Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976) (TVM)

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This is the VHS cover of a TVM sequel that scares the bejesus out of me – and with good reason. I’ve never been good with diabolism and the actor Stephen McHattie (who I loved since he played James Dean in the 1976 TVM) seems like he really could be the son of John Cassavetes from the Polanski masterpiece. And this was made the same year, so I guess it was kind of a moment for him, as they say.  Little Andrew as his mom Patty Duke Astin calls him is needed for a ritual but she smuggles him out of NYC and then a madam (Tina Louise) does a deal with the coven to take him herself and Patty gets taken away screaming on a driverless bus… Suddenly Andrew’s all grown up and in constant trouble with Sheriff Broderick Crawford and startled by memories of his parents and Uncle Roman and Aunt Minnie are not too thrilled with his behaviour either:  Ray Milland and particularly Ruth Gordon chew the scenery wonderfully as the devilish old pair who chide him over his lack of responsibility to his pop. Their bickering is the best thing about this. His human pop Guy Woodhouse (George Maharis) has carved out a Hollywood career which now looks like it might slide into oblivion thanks to his ingrate son. Andrew’s new female friend, Ellen (Donna Mills) gets him out of a psych ward – well, isn’t that where you end up if you claim you’re the Son of Satan – and strikes a deal with the Castevets … The devil is in the detail, isn’t he.  Sigh. This is not a worthy follow up to a classic. It was adapted from Ira Levin’s characters by Anthony Wilson who worked on Planet of the Apes and The Night That Panicked America (with Nicholas Meyer) He died two years after this was made. Another point of interest for buffs: this was directed by editor Sam O. Steen, who edited Rosemary’s Baby and he is reunited here with cinematographer John A. Alonzo from their teaming on Chinatown, another great Polanski film. Ah, cinema. Not your average TVM then – at least in terms of the talent!

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Black Mountain Poets (2016)

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A shambolic exercise in shaggy dog poetry, or something. Writer/director Jamie Adams had an idea, got an ensemble together and they semi-improvised the scenes over five days in the Black Mountains of Wales. This, by the way, has nothing to do with the actual Black Mountain poets in the US, in case you thought you had stumbled onto an artistic exploration of experimental writers. Two con artist sisters, Alice Lowe and Dolly Wells, narrowly escape the clutches of the law trying to steal a JCB and make off in a stolen car which runs out of petrol. Lost in the middle of Wales they steal a car belonging to the Wilding Sisters, a pair of poets on their way to a poetry retreat – and pretend to be them. Lisa (Lowe) falls for earnest Richard (Tom Cullen) whose ex Louisa (Rosa Robson) shows up unimpressed. Things take a turn when they’re obliged to do outdoor pursuits and go camping and Richard falls for Claire (Wells). (And if you think that’s unbelievable, I narrowly avoided one such writing retreat which forced participants to climb up a waterfall and then dive in – and yes, someone fractured their skull and neck on the rocks below …) Then there’s a pretty funny poem-off with the police dropping by. All the while the real Wildings are wondering why nobody has come to rescue them … Pretty silly and misses its supposed targets and sometimes feels as long as the five days it took to make this 82-minute effort. Mostly daft fun and it’s almost refreshing to see nature take a hold of these neurotic loser thirtysomethings who miss their late dad to the point where Lisa wants to put pen to paper and read out more than a Tesco receipt or the card her dead father wrote her twenty years ago. Harmless, just as long as nobody got hurt putting up those tents.

Wild (2014)

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Cheryl Strayed. That is not only a sentence, it is a name. The author of a highly troubled memoir, she undertook a gruelling hike along the Pacific Crest Trail to avenge her demons and find her true self after years of self-destructive behaviour, death and divorce.  The film is a tour de force for star and producer, Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby’s kaleidoscopic collage of a screenplay is a thing of wonder. For those of us who came up through the Nineties it is also a peculiar kind of valentine with its reminders of Riot Grrls and the grunge scene. Director Jean-Marc Vallee is true to the stream of consciousness that dictates Strayed’s thoughts and the film is at once gritty and delicate, examining the very mind of a woman.  From that perspective it is utterly radical and unique particularly in the Academy Awards season which is dominated by stories of men. Talk about diversity? Why not talk about women? Fifty per cent of the population and we still can’t get a break. This should have been a contender.