Monday 24 September 2018


Out now on VOD is the story of washed up rock star Jimmy Kleen (David Arquette), coming out of retirement for one more shot at glory with guitarist Scott (Ryan Donowho) and singer Rachel (Allie Gonino) as a new frontwoman for his band. She's beautiful, talented and electrifying on stage, but it may also be her who's leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

It's hard to pin down exactly what's wrong with Hollow Body, but let's start with the ridiculous set up. Following a bout of crippling stage fright at the first gig for Jimmy's new band, shy, introverted lead singer Rachel and her mother get struck by lightning when leaving the venue. When Rachel survives, she returns to the band a new woman, finding her inner rock goddess to the delight of audiences and potential record executives. But something weird is going on at their venues, with reports of heart attacks happening to people who've been in contact with Rachel and charred corpses piling up.

As well as starring as Jimmy, Arquette also acts as narrator, giving his lines all the gusto Harrison Ford did when he was contractually obliged to provide the voiceover for the original version of Blade Runner. He's possibly going for jaded LA aloofness, but he seems uninterested in trying to add shape to this very strange film. He's much better in person (although he's not the easiest sell as a burnt out rock star, even with the grey hairs he's gained since his role in the Scream franchise) and Jimmy is the central character in the film, but the decision to not put Rachel as the central figure seems like an odd choice, particularly as it only seems to be to maintain a sense of mystery around her and preserve the reveal you know is coming an hour before it does. When the twist that isn't a twist gets revealed as the film enters the final act, you'll be left scratching your head trying to work out why the characters took so long to figure it out, even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.

As Rachel, Allie Gonino makes for an appealing front woman, but post accident the film never really reconciles her character and Gonino isn't given the opportunities to add anything more than surface rock chick cliches. Ryan Donowho's Scott suffers similarly from a lack of development, despite being  given a wife and child and conflict with his feelings for Rachel. There's some chemistry between them, even after her total persona overhaul, but to be truly compelling their story needed more... electricity.

It's also worth noting that the promotional art overstates Luke Wilson's involvement by some degree. He may share equal billing and half the artwork with Arquette, but it's really more of an extended cameo appearance. As the record company mogul who is the key to the band getting signed his role may be quite important, but he's on screen for what must equate to less than five minutes when added together.

It's a Jennifer's Body-esque body horror, but doesn't lean far enough into that aspect of the story to be satisfying. As Rachel becomes a glowy-eyed serial killer I was hoping the story was finally about to find its edge. Rachel could easily have become a bad-ass rock chick looking for retribution and to redress the balance against the men that have objectified and taken advantage of her in the music business, but that commentary is absent or just doesn't land, with her acts of violence instead done self-servingly and without any clear reason.

On the plus side, the band performances and songs are surprisingly decent, and I get the feeling that the film is a lot lower on the budget scale than it would first appear; but in terms of basic storytelling the secret behind the twist should also have a bigger impact on the film than it does, and the whole narrative concludes with a fizzle rather than a bang. There may be a spark of a good idea in there somewhere but ultimately Hollow Body lives up to its name.


Wednesday 12 September 2018


Newly re-issued on blu-ray is the classic punk documentary, D.O.A. A Right of Passage.

Shot by Lech Kowalski, D.O.A. followed the Sex Pistols on their notorious 1978 tour of the USA (their last before the filthy lucre tempted them back in the 1990s), as well as document the punk scene that was thriving in the UK in their absence, with bands such as X-Ray Spex, Generation X and Sham 69 all making waves. Added to that, this film heavily follows Terry Sylvester, frontman for Terry and the Idiots, for whom this film is their moment in the spotlight.

It all starts calmly enough, the quiet before the storm at an Atlanta performance by the Sex Pistols attended by the local youth hoping to see the much hyped new big thing over from England, before erupting into Anarchy in the UK, the lyrics appearing on screen and updated to appeal to the American crowd. Following the performance the camera gets instant reactions from the audience, some loving it and some hating it with opinions ranging from "revolutionary" to "garbage". Either way, it would be hard to imagine that both groups aren't still talking about it to this day.

There's a lot to be said about the Sex Pistols and their commodification by Malcolm McLaren in a way that seems to be the antithesis of what they supposedly stood for. This film captures some of that madness, and the capitalist hypocrisy within the fashion world that ran concurrently with the scene. The Pistols' music and attitude managed to speak to disaffected youth on both sides of the pond and was genuine from the point of view of the band members. In particular, Sid Vicious and his relationship with Nancy Spungen and struggles with drug use play an important part in the film. These are some of the hardest scenes to watch as Sid is near catatonic throughout, their sad story ending with some on screen text to say what happened to Sid and Nancy after filming had finished.

Back in England, with Mary Whitehouse's "anti smut crusader" (as she's billed here) going on tv to talk about how worried she was about the children of the time, the punk scene was thriving with fantastic live performances by X-Ray Spex and Sham 69 caught on camera. There's also Terry from Terry and the Idiots reading out his banana bread recipe for our enjoyment, so a lot of bases are covered. The documentary cross cuts between locations on both sides of the Atlantic and speaks to a lot of audience members expressing their feelings of resentment towards the older generation. D.O.A. shows that a lot of things are universal, and given nearly 40 years of hindsight, are also timeless.

D.O.A. A Right of Passage may be a documentary about punk, but in its presentation is it a punk documentary? Passive observers for the majority of the performances, the one occasion where the documentarian's question is audible, asking an unruly youth with a giant X on his face at a Sex Pistols gig "what do they sing?", ends up with them being spat on. The smartest thing director Lech Kowalski chose to do was not just focus on the Sex Pistols as his subject, although this was possibly a choice made out of necessity due to how hard it would have been to capture usable footage from within their concerts and the guardedness of many members of the group. The inclusion of other bands of the era, including ex-Pistols member Glen Matlock's Rich Kids (featuring a young Midge Ure who contributes a lot to the additional documentary found on this disc), The Clash and Sham 69 in addition to the many vox pops and on street interviews helps to give an overall snapshot of the punk scene as it was.

It's a nice, polished upgrade that looks clean, but not too clean given the conditions it was filmed in. Unlike a lot of the key figures involved, the film (shot on 16mm) has aged gracefully and isn't showing too many signs of its age, including in its scattershot structure. Documentaries covering live music or bands on tour tend to follow a strict narrative pattern that's become somewhat predictable, so it's nice to see that to go along with its punk subject, D.O.A. is appropriately unfocused and unbiased on which bands should receive the most attention and at what point to cut off a live show.

One of the great documents from the punk era that truly managed to capture a little bit of magic and raw intensity from the scene, rather than being dead on arrival, D.O.A. A Right of Passage makes its blu-ray debut looking as alive and vital as it ever did.


Special Features -

- Dead on Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was. - An in depth contemporary documentary that tracks the creation of the original documentary, offering new insights into the filming process and the punk scene as a whole.

- A Punk Post-Mortem. - Interview with co-writer Chris Salewicz

- Limited edition booklet

Thursday 6 September 2018


In recovery from a heart attack, ageing Hollywood playboy Atticus Smith (Jeremy Irons) and his estranged son Adam (Jack Huston) make their way across country to a family wedding. Could this be the bonding experience both men have been in need of?

The film starts with Irons's Atticus receiving a lifetime acting achievement award where he belittles the ceremony and proclaims that "there's life in the old dog yet". This is swiftly followed by a heart attack that threatens his ability to attend his daughter Annabelle's (Mamie Gummer) wedding on the other side of the country, and his upcoming role of God in a movie called "God". Unable to fly in his condition and forgoing his surgery until after the ceremony, it falls on Adam to escort his tearaway father across country to the wedding in order to keep him alive and out of trouble. Under strict order to behave himself, Atticus continues to drink, smoke and party like a horny teenager with something to prove. As Ben Schwartz's suffering agent puts it "he's a cocksman", and he's not going to let his reputation down.

Jack Huston (himself part of a Hollywood dynasty) plays Adam, a sometime college professor and feminist documentary filmmaker who has no time for his father's ways and the celebrity that Atticus milks for all he can get. Friction between them stems from Atticus being an unapologetic serial womaniser who blamed the breakdown of his marriage on his son for snitching on him rather than his own actions, but when forced into close proximity with his adult son Adam, he starts to realise that he may have passed up the role of a lifetime... Dad.

On the list of legendary Hollywood bad boys who slept their way around many a film set, you wouldn't immediately picture Jeremy Irons as a member of the club. This is the kind of role you can imagine getting offered to Jack Nicholson back in the day, and perhaps would have benefitted from having someone in the role who wanted to play with his public persona as something of a playboy and with more in common with Atticus's lifestyle. However, there's no doubt that Irons has dove head first into this role, and his portrayal has a certain English charm to offset the rampant misogyny that others couldn't offer.

An Actor Prepares suffers from a title that bears no clear relevance to the story within the film, which would have worked just as well and possibly better if he were a fading rock star of some sort rather than an actor. They even start their journey in a huge, luxurious and spacious bus, the likes of which you could picture Aerosmith travelling in when on tour. It's quickly ditched in favour of a classic car, because you can't make an American road movie by looking out of the window of a tour bus. Of course they meet an array of colourful characters along the way who do little to teach Atticus that his obnoxious bore routine is something of a relic of a time passed, but Huston's modern man Adam at least tries to balance this out with some emotional growth of his own. The decision to make Adam such a vocal feminist has clearly been done to try and offset some of Atticus's bad behaviour that we as an audience shouldn't be celebrating, but it's an aspect of their conflicting relationship that's never properly explored.

There's some sentimental moments that are pulled back from becoming too sugary by Irons's performance, and Irons and Huston clearly have a good rapport with each other that make them never less than watchable. Contrived, cliched and reminiscent of a dozen other, better films, there's no denying Irons's commitment to the role. Get Him To The Greek by way of The Royal Tenenbaums with a sprinkling of Planes, Trains and Automobiles thrown in, Irons's Atticus Smith isn't a man you'd want to spend the entirety of a cross country road trip with, but 90 minutes will do just fine.