1988, 80s, bullshit, childhood, film, film blogging, film reviews, films, fucking weird, meh, review, robot, sci-fi, sequel, silly, TBT

Throwback Thirty – Short Circuit 2 (1988)

5_star_rating_system_1_star Thankfully, I was able to catch up with myself for Throwback Thirty this week. After failing to watch Short Circuit 2 after I drew it out of my jar I actually managed it for today. Yesterday I settle down and had an afternoon of Johnny 5. It’s been ages since I last say Short Circuit so I wanted to remind myself… you know, in case it was too difficult to work out what was going on! Other than reminding me of how much I adore Ally Sheedy and causing me to Google (not for the first or the last time) ‘what is Steve Guttenberg doing these days?’, my rewatch of the 1986 science-fiction film wasn’t that memorable. I remember liking this film way more than I did. I don’t even think I had much of a warm nostalgic feeling about it. It just seemed a bit shit now. Of course, it was always shit but when you’re a kid nothing with a talking robot will ever be completely terrible, right? I mean, if I’m honest, the talking robot was still pretty cool as a nearly 30 year old but I was still disappointed with the film. So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I sat down to watch the sequel for the first time. If there’s one thing we know it’s that the sequel is always worse than the original… and I say that as a younger twin. So I know what I’m talking about.

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Mary Shelley Retrospective – Let’s be frank, she’s not just a one-hit wonder

This January marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s masterpiece of science-fiction and horror has, quite rightly, become something of a classic since she anonymously published the book in 1818. The book went through several different editions over the years but the 1818 is still, in my mind, the definitive version of the story. If only because it so closely resembles the story as it was first ever told. We all know the story of how Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein and it is, in all probability, part of the reason the story has endured for so long. One Summer in 1816, Percy and Mary Shelley, Byron, and John Polidori all gathered at Byron’s villa Lake Geneva in Switzerland. They propose a writing competition to create horror stories to tell each other the next night. The idea for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a waking dream:

I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …

After some work and editing, the idea that Mary came up with that Summer in 1816 became one of the most important novels to come out of the Romantic period. After all, it has spurned a monstrous number of film and television adaptations and has inspired many more writers. Shelley is praised for her vivid imagination and modern thinking. She went far beyond the science of her day to imagine something that has withstood the test of time and changed the landscape of gothic horror. It’s a book that I have countless times now and have enjoyed more and more with every read. It featured in my both my Undergraduate coursework and my final Postgraduate dissertation. I bloody love this book and am happy to commemorate it’s 200th anniversary.

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Book Review – The Power by Naomi Alderman

5_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars I have owned The Power since April this year but have only just got round to reading it. At first I was as excited about the concept as everyone else but it also worried me. The idea that Naomi Alderman has taken conventional gender roles and flipped them was inevitably going to interest me. However, I thought there was too much potential for this to go down a violent road that I wasn’t that keen on. I’m happy to describe myself as a feminist and think the fight for gender equality is an important and difficult struggle. I just don’t agree with the kind of militant feminism that exists in certain quarters that believes anger is the answer. I understand there has been a somewhat violent and extreme nature to the feminist movement but times have moved on. We’re not going to get real gender equality with an “eye for an eye” attitude. We don’t need to teach men what we’ve been going through by doing it to them; we just need to teach men to be better. The only people that a more aggressive fight for women’s rights is helping are the so called “meninists” who like to make out feminists hate men.

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Tuesday’s Reviews – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)


Thanks to my impromptu holiday over Christmas I didn’t get to upload my review of Star Wars Episode 8 on time. It’s been about 10 days since I saw the film and I’ve loads of time to acquaint myself with the general reactions to the film. The critical stuff has, mostly, been very positive with people praising Rian Johnson for taking some risks whilst also remaining faithful to the original trilogy. However, as you’d expect from the Star Wars franchise, the fanboys be pissed. Even before I’d seen the film I’d glanced at an article claiming fans were starting a petition to get the film removed from the canon. I mean, for fuck’s sake guys. This is why we can’t have nice things. Fans were up in arms about the film because it was too different from the previous films. First they complain that The Force Awakens is too similar to A New Hope and now The Last Jedi is too different. Well, how the fuck is anyone supposed to make a film within those parameters? Before I went to see the film, a girl I work with complained that it was underwhelming. She’s also the person who described Rogue One as the worst Star Wars film of all time. She typifies the view of the old fanboys who can’t see a Star Wars film that is centred around the Skywalker family. There’s more to the force and this universe than Luke Skywalker and, I for one, am ready to find out more. I can’t promise that my hatred of the reactions out there won’t have an influence on my review but it’s not like it’s going to be a problem. I’m not influencing anyone to change their mind about this film. It’s far too divisive.

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TBT – Prometheus (2012)

I’m going to be honest, as much as I’ve defended Prometheus to people it’s a film that I had, until very recently, only watched once and that was just after it was released on DVD. Yes, I didn’t even watch it in the cinema. That, obviously, hasn’t stopped me feeling qualified to defend it and, if there’s one thing you can be absolutely sure of about me by now, I won’t back down in an argument regardless of how much I know/remember about a topic. Especially if I think I’m morally superior. And, when it comes to Prometheus, I am definitely on the moral high ground. A lot of people I know have unduly criticised this film because it wasn’t what they were expecting. It’s a similar situation to the time I nearly ruined an old friendship because of the film Hugo: they hated it because they thought it was going to be a kid’s adventure instead of a love-story to cinema. People were so desperate for another Alien that anything else was bound to be torn apart. It’s nonsense. Ridley Scott always made his intentions for the film super clear and warned audiences not to go in with any stupid expectations. Is it the film’s fault if they didn’t listen and just wanted another Sigourney Weaver type killed massive black alien creatures? No. Look, I’m not a stubborn monster who isn’t willing to listen to people’s reasoned arguments about why it’s a terrible film. I myself think it has a few major issues. However, if you’re only going to negatively compare it to one of the best films of all time… well, let’s just say, in my head nobody can hear you moan.

Prometheus had a lot to live up to when it was first released. It was Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise and it was our chance to finally understand more about the history of the alien corpse that the crew of the Nostromo discovered in the first film. It promised to set us on a path that would answer a lot of questions that have been raised over the years. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a prequel but a film that is related to the later films whilst being a story in its own right. It exists in the same universe but don’t expect too many moments of face-hugging or chest-bursting. Especially after Damon Lindelof got his hands on the first draft and erased as many Alien-isms as possible. Prometheus, as the name would suggests, deals with humanity’s relationship with their creators. Prometheus was the Titan who went against the wishes of the Gods and gave mankind fire. For that act of treason, he was banished and punished by the Gods. He gave humanity fire and was then forced to have birds eat his liver every day for eternity. So, if there’s one thing that the crew of the Prometheus ship should know, you don’t fuck with your God/Gods.
Regardless, the crew set out on a journey to discover where they came from. After discovering various cave paintings depicting mankind worshipping God-like figures and a mysterious star chart. They decide to follow the map and track the beings, who they dub The Engineers, to the distant moon LV-223. After receiving funding from the Weyland Corporation, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead the mission to try and find the creatures they believe created mankind. They are, naturally, joined by a whole host of staple sci-fi supporting characters. The gruff and distant Commander (Charlize Theron), the laid back but dependable Captain (Idris Elba) and the naive biologist and clearly destined to be the first to die (Rafe Spall).
Most importantly, in terms of both plot and scene stealing, is the mega creepy android, David (Michael Fassbender). He was created to be as human-like as possible and is more than capable of feeling those pesky emotions that most robotic creatures tend to avoid. It clearly spells trouble and, despite everyone else being unable to see it, David obviously has his own secret agenda. Fassbender is the breakout star of the show and brings a new level of fucking creepy to androids. Everything about the performance works to make David seem more inhuman and uncanny. It’s amazing. 
Less outstanding are the rest of the performances. I’m afraid, no matter how much I love her, I never really got behind Noomi Rapace in this role. She never quite sells the character or her relationship with fellow scientist Dr Holloway. I realise that we’re trying to avoid comparing this with its predecessors but, when you’re part of the franchise that invented badass, sci-fi women, Prometheus needed Dr Shaw to really pack a punch. She doesn’t. Equally, Charlize Theron is kind of thrust into a underwhelming role where she has little to do other than (SPOILER) die in the most unnecessary way possible, What is it with people not being able to run away from something properly? She and Rickon need to start a club. 
Anyway, that’s not to say that Prometheus doesn’t have some good moments. It’s not that the characters are completely underwhelming, it’s just that they don’t feel as developed as they need to be. And that’s not to say that we needed hours of background and context for them. We know basically fuck all about the crew of the Nostromo in Alien but they felt more like cohesive characters than a lot of these ones. The only one who comes close to Fassbender is Idris Elba’s captain but even he can only do so much with so little. Prometheus falls down under the weight of it’s own expectations. It wanted to do so much that the important details suffered. It was great that Ridley Scott wanted to explore the background of this universe and go a little existential. However, it was huge task. Somewhere along the way it became too much. 
The narrative shows promise but has so many twists, turns and unanswered questions that it feels a little shoddy. Now, I did like the open ending and the secrets that were left unrevealed but it still felt like it wasn’t enough. There is too much predictability at play here and a lot of the dialogue is just awful. There’s so much going on and it never feels like it all forms one major plot. It’s too fragmented and separate. There needed to be more clarity. The big action and horror set-pieces are great but, even with these bursts of excitement, there is no real momentum to this film. It doesn’t feel like it’s moving anywhere and it’s easy to get distracted along the way. It wastes more time on myths and legends that don’t matter than in answering the questions we wanted answers to. It’s still watchable, though. Of course, that is mostly down the fantastic design and Fassbender’s haunting performance. Ridley Scott can still pull some great sci-fi moments out of his hat but this film needed a much stronger script. I commend the idea of what this film should have been but Prometheus could never have achieved everything it set out to be… so it didn’t.
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Tuesday’s Reviews – Alien: Covenant (2017)

Before I started writing this review I decided it was time to remind myself of Ridley Scott’s first prequel to Alien. I feel like I’m always having to defend Prometheus from people who thought it was a disappointing addition to the franchise. When I looked at the reviews I was shocked to see that a lot of critics gave the film moderate praise. I mean, yes, that praise was mostly for the aesthetic appeal and Michael Fassbender’s performance but I was under the impression that it had received more of a negative response. I, personally, didn’t mind the film. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be another wild ride of alien escapes and craziness in space. So I went in with realistic expectations. The people that I know who were most disappointed by it are the ones who expected Ridley Scott to pick up where he left off. Before 2012’s prequel, Scott had only directed the original film in the franchise so there were fans who were hoping he would give us the same treatment that Sigourney Weaver got but a few years earlier. Instead, we went on a journey to discover humanity’s existence and find out where the Alien menace came from. The story wasn’t quite as slick as we were used to and, for the most part, Prometheus gave us more questions than it answered. However, it was still enough to whet our appetite for the prequel’s sequel. Although, there was always the chance that we would get another Attack of the Clones here. I mean nobody expected that to be even more disappointing to fans than Phantom Menace but then Hayden Christensen managed to take shit to a whole new level.

I admire Ridley Scott for making this film. I mean, he was responsible for making one of the single greatest sci-fi films of all time. Hell, I’d happily say that Alien is one of the single greatest films of all time. The last time I watched it I was still scared shitless and I know exactly what’s going to happen at this point. So, he could have bowed out gracefully and let that be his legacy. Instead, he risked pulling a George Lucas and decided to show us the background to a much loved classic. Now, I know a lot of fans weren’t too keen on Prometheus but, if you take away all of your expectations of a film in the franchise, it is actually not that bad a film. There is a great cast and an interesting, if slightly overreaching, narrative. It has fantastic visuals and attempts to solve the mystery surrounding the alien that caused so much grief on the USCSS Nostromo. I enjoyed it and, with every repeat viewing of the Alien: Covenant trailer, I was really looking forward to its sequel.

A sequel which appeared to go out of its way to make connection to both the original Alien and its own sequel Aliens. We are introduced to a colonisation ship, the Covenant, in the midst of its journey to a distant and habitable planet. When an accident causes a few issues, the crew are awoken from hyperspace and discover another habitable planet that is closer to their current location. Now, because the crew have never seen a science-fiction movie before, new Captain Oram (Billy Cruddup) decides it is worth checking out this mysterious, new planet. He goes against the wishes of his second in command, Daniels (Katherine Waterson) for the good of the audience. So we see most of the crew head down to the weird planet whilst a small minority remain to keep things in order.

Unfortunately but not unexpectedly shit starts to go down in typical Alien fashion. The crew starts to be infected by a weird spore that, strangely, causes creatures to burst from their bodies. Hmm, I feel like I’ve heard of that happening before. Luckily, though, David (Michael Fassbender) the creepy android from Prometheus, is on hand to give the crew his new expertise on the creatures. Turns out he became stranded on the planet 10 years earlier and has spent his time alone studying them. The scenes in which he takes Orman through his weird museum of Xenomorph skeletons is super creepy and just amazing.

In terms of plot Alien: Covenant still isn’t exactly as tight as Ridley Scott’s original but it feels as though it is reaching for something within its grasp. It attempts to answer as many of the questions that Prometheus left us with whilst getting closer to the structure of the earlier parts of the franchise. We see glimpses of both Alien and Aliens as the action moves from the wide open spaces of the planet to the confines of the ship. We have the inevitable nods to the very first facehugger and chestburster scenes but with the added gore of CGI. This film certainly pays fan service and will delight for nostalgia alone. However, it may still feel kind of empty to those who are used to this kind of thing. Just as Prometheus was a bigger hit with younger audiences, I believe those unfamiliar with the series will get a bigger kick out of these moments than lifelong fans. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a watch of course.

The problem isn’t that Covenant is a bad film; it’s just that it doesn’t feel new enough. People criticised Prometheus for being too dissimilar to anything that had gone before but this is starting to feel like a step back. The cast is great and, I have to say, that Katherine Waterson makes a much more convincing lead for the film than Noomi Rapace did before her. Waterson has more of the Sigourney Weaver feel about her and handles the character well. Michael Fassbender, in the dual role of David and his contemporary Walter, is still on fantastic form and is clearly having a blast making these films. The film, as its predecessor was, is absolutely stunning. However, there is something missing. The first Alien made so much of such a small concept but, since that point, the concept are getting bigger and less terrifying. I get that Scott wants to handle bigger ideas but, if this is to continue, everything needs a bit more clarity.

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TBT – Attack of the Clones (2002)

I know that it’s a very subjective thing but I think we mostly all agree that, when it comes to Star Wars films, the second ever film in the franchise is the best. I know over the years I’ve changed my mind on the matter many times and can still switch whenever I’m a bit hungry or my mood changes slightly. However, The Empire Strikes Back, ended up being a far better film than A New Hope and it was certainly not surpassed by Return of the Jedi. If you were to ask me, Empire is up there with a limited number of sequels that were better than the original film. This fact may have given fans a glimmer of hope after the disappointing prequel The Phantom Menace by suggesting that lightening could strike twice. We all madly hoped that Attack of the Clones would show us how great Star Wars could be with lashings of CGI and plenty of stupid characters to keep the kids entertained. Unfortunately, it did the opposite and managed to make the first film look like fucking Shakespeare. Just as we can pretty much all agree that the original sequel is the best film in the franchise, I think we all know that the worst is the prequel sequel. So, in honour of this great day, I decided to re-watch it and rip it to shreds.

As you may remember, back in 2015 I wrote a blog post in which I defended the prequels and offered several examples that I believe were genuinely good about them. There are a fair few good things about Revenge of the Sith and some aspects of The Phantom Menace that really worked well. The only things I could think of for Attack of the Clones? The Jedi battle on Geonosis and Obi Wan’s face. Now Ewan McGregor’s face has got me to watch many questionable films over the years and definitely will do again. His casting was the best thing about the prequel films and has caused me to re-watch specific scenes in all of the prequels way too many times. He’s bloody beautiful and super talented despite the god awful lines he’s continually forced to spout. Still, there is only so much that his good looks can cover up.

For the most part, Attack of the Clones is just a long and slow continuation of Anakin’s story where very little happens until the final half hour or so. The tale picks up 10 years after the end of Phantom and Anakin is still Obi Wan’s padawan. He is cocky and still unable to control his emotions. Even if you weren’t aware of the future events in his story, it’s super obvious that he shouldn’t have been allowed into the Jedi order and I spend most of the film wondering why people didn’t realise the outcome sooner. I mean he just comes across as a fucking creep the entire time and looks as though he could kill at any minute. It’s insane that Yoda let him just wander around the galaxy freely carrying a weapon.

Unlike it’s counterpart for the original films, The Empire Strikes Back, there is no dramatic and exciting opening to this film. Instead of a great battle on Hoth, we have an introduction to space politics and a really boring assassination plot. A plot which only serves the purpose of messily putting  Anakin and Padme together to allow them to fall in love. Which is basically all this film cares about. It pushes the romance angle way more than it should, especially because it’s two stars have absolutely no chemistry. Hayden Christensen is incredibly wooden and unemotional throughout his 2 Star Wars films but when he is attempting to woo Natalie Portman there is just nothing there. It doesn’t help that the lines are the worst kind of cliches imaginable but you can’t really tell from the on-screen talent that these two characters are falling in love. It just kind of sneaks up on you and doesn’t make sense. Remember how, the more you think about it, the love story in Beauty and the Beast is super questionable and weird. This one makes that look like fucking relationship goals. It’s just not good.

Thankfully, there is Obi Wan’s side-plot to keep people interested but even that veers off into dull territory from time to time. We see some new worlds and meet some interesting new characters but it isn’t until way down the line that the excitement really kicks in. He goes on a rather tame Space tour and follows bounty hunter Jango Fett to Geonosis. It’s not much to write home about. Until he, and in a painfully laboured way, Anakin and Padme get captured by Separatists and forced to fight in a massive death arena. It is here that the fucking awesome Jedi battle I mentioned as the main positive takes place. It’s a great sequence that really, for the first time in the franchise, shows us the real scope of the Jedi Order. We see why they are considered the Space Police of the whole Galaxy and understand why they were remembered as great warriors.

Still, that’s only 1 scene. We have to wade through an immense amount of shit to get there. We all wanted to love Attack of the Clones and, if it’s sequel brother was anything to go by, it should have been great. Instead it featured and some really boring narrative points and some of the worst writing in cinematic history. The lead couple never really gels enough to sell the only part of the film that George Lucas gives a fuck about and there just isn’t enough of Obi Wan’s face. This film, even more than Phantom, is just a mess of CGI backdrops and awful cartoon characters for the kids. There are moments when I start to feel embarrassed for the people involved in making it. I mean the scene between Obi Wan and Dex the Diner owner is just pure children’s cartoon. Then there’s the moment that could fit in any B movie or soap opera when the director attempts to trick us into thinking Padme is about to be melted. Or, finally, the laughable moment when Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku is speeding along on a CGI space scooter. Who the fuck signed off on that visual? Lee looks super uncomfortable and the end result looks so shitty.

Ultimately though, the problem with Attack of the Clones is that nobody really gave a shit about it. It was just a placeholder. It didn’t matter to the story and was just the inevitable 3rd movie to let the whole double trilogy thing come to life. Phantom was about introducing us to Anakin and explaining how he became a Jedi. Revenge would show us the moment Anakin became Darth Vader. Attack? Nobody really knew what that needed to be about so it was just about nothing really. It was let down by lack of plot and sense of direction. It’s aimless so there is nothing it can do to make up for any shortfalls. If it weren’t for a couple of great moments and some decent acting from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee and Samuel L Jackson then it would have completely crumbled. Also, CGI Yoda is the fucking bomb!

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TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – TOP TEN STAR WARS

Tomorrow is the biggest day in any Star Wars fan’s diary. Yes, May the 4th is upon us all again and, as we started last year, it’s time for our yearly Star Wars Top 10. I have to be honest, I’ve only done 1 of these so far and I was already struggling to find a decent idea here. It didn’t help that I got back late from the cinema. I’ve just watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and I have too many feelings to be able to process this top 10. Still, I’m soldiering on and am ready to right a list of my top moments in the Star Wars films. All the Star Wars films that it. Even the newer ones were up for grabs. That’s probably controversial but, as I’ve said before, all of the newer films have their positives.


Ten: The Jedi Battle – Attack of the Clones

The great moments in the second prequel film were definitely few and far between. However, the huge Jedi battle on Geonosis is just amazing. It’s the first time we really see the sheer force and size of the Jedis before Order 66 destroys them. They are a force to be reckoned with and you can see how they are able to keep the Galaxy in order.

Nine: The Pod Race – The Phantom Menace

The Pod Race gave so much hope early on in this film. It’s such a fantastic sequence that uses CGI in a really good way. You know, unlike the other scenes in the prequels. Ignoring the rest of the film, this sequence is exciting and exhilarating. We see Anakin as the great pilot that Obi Wan always claimed he was. It looks great and it adds a lot to the opening of the new film.

Eight: The Battle of Hoth – The Empire Strikes Back

This opening battle is bloody brilliant, right? It picks up off straight away after the dramatic tension of A New Hope and takes it to a new ice planet. I mean if nothing else, Hoth is a fucking great place for the series’ first land battle. Then look at the huge AT-ATs against the tiny rebel ships. It’s a great battle with a great background. It showed us that this sequel was ready to start with a bang and keep on going. It is chaotic, energetic and brilliantly set out. A great sequence.

 Seven: The asteroid field – The Empire Strikes Back

Never tell me the odds of this scene ending up in this top 10. This scene is, quite frankly, a roller-coaster ride. We follow Han Solo as he tries to escape in the Millennium Falcon from the Imperial fleet in the middle of an asteroid field. There’s near misses, snappy dialogue and some great visuals. This scene just works so well and is helped along by John William’s great score. It’s a dramatic moment where you genuinely fear for the safety of our heroes.

 Six: The trash compactor – A New Hope

Not exactly something you’d see as a key moment but this scene is the first to feature out main foursome together for the first time. It’s the moment when we really see the relationships develop and see how the character’s bounce off each other. Add to that the tension and fear. The dialogue is great and the sense of danger is always present. Then we have things popping up all over the place and random trash monsters. It’s a great little scene.

Five: “I love you” “I know” – The Empire Strikes Back

Another memorable and quotable moment. The history of the behind the scenes are now as famous as the words themselves. When Harrison Ford decided he wanted to change the line from “I love you to” to “I know” he really cemented his character’s attitude. Han Solo is the egotistical, frustrating, scruffy-looking Nerf-herder. Yes, he’s lovable but he’s still a rogue. More than any other line in the trilogy, these 3 words sum up exactly who he is. It’s why we all love it so much.

Four: Duel of the Fates – The Phantom Menace

Before the prequels came along the lightsabre fights we, if we’re honest, really fucking lame. The new films introduced us to what a Jedi battle could really be with this showdown and, boy, did it rewrite the rules. First, we have Darth Maul and his double-ended sword and then we have the Jedi twosome working together. It’s a brilliantly choreographed sequence and is full of tension, excitement and offers an emotional punch in the middle. It’s the best thing about the first film and the prequels. It’s just mesmerising.

Three: The Death Star Attack – A New Hope

Another super iconic scene and such a memorable moment. At the basic level, without this scene the original films wouldn’t have it’s story. I mean if the Death Star hadn’t been destroyed then there wouldn’t be a rebel alliance any more. At the same time, this is the moment when we really see the potential of the force and Luke’s Jedi abilities. There are also the fantastic illusions to WW2 and the aerial dogfights. It feels real yet completely sci-fi at the same time. It’s a game changer.
 
Two: Darth Vader unleashed – Rogue One

I’m not sure if it’s cheating having this moment in my top 10 because it’s from one of the newer films. However, this is the Darth Vader scene we’ve all been waiting for. Darth is one of the greatest villains in cinema history but, when you think about it, there’s little reason for this to be true. In the originals we never see him do anything that terrifying and the Anakin in the prequels doesn’t get beyond killing a few annoying younglings. We needed this scene to show us exactly why the rebels were so fucking afraid of him. It’s a breathtaking scene.

One: The Big Reveal – The Empire Strikes Back

As if there could be any other moment in the number 1 spot. We all remember that moment we first watched the films and saw this moment. It’s number 1 simply because of how iconic it is. Without this, the original films don’t have their emotional core. It’s one of the best lines in the series and it’s one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. How could I possibly pick anything else?

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TBT – Aliens (1986)

On Saturday 25th February it really was “game over, man. Game over” for actor Bill Paxton. The 61 year old died after complications during heart surgery. 61 really is no age at all and I can hardly imagine how his family and friends are coping. I liked Bill Paxton; although, I find this a sort of hypocritical statement to make considering most of the time I didn’t get his name correct. Yes, I’m one of those people that could never tell the difference between her Bills. Just like trying to get a USB stick into the hole, it always takes me 3 attempts to work out if I mean Bill Pullman or Bill Paxton. Even though I know there is one Bill I prefer, I just can’t remember his name. Bill Paxton was a great actor who had the ability to turn his hand to any number of roles. In order to honour his work and, conveniently, find something to write about for TBT, I decided to rewatch one of his greatest early roles. It was the role he won himself a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor. It only seems right.

Apparently there is still something of a debate going on about which film is better: Alien or Aliens. The major consensus seems to be that James Cameron’s follow up is the better all round film but Ridley Scott’s Alien is still a classic mixing of two genres that has never been equalled. Really I don’t understand why we need to pick between them. The two are very different films with very different approaches. They just happen to be about the same Alien creature. It’s about as fair as comparing Dracula and Twlight because they both contain vampires. I say, just admit they are both great. Alien was a triumph of horror and sci-fi. As I discussed a few weeks ago, it is still terrifying after all this time. Aliens, on the other hand, is more action driven and ramps up the special effects. The Alien is no longer a single entity stalking it’s prey. There are loads of them going to war with the crew of the spaceship of the USS Sulaco. Alien was Hitchcockian whilst Aliens is the kind of film that would have inspired Michael Bay.

The film picks up 57 years after the end of the first film when Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is rescued after drifting through space in stasis. Her employers, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, are skeptical about her claims about the Alien that killed the crew. Ripley is then informed that the exomoon, where the crew of the Nostromo first encountered the eggs and Kane got infected, is now the home to a colony of people. When Weyland-Yutani lose contact with the colony they as Ripley to accompany a unit of Marines and a company representative to investigate. Obviously, it turns out Ripley was right and a lot of bad shit had gone down. The colonists have been turned into hosts for Alien embryos and there are Facehuggers and Xenomorphs waiting to strike the Marines. Ripley must use her knowledge to get the Marines out and ensure the safety of the colony’s only survivor: a young girl called Newt (Carrie Henn).

As I mentioned earlier, Aliens is a much more familiar seeming sci-fi film. It keeps certain amounts of the horror and tension of the original film but adds more violence and explosions. Instead of an unsuspecting group of civilians trying to outwit a monster, this time we get to experience a group of full-blown Marines blow them the fuck up. It makes the first film look kind of tame and is unrelenting and uncompromising in it’s quest for more bloodshed. It’s a wild and crazy ride that was pretty technologically advanced in it’s day. It is the perfect action film. Although, I will say that out of the two films, it is the earlier one that has stood the aesthetic test over the years. The only problem with cutting edge special effects is that, in years to come, they start to look very silly and outdated.

All this talk of action doesn’t mean that the film lacks depth. Maybe it lacks a tiny amount of finesse that the first film did but has much more to offer than gunfire. Sigourney Weaver is given more room to develop the character of Ripley as she revisit her past and has to deal with the emerging mother-daughter relationship with Newt. She has a lot of emotional drama to deal with as well as going further to prove that Ripley really is the original badass female. The rest of the crew also have greater room to move than most of the original crew. We get to know the group of Marines much better than we did the crew of the Nostromo and their relationships feels more familiar and understandable. The soldiers are brave, bloodthirsty and scared in equal measure. They are like a family and a realistic military unit.

Just like Alien before it, this sequel will leave you in a fragile and terrified state but it will be for much different reasons. Rather than the slow build up of tension, this films offers a much more visceral punch and is a non-stop assault of action, scares and violence. Is it better than the original?  I refuse to make a choice. Both films are fabulous in their own way. Why can’t we live in a world where we enjoy each of them?

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Chris Pratt, feminism, films, fucking awful, fucking creepy, Jennifer Lawrence, morally wrong, review, sci-fi, women

Tuesday’s reviews: Passengers (2016)

I wanted to see Passengers from the moment I first saw the trailer. For one thing, Chris Pratt is looking good and I’m always happy to watch that face for an hour or two. Secondly, Michael Sheen as an android? I’m there. Especially if he really is giving up acting in favour of Welsh politics. Finally, the trailer made it out to be a super exciting suspense thriller. It seemed perfect. However, the more I saw/read about the film the more I realised that I’d definitely hate it. I still wanted to watch it though. The lure of some Pratt facetime was just too great. Although my major gripe about the film had something to do with Chris Pratt’s casting. In that I was annoyed by the significant age gap between the two stars on screen. Christ Pratt is about 37 years old whilst Jennifer Lawrence is a youthful looking 26. Now I’m not disputing that relationships occur between people with an age gap of 10 plus years but I don’t see why it had to happen. Lawrence keeps being cast in roles that should be played by an older actor despite having looking younger than her years. Is Hollywood just running out of women in their mid 30s or men in their late 20s? I know the pair make a beathtakingly beautiful couple but I just think the whole premise becomes even creepier when you consider the age gap. But maybe that’s just cynical old me?

Passengers is one of those films that looks too good to be true. It’s full of beautiful people, wearing beautiful clothes, and getting in perilous situations in beautiful locations. There had to be a catch somewhere. No film has that much emphasis on looking shiny and perfect whilst still offering up a great story. So what is the story? The film introduces us to the Avalon, a starship that is making the journey to a distant planet that is to be colonised by the 5,000 odd people on board. The journey would take 120 Earth years so everyone is in hibernation pods. Well, until an asteroid field causes damage to the ship and Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is woken up 90 years too soon. Jim, a mechanic, spends months trying to come to terms with his situation and taking as much pleasure as he can in the high-tech ship. But, it turns out, that a man can only find so much joy in basketball, competitive dance games, and robot waiters. Unable to find a way to go back into hibernation, Jim contemplates ending his life.

Well, until a twist of fate leaves him face-to-face with Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer who is still sleeping through the lengthy journey. To pass his time, Jim starts spending time reading Aurora’s writing, watching her Avalon video biography. and eating his lunch next to her hibernation pod. So naturally, he figures he’s in love with her. Clearly, whenever I see a person sleeping I automatically fall in love with them too. It’s super fucking awkward. Unable to forget his impending lonely life Jim wakes up Aurora from her pod and happily pretends that it happened by accident. It’s fucking crazy! And, because they are the only two humans around, Jim happily pursues the woman he condemned and the pair fall into the best relationship they can when it comes out of such limited options. Plus, basketball and dancing is great and all but sex is the best thing to fight the impending doom of waiting out your life on a spaceship. Until, Aurora finds out what Jim did and, naturally, decides he is not just the only other conscious person but the worst human being of all time.

It’s no fucking wonder that the trailers went so fucking far to erase this massive detail from all of the promotional stuff. This was being sold as a romantic space thriller but instead it’s just a fucking crazed stalker holding a pretty young girl hostage. It’s a weird premise that the writers clearly try to present as morally contemptible and we do see Jim spending a few seconds weighing up the ethics of the situation. Then we see Aurora dismiss him and part company from him. This is all perfectly normal behaviour. Well, until the film’s dismal final act. This is where the film falls down in so many ways. We have the inevitable heroic moment when Jim offers to lay down his life to save the 5,000 plus souls on board. And, apparently, that’s all it takes to take a woman from “your murdered me” to ‘I can’t live without you’. Fucking romantic.

I’m not saying that Passengers is a bad film simply because of this decision. Obviously, it’s the most worrying thing about it but, more than that, Passengers is simply a really bad story. It halfheartedly tries to make a point about ethics in extreme situations but them just ignores it for a shitty sentimental ending. It’s a film that looks amazing but lacks so much in premise that, were it not for the blatant sexism on show, would have made it a completely forgettable film. It’s always a bad sign when your watching a film that doesn’t get better than it’s opening 30 minutes when you’re basically watching a guy doing Groundhog Day in space. After that everything falls apart.

This is a film created by men to appeal to men. Women will sit there watching an unsuspecting and defenceless girl being manipulated by a seemingly nice guy and eventually succumbing to Stockholm syndrome. It’s no wonder we have such a problem with men understanding boundaries when it comes to relationships and sex in this society. Everyman Chris Pratt makes a morally disgusting and selfish choice but is eventually rewarded by getting to see Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs. Yes, I know the film makes an attempt to show how bad the decision was but it is ultimately justified when Aurora makes the decision to stay with Jim instead of going back into hibernation. What does that fucking tell people? With enough persistence and limited options then any woman will chose you over the life they intended to live? Ugh, please. Any real woman would have left that creepy piece of shit and gone to Homestead II as planned. Chris Pratt or no Chris Pratt.

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