Celebrities Category

Celebrity news & gossip from the world’s showbiz and glamour magazines (OK!, Hello, National Enquirer and more). We read them so you don’t have to, picking the best bits from the showbiz world’s maw and spitting it back at them. Expect lots of sarcasm.

GWAR Front Man Dave Brockie RIP: Scumdogs of the Universe Lament Their Loss

ONE of the funnest, daftest and most bizarre rock bands on the planet, are GWAR. A cavalcade of ogre faces, missing limbs, pantomime villainy, showers of blood and all manner of hilariously gruesome content, they were a b-movie writ large, parading around festivals and gigs, mixing schlock horror with stadium-sized metal.





They were so unreal, you’d thought they’d live forever.

However, sadly, frontman and founder of the satirical heavy metal outfit, Dave Brockie, was found dead yesterday in his Richmond, Va., home.

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Posted: 24th, March 2014 | In: Music | Comment

Watch This 1979 Kate Bush Documentary On Her Liverpool Empire Show

Screen shot 2014-03-24 at 12.45.11


KATE Bush is touring again.

Why did she ever stop?

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Posted: 24th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Flashback, TV & Radio | Comment

The Moment The Tabloids Feasted On L’Wren Scott’s Death And Mick Jagger’s Face

WHEN fashion designer L’Wren Scott was found dead in New York, her boyfriend Mick Jagger was in Australia, on tour with the Rolling Stones.

The papers have noticed that Jagger is not on twitter and does not subscribe to the iVulture dead celebrity news wire. So. It was left to someone else to tell him the grim news. And for the tabloids to gawp at the man and slap his face over their front pages:


mick jagger death moment


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Posted: 22nd, March 2014 | In: Celebrities | Comment

We Used to Be Friends: Five Reasons Why the Veronica Mars Movie is Much More than “Fan Service”



HERE’S a challenge for the intrepid researcher: Go to Google and search for five or so reviews of the Veronica Mars (2014) movie from the mainstream press that don’t include the following term: “fan service.”

For the uninitiated in such things, fan service is a descriptor widely understood to mean the act of “giving the fans exactly what they want,” and for some reason, it is being applied to Veronica Mars on a remarkably consistent, nay universal basis.

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Posted: 20th, March 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts | Comments (2)

Who Killed Disco? 7 Suspects Revealed



IT’S actually amazing when you stop and think about it.   A counter-culture movement originating in homosexual night clubs  somehow wound up overtaking every nook and cranny of the pop culture landscape.  From Hollywood to the fashion industry to ridiculous albums like the one pictured above – nothing was safe from the marauding cash cow called Disco.

So, why did it die a horrible death in the early 1980s?

There were plenty factors at work, such as a very real homophobic backlash. But that is an issue best reserved for a more serious discussion.  Instead, let’s focus on 7 other primary suspects all wanted for “discocide”.







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Posted: 20th, March 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, Music | Comment

Pat Robertson’s Fever Dream: Four Times When Horror Movies Met The Devil’s Own Rock-and-Roll Music In The 1980s



JUST last week, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson spoke out about the hidden scourge of our modern society: those demons from Hell who like to crash your car.

Yes, it turns out that devils can cause really horrible road accidents because — by merely watching horror movies — you have “granted them permission” to do so.

You know who you are…

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Posted: 19th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)

Gene Simmons Thinks Hip Hop, Non-Guitarists And Karaoke Kiss Should Be Banished From The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame




YOU may remember Gene Simmons as the frontman of Kiss and a deeply upsetting sex tape. Mainly though, you’ll think of him as an opinionated gobshite who looks weird when he’s not in his makeup.

Well, Gene’s at it again, saying that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is “diluting” itself with hip-hop, pop and disco artists.

Now, Kiss are joining the Hall next month, and Simmons blasted “back room politics” for the inclusion of bands like Run DMC and Donna Summer.

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Posted: 19th, March 2014 | In: Music | Comment (1)

Growing Old Gracefully or Kicking and Screaming: Old Vs. New Hollywood

WATCHING the Oscars and other such events lately, it’s becoming disturbingly common to spot actresses, now in their sixties, desperately hanging onto their youth.  It seems overnight, all my favourite actresses from the 1970s and 80s have gone under the knife in a vain attempt at retaining their former sex appeal.  It’s something we haven’t witnessed before – actresses from earlier days didn’t have plastic surgery at their disposal, and the intense need to “stay sexy” wasn’t perhaps as strong.  Thus, the previous generation of starlets appeared to age much more gracefully than the ageing actresses of today.  Here’s a few comparisons….


hawn loy age 26


Here is Myrna Loy and Goldie Hawn, both age 26.  They’re much alike in that they epitomized the sex symbol look of their time.  However, as the years wore on, they showed their age very differently….


Airport 1975 2


Here they are again, both approximately the same age: Myrna age 69 and Goldie age 68.  Myrna looks like an elderly woman (which you officially are at age 69); whereas, Goldie looks like someone desperately clinging to a youth long gone.  Seeing the aged Myrna and Goldie side-by-side is truly shocking.  One woman accepts the fact that no one can escape the passage of time, and the other is in complete denial.





Katharine Hepburn age 32 and Cher age 20.  Both actresses were stunning in their younger days, and Cher was able to reap the rewards of a seemingly ageless figure in the decades to come.  However, you can only hold onto your sexy appeal for so long.




Here are Hepburn and Cher both aged 67.  Hepburn has gracefully accepted the passage of time, wearing pants and putting her hair in a bun.  But this doesn’t mean she had to act old; indeed, Hepburn was a vibrant as ever in 1973.  The difference is that Hepburn is no longer trying to look sexy; whereas, Cher is still sporting the micro-miniskirt.  Plus, Cher has had her wrinkles surgically wiped away.




Here is Hepburn age 68 and Cher age 67. Hepburn wasn’t afraid to play roles befitting her age – this picture is from Rooster Cogburn, where she wisely makes no attempt to cling to her former youthful allure.  Instead, she bangs out a terrific performance alongside The Duke, wrinkles be damned.  Her age may be showing, but it by no means subtracts from her onscreen charisma.

In stark contrast, Cher still plays to crowds wearing outfits borrowed from Brittney Spears’ 1998 wardrobe.


Film - Actress Lauren Bacall


Lauren Bacall and Meg Ryan both age 55.  Bacall still retained her confident panache, but thankfully retired the attempt at sex appeal.  Meg Ryan, on the other hand, still wears the same haircut she wore in Sleepless in Seattle.  Even worse, in her futile quest for eternal youth, she has turned her face into an unnatural mask.


age 29


Ava Gardner age 29 with her man, Sinatra, and Melanie Griffith, age 31, with her guy, Don Johnson.  It’s probably unfair to compare Ava to Melanie, but both were knockouts. Yet, only one opted to age gracefully.  Can you guess which?


melanie and ava


Ava age 52 and Melanie age 55.

Melanie’s plastic surgery disasters have been much in the tabloids.  As awful as they were, it’s wrong to keep pointing fingers and mocking.  Instead, maybe someone should ask why these aging actresses feel the need to go under the knife time and again.   There’s obviously something wrong here.

We shouldn’t give old Hollywood a pass either.  Many of these old Hollywood actresses didn’t age gracefully – once their youthful sex appeal was gone, many couldn’t find work and receded into obscurity.  Take for instance, Kim Novak, popular during the 50s and early 60s.  She shocked many at the Oscars with her new “look”.




In the images above, Novak is 33 on the left and 81 on the right.  EIGHTY-ONE-FREAKING YEARS OLD!  Hollywood prides itself as being a liberal bastion, but there’s obviously a very old code still in effect that hasn’t aged one bit.

Posted: 19th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts | Comments (7)

I Was A 1960s Mod: Watch The Soul Rider Documentary

The modern fad for having as much sound and light as possible on your scooter reached the Epsom Downs for Derby Day. Proud owners are Roy Young and Linda Jarvis. Proud riders are Roy Young and Linda Jarvis at Derby Sunday on the Epsom Downs. Date: 31/05/1964

The modern fad for having as much sound and light as possible on your scooter reached the Epsom Downs for Derby Day. Proud owners are Roy Young and Linda Jarvis.  Date: 31/05/1964


IN the 1960s, Glenn Stewart was a mod. There Is More filmed Glenn over six hours as he recalled him time as a suited and booted, Vespa driving mod.

It’s a lovely short film about one of Britain’s fashion tribes:



Spotter: ModStyle

Posted: 18th, March 2014 | In: Fashion, Flashback, Music | Comment

Three Generations Of Schulz Unite To Create A Peanuts Movie As Disappointing As All The Others

SNOOPY is back. The best cartoon do of them all is to star in a new Peanuts movie, coming to a screen near you on November 6, 2015.

That’s the good news?

Do you flinch a little when you learn that it’s produced by Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz and the screenplay has been co-written by his son Bryan Schulz?


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Posted: 18th, March 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts | Comment

Courtney Love Did Not Find Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – Richard Barrow Did

IN “Courtney Love Thinks She May Have Found Missing Malaysian Plane – Hole frontwoman posts theory on Flight 370”  Rolling Stone adds a celebrity element to the hunt for the missing jet.


Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 21.06.38


Jason Newman is on the social media news beat:

As the world continues to be puzzled and enthralled by the location and disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Courtney Love has weighed in with her theory of what happened to the plane that went missing on March 8th.

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Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities | Comment (1)

BBC To Shock Everyone By Celebrating Yet More Music Played By White People: The Britpop Years

Manchester pop group Oasis accept the Brit award for Best Video (for 'Wonderwall') from Inxs frontman Michael Hutchence (left) at a star-studded ceremony at London's Earl's Court. Liam Gallagher, with beard, confronted Hutchence, once linked to Gallagher's present girlfriend Patsy Kensit, and said "Has-beens shouldn't present awards to going-t-be's'.

Manchester pop group Oasis accept the Brit award for Best Video (for ‘Wonderwall’) from Inxs frontman Michael Hutchence (left) at a star-studded ceremony at London’s Earl’s Court. Liam Gallagher, with beard, confronted Hutchence, once linked to Gallagher’s present girlfriend Patsy Kensit, and said “Has-beens shouldn’t present awards to going-t-be’s’.


THE BBC have been doing a lot of reminiscing of late. They set up BBC Four and filled it with old episodes of Top of the Pops and documentaries about the kind of music 40 year old middle class white men like.

It’s been blues this, Beatles that; classic soul this, Danny Baker talking about his record collection that. It is all perfectly lovely and often worth celebrating.

However, get the feeling there’s a whitewash going on?

The BBC give blanket coverage of Glastonbury and white rock music throughout the year. When it comes to black music, they apply the classic rule of ‘Black music is only credible if it is 20 years old, or more.’

With that, the only black music you’ll get on the BBC is stuff about disco, rhythm & blues, 60s soul music, jazz and at a push, maybe a fleeting nod to some of the hip hop released in the late 80s. Again, this is not some shrieking liberal complaint, but it certainly feels like the BBC are more likely to do a show about The Mighty Wah rather than The Wu Tang Clan. And while it is fine to like and celebrate both, you have to concede that the boys from Staten Island are infinitely more influential than Pete Wylie & Co.

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Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Music | Comment

L’Wren Scott – A Life In Photos

L’Wren Scott – photos of the woman who looked like she had it all:


Image 1 of 11


Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities | Comment

Fashion designer and Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, L’Wren Scott, commits suicide

BREAKING. Fashion designer L’Wren Scott has been found dead after hanging herself in her New York apartment this morning. L’Wren has been known, of late, as being the girlfriend of Mick Jagger. A spokesman for the Rolling Stones singer said he was: “completely shocked and devastated” at the news.

The designer was reportedly found by her assistant. There’s no suspicion of foul play, although newsrooms await the Medical Examiner’s report.

L’Wren Scott first made her name in the fashion industry as a stylist, before she went solo, releasing her eponymous line which was favoured by celebrities the world over, with fans including Michelle Obama and Nicole Kidman. In 2013, Scott collaborated with Banana Republic, appearing advertisements alongside the models.




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Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities | Comment

Bez Joins The Happy Anti-Frackers At Barton Moss

SO. There was the Happy Monday’s dancer Mark ‘Bez’ Berry kicking off his campaign to run for Parliament by joining the Barton Moss anti-fracking site, Manchester.

Bez, famous for winning Celebrity Big Brother, playing the maracas whilst white-and-not-drunk-in-a-Spanish-pub and being the subject of the line “Everyone thinks Bez has about two pounds of coke up his nose all the time and he’s on about eight E’s”, aims to “stir things up” in the Commons. His manifesto is concise:

“If you want to do something about things you’ve got to get into the corridors of power and take them on. If you’re voting for me, you’re voting as a protest about what’s happening in the world at the moment.”

It all seems impossible until you realise that the politician in Bez’s sights is the Labour MP Hazel Blears, a woman whose twin political ambitions are to be more irritating than Harriet Harman and to make Ed Balls look self-conscious. She’s half-way there.

Bez might just win…




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Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Politicians | Comment

Miley Cyrus Gives Out To Security During Gig

THE treatment of Miley Cyrus by the public at large has been a problematic one. Basically, thanks to growing up in front of everyone – which includes making mistakes, changing the way she does things, finding her sexuality and all that fun stuff – she’s been branded an idiot, like she was supposed to know what she was doing.

She’s 21 years old.

Among all this, a rather formidable woman has emerged, not afraid to take chances and speak her mind. At a show in Dallas, she stuck up for fans against her own security.

Cyrus hit out at security because they’d got mad at a fan for taking a picture of her during a gig on Wednesday.The video footage shows Miley forgetting about singing, instead, having a pop at some jobsworths.

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Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Music | Comment

Listen To When Irish Eyes Are Smiling And Other St Patrick’s Day Nightmares

when irish eyes


HAPPY St Patrick’s Day to anyone who wants an excuse to drink.  Here is a lovely rendition of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling for the St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival in Atlanta, USA.


Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Music | Comment

15 Great Moments in Sexually Suggestive Pop Music



IN 1985, Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) released their “Filthy 15” – fifteen songs they felt were the most objectionable on the planet.  Prince’s “Darling Nicki” topped the list, Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls” came in at #2, and Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop” rounded out the list at #15.

Not surprisingly, the PMRC only managed to increase sales for all 15 songs, and made the US government look even more like an overbearing nanny state. Far from holding back the tide of explicit music, you might say the dam burst not long after. Indeed, the songs on Tipper’s Filthy 15 look quaint by today’s standards.

Well, it’s been almost twenty years, so I think we’re due for another Filthy 15, don’t you? It would be much too easy to draw from contemporary music (Where does one even begin?). So, rather than shoot fish in a barrel, let’s look at the 1960s-80s, when artists couldn’t be so direct– when they had to lay it between the lines.  These aren’t necessarily the raunchiest, just some great moments in filthy songwriting.  Please feel free to add your own – if a Filthy 15 is good, a Filthy 50 is even better!



15. “Penny Lane” by The Beatles (1967)


penny lane


“A four of fish and finger pies”


For shame, McCartney, for shame! Most listeners interpreted this as a charming recount or memories at “the shelter in the middle of the roundabout”; not realizing a “finger pie” isn’t something from a dinner menu. I’ll leave it to you to extrapolate this one.



14. “Love Gun” by Kiss (1977)




“You pull the trigger of my love gun”

It’s painfully simple and obvious, but what makes it special is that it was such a popular song among the grade-school set. There’s something very, very special about millions of 1970s pre-teens singing along to a song about Paul Stanley’s penis.



13. “House of Fun” by Madness



“Sixteen today, and up for fun.
I’m a big boy now, or so they say.
So if you’ll serve, I’ll be on my way.”


I’ll admit, I’ve heard this song a thousand times, but never made the obvious connection to what it’s all about. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”, you get so caught up in the hopping beat, you don’t stop to think about the meaning of the words. While Frankie’s song is about graphic sexual advice, this one is much more innocent:

“To this day I can barely mention the title onstage without wanting to throw up. It’s about the embarrassment of going to a chemist’s shop to buy a condom for the first time.”
– The Daily Mirror, September 18, 2009



12. “Pearl Necklace” by ZZ Top



She was really bombed, and I was really blown away,
Until I asked her what she wanted, and this is what she had to say:
A pearl necklace.

Maybe not the most romantic song ever written, but what do you expect from the boys who brought you “Tube Snake Boogie”? And if I have to tell you what a pearl necklace is, it’s probably past your bedtime.



11. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna (1984)



“Like a virgin, Touched for the very first time”

According to Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs (1992), this song has a very explicit connotation (too explicit to recite here, in fact). Suffice it to say, the theory is that the singer has seen her share of action and can no longer be stimulated… that is, until she meets a “John Holmes” whose girth makes her feel like a virgin all over again.



10. “My Sharona” by The Knack




Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind

Fieger (the lead singer) wrote this about a girl he’d just met at a clothing store, Sharona Alperin. She was only 17 (8 years younger than him) and had a boyfriend, but no matter. The man was obsessed, and it shows through in the manic vocals.



9. “Little Red Corvette” by Prince


they live 2


I guess I must be dumb
‘Cause you had a pocket full of horses
Trojan and some of them used


There’s a fine line between innuendo and stating it plainly. For instance does Marvin Sease’s plainly stated “I Ate You For Breakfast” (1987) qualify as innuendo? How about the ribald “Hot Nuts (Get ’em from the Peanut Man)” by Georgia White (1931)? It’s in this erogenous zone where Prince’s music falls, with one foot in radio-friendly innuendo, and one foot in the gutter.



8. “Brand New Key” by Melanie



Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and try them out you see
I been looking around awhile
You got something for me


Back in ’71 there was a lot of hoopla over what this song actually meant; it even got banned on radio stations. Melanie insists it was completely innocent, but admits she can see the Freudian symbols throughout.



7. “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” by England Dan & John Ford Coley



“I won’t ask for promises
So you won’t have to lie
We’ve both played that game before
Say I love you, then say goodbye”


I love it when soft rock gets dirty. It sounds deceptively light and radio-friendly; however, the wholesome veneer is just a disguise. This song is basically one long argument to get into a woman’s pants. Even worse, he’s promising no commitment – just one screw and then he’s outta there.



6. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors



I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture….
You’ve got me turning up and turning down and turning in and turning ’round
I’m turning Japanese I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so


It’s supposedly about masturbation (the title references the face men make during “the process”); however, this may be just urban legend. Either way, it’s a schoolyard myth that’s kept going for a couple decades – a distinguished accomplishment in the annals of music history. And speaking of annals….



5. “Knocking at Your Back Door” by Deep Purple



“Feel it coming
It’s knocking at the door
You know it’s no good running
It’s not against the law”


A nice little ditty 100 percent about anal sex.

(awkward silence) So, there’s that information. Queue the next song.



4. “The Lemon Song” by Led Zeppelin




“Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg.
The way you squeeze my lemon, I’m gonna fall right out of bed.”


Zep combined a Howlin’ Wolf song called “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” to create this R rated classic. This and “Squeeze Box” by The Who were the first instances where I became aware that something dirty was going on in my record collection.



3. “More, More, More” by The Andrea True Connection



“But if you want to know how I really feel
Get the cameras rollin’
Get the action goin’”


This disco classic is made all the more illicit by the fact that Andrea True was an actual porn star.



2. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf



“I can see paradise by the dashboard light
You got to do what you can
And let Mother Nature do the rest”


The song was so over-the-top that it was initially labeled a novelty record and the studio musicians thought it was a practical joke. Indeed, the sexual innuendo is laid on thick for eight straight minutes. If this doesn’t deserve a place on this list, nothing does.



1. “Afternoon Delight” by The Starland Vocal Band


Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ingite
And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting


What has always made this so disorienting is the benign delivery coupled with its pornographic lyrics. It’s one thing to hear Aerosmith sing about their “big ten inch”, it’s altogether another when a folksy, seemingly family-friendly band gets in on the action. We expect it from Aerosmith, but when an EZ Listening folk rock quartet dips into the gutter, it’s downright magical.

Posted: 17th, March 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, Music | Comment

Dutch Gone Wild: 10 Insane Record Covers From The Netherlands

THE Internet has certainly done its fair share of mockery when it comes to vintage album covers from America and the UK.  How about we spread the snarkiness to a less traveled geography – say, the Netherlands?  Yes, I know Dutch singles are a ridiculously small niche, but there are some ridiculously bad covers to explore.  Take a look.


7-10-2012 8-15-44 PM


Was there a social program in Amsterdam which allowed the city’s homeless and insane to make records?  I’m just curious.

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Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Flashback, Key Posts, Music | Comment

The Greatest Voice in Hollywood, Hal Douglas, RIP

hal douglas rip



IT doesn’t matter who you are in Hollywood, fact is, you owe something to Hal Douglas.

You may not know who Hal Douglas is. He’s not exactly a household name, and sadly Douglas has just passed away, aged 89. However, we should pay tribute to Hal because he is the most legendary voice-over artist in Hollywood.

Douglas’ distinct delivery featured in thousands of trailers.



Douglas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 and died with his family by his side. He took with him a remarkable, unmistakable, rich baritone which could go from epic and theatrical, to campy and over the top.

He broke from the booth to star in the trailer, with his face, in the Jerry Seinfeld film The Comedian, where he poked fun at his own work and appeared on-screen for the first time in his 40 year career.



One of Hollywood’s true, true greats has left us and, should you feel the need to pay your respects to Hal Douglas, you can do so at

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film | Comment

Their Last Known Photograph: Five Found-Footage Horror Movies That Deserve a Second Look



THE found-footage horror film genre is one that isn’t often appreciated. The late Roger Ebert himself once wrote that movies of this type often consist of “low quality home video footage,” are “usually under-lit,” are “lacking in pacing” and seem “intentionally hard to comprehend.”

Indeed, there seems to be the pervasive misconception that a found-footage horror movie is somehow easy to shoot and produce. You don’t need a star, for example, or much of a budget either, to make such a film. You don’t even need expensive equipment.

All an intrepid film crew needs is a good concept, and a whole lot of shakin.’

None of this is true.

A good found-footage horror film — while cut-off in large part from the elegance, structure, and language of traditional film grammar — nonetheless has its merits.

For one thing, found-footage films ramp-up the experiential or immersing aspects of the genre. The hand-held camera-work provokes a brand of immediacy and urgency that other horror sub-genres can’t necessarily emulate.

Horror movies in general concern situations that are impossible to escape, set in isolated locations.  The found-footage genre runs with this idea, landing its stars in frightening landscapes and then charting a kind of pressure-cooker intensity as terror boils over.

For another thing, the compositions in found-footage films must appear spontaneous and on-the-fly, all while simultaneously capturing crucial action. This balancing act requires quite a bit of legerdemain.

A unique development of cinema-verite documentary techniques, the found-footage horror film thus requires patient preparation of shots, split-second timing, long takes, and a certain brand of non-theatrical or “naturalistic” performance that not every actor can easily master.

The overt critical dislike and disregard for the found-footage genre reminds me very much of the critical hand-wringing that occurred in the 1980s over the slasher movie formula, or in the mid-2000s over so-called “torture porn.”

Basically, movie critics are always finding some reason to object to horror’s latest trend, even as audiences are ahead of the curve, and excavating reasons to appreciate the new format.

In short, a good found-footage film — such as the genre’s classic, The Blair Witch Project (1999) — isn’t just a case of point-and-run film-making. In The Blair Witch, for instance, artistry can be detected in the escalation of the film’s throat-tightening terror, and there is even a clever sub-text about the camera operating as a “filter” that occludes reality.

The found-footage film genre has many undisputed highs, from [REC] (2007) to Trollhunter (2008), but the five found-footage horror films featured below have generally been dismissed by critics, even though they possess abundant virtues not necessarily associated with this derided sub-genre.





1. Apollo 18 (2011)

You know your movie has been poorly received when it is the butt of a joke in another found-footage horror movie (Grave Encounters 2 [2012]).

But reception aside, Apollo 18 boasts a value that found-footage movies aren’t supposed to reflect: excellent production design.

The movie is actually a period piece, set in 1972, during the last days of NASA’s Apollo program.  The film concerns a failed space mission to the moon, and the discovery of terrible creatures on the lunar surface.

In this case, tremendous attention has been paid to making certain that the film’s sets and wardrobes are appropriate and correct to the disco decade epoch.  The film grain is right too, and the result is that Apollo 18 looks very much like footage of a real space program venture.  The retro (low) tech wonders of the film are actually quite remarkable, from the Lunar Lander interior and astronaut spacesuits to the Rover mock-up.  There is no hint in the visuals that this is modern fakery.

Similarly, if the game of the found-footage movie is to find an inhospitable or dangerous terrain, and then chart the mental and physical disintegration of the characters’ trapped there, then Apollo 18 must represent an apotheosis of sorts.  The whole movie is set on Earth’s moon.  The vast, desolate landscape is recreated ably on a low budget, and viewers understand immediately that this is a realm of a million dangers, and virtually no sanctuary whatsoever.

With convincing mock-ups and locations, Apollo 18 asks its audience to dwell, essentially, in an extended moment of fear and isolation, with no genuine hope of escape.  One touching moment involves an astronaut — knowing he shall never see home again — playing a recording of his wife and son over and over; reaching out for something, anything human and comforting.

Again, critics want to tell you the characters in the film are indistinguishable and you never care about them.  But this scene of human longing and separation puts truth to that lie.





2. Grave Encounters (2011)

Again, this is a found-footage movie that received largely negative reviews, but a positive audience response.  And again, it boasts an intellectual or aesthetic quality that found-footage movies supposedly don’t possess: satirical insight.

In this case, the filmmakers mercilessly and humorously roast reality-TV conventions, and especially those of the Ghost Hunter-type show variety.  In programs of this type, every little cold spot and door squeak is made into a paranormal event of historical proportions.  Accordingly, Grave Encounters involves a team of reality-star wannabes, led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), as these actors investigate a purportedly haunted mental institution.

In short order, the audience sees Lance pay a gardener on the sanitarium grounds twenty-dollars to claim that he’s seen ghosts.  And the group’s psychic, Houston, is worried about possibly missing an important audition.  When Houston goes “big” and suggests that there’s a demonic presence in the asylum, he asks — after the take — if was “too much.”

What Grave Encounters tells audiences is that everything you see on reality TV is phony.

Of course, horror movies must punish those who transgress, and these narcissists in Grave Encounters soon find themselves in a hospital where there is no escape. The asylum seems to rewrite reality itself, and the blasé actors – who have used real life tragedy as the source for their “drama” and stardom – are suddenly faced with a true understanding of madness.

Grave Encounters bucks all the stereotypical criticisms of the found-footage genre, and meaningfully (and scarily…) critiques an aspect of our culture: the quest for fame at all costs.





3. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

The best of the durable Paranormal Activity films, Paranormal Activity 3 is simply a superior scare machine.

It features some of the best jump scares in the franchise, and more than that, does so by generating the rare quality of attention, or patience.  Again, critics of the found-footage format want to convince audiences that these films are slap-dash cash grabs that appeal to the lowest-common denominator.  They’re cheap and gimmicky!

If that’s the case, how does one account for a film like Paranormal Activity 3, which possesses long stretches of silence and stillness, and demands engagement on the part of the viewer? Here is a film that instead of rewarding a short attention span, rewards patience.

So much of this sequel’s running time is devoted to a camera panning back and forth in a room, or the quiet recording of apparently vacant areas of a suburban house. This technique not only generates suspense, it encourages one to look closely at absolutely everything, to make a mental snapshot in your head of what item is where, what light is turned on, and what, if anything, is moving in the frame.

In a way, this very technique mirrors how it feels to wake up, sleepily, in the middle of the night (after hearing a noise) and scanning the environs.  Paranormal Activity 3 is all about the potent idea of sleepy twilight, of being awake at 3:15 in the morning, and not quite having an accurate sense of what is going on.  The world is at slumber — or should be — but something insidious lurks just at the edges of perception.

We’ve all experienced this feeling, and can relate to the characters’ situations.





4. V/H/S (2012)

The first found-footage anthology, this omnibus film is a social commentary on the fact that the home video revolution of the 1980s — now thirty years old — has transformed all of us into  directors, actors,  historians, journalists…even porno stars.

Imagine for a moment millions of people possessing home movie tapes, and then imagine what becomes of those tapes after three decades.

In whose hands to they end up? What purpose do they serve? What value do they possess?

V/H/S explore five unsettling genre stories vetted from a first-person perspective, and the wraparound narrative device involves a group of small-time miscreants desperately searching for one particular video tape in the house of a (presumably) dead tape collector.

Several tapes are viewed, and all are recordings of dark, sinister events.  In virtually every situation, the video camera is used to hurt someone: to trick a gullible woman into sex, to record a carefully-plotted murder, to convince a scared girlfriend  not to seek help when something strange starts happening to her, and so forth.

I once called this film “America’s Scariest Home Videos,” but it’s more than that: V/H/S is s chronicle of the weird turn that the home video revolution has taken.

Today, we have cameras on our phones and on our tablets, and we have the capacity to record our entire lives.  But what if we are recording something else too?  What if all the recording technology of the last thirty years is merely creating a tapestry of suffering and inhumanity?  What if we are simply documenting our cruelty?

Again, it’s all too easy to dismiss this film (and its good, 2013 sequel as well…) as a gore-fest, but V/H/S explores – in horrifying fashion – the nexus of modern technology and modern morality.





5. The Devil’s Pass (2013)

This found-footage effort from Renny Harlin starts out as a meticulous exploration of the (still-unsolved) Dyatlov Pass Incident in Russia.  A group of hikers died under mysterious circumstances in 1959, on the so-called “Mountain of Death.”

A film that seems in danger of being a simple Blair Witch Project knock-off, however, instead showcases something else that found-footage  movies are often accused of lacking: imagination.

Before The Devil’s Pass is over, the movie has devised a (crazy…) solution to the real-life mystery, offered up a unified theory of conspiracies and the paranormal, and even had the grace and literacy to wink at Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.   The movie incorporates Indian cave drawings and the Philadelphia Experiment, and ends with an audacious final twist that will leave your jaw agape.

Sure, the actors aren’t great, and the early scenes are clunky, but The Devil’s Pass’s final act runs on pure, unadulterated, gonzo imagination. The movie goes courageously for broke, breaking out of format conventions and generating a lingering horror that lasts long beyond the end credits.




Each one of the aforementioned films is worth watching, and each one puts truth to the lie that the found footage genre is running on empty.

Apollo 18 is an accomplished period piece, Grave Encounters a satire of reality TV culture and ethos, Paranormal Activity 3 a waking dream that requires active participation on the part of the audience, V/H/S a dedicated critique of  our modern technology, and The Devil’s Pass  is the most imaginative and daring horror film to come down the line in quite a while.

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)

Neil Young Launches Pono Music Player




IF you can’t sell records anymore, thanks to illegal downloaders and the like, then why not work out another way of making money? That’s what Neil Young has done – instead of pissing around with music sales, he’s launched something you can’t download: something to play your music on.

So say hello to the Pono, which is apparently a high quality device. Young said of the gizmo: “once you hear this, you can’t go back”.

Pono will be a digital music service (PonoMusic) and 128GB portable device (PonoPlayer) and you’ll be able to store 2,000 high resolution songs.

It is described as a “purpose-built, portable, high-resolution digital-music player designed and engineered in a “no-compromise” fashion to allow consumers to experience studio master-quality digital music at the highest audio fidelity possible, bringing the true emotion and detail of the music, the way the artist recorded it, to life.”

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Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Music, Technology | Comment