Tuesday 10 September 2019


When new girl Faith (Jordan Stephens) starts as a performer at a Brighton drag club, ageing Queen Jackie (Derren Nesbitt) takes her under his wing. Having recently discovered he only has six weeks to live, Jackie enlists Faith to help tick some life experiences off his bucket list, and hopefully reconnect with his estranged daughter, Lily (April Pearson).

The world of drag is one that has seen a huge boost in popularity in recent years, in no small part thanks to TV shows like the hugely popular Ru Paul's Drag Race, but until now UK drag has been under explored. Brighton is one such place that has a thriving drag scene, with a mixture of old school cabaret clubs and newer, edgier comic performers bringing in the crowds. In Tucked, the grand old dame of the club, Jackie, sings Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, and walks the floor telling dirty, innuendo laden and self deprecating jokes like "I'm not fat, i'm just easier to see" and "do you know the difference between your wife and your job? After 5 years, your job will still suck", followed by the newer, glamour-puss queen Faith, whose act relies as much on beauty as it does biting wit.

Tucked may draw you in off the strip with the promise of a story about drag queens of different generations, but it's really not about that at all. This is a story about Jack 'Jackie' Collins, an old, straight man who in the evening enjoys dressing up in women's clothes and performing to a crowd, but who in the day is lonely, and haunted by past decisions that have cost him his family. His life only changes upon the arrival of Faith at the club, who after Jackie discovers she is sleeping in her car, gives her place to stay. After learning about Jackie's illness, Faith hopes to repay Jackie's kindness by helping him tick some things off his bucket list like getting a tattoo and doing drugs, leading to an awkward but funny interaction with drug dealer Steve Oram.

Brighton native Jordan Stephens, AKA one half of Rizzle Kicks, puts in a solid performance as Faith, a young queen who doesn't "think that what's between my legs defines me". This unwillingness to conform to a specific gender identity hints at aspects of Faith's life that are ripe for drama, but despite Stephens receiving top billing, I'm sure even he would concede he is the supporting player here, rightfully making space for his co-star Derren Nesbitt. A veteran actor with credits as far back as 1956 and roles in films ranging from Where Eagles Dare to The Amorous Milkman (which he also wrote and directed), he's been relegated to occasional Grandad roles in recent years but is astonishing here.

Jackie is a complex, damaged man, and the performance from Derren Nesbitt is why you should see this film. He's in almost every frame of the film and completely dominates the story with this empathetic, wholly believable character he's portraying. Although the dichotomy between his character and the much younger Faith is only touched upon briefly, and Faith's story is under-explored to say the least, the story this film tells, albeit probably not the one you were expecting, is still a compelling one.

There's a charm about Tucked that's exemplified by Jackie's club routine. Yes, some of the jokes are old hat and have punchlines you can see coming a mile off, but they're delivered with real heart and conviction, the material being elevated by the performer to another level.


Wednesday 4 September 2019


A 1980s classic given the special edition blu-ray treatment it deserves, out now is Flight of the Navigator.

Flight of the Navigator will hold a special place in the heart of many children of the '80s, and although there's often a fear that revisiting these older films will lead to crushing disappointment, as soon as this film's opening UFO fake out is revealed to be a dog frisbee catching competition and Alan Silvestri's jumpy electronic score kicks in, you know you're in for fun. 12 year old David (Joey Cramer) has the usual things to worry about like how to talk to girls, taking his dog Bruiser for a walk in the woods and his bratty younger brother being a constant annoyance. All this changes when, after falling in the woods, he returns home to find his parents no longer live there and that he's been missing for the last 8 years, his whereabouts a complete mystery. More peculiarly, he hasn't aged a day in that time, his little brother is now a foot taller than him and his parents thought he was dead. Oh, and NASA are very interested in the star maps that now appear to be in David's brain, and what they might have to do with the giant spaceship they've found.

It's one of the all time great kid's horror "what would you do?" scenarios that's only the first act of this film. A Disney co-production released by Buena Vista but deemed too dark a set-up to bear the Walt Disney logo, in their hands Flight of the Navigator could have been a sanitised family comedy called something like My Big Little Brother, but instead it's closer in tone to an Amblin movie, full of childhood trauma, shady government officials and conspiracies. And let's be honest, the title is awesome.

About that aforementioned flight, this is very much a film of two distinct halves, firstly with David encountering this brave new world of 80s things like MTV, a robot named RALF and Sarah Jessica Parker, before his psychic bond with a super cool looking silver spaceship leads to the second half of the film, which literally soars when it kicks into gear. With effects that still look great, the mixture of practical and photographic morphing effects really make the ship come to life. Watching this now, it's surprising how clearly divided down the middle this film is, as fond memories place the scenes of David flying around in the spaceship talking to Max (the onboard computer that sounds suspiciously like Pee Wee Herman after downloading the star maps from David's brain) as the bulk of the film. That's not to say the first half is forgettable and doesn't set up an enjoyable mystery scenario, but as the title suggests, it's the Flight of the Navigator that we want to see. Boy, is it fun.

It's a film ready to be enjoyed by audiences young and old, and this new blu-ray edition from Second Sight (in a beautiful looking slipcase) has been given a plethora of extras that will answer your questions like, "how did they make the spaceship look so cool? and "I wonder what the kid in it looks like now?". Don't wait for the often threatened remake, invest in the original and go for a wild ride.


Special Features-

- New 4K scan with restoration supervised by Randal Kleiser
- Directing the Navigator - Interview with Randal Kleiser
- Playing the Navigator - Interview with Joey Cramer
- Mother of the Navigator - Interview with Veronica Cartwright
- Brother of the Navigator - Interview with Matt Adler
- Art of the Navigator featurette
- Commentary by Randal Kleiser and producer Jonathan Sanger
- Reversible sleeve with new and original artwork

Limited Edition also features-

-Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Rich Davies
- 100 page book with original storyboards, behind the scenes photos and a new essay by Kevin Lyons
- Reversible poster with new and original artwork

Tuesday 3 September 2019


Director Alexandre O. Philippe employs interviews from those involved to surgically dissect Memory, screenwriter Dan O'Bannon's original title for Star Beast, his script featuring one of cinema's most indelible monsters, that eventually became known simply as Alien.

This documentary starts off in a truly bizarre way, with a dramatic interpretation of worshippers at the Temple of Apollo, somehow linked to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror in a way that isn't immediately clear. It's a bold opening, and one that fittingly reminds of the opening sequence of the Ridley Scott created story for his Alien prequel, Prometheus, albeit in a way that might be off putting for some viewers who aren't fans of the mythology he grafted onto the story later on. Philippe's documentary has grand ideas of being a quintessential psychological study of the Star Beast and the men behind her, employing the use of lofty, literary talking heads speaking of the Lovecraftian influence on O'Bannon's work, with mixed success.

This doc largely concerns the pre-production stage of the classic film and how it came together to form the Alien film we know and love, so the absence of future lead Sigourney Weaver from the talking heads is not detrimental. Some of the contributions are archive footage, most notably from director Ridley Scott and Dan O'Bannon, but these are presented in an original and ingenious way via monitors that would form part of a control console, not dissimilar to how Dallas and Ash consult with MOTHER. Thankfully the film is not solely made of re-used interviews, with actors Tom Skerritt & Veronica Cartwright offering new material for the film (Cartwright's recollection of the Chestbusrter scene is a highlight), as do art director Roger Donaldson and, most importantly, O'Bannon's widow, Diane.

With her help, the key figure this film tries to studiously examine is Dan O'Bannon, the originator of the Star Beast and frequently unheralded figure in the creation of the Alien franchise. This doc goes some way to righting that wrong, deep-diving into his personal history (his health issues, obsession with sci-fi) that shaped the beast's story. Not all of this thorough examination makes complete sense, as the list of possible films that may have influenced O'Bannon's script are a bit tenuous, like Queen of Blood featuring a dead alien in a chair, just like Alien does in the form of the Space Jockey. In this regard the film reminds of Room 237, a fantastic look at the creation of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, but a film with some incredibly outlandish theories about what hidden symbolism is contained in the film. Here it's a similarly myth building exercise that is maybe a touch too conspiracy theory heavy, but that will undoubtedly give fans of the Alien franchise new material to repeat down the pub.

It also takes an extended look at the work of artist H.R. Giger and O'Bannon's obsession with his work after discovering his bizarre, sexualised, industrial portraits when working on the ill-fated Jodorowsky version of Dune. Both O'Bannon and Giger are presented as tortured artistic geniuses, and although it's worth noting that both of their spouses have executive producer credits on this documentary (I am completely speculating, but I would assume their co-operation was essential in order to get the film made), they don't shy away from revealing some of the shenanigans that lead to O'Bannon's reputation as a loose cannon, a reputation that undoubtedly fed into his battles with original Alien director Ridley Scott over the vision for the film, and his later issues in finding regular work in Hollywood.

Although this doc, with its foreboding industrial soundtrack and leisurely pace, is often presented as a dour experience, it's often raises a chuckle or two. Chief among these moments of development hell fun is imagining the versions of the film that could have been, like the low budget version from 'The Pope of Pop Cinema' himself, Roger Corman, who saw the script pass over his desk, but graciously told O'Bannon to go after a studio with a bigger budget (but to come back to him if he had no luck).

Memory undoubtedly contains compelling insights into the production for both newcomers and older fans of the franchise, but despite providing a lot of material over which to speculate, it never convincingly lands on who to credit for the creation of the Alien franchise. It's worth noting that the only other films Alexandre O. Philippe chooses to include are brief mentions of Prometheus and Alien Covenant, both also directed by Ridley Scott, so perhaps he's making his position clear as to whose vision wins out for him. What's certain is that for fans to make an informed decision of their own, Memory is essential viewing.


Monday 2 September 2019


One of the late night screenings at Frightfest, Porno was appropriately shown in the downstairs screen at the Prince Charles Cinema, itself reportedly once one of the West End's cinemas that screened *ahem* adult erotica.

One night in 1993 when both A League of Their Own and Encino Man (AKA California Man for UK residents) were screening in a small town American cinema, the manager, Mr Pike (Bill Phillips) is leaving the cinema in the hands of his newly promoted assistant manager Chaz (Jillian Mueller). Ushers Abe, Todd & Ricky have an uneventful shift with the promise that they can watch the film of their choice once the cinema is closed. That is until a crazed old man invades the cinema, leading the ushers through a secret doorway and into a hidden auditorium none of them knew about. As they try to find the old man they uncover a secret storage room, with a mysteriously labelled film inside. Deciding to watch whatever is on the film, they accidentally release Lilith (Katelyn Pearce), the evil and naked demon contained within.

In the world of trashy independent film, the title of Porno is bound to raise a few eyebrows, and if nothing else, raise expectations. I suppose it's necessary to get it out of the way at this point, but if you're going into this film expecting a high level of nudity, you're probably going to be severely disappointed by the body parts presented to you. The 'Porno' of the title is more accurately described as an Argento-esque European art film, with a giallo hued setting and a beautiful naked woman (with a 70s merkin) as its lead. Oh, and she's demonic and wants to escape the film and devour as many of the ushers as she can.

Porno has a lot going for it in the initial set up; a cool setting, a fun & lively cast, even nostalgia for a forgotten golden age of slightly crappy films (I'm looking at you, Pauly Shore), but despite some fun moments and the most hilariously graphic scene of testicular torture you (n)ever wanted to see, the film isn't able to deliver the thrills and spills you might be looking for. The frustrating thing is that there's clearly potential for greatness within, with born again Christian/projectionist Heavy Metal Jeff standing out as a great character, and an interesting new spin on the group of horny teens/demon fodder. But given too many scenes where nothing happens and opportunities to question the logic of the film (like how could a gigantic 300 seater auditorium be hidden all this time?), there's a strong chance you'll be popping out to the concessions stand, just to have something to do.

Sharing some DNA with trashy classics like Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama (hapless teens unwittingly unleash a demonic entity that plays deadly tricks on them) & Intruder (minimum wage workers confront a killer at their workplace), despite one fantastically gory money shot that will have you squirming in your seats, Porno doesn't deliver enough of the genre goods but will undoubtedly garner some notoriety and an inquisitive audience thanks to its title.