British Sounds,
and a few more films

Brady's Bargain (1983) 

Streaming free at Irish Film Institute

#247  [archive]
FEB. 26, 2024

From theater-owner and very indy moviemaker Roy Spence, this is a story of leprechauns. The homemade effects are as good as any 1950s movie, and there's a battle of wits between the human Mr Brady and one of the mischievous little people.

Like Spence, the movie is very Irish, and the Irish take leprechauns seriously, but alas, I was raised with a shocking absence of leprechauns. It's colorful (mostly green) and charming, but with my lack of the lore of leprechauns, it's also bewildering.

As seen here, leprechauns are little people, smart-ass heavy drinkers and practical jokers. OK, but when Mr Brady finds one, he kidnaps the leprechaun and keeps it in a jar. Why? Why does an ordinary Irishman want to capture a leprechaun, then starve it?

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Brain Machine (1972)

Someone's stolen the top secret files of Dr Krisner and the 'Brain Machine' project, an extra-sensory perception experiment gone awry. This leads to a deathly dull movie, where the most interesting thing is the 1970s haircuts. 

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

This is a crisp, tense thriller about Bradley Thomas, who has a large, unpleasant crucifix tattooed on the back of his bald head. Knowing little of crosses and tattoos, the tat cries 'Nazi' to me, so it took a while to warm up to this movie and this protagonist.

Vince Vaughn stars, obliterating his light comedy persona. He's one bad mutha (because it's an action movie), and stoic all the way (because it's a prison movie). The guards, very realistically, are at least as evil and cruel as the inmates.

Meanwhile, far from the prison, Bradley's pregnant wife is captured and threatened with a forced abortion unless Bradley can quickly get himself transferred to a maximum-security prison and kill a specific inmate there. So some bones are brutally broken, and pretty soon Bradley is in the harshest corner of the scariest prison — cell block 99, where Amnesty International is never invited.

This is skinheadsploitation, with torture and the promise of more, and remorseless violence that made me wince. It's very good, though, and made with truckloads of je ne sais quoi (that's French for excellent, but also indescribable).

Most of the worst violence takes place off screen or in the shadows, or is conveyed with bone- or skull-crushing sound effects instead of visually, and I appreciate that.

Having watched it, then scrunched my forehead and thought about it, I don't think there's any meaning or message to the movie except the obvious: Don't mess with Bradley Thomas. And that's plenty.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Bride of Re-Animator (1989)
a/k/a Re-Animator II

Streaming free at Tubi

This sequel to the classic gorefest Re-Animator isn't nearly the disappointment of most sequels. The tense but catchy music by Richard Band is back. The story is credited again to H P Lovecraft. Stuart Gordon is gone as director, but this one's produced and directed by Brian Yuzna, who produced the original.

Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott return as Drs Herbert West and Dan Cain, and Cain still does nothing but perpetually look aghast at what West is up to, which continues to be mad science.

Usually sequels dial everything up a few notches, but this seems slightly less repulsive and a bit more comedic than the original, while telling a story that's almost equally insane, but different enough to feel fresh.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

British Sounds (1969)
a/k/a See You at Mao 

Streaming free at Internet Archive

I've seen some of the films of Jean-Luc Godard — Breathless and Alphaville come to mind — and agree with the consensus that he was pretty good at making movies. He had a dogged habit of making his movies in French, though, which is inconvenient for me, as my method for pirating films almost always strips away any subtitles.

This flick, from Godard's late-career and heavily political era, was filmed in English, for which I say, Thank you, Jean-Luc.

It's a documentary commissioned for the British TV, and then never aired, presumably because it's too weird and too political. I like weird and political, so again I say, Thank you, Jean-Luc.

The soundtrack is mildly chaotic, consisting mostly of Marxist speeches, sometimes laid over other Marxist speeches, and often played against mechanical and manufacturing sounds.

The visuals are more abstract and open to interpretation — a long, sweeping view inside an auto factory, a Fox News-style anchor delivering a heartfelt and hateful editorial, a naked woman walking around in her house, etc.

The sounds and visuals are frequently at odds, like during the factory sequence, when the voice talks about how workers hate their jobs, and the imagery shows workers laughing and smiling. 

Later, the voiceover says, "Sometimes the class struggle is also the struggle of one image against another image, of one sound against another sound. In a film, this struggle is between images and sounds." Which made me feel like I'd passed a test, because I'd written that the sounds and visuals were at odds before the film told me so.

Is British Sounds a success? Well, it didn't make me a Marxist, but it's interesting, it's Goddard, and it's in English, so yeah.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Overwritten and overly-cutesy story of two con-man brothers, played by Mark Ruffalo and the annoying Adrien Brody. Rachel Weisz is their sometimes mark, sometimes partner, and throughout the movie, con after con, things are often not quite what they seem.

It's just another con-man movie, pleasant but piffle. I don't think writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick) has as much up his sleeve as he thinks he does.

Verdict: MAYBE.


• • • Coming attractions • • •      

Call Her Savage (1932)
Call Me Lucky (2015)
Casa Susanna (2022)
Chan is Missing
Chasing Madoff (2010)

 ... plus schlock and surprises

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. The guy who made *Brawl in Cell Block 99,* S. Craig Zahler, is probably America's finest current filmmaker, with his *Bone Tomahawk* and *Dragged Across Concrete* being similarly excellent.

    1. Damn right. He's a fantastic writer. All three of his flicks are excellent - Dragged Across Concrete is my favorite by far, though.

    2. The guy's new to me, but such an enthusiastic recommendation from both of you — gotta see more for myself. Dragged Across Concrete is already on my list, and I'm getting Bone Tomahawk.


    3. If you like Brawl, you'll like the others.

      Dragged is just such a powerful look at really heavy content - it's crime film, first and foremost, but issues of race and class are swirling throughout it in genuinely exploratory and uncomfortable ways.

      Bone is essentially a western/horror hybrid, a very rare combo. There's a single act of violence that is one of the most disturbing but kind of funny things I've seen in any film.

      The dude also has a band, has made a couple comics that are interesting, has published half a dozen novels, and apparently has 20 screenplays floating around Hollywood.

      You can also see his reviews and ratings on IMDB:


    4. If you're in the mood for some modern westerns, there are two more that come to mind. Neither, of course, hold a candle to any of the classics of 50 or more years ago, but these two are nice efforts.



    5. I knew IMDB had features like this, where anybody could post lists of their favorite thises and thats, but it never popped into my limits of possibility that a moviemaker might use IMDB for such purposes. I like Zahler just for doing that.

      His list of favorite movies has a lot of titles that would be on my list too, and reminds me of movies I'd forgotten, and a few I've never seen. Cool...

      > The dude also has a band, has made a couple comics that are interesting, has published half a dozen novels, and apparently has 20 screenplays floating around Hollywood.


    6. Thanks to Zahler I have 7 movies downloading already, but I'm adding Let Him Go. Have you read any of his novels?

    7. I read a couple of his crime novels. They were fine, but I think he needs the visual element of film or comics. He wrote one science fiction novel (Corpus Chrome) which I'd really like to read.

      He's also got a blog on GoodReads:


    8. No disrespect, and I'm sure that watching his other movies will make me even more of a fan, but dude must've come from money to have so much success in so many different fields. Without that head start, just getting a few graphic novels published would be a life's work.

      That's just a wild guess, of course, from deep in my cynical cyanide heart. I can find nothing about his family or upbringing, and haven't really looked beyond two searches.


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