Posted in Film, Science Fiction

The Joker

I was not very interested or impressed when they announced there was going to be a standalone Joker movie. I was even less so when they announced it would be
Joaquin Phoenix playing him.

Then the first images came out and my expectations went down even further.

Then there was this.

Now – I know a trailer is designed to make a film look good – but! Wow! This looks good. Moreover, it looks like a refreshing approach in a fast becoming weary genre. This is not going to be a CGI heavy action movie. This is a slow-paced, intimate character investigation, and a look at mental illness in general.

My mind is changed. Put a smile on that face!

Posted in Film, Review

First Man – First Class!

I am a little bit obsessed with this film. It is a masterclass of how to do a biopic. I don’t normally like biopics but in the last twelve months, the two best films have both been biopics. Bohemian Rhapsody and First Man. Both very different films – both superb.

Do yourself a favour and watch this one!

Posted in autism, Family, Film, Science Fiction, Television

Doctor Who and King Arthur – together at last – sort of

Warning – no spoilers – just a ramble.

With all the problems and hence all the attention we need to give my youngest due to his autism – my older son often feels left out. In order to try and alleviate this a bit, I try and have some father and son time with him set aside as often as we can. This has led to some temporary little traditions from time to time. For example- one of these was Pizza and Robot Wars – until that series ended. Not all are based around TV – it the latest has been.

While it has been available on Iplayer we have been working our way through the modern Doctor Who’s. From Christopher Eccleston onwards. Tonight we actually hit one that I had never seen before. The Doctor’s Daughter. Now as episodes go – it’s meh. Not too bad – just nothing that good. Despite having my favourite companion Martha back in for a while – even she was not as good in this one.

But, this episode is one of those touchstone events – like the “Trouble With Tribbles”. Not because of the story but because of the convolutions off the screen. The ‘Doctor Daughter’ is in real life his wife but at the same time in real life The Doctor’s daughter. Georgia Moffett, who played the titular role, is David Tenants wife and Peter Davidson’s (5th Doctor) daughter. Granted she was not married to David Tenant at the time but still.

Even all that though was not what made the episode a strange experience for me. What did it was the fact that one of the other characters – the General leading them ragtag army – was none other than Nigel Terry.

Yes this Nigel Terry

King Arthur – THE King Arthur from THE King Arthur Film – Excalibur!

It was a treat to see him acting again. But -it was also really incongruous. Maybe it was because of my associations with him as King Arthur but hearing him in that setting seemed really out of place. I REALLY noticed his west country accent. OK, west country with gravitas – but it still seemed out of place in a SciFi setting.

But what struck me more was that I had never really noticed it before. I mean I heard it but it never really registered. And it is there – just as strong in Excalibur – I don’t even need to watch it again to hear him in it.

It adds a new facet – polished in my mind – that will shine through when I watch the film again – because despite all its failings as a film – it is still the best! Now I have an excuse to watch it again. Who am I kidding – when have I ever needed an excuse!

Posted in Fiction, Film, Review, Science Fiction

Audible Pleasure – Dune and Dune Messiah

As mentioned in my last post, I have just finished listening to the Audible version of Dune Messiah.

I was reluctant to try Audible – but overall I would say it’s been positive. The main advantage has been a gain in “reading” time. I have more and more trouble finding time to read these days – when I have some spare time I usually end up writing before I start reading.

Audible has helped bridge that gap. On work days, I have at least an hour and a half commute. As its driving, I can’t read but I can listen.

But there is a weird effect when listening. The reader has a great impact – in ways you might not expect. Obviously, a bad reader would spoil any book but it becomes more subtle than that.

I recently listened to Rendezvous With Rama (Arthur C Clarke). Now that story is not brilliant – not bad but not up there among my favourites. However, the reader (Toby Longworth) was excellent. He really brought the story to life – so I enjoyed the Audible version more than reading the book.

In comparison – I also started listening to The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. That is a book I loved – one of my favourites! I found I couldn’t listen to this one. Something about the reader (Jonathon Keeble) just didn’t chime with me. It was not that he was bad. He has a good voice, reads well and has good contrast when changing characters. I can’t even put my finger on what it is that I didn’t like. Maybe it was that his tone or his way of interpreting the characters was different from what I had imagined in my head – though I can’t point a finger at any particular example of that.

Which brings me to the two Dune books.

Dune – read by Scott Brick – is in some way for me a conjoining of brilliance. Frank Herbert’s Dune is a strong contender for my favourite book of all time. It’s a masterpiece, it changed the way I think. I could go on – but I am not reviewing the book, just talking about the Audible effect.

So I was ecstatic that Scott Brick’s reading seemed to be the perfect fit. Again, I can’t really say why but he just fits. Maybe his tone and interpretation are on the same wavelength as me? Or maybe he pulls off something amazing and manages to breathe life and colour into the characters without impinging on my interpretation? Whatever the answer I would kill to have that skill.

So what about Dune Messiah?

Now while good, it’s a more difficult listen than Dune. Worth it but more difficult.

There are two reasons for this, the first is the reading. Scott Brick returns and is just as good. For some reason, this time, there are other readers interspersed. Some whole chapters are read by different people. Now while there is nothing wrong with them as readers – the switching grates, especially as one of them insists on pronouncing names and places completely differently than the rest.

The second reason is the book itself. Dune Messiah is in some way the weakest of the whole series. There’s a reason for that. It is a transitional book. It is tying up Dune and setting up the next book Children of Dune.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Dune Messiah was originally part of Dune and that the publishers made Herbert split it into two. I don’t know the reasons why but I can hazard two guesses. Firstly – it would have made Dune, already a long book even longer. Secondly, it would have given it a much more downbeat ending.

Cutting Dune Messiah off the end of Dune has had the effect though of many people missing the point of Dune.

It has been said that Star Wars was a rip-off of Dune. That they took the plot, dumbed it down for the masses and served up a blockbuster.

I don’t think that’s true. What I believe is that both Frank Herbert and George Lucas used the writings of Joseph Campbell about mythology. They both took his outline of a certain mythological common plot line and applied to their stories.

In George Lucas’s case, this was because he knew it would chime with people – it would echo stories they had heard all their lives. It would make his story familiar and comforting and it worked.

On reading Dune  – or watching the awful film adaptation – you might conclude the same about Frank Herbert. Dune Messiah though reveals the truth. Herbert is moving with much deeper motives. Dune Messiah shows how he was subverting that mythological story line. He was showing how easy it is to fall in love with a hero who follows the correct pattern.

Dune Messiah shows the consequences – the terrible dangers of hero-worship and the dark, dark places that it leads too.

Dune Messiah is a harder read, and harder listen but taken as a whole with Dune – worth it!

I haven’t listened to Children of Dune yet – but I have read it and I can only say that it adds more awesomeness to the series.

Posted in Film, General, Review, Science Fiction, Technology

Ageing Movies

So I stumbled upon Bladerunner on the tellybox last night. There’s an odd effect with films like this. It’s set in the future – from when it was made. 2019 to be specific. Now that future is practically here, we can see that the ‘predictions’ were well out.

However, the film still works, many such films still do. You suspend your disbelief and ignore the dates, just taking it as some unspecified time in the future.

Taken like that Bladerunner still works very well. There is very little to age it. It is still one of the greatest Sci-Fi films made and in my opinion Harrison Ford’s finest hour.

But – there was one thing that suddenly broke the suspension of disbelief for me. Three little letter – or rather three very large, neon lit letters.

TDK

For anyone like me whose teen years crossed the 80’s these three letters should be recognisable. They were all over those cassettes we used to tape the top 40 off the radio. All over the VHS tapes we used to record the late night films.

It’s almost adorable that the film makers thought they would still be around in the high-tech future – with flying cars!

In today’s film environment of more and more product placement I wonder how quickly today’s films will age? It’s already very noticeable with mobile phones. A film only has to be a few years old and the phones they are using look clunky and out dated.

I wonder if in 30 years time someone will be watching a film made today and wondering who the hell Apple were?

How times change.

Posted in Film, Review, Science Fiction

Giants

pacific_rim

It was one of those days. But work was over, the kids were in bed at last, the carnage they had caused was fixed – for now. Dinner was cooked and on the table, wife was in the bath. All I wanted was to watch something mindless on TV while I ate. But the kids had one last piece of chaos to deliver – the remote was nowhere to be seen. The TV was stuck on the children s channel.

So in desperation I flicked on the NowTv box and chose the first film to catch my eye.

Pacific Rim.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I have been trying to figure out why I liked it.

The film is completely formulaic, totally predictable, has stock characters and relies totally on special effect. Not things that endear me at all. It has everything an action/sci-fi film is ‘supposed’ to have. A hero grieving over a tragic loss called back into service reluctantly. Two partners who are unlike and don’t like each other thrust together and made to work as a team. Characters with father and child issues to resolve. Alpha males squaring up and fighting to get the pecking order correct. Comedy geeky scientists who dislike each other but end up working together to save the day. You get the idea. You barely need to actually watch the film.

Yet.

It’s like someone said let’s make a film by the book  – but – let’s do it bloody well.

But that’s still not quite it. That’s not what made it for me. What was it that did it? Oh yes.

SOD OFF BIG ROBOTS KICKING THE ARSES OF GIANT ALIEN DINOSAURS!

That’s it. If that’s doesn’t do it for you – don’t bother watching it. Otherwise, kick back, lay down your pretensions and let the child in you revel in a monster fest!