Temples and pagoda on the mountain summit

St Denis mock-cathedral

One of the longest cable car rides in the world

Saturday, 14 September 2019

MGallery Legacy Yen Tu - an amazing hotel that noone knows about

Although it's been open for a year, hardly anyone knows about it.
The Accor-managed hotel is less than 3 hours' drive from Hanoi, slightly closer to Halong Bay. Located at the foot of the sacred Yen Tu mountain.
Designed by Bill Bensley (who seems to be the go-to guy if you want an iconic hotel/resort), modelled on a 13th century Vietnamese palace, this hotel is part resort, part work of art, part theatrical set piece. Everything is larger than life. The colours are bold - yellows, reds and purples. Elegant stone work, massive timber beams, vivid murals, over-sized pottery and marble pieces make this hotel a destination in itself. Just visiting the toilet or shower is an experience.
On the weekend, as Yen Tu Mountain is a sacred Buddhist site, crowds of Vietnamese make the pilgrimage. I am assuming once the Spa wing of the hotel is completed in 2020, the place will have more guests.

The pool area, but where is everyone?

Yen Tu Mountain from the hotel grounds
Walkway linking the foyer, bar, restaurant and ballroom

Soaring ceilings in the lounge bar

A corridor in one of the guest room wings

Junior Suites feature an open air brass bath, the huge timber sliding doors are operated by a decorative pulley system 

Resembling a Moscow subway station, this is another hotel corridor
No television, just admire the room (internet is fast though)

Perhaps the most elegant wheelchair access ramp?

Toilet overlooks a brick lightwell
Restaurant urinals

The first cable car station is a 15 minute walk or a complimentary e-trolley ride from the hotel.

Monday, 26 August 2019

The world's best Ibis Hotel? Ibis Saigon Airport

This hotel ticks all the boxes.
Free shuttle from/to the airport (or you can walk it if you travel light and don't mind tackling the traffic), funky decor, delicious and comprehensive buffet breakfast in the bistro, rooftop bar, pool and recreation rooms, quiet rooms and cheap tariff.
Lobby with shuttle bus outside

Killer Vietnamese breakfast or eggs to order

Rooftop lap pool with runway views

Some rooms have kitchenettes - hotplates and microwave

Thursday, 8 August 2019

"Quicksand"/"Storst av allt" (Netflix), perfect binge material - no spoilers

With only six episodes (each around 45 minutes), this Swedish mini-series is an easy binge-watch.
There is a lot to like: glamorous south of France locations (Episode 1), lifestyles of the Stockholm's upper class, tense courtroom scenes, socio-economic tensions, untangling the puzzle of the high school shooting (you don't discover the truth until the final minues of the series).
Being based on the best selling novel means you get to say bye to the ritzy suburb of Djursholm at the end of the series - no needless Season 2 (like "Big Little Lies").

Thursday, 25 July 2019

"Pose" Season 2, Episode 6, "Love's in need of love today" Musical references

"Pose" Season 2 certainly maintains the standard. Ryan Murphy has proved himself the master for staging television musical numbers. Episode 5's funeral home climax ("What would Candy do?") left Baz Luhrmann in the shade.

You don't have to be in the LBGT community to enjoy this show. It helps if you were an adult in the 80's to appreciate the references.
This episode certainly ticked lots of boxes. Nods to gay icons Judy Garland and Madonna, plus another, Patti Lupone, sings the Sondheim "Follies" classic "I'm still here".
From classic torch songs "The man that got away" (Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin) to Stevie Wonder's "Love's in need of love today" to close the episode.
Not one, but two Sondheims: "Sooner or Later" (Madonna's "Dick Tracy" torch song).
All packed into under 50 minutes.

NB. Lupone's Frederica Norman is a thinly disguised NYC "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley.