Thursday, 25 November 2010


Though I had actually watched this film recently after I had bought the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set, this time it was on Film4, and was a Film4FilmClub film. Essentially this means that as you watch, you make any comment you like to the @Film4filmclub twitter account with (in this case) the #alien3 hashtag. This at once was a good idea and certainly was amusing & great fun, but at the same time, you tend to miss half of the film as you spend so much time looking at all the tweets! So I guess this review will half be based on this viewing and half from when I watched it several months ago.

After I can't remember how long spent in cryo-sleep, Ripley's shuttle crashes on Fury 161, a prison world. The facility Ripley is taken to is home to a bunch of criminals who are all "double-Y" chromosome (presumably this means they're all particularly nasty) therefore all male, with histories of extreme violence (just the place a single white female wants to find herself). Of course she's not alone. There was a facehugger on board which impregnates not only her (as we find out later) but a dog/cow (depending on whether you're watching the theatrical/director's cut), which is the source of the Xenomorph that terrorises the inmates. Of course then the story arc is obviously going to be several plans for getting rid of the Alien (resulting in various deaths, not of the Alien-ular variety) until at the climax of the film it is killed. In this case by superheating in molten lead, and then turning the sprinklers on to it (of the fire extinguisher type, not the golf green watering type) causing the exoskeleton to contract too tight and it explodes?!!

I still think that this is a good film. Obviously it is not in the same league as the first or second instalments of this series, but David Fincher does manage to create a certain amount of isolation, desperation and downright moodyness!

-The story takes no quarter. Neither Hicks or Newt survive the crash on Fury 161. Quite a shock I guess, but good that the film doesn't want to try and recreate past glories, it's moving on.

-Atmosphere. The mood of the film is very bleak, lighting and music create a very moody film, quite unlike either of it's predecessors.

-Cast. There is quite a wealth of actors on offer, mostly British. Great to see Paul McGann and Ralph Brown together after Withnail and I. Pete Postlethwaite of course. I guess they all work together well as a bunch of cons.

-The Alien. It's fine when it's a suit, as it is in the iconic shot from Alien 3:

but when it moves, the cg is awful; it just looks like it never made it out of pre-viz! Now I know this film isn't so much horror as thriller I guess (Alien was horror; Aliens was a shoot 'em up!), but the cg Alien just spoils any tension the film had.

-Accents. Despite thinking that the casting is generally pretty good, I'm not sure why they all have such plummy British accents (apart from the scousers from Brookside!) I really don't think this collection of "Double-Y" cons would speak like they do a lot of the time.

-Script. Generally it's fine. Just fine. But then when one or two characters (I guess it's often Dillon) have some quality screen time it all goes to shit.
Dillon: Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say Fuck that thing!

Dillon: I don't like losin' a fight. Not to nobody, not to nothin'. That damn thing out there's already killed half my men, got the other half scared shitless. As long as it's alive, sister, you're not gonna save any universe.

I mean, really!

I guess finally I'll mention differences between the theatrical and director's cut. For a start, the alien comes out of a dog in the theatrical and a cow in the director's. Not sure why they changed it. I did feel foolish though when I tweeted "The dog will be fine, this isn't The Thing!", just to be shown to be ignorant when clearly the dog died!

The other obvious difference is that in the director's cut, the queen does not burst out of Ripley as she falls into the molten lead. I personally feel that this is better. When the queen jumps out (perfect timing of course) as she falls, well, for one it looks cheesey, and for two; is she trying to strangle it or cuddle it? Better to not show it, she's going to die anyway.

The less obvious difference was Paul McGann's role. In the director's cut we see a lot more of him as he describes the Alien as a dragon, and almost worships it. To the extent that after the alien is captured, McGann's character "Golic" sets it free again. Now I could be wrong that this isn't in the theatrical release, but I don't think I had my head down tweeting for that long!

So, I think it is a good film, a very different Alien film from the first two, it's just that it's let down by some bad special effects and a below par script every now and then.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Town Called Panic

Well now...this is absolutely bonkers! That really is the best way to describe this film. Just look at the trailer!

For those who live in the UK, there's a good chance that you will be familiar with the Cravendale milk adverts. For those who don't know: a pirate, a cyclist, a cow and occasionally a chicken I think (all toy, stop motion animated) run around being generally crazy shouting "MILK! MILK!" Thus:

The creators of these adverts are Belgian duo Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar. This creative genius has now given us A Town Called Panic.

In a nutshell: A cowboy called Cowboy, an Indian called Indian live together with a horse called, yup, Horse. It all starts because of Horse's birthday. (Spoilers!) Cowboy and Indian decide to build him a barbecue, and go online to order bricks (from Briquenet)! While ordering 500 bricks one of them comes back from the kitchen with a mug of coffee and puts one mug down next to the computer; of course the handle knocks the zero key and they end up ordering, well 50,000,000 is the figure quoted (I think), but there were more zeros than that! So, all these bricks are delivered, and having built a barbecue (which horse loves) Cowboy and Indian hide all the other bricks on top of the house in a giant cube (the Allspark?).

All is well at the birthday party, but that night the cube of bricks starts to crush the house! The trio escape, but the house is just a pile of bricks! So the next day they spend hours starting to rebuild the walls. Spending the night in a neighbouring farmers barn, they awake the next day to find that the walls are gone!

To cut a long story short, Cowboy, Indian and Horse discover the walls are being stolen by some underwater-fish-creature from the black lagoon type things (of which the main one is called Claude)! The adventures then include (but are not limited to) encountering a giant robot penguin controlled by crazed scientists who seem to be super strong; a very long fall to the centre of the earth (so far that they are able to play poker on the way down (Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey?)), an underwater restaurant; and an all out assault on the neighbouring farm involving lots of pigs and cows! While all this time, Horse is trying not to let down his new girlfriend: a music teacher horse called Madame Longrée! Like I said...bonkers!

I had feared that all the craziness might be a bit too much for 90 min, but actually it was just hugely enjoyable. I've not heard an audience in the cinema laugh that much since I saw In the Loop (though that was very different humour). A great film, absolutely bonkers (have I said that already?), well worth a look if you can find a local arthouse/picturehouse cinema to see it, and a brilliant antidote to Hollywood's obsession with 3D at the moment.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at
Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I will be the first to admit I don’t have a clue when it come to a whole bunch of classic children's stories or nursery rhymes (my Mum and wife would be a very close equal second!). Consequently, the first time I am becoming acquainted with the story of Alice and her land of wonder at the age of 34, is courtesy of Tim Burton and Love Film, rather than a kid's book. Of course this also means that I don’t know how like the original story this film is, but then since when have film adaptations been completely faithful to the relevant book?
The film did throw up a few surprises for me, meaning I had no idea the Jabberwocky was from this story. For as long as I can remember I have been able to quote “Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe” (if I remember correctly), but had no idea it was from Alice in Wonderland. Also the various references to the story in The Matrix make a bit more sense!
As far as the film goes, all the usual suspects for a Tim Burton film are there (including music by Danny Elfman of course). It took a while to figure out why I recognised the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) but he was George McFly in Back to the Future! I think it’s also worth mentioning that Anne Hathaway looked stunning as the White Queen, though slightly silly and floaty (in a humorous not stupid way). Of course Johnny Depp is good as the Mad Hatter, but not in a “Hey look at me I’m Johnny Depp!” kind of way, which I might have expected following Pirates of the Caribbean. There is also quite an ensemble cast of voice actors as well, featuring Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, and Barbara Windsor.
Then of course there’s Alice. Played by Mia Wasikowska, Alice must be young, yet independent and strong minded, then at the end she must be brave enough to fight a monster. I feel a lot of films that have a young main role often fall foul of playing on the youth too much, and consequently end up being like an 80s Disney film (one reason I’ve never liked the Narnia stories); but I didn’t once feel that while watching this film. Mia manages to play the youthfulness of the character, but at the same time question everything around her in a logical way (I guess logical for someone continually expecting to wake up from a dream (huh, more Matrix references)), thus showing how mature Alice is, rather than just being an irritating kid.
There’s probably no point in trying to summarise the plot; most other people in the world knew before I ever did, and it’s so convoluted and non-sensible that my falling-asleep brain couldn’t cope. So I should just conclude by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed it, Tim Burton creates a zany world (wie immer!) that you become immersed in, and I should make sure any kids I have know their classic stories and nursery rhymes!

"Get outta here! Tim Burton designed this?!!"

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Independence Day, or something more interesting?

And why does it look more interesting in Russian?

I must admit when I saw the trailer I wasn't hooked. But the Brothers Strause (despite sounding pretentious) made a hugely enjoyable AVP Requiem (I thought so anyway!). So potentially this could be quite entertaining! I'm not expecting great things, something the same, but not the same as Independence Day, probably, hopefully not a Clash of the Titans.

When Harry met Sally...

This was one of those films that we put on our Love Film list because I had never seen it, but thought that I probably should. Now I guess I’m not generally a Rom Com kinda guy (are any guys really?), but Four Wedding and a Funeral is funny, (particularly Andie MacDowell’s acting), and So I Married an Axe Murderer is hilarious. However, I just felt that there was far too much of the Rom and not enough Com in WHMS. I’m not saying I didn’t laugh, just not that often.

OK, so my impression of the film wasn’t helped by the fact that the DVD we had from Love Film was scratched somewhere near the beginning, and so after the first 10 min, the DVD then didn’t settle until about 25 min. So the film felt quite disjointed at the start. I thought it was a nice idea to intersperse the film occasionally with some couples talking about how they met, but it was, ultimately, pointless; especially when at the end it is Harry and Sally talking about how they met (giving a synopsis of the film you’ve just seen!) and they’re half the age of all the other couples.

Billy Crystal is good, he’s the kind of character that has an answer/explanation for everything (well, to do with relationships) and often goes off on a mini monologue (I suppose not too dissimilar to Jesse Eisenberg being Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, just not as geeky). This seems to be the trait that Sally hates most. Meg Ryan is mostly, well, Meg Ryan, not very interesting or outstanding. Carrie Fisher is fine as Sally’s friend, trying to convince herself that the married guy she’s seeing may one day leave his wife; but she then falls in love with the young Clemenza from The Godfather part II (Bruno Kirby). There’s not really much point dwelling on the plot, it’s a Rom Com; the only difference is that Harry and Sally naturally drift in and out of each others lives for a while before they get together a bit more regularly.

I did like the other well known bit from this film. Even though I haven’t seen this before I felt that this line was familiar:

“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Yes, it does read like a slice of ripe cheddar, but, again, Billy Crystal to the rescue, he makes it sound very genuine, and I guess maybe I did want Sally to fall into his arms (vomits quietly into a bucket)!

Overall impression: Meh. Yoda: A fake orgasm a good film does not make.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Evil Dead

Well, this must be the fastest that I have watched a film and then blogged about it!

Having watched Within the Woods last week, and on the back of finishing If Chins Could Kill, I knew I had to watch Evil Dead. It was particularly interesting as I saw several ideas that were initially in Within the Woods. The wooden bench on the porch banging against the hut; the voices saying "Join us" (Bruce Campbell says this himself in Within the Woods). Apart from being a daft Horror/Splatter/Zombie movie (not sure if I got the right genre there!), there are a few points that set it apart from others in the same ilk.

The most obvious of these is the camera work. There are many shots that are obviously thought out: Scott opening the door to the cabin, him framed in the doorway in the top right of the screen, light illuminating dust in the room, and the highlighted stuffed head on the wall; several shots that start above the character or even upside-down over the character, and the use of the camera to smash through windows (Bash-cam I believe!). Oh, and of course the camera attached to a plank of wood being run through the wood.

I guess the story itself is fairly daft (evil spirit in the wood is awakened by a recording of someone reciting verse from the Book of the Dead, spirit then possesses people who can only be dispatched by bodily dismemberment). But the whole film is still very enjoyable and not completely ridiculous. Yes there has to be a shed (cabin?) load of disbelief suspension, but it's horror right? Where in the wrong hands the film could be laughable, Sam Raimi's story telling and directing not only saves it but even makes it a good film.

I guess the only let down could be the special effects, particularly at the end. Two possessed people disintegrate (in a manner very reminiscent of the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark), but it looks like the preferred medium for these effects was plasticine. OK this wasn't a huge budget film, but considering The Thing came out the following year, the effects were far better (I guess John Carpenter did have a much bigger budget having already made Halloween, The Fog, and Escape from New York, whereas Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were making their first film). OK, having re-read that I think I'm being harsh on the special effects, but they do look a bit ropey!

Still, The Evil Dead is a classic, I guess one of the few times in cinema history though, when the second film perhaps out does the first!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Darthly Hallows

Indeed; nowhere is safe!

Especially when this guy is trying to find out where you are!