jump to navigation

Too Many Movies! (Part Two) November 16, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , 1 comment so far

So here we go with the second part of my list of films I have seen for the first time in 2012. After a decidedly mixed and uninspiring start of the year, things picked up a little a few months in…

21) The Skin That I Live In

22) Apollo 18

23) Warrior

24) Cave of the Secret Paintings

25) TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn

26) Drive

Apollo 18 was another of those ‘found-footage’ movies, a genre that seems to be stumbling towards a long slow death. Warrior I quite enjoyed, and TinTin was better than I expected. But Drive was really a surprise, a decidedly ‘cool’ piece of film-making that hit me between the eyes and remains one of my favourite films of the year. The retro-synth, 80s-style soundtrack was wonderful and I soon bought the CD on import. I’d have bought a Blu-ray copy of the film itself (I saw it on a Lovefilm rental) but read that a special edition release was intended for later and even a possible directors cut was mooted. Neither has transpired, alas, so I might as well have bought the film anyway- just thought I could avoid the usual double-dip. Well, I’m still hanging on, as it will no doubt get announced soon as I buy a copy. Great film though.

27) The Ides of March

28) Red Riding Hood

….ah, Red Riding Hood; what a disastrous mess of a teen-oriented horror flick hellbent on becoming another Twilight. Shocking how much acting talent went for the paycheck on this one. Gary Oldman, I’m looking at you, sir- where was your self-respect?

29) Fright Night

…another ill-advised remake to join a long list of ill-advised remakes of the past few years. No original ideas anymore?

30) 5 Days of War

31) Bad Teacher

32) The Reptile

33) Anonymous

…now, Anonymous I really quite enjoyed, indeed, the film is  for me probably this years greatest guilty pleasure. The premise is pretty daft (deriving from the old conspiracy theory that Shakespeare never actually wrote any of his stories, the true author lost to history) but the execution is rather enchanting. Mostly shot in a studio in Germany in front of green screen, it’s a remarkable-looking attempt to bring a lost world of history back to life. The fact that it was made by Roland Emmerich, more infamous for such ‘disaster epics’ as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day etc. is simply astonishing. Has a great soundtrack too, resulting in another CD-R purchase from Amazon.com.

34) The Grey

…aha, one of my top-ten films of the year, without a doubt. Great movie. A film about Death. And dying. In the snow. Wonderful film. Another very good soundtrack too.

35) Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

36) Stakeland

…another very good film, and possibly in my 2012 top-ten. Imagine a zombie movie made by Terrence Malick and you’ve got what this film is like. Really need to buy a Blu-ray copy of this someday. And yep, a very good soundtrack too.

37) Age of Heroes

38) The Three Musketeers

39) Avengers Assemble

40) MI4: Ghost Protocol

Avengers Assemble, one of my rare cinema outings, proved to be a very enjoyable film. Its just seemed to ‘click’, no doubt because a lot of the learning-curve stuff had been done on the earlier standalone Marvel movies that led up to it. A lot of Studios could learn much from how Marvel has treated its properties over the past few years, although I confess to feeling a little wearisome of there being too many Superhero films these days (to the extent I didn’t bother seeing The Amazing Spiderman at the flicks).

So there you go, another twenty films. There plenty more to come, including my favourite film of 2012…

Too Many Movies! (Part One) November 15, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , 1 comment so far

With due respect to Richards excellent 100 Films In A Year blog, here’s the start of my list of films I have seen (for the first time- it’s not counting films re-watched) during 2012. I’ve not drawn up a list like this before but this would seem to be the best time for it- we are nearing the end of 2012 and it also marks the fact that I’ve now cancelled my Lovefilm subscription, so I shouldn’t be seeing quite so many films in future! I guess I have decided that I’m seeing too many movies these days- its becoming such that the films are blurring in my memory, that my brain just can’t take in so many films anymore. I’ve recounted before the feeling that films are too disposable these days, that access to films now is just too much like sensory overload.  As a movie fan it might seem tantamount to heresy to be writing this, but its just too many movies. Its overkill.

So anyway, here’s the start of the list. Its chronological, starting from January with films I had bought me for Christmas last year. Just missing the list are Super 8 and the awful Conan reboot, both of which were presents I saw pre-New Year (for the record, Super 8 was a lovely film and Conan one I wished I had never seen at all, but at least it was a freebie).

1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

2) Point Blank

3) Captain America

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (the David Fincher one)

5) The Adjustment Bureau

6) Transformers 3

7) Cowboys & Aliens

8) The Princess of Montpessier

9) Melancholia

10) Red State

11) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

12) Troll Hunter

13) I Am Number Four

14) The Descendants

15) NEDS

16) Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud

17) Priest

18) Fair Game

19) The Man Who Could Cheat Death

20) Real Steel

Well, that’s the first twenty. Looking at the list its clear there’s not really any ‘classics’ in there and to be honest there’s a few of them that I drew a complete blank with- I had to check titles for some of them against their IMDB entry to figure out what the films even were, suffering  a complete disconnect with the titles. As for the more easily accounted for, ROTPA and Captain America were ‘okay’ genre flicks that teased at better sequels. I thought Adjustment Bureau wasn’t bad, Melancholia truly dire pretentious rubbish. The others were all pretty ‘meh’ - all pretty disposable really, fairly harmless and forgettable.  I remember Priest for its very good Christopher Young soundtrack more than anything else.

Time to Reboot Star Wars? November 6, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , add a comment

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just asking the question.

Thinking about Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars brand and movies etc. it just made me wonder. I love the Original Trilogy and pretty much despair at the prequels-  so I should of course be as much worried as I am excited at the very idea of seeing another Trilogy of films.  But I got to thinking, are the OT films old hat, dated, boring to new generations?  Does the idea of a guy with a laser sword make current audiences yawn? Rightly or wrongly, it got me thinking, is it time for a Star Wars reboot?

After all, we live in an age where the Spider-man films got a sudden reboot after three very successful (well, financially at least) entries. The original creative team was axed and all the parts recast, with even the origin story being retold. Ang Lee’s Hulk was followed by a complete reboot, with new creative team, the parts recast. Likewise the Superman Returns, itself a reboot, is being followed by another reboot via next year’s Man Of Steel. It could be argued that Prometheus was itself  more a reboot of the Alien franchise than a ‘proper’ prequel to the original Alien.  J.J.Abrams’ reboot of the original Star Trek reset the entire timeline of a forty-plus-year franchise continuity, competely wiping the slate clean of an entire mythology. The James Bond series has been given a slow-motion reboot over the course of three entire films. We have seen several people playing Batman culminating with a huge paradigm shift via Christopher Nolan’s reboot, and I have no doubt that now Nolan has left the franchise another reboot won’t be far behind.

We live in the age of the reboot. A time when intellectual properties are rebuilt for new generations, archetypes redesigned and shaped to the tastes and aesthetic of new audiences. Technologies have moved on. Disney’s John Carter was, in my mind, a very fine Star Wars-type pulp adventure fairly faithful to its roots but was utterly ignored by the public and panned by the critical establishment.

The fate of John Carter would never be shared by a new Star Wars film simply because of the power of the intellectual property- failing any negative fallout from the prequels, a new Star Wars film simply cannot, will not fail. Even  The Phantom Menace in its recent 3D makeover picked up a tidy sum (utterly baffling me, but what the hell do I know?). But the response to John Carter, which to me was everything the prequels should have been, must be some cause for concern. Disney didn’t buy Star Wars with some strange idea to make a fast buck with a new sure-thing Trilogy. Disney are surely in this for the long haul. Fifty years from now if physical media still exists, people might be buying a Star Wars box set as big as the new Bond 50 set.

So with Disney now relaunching Star Wars, is there a temptation to just go with a clean slate and reboot the whole thing? Now clearly that won’t be happening, as it seems the studio has story treatments from Lucas indicating a continuation of the saga post-Jedi. But would Disney be wiser just rebooting the whole thing rather than continuing it? Heresy for all fans like me, yes, but looking at how the industry has operated these past ten years with all the reboots etc, does it make sense to rebuild the saga for a new generation, as all those other franchises and intellectual properties have been? Is Star Wars too old, is there any life left in Sith and Jedi and droids and Ewoks and Wookies as they currently exist, when audiences have been wowed by Matrix films and Avatar?  Has Lucas wisely flogged off a tired franchise at the perfect time, at a price above what its worth?

Afterall, James Cameron is working on another two Avatar films, a franchise that might be cannily described as a Star Wars saga for the new generation. Just as Lucas cannibalised historical themes and characters and situations from earlier sci-fi like Flash Gordon and John Carter, as well as Dune and Lord of The Rings, so did James Cameron with Avatar. Neither franchise is particularly original, instead building on earlier works and genres. Many of the Star Wars archetypes and functions exist in Cameron’s universe (for instance the mooted return of Sigourney Weaver’s character in Avatar 2 is surely a nod to Ben Kenobi’s return in TESB). In a decade of two new Avatar films, will Star Wars still cut the mustard?

From an artistic and fanboy standpoint, the very idea of a Star Wars reboot must sound like heresy  but from a business standpoint, does it actually make more sense than simply going on with Episodes 7, 8 and 9?

Should a new, rebooted Star Wars start, pre- A New Hope, with Darth Vader kicking ass and hunting down Jedi post-Empire’s rise? Should a new generation of rebels challenge the evil Empire? Should the ‘classic’ story be retold with new technologies, new cast, newly designed worlds and cg-characters? Would that sell easier to a new generation with its smartphones, tablets and ipods and Facebook accounts?

Does that beloved Original Trilogy still have a place in this new world that feels so distant from the 1970s that gave it birth? Is Lucas stepping aside his own admission of that?

From VHS to Blu….the world of DNR etc. November 3, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , add a comment

Back in the bad old days of fuzzy VHS with its dodgy reds and pan and scan on SD cathode-ray tubes, I recall being quite happy with my lot. Just owning one of my favourite films on tape seemed a godsend, back then I seemed to enjoy the film for what it was. You’d buy a film on VHS and play it, and barring tracking issues and drop-outs would enjoy it. Of course there was this fragility thing going on- keep it away from damp or heat or magnetic fields and know that as you kept on re-watching it you were physically wearing the bloody thing out. I still own my first VHS copy of Blade Runner (the big-box version- and if you know what that means then kudos to you) though of course even if I still had a VHS player I’d think more than twice about risking playing it after so many years (if I get chance I’ll take a pic of it to post here sometime soon).

There was something about Blade Runner on pan and scan VHS, all those bright colours and odd reds and low contrast, low-res murkiness. It had a certain kind or organic ‘look’ that further editions perhaps lost. Of course not being widescreen it played a weird havoc with Ridley Scott’s original composition of the frame. But kinda cool as I remember through the rose-tinted glasses of my memory.

But anyway, what I’m getting at isn’t really to do with Blade Runner, its regards VHS tape and old formats compared to what we have now with HD movies on Blu-ray. I used to buy films without being too concerned about DNR, edge-enhancement, sample rates, etc. I just enjoyed the films for what they were. Nowadays though its getting to be a nightmare. Reviews online dissect aspect ratios, transfers, restoration, edge-enhancement, DNR… forums wild with personal opinions based on different audio-visual equipment and preferences, its something of a minefield. Its not just about the movies themselves anymore.

This week I finally cancelled my pre-order for the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection on Blu-ray, which is due here in the UK in the next week or so. It wasn’t something I did lightly- I’d deliberated over it for several weeks. Originally set to be released in September, it was delayed at almost the last minute after someone reviewing check-discs highlighted picture quality problems and mistyped text on the redone titles for Frenzy (it makes you wonder what kind of quality-control Universal has, and how much care the project received at all). Well, the Frenzy titles got fixed but of course there was no time for the other issues to be addressed. Now that the set has seen release in foreign territories the problematic issues with the quality of titles in the set has been confirmed by various sources.  

Now clearly this is all, partly at least, fan-boy hysteria- I’m open to the view that much of the negativity is overblown . Many people buying the set will be ignorant of many of the problems and will enjoy the films in HD- for the most part the films must surely look the best they ever have. Which is what I’m getting at when looking back on those VHS days. We’ve never had it so good as we have it now. Films look better, sound better and last forever (or as long a the format lasts, so maybe nothing there has really changed).  But with HD etc we are in a world where the films are analysed so much, and so much is expected.  For myself, I finally decided that £100 was too much to invest in a collection containing some (apparently) seriously dodgy transfers, shoddy or poorly-budgeted restoration work and half-hearted supplements. At the end of the day, I feel Hitchcock’s films deserved better and I’m voicing that with my wallet. Vertigo is one of my very favourite films and is one of the better-quality titles in the set, but the extras are pretty much what has been seen before and is even missing a (previously-released on DVD) commentary track. Buying it for a tenner on its own might have been ok, but as part of such an expensive set with so many issues it just seemed too much. It’s disappointing  as I was really looking forward to watching Vertigo and Rear Window in HD this Autumn. For some weeks now the limited-edition set was sold out on Amazon, but enough of us have recently cancelled pre-orders for the set to be available again for awhile. I see now that its sold out again. Maybe the issues don’t bother most people, maybe most people simply aren’t aware- in any case people  seem to be still buying it so I dare say Universal and Amazon are quite content. 

So anyway, part of my decision, right or wrong, was the existence of the Bond 50 set- a Blu-ray collection of all 22 James Bond films. I’d already decided that, with Christmas expenses coming up and budgets tight, I’d only treat myself to one such boxset this Autumn. It came down between the Hitchcock and Bond sets as I’d put off the Indiana Jones set until the New Year and its inevitable discounting, and I’d originally picked the Hitchcock as I just prefer those films. So anyway, the isues with the Hitchcock sets transfers etc pretty much swung it, and the fact that the Bond set is actually cheaper rather helped too. 

That said, forums have it that there are problems with the Bond set too- apparently not so drastic but it does make it all so bewildering and somewhat nostalgic for the days of VHS. I received the Bond set yesterday so haven’t watched any of the films yet, but the packaging certainly looks rather impressive, which helps to make me think I made the right decision. Well, watching all the Bond movies in HD over the next few weeks should be a fine way to spend the dark cold nights ahead.  Think I’ll watch them in chronological order. There’s a few of them I’ve never actually seen, and most others only maybe once or twice on TV many years ago.

But you know, back when I bought the various editions of Blade Runner or The Abyss or Heat or whatever, I just enjoyed the films. I didn’t pay too much attention to the picture quality, it was just what it was. Of course I’d prefer ( and pay extra for) widescreen versions, but the film was, finally, the thing. Nowadays it really isn’t just about the film. We have gained so much only to be confused by so much. Would I have really enjoyed the Hitchcock set?Would I have been aware of all the issues hadn’t I read of them online?  Will I notice anything particularly wrong with any of the Bond movies? You know, I don’t really know.

Star Wars sold! Merry Christmas! October 31, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , add a comment

Life is just plain weird and crazy sometimes, surprises coming out of nowhere. Ridley Scott shooting a new Alien movie, or Ridley Scott making a Blade Runner sequel. A simple children’s story like the Hobbit being turned into a bloated trilogy,  Arnie mooted for a new Conan movie when he’s about due a bus-pass.   But nothing could prepare us for this….

Late last night I was browsing the web and came across just-posted news pages stating that George Lucas had sold his company  Lucasfilm ( including the Star Wars films, ILM, Indiana Jones etc),  to Disney for a whopping $4.05 billion. I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe it-  I looked at the screen with utter disbelief. Was it April 1st or something, had the site been hacked by a clan of hi-tech Star Wars Activists? Checking other news sites the reports seemed to be backed up with press releases from Disney.  I texted a few friends the news and went to bed. One of my work colleagues, Steve, texted me back bemused queries regards what was going on, likely thinking I’d been drinking too much.

Woke up this morning to a news report on Radio 4 confirming it all (if  Simon on the Finance section of the Beeb’s Today programme says its true, its true). Disney have announced an intention to have Star Wars: Episode 7 ready for 2015 release followed by Episodes 8 & 9 every two/three years after, with further films beyond even that.

Well, first things first, a slap on the back for all us oldies who yelled foul at George Lucas assertions that he never intended to make a 9-film saga, contrary to what we fans read back when TESB was being made pre-1980. Here we go, its now rightfully back to a nine-film saga (although to be fair Disney may well take it beyond that- will there be an Episode 10 or will it spin off into separate sagas/trilogies?). Mind you, that ‘The Complete Saga’ Blu-ray box that sits on its shelf behind me is looking decidedly incomplete right now. (I still, even after owning that box for a year now, haven’t watched the Attack of The Clones or Revenge of The Sith discs yet. Trying to watch the Blu-ray of The Phantom Menace really messed me up and ruined any interest in getting any further. And yes, I’d started with Episodes 4-6 first.)

You know, some months ago I was sitting in my office at work talking with one of my colleagues, and I complained that Lucas should have loosened the reins of the Star Wars franchise years ago and let other guys write/shoot spin-off movies.  That we should have had all sorts of wild and different films in the Star Wars universe, good, bad, average… low-budget character films, big action films. As long as they all stayed true to the franchise lore, why not? Lucas had always championed independent film-making that took risks, why not go with projects like that in the Star Wars universe as well as the huge blockbuster spectacles? Lucas showed no such interest in furthering the franchise in cinemas, preferring to make the Clone Wars cartoons and work on a live-action tv series that, well, may not even see the light of day now that movies are back on the agenda. I’d shake my head sadly and rue the cruel twists of fate that gave us those damn prequels.   But here we are. The gates have been opened. I doubt Disney are any more likely to go wild with all sorts of daring projects than Lucas ever did or would, but you never know.

A few more thoughts- do Disney now have the rights, as they own Star Wars now, to dig out the original OT versions and restore them for Blu-ray release one day? Do they have the rights, if they choose, to simply do a reboot and remake the whole lot? Is Spielberg too old to have a go at directing a Star Wars film, something he always wanted to do but Lucas would not allow?  Could Pixar have a crack at an animated Star Wars project? What the hell can we do to make sure that Nicholas Cage gets nowhere near this?

Considering how lousy and predictable most Hollywood scripts are these days, who the hell gets a shot at writing the next Star Wars movie? Do the guys behind the execrable Pirates of the Caribbean films have a shot at showing just how good Lucas prequel scripts really are?

Do we get a Darth Vader movie one day, with our fave Dark Lord kicking Jedi ass between ROTS and ANH?

Its enough to make you dizzy. It’ll never live up to the possibilities.

So more Star Wars movies. Well who’d have thought it? Colour me cautiously excited (whatever colour that is); this is the biggest game in tinsel town and will likely eclipse all the hype and rumours we experienced back when Lucas announced he was making The Phantom Menace.  The world has gone crazy and can only get crazier as further news filters out of the House of the Mouse during 2013.  God, just writing that makes me worried. Disney. What was Lucas thinking? (Oh yeah, he was thinking $4.05 BILLION).

But maybe for us Star Wars fans, Christmas came early.  Merry Christmas folks, we may have got Star Wars back.

Prometheus- Final Word? (Likely not…) October 20, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , 2 comments

Oh dear, not another Prometheus topic? Well, now that we finally have Prometheus on Blu-ray/DVD etc and have been able to watch it again, no doubt blogs and forums will be awash with further debate and opinion regards this divisive film. It may not be the classic we hoped for or the best film of the year, but it’s certainly the most debated and talked-about (I watched DKR and pretty much forgot about it, but I always find myself thinking about Prometheus, so it achieved, er, something). Is it really as bad as so many have said? Having now watched the Blu-ray twice and most of the lengthy making-of doc, I must say its fascinating to see how the rather rushed production impacted on the end result, and indeed created many of the problems people have with the film. Yes script revisions seems to be the major culprit, a second writer and revised approach creating any number of plot-holes, and mooted scenes planned but not shot would have likely improved the film, and some strange hell-bent fascination to cut the film to two hours would appear to have impacted on the pace of the film.  I do think that what Ridley and his cohorts managed to bring to screen with the limited budget and timeframe is quite extraordinary, albeit somewhat misguided. I just hope that the proposed Blade Runner sequel at least gets a fairer timeframe- alas, I think it’ll suffer the same fate as Prometheus; I think Ridley Scott knows time is pressing (he’s in his mid-seventies, now) and has a resultant tendency to race into his projects these days.

I will say this- the Blu-ray looks utterly beautiful and the image quality is better than when I saw it at the cinema; somehow at the screening I saw it didn’t look particularly dark, something I put down to the lighting demands of  3D photography (even though I saw the film in 2D).  On Blu-ray the darks are pitch-black and improves the mood considerably; the colours are full, the image sharp and wonderful, in short it is very, very pretty. And of course knowing what to expect, or not to expect, does rather lower expectations regards the story etc. Certainly the deleted/alternate scenes offer a tantalising glimpse at what may have been a Directors Cut (something it seems we won’t ever be getting, as Ridley seems bizarrely happy with it as it is). I think Prometheus is likely a few reshoots short of the great movie it ought to be. There’s a number of plot-holes that need new scenes to fix them (that Laurel and Hardy pair who somehow get lost spring to mind) and a few unshot parts that need adding such as David visiting Weyland during his youth-orientated dream (at least then there would be some point to casting Guy Pearce).  Funny thing is, Ridley could still shoot that stuff if he wanted to/could convince Fox to fund it.

I really think that this is a case of a  film just needing a six-month delay to tidy things up. I’d have even filmed a sex scene between Vickers and Janek in which Janek sees that Vickers is sporting a Weyland-fingerprint just like David has, hence discovering that Vickers is indeed another robot. The whole thing about creator and creation is the central subtext to the entire film, surely. The idea that Weyland, obsessed with his mortality and playing God, has created his own ‘children’ in David and Vickers is just begging to be developed. And having Vickers back in the sequel would have been a major bonus as Theron is the best thing in Prometheus for me.  I’d have a sequel in which  Shaw and David go off to Paradise and have another Vickers model lead a rescue/investigation team to the moon to end up fighting against the Deacon creature we see at Prometheus’ coda.  Well, here we are dreaming up other Alien/Prometheus movies already.

Thinking along those lines, is Prometheus a good Alien prequel? Is it even the best of the Alien spin-off movies? People often decry Prometheus as if it was the  unwanted sequel to Lawrence of Arabia; Alien may be a ‘classic’ but lets be honest, it was no Lawrence of Arabia, people.  I doubt that’s what Ridley was trying to say by referencing Lawrence of Arabia during Prometheus but I think its a point that needs stating.

Indeed I think some of the comparisons between Prometheus and the first Alien movie have been a little unfair. The space of over thirty years does tend to brighten the rose-tinted glasses. Alien is little more than a b-movie. Think about the story and what happens. Think about the time it was made, and all the other awful similar films like Inseminoid, XTRO etc. that came out. I’m not aiming to belittle the film here- but just think how bad Alien would have turned out had it been directed by anyone other than Ridley Scott. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.  Alien is a very simple, somewhat dumb b-movie elevated to potential greatness by the direction of Ridley Scott, the production design of such noted visionaries as Ron Cobb and H R Giger, and the evocative Goldsmith score. Without their contributions the film would have just have been a silly space movie, period. I think when people look back on Alien, its not the story, or the ideas, behind the film that they remember, its the mood, the design. Yes Alien is a better film than Prometheus- its clearer, more direct, simpler. But I’d contend that Prometheus is the more ambitious of the two.

As for the other Alien films, I’d say that Prometheus is superior to all of them. I hated Aliens back when I saw it in the cinema in 1986 and I’ve never really made peace with it. For me, its not an Alien movie at all, its a bug-hunt Starship Troopers movie. Alien’s deadly, unreasoning killing machine creature is replaced with a hive of stupid cannon-fodder ‘alien warriors’ directed by an egg-laying  ’mommy’ Queen.  All that gung-ho space marines rubbish and idiotic Queen Alien nonsense. Give me a break. The popularity of the film doesn’t surprise me (it saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me). The same people who moan about plotholes in Prometheus seem to forget all that goes on in Aliens (the central conceit for one- the Company that directed the Nostromo to the derelict hear no more, but don’t simply direct another ship for another go, rather they ‘forget’ about it and fifty years later unwittingly wind up sending Terraformers there? Like, duh).

David Finchers’ Alien 3 was a return to form for the franchise but it was scuppered by production problems so huge it seems a textbook case of how not to make a sequel. Fincher disowned the film but its not-quite-directors cut version is a pretty good movie in my mind. At least the Alien is a deadly creature again and the gung-ho stupidity is put to rest. Its a ‘proper’ Alien movie to me, with wonderful mood and score. The less said about Alien:Resurrection the better, except to say its utterly unwatchable. I tried again a few years ago but gave up. And what to say about the AVP movies other than they should never have been made?

So Prometheus to me seems to be the best of the Alien spin-off movies. No, I’m not convinced about all that Space Jockey/bald guy in a spacesuit stuff either, but at least the film tries to ‘open up’ the first film’s premise to make something other than a b-movie horror flick. I think if Ridley Scott went wrong it was in just that. People hear Ridley is making an Alien prequel and expect the space horror film they have dreamed of since 1979, but Ridley got quickly tired of that in pre-production and clearly changed tack. I can understand that. Ridley is right to say that the Alien has been pretty much done to death in all the movies, its been diluted to Halloween boogieman status by the AVP films in particular, and what can you do with facehuggers etc that hasn’t been done? Prometheus couldn’t just be another Alien movie, it had to tell a different story. Unfortunately that seems to have alienated (sic) the majority of the films audience, and Ridleys change of heart in pre-production hurt the finished product as it messed things up, not being wholly one thing or the other.

I still hold out hope that Ridley can make a Prometheus 2 that ties up some of the plot strands and presents a fitting conclusion.  I’m not sure that’s even possible but you have to hope? Rumour has it that Ridley might only be producing the sequel, as he’ll be too entrenched in Blade Runner 2 business (for what its worth, David Fincher gets my vote as the perfect alternative to Ridley).

Prometheus- Final Word? No, not bloody likely…

Jaws on Blu and a Hitchcock Horror…. September 17, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , 1 comment so far

So I finally got around to watching my Jaws Blu-ray the other night (ain’t that steelbook a beauty?).  It was delayed by my wife’s ongoing love of Tennis with the US Open dominating the television for the past few weeks; must say Andy Murray finally winning a Grand Slam was the kind of tv event you never forget. Exhausting, terrifying, exciting, ecstatic.

This is the second time I’ve seen Jaws this year, the first being at the cinema during its limited re-release during the summer. Here’s something to boggle everyone- I saw it with my mate Andy who actually fell asleep early on (I had to nudge him awake when the two guys go fishing with a slab of meat on the pier); can’t say many patrons fell asleep during that movie before, eh? The Blu-ray image is pretty astonishing, actually putting the cinema to shame, although I must confess the sense of mass the shark had on the big screen was inevitably lessened on the tv. Wonderful film though; one of those genuine timeless classics that rewards every viewing. To have it in such a fine HD edition is wonderful and I’ll return to it often.  And the many extras are a veritable bundle of joy, should I ever get the time to watch them.

On the subject of classic movies, many of you may have noted the growing anxiety on forums regarding the quality of Universal’s Hitchcock Blu-ray collection due next month. One of the guys who used to work at MOC has got hold of checkdiscs or screeners and has been voicing rather alarming observations. Picture quality varies and the titles/credits for Frenzy have been re-done, in an ill-chosen font complete with spelling mistakes. Well, the US and German releases have been pulled, and I can only hope that the UK version follows suit. I’d sooner wait another month or two for a ‘proper’ release than something shoddy and ill-judged, particularly when some great films are involved (Vertigo is one of my very favourite films and the main reason I’ve pre-ordered the set). It’s crazy how many Blu-ray releases get blighted by shoddy masters, incorrect aspect ratios, missing extras… 

Yeah, missing extras- I’m looking at you, Mickey Mouse. Yes the fine folks at Disney have short-changed UK buyers of Avengers Assemble by omitting the Joss Whedon commentary track. On the one hand I hardly care; I used to love commentary tracks but these days I struggle enough actually watching the Blu-rays I’ve bought without going through commentaries. There’s just never enough time.  On the other hand though, the track exists on the US version and its omission is likely a cynical cost-cutting measure or an even more cynical ploy with an eye to a special edition version later on. Thank goodness Disney aren’t involved in the Prometheus release (its weird though, quality-wise the Avengers movie likely deserved a features-rich edition more than Prometheus did). As for the UK version of Avengers Assemble being censored… well many folks have gotten very angry but hell, its a comic book movie. Its hardly going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment is it? I  dare say most first-time viewers won’t even notice. 

Space 1999: Breakaway/Matter of Life & Death September 6, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , add a comment

Ah, Space:1999. The Brits answer to Star Trek by way of 2001:A Space Odyssey-  an utterly daft story with rock-solid production values. You have to admire the courage, and damned audacity, of the Brits who decided they could pull a show of this scale off back in 1973/74; maybe Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were just plain crazy, but I wish we had people like them working in tv today, and likewise such bold moguls as Lew Grade. British television today lacks such characters, such daring, such mad ambition.    In some ways it hasn’t aged well, but in others its just as damned impressive as ever- indeed, even in these post-Babylon 5BSG days, Space:1999 remains a bold and arresting achievement, even if it is in many respects a failure. Back then, in the dark, dismal, strike-riddled, National power-cuts ’seventies, Space:1999 was pretty amazing for this particular kid, even on a small black and white tv set (one week I watched it over a mates house whose slightly-wealthier parents had a colour tv and it was incredibly even more amazing). The spectacular title sequences of every episode, featuring dramatic action shots from the coming episode accompanied by exciting seventies action music, was just nirvana for me as a kid, leaving me riveted to the screen for the next fifty minutes. Gerry Anderson was a genius at title sequences; loud explosions, loud music, loud drama; priceless. This country needs another Gerry Anderson in television.

Space:1999 grew out of an aborted second series of UFO. Originally, a second series of UFO set in the year 1999 (near twenty years after the first series) would have involved humanity taking the fight to the alien invaders. Set on the SHADO moonbase, heavily expanded and fortified with weapons and fighters, the moon itself was to be launched into space to attack the alien home planet. I don’t know about you, but as daft as that sounds, its such a wild High Concept Science Fiction idea I only wish it could have been made.  Alas, the deal for a second season of UFO fell through, but many of its ideas and assets would be transferred to another project, becoming Space:1999. Instead of the moon battling a particular alien menace, it would wander the universe, defying any law of time and space as it careered through the cosmos led by Commander John Koenig.

John Koenig. My God what a frustrating character- and what a frustrating actor, a woefully miscast Martin Landau, playing him. American backers insisted on American leads, and while actors like Robert Culp were considered, Landau and his wife, Barbara Bain, were still ‘hot’ off Mission Impossible and offered the solution to both the male and female lead casting problem. This was still the era (if it has ever changed since?) of star-power, when the acting talent welded considerable clout. As well as high fees, the actors had demands such as regards on-screen time and which angles they had to be shot from. Eager to satisfy American backers and with an eye to selling the show to American Networks with established stars, Koening and Bain were brought on board, Diva troubles and all. Bain is either a terrible actress or particularly brilliant playing the cold and clinical (sic) Doctor Helena Russell.

I certainly would not suggest that Landau is a bad actor. He’s a very fine supporting actor and  character actor. His turn in Woody Allen’s Crimes & Misdemeanors is wonderful, as are his other performances in films such as Ed Wood. But he’s not a leading man, and certainly not a commanding, charismatic hero figure like William Shatner’s Captain Kirk. Landau clearly lacked the physicality for the role, Sylvia Anderson later bemoaning how “flat-footed” the actor was. Landau’s John Koening always seems to be out of his depth, lost, aimless, any confidence stemming from false bravado.  He often seems an idiot (as much due to the stupidity inherent in the scripts as much as Landau, to be fair), making wild and crazy decisions. In Matter of Life and Death, Doctor Russell’s husband, dead back near Jupiter some five years before, suddenly turns up on a stricken Eagle following a reconnaissance mission on an alien world. Although the world seems perfect for the Aphans needs for colonisation,  the mysterious presence of Russell’s  long-dead husband strikes Koening as cause for concern. Koenig delays exodus operations until he is sure there is no danger on the planet. However, when Russell’s dead husband, Lee, announces to Koening that they are indeed all  in grave  danger and the planet will be their doom, Koening suddenly decides to go ahead with the exodus anyway, leading the Aphan’s to the planet surface with a big grin on his face confident nothing is wrong! Has the man got a death wish, I wondered, watching this episode the other night? The show’s second episode and already he’s a critical danger to the personnel of Moonbase Alpha. How on Earth the Aphan’s will ever survive the next twenty-two episodes with this guy in charge is beyond me.

Its one of many WTF moments in Space 1999 that defy belief. The fact that it’s Koenig who is the architect of most of them (likely because the actor insisted on being the series’ centre of attention in his contract stipulations) makes Landau’s performances such a bizarre pleasure. He often seems to me to be a round peg in a square hole, a man suffering from post traumatic stress, the wrong guy in the wrong job suddenly dropped in an almighty desperate mess when the moon gets blasted into deep space. It’d be like Sulu or Yeoman Rand being given Captaincy of the Enterprise’s five-year mission when Kirk and Spock got killed on an alien planet in Trek’s pilot episode. It is almost endearing seeing Koenig struggle hopelessly with every crisis. Its the kind of miscasting that somehow strengthens the role in ways the original writers and producers never envisaged at the time. Koenig is an over-confident jerk of a time-bomb waiting to go off in every episode.

Breakaway remains a very impressive pilot episode, inspite of the central premise being utterly daft nonsense more typical of an Ed Wood b-movie. Even today its production values are rock-solid and certainly theatrical quality for the time. The production design is heavily influenced by 2001 with hardly a tenth of that film’s budget, managed through clever use of a modular system of set-building. The huge Main Mission control room is particularly impressive, a large multi-storey set that is simply amazing (they don’t make ambitious shows like this anymore, certainly not over here in old Blighty). Fast-moving to the extent that the viewer often forgets how implausible the whole thing is, characters are quickly introduced and the setting established before the nuclear shit hits the fan and we are off on our cosmic adventure.

Watching the series again after many years, I’m going to dare the frustrating lapses of logic and dodge the many plot-holes and hopefully revel in 1970s fashions, 1970s actors and1970s music. Failing that, I’m just going to watch mouth agape as Landau’s remarkable Commander Koenig lurches from incredible gaff to the next..

Favourite Films Part 1 August 25, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , 1 comment so far

Many years ago -back in the ‘eighties- I jotted down a list of my top ten favourite films. Reading it today is a sobering experience. Was I ever so young and naive to list John Milius’ Conan The Barbarian in there? I guess the list  mostly amounted to the ten films I was watching and re-watching back then; we had a limited access to films in those early videotape days, when the film listings in the Christmas Radio Times was a highlight of the festive season (the thought of being able to actually buy and own a personal copy of a movie even on pan-and-scan videotape was just a dream unless you had more cash than sense).

But still, we have to make the distinction here between ‘Favourite Films’ and ‘Best Films’; there is a big difference. I would hardly pronounce Blade Runner to be the best film ever made, but its certainly my favourite. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed since that list of long ago. Favourite films are subjective, chosen for the memories the films engender, the associations we make with those films; favourite films are those guilty pleasures that we can watch and re-watch, while some of the cinematic greats gather dust on our DVD shelves. Lists of favourite films can be like a Rorschach test, a simple list of ten titles that can be terribly more revealing than an hour’s conversation.

So, my favourite films. Reading that old list made me wonder what films I would put in a top-ten now, and how many of that old list would yet persist in the new one. Well, here goes, and we’ll start with just four of them for now-

Blade Runner - simply my favourite film as its the one that had the profoundest effect on me. It remains the most intense cinema experience of my life. So hard to explain what a thunderbolt it was back in 1982, now that we are living in its world so much that the film could seem mundane to contemporary viewers. Back when I had it on tape I watched it and re-watched it so many times. I’ll be the first to admit though, it had more charm back when it was a true cult fave shared by so few, compared to its more recent re-evaluation and acceptance as a classic. Where Blade Runner is concerned, my question is ’where were you in’82?’ and everything follows on from that. Sometimes I’ll even watch the flawed 1982 cut, complete with voiceover and continuity errors,  rather than the Final Cut. Which makes me wonder about Prometheus again- a rather broken film, the broken state of Blade Runner in 1982 (scenes out of order, horrible wires on the Spinners, awful voiceover, woeful ending) kind of puts Prometheus into perspective- regardless of Ridley Scott’s reputation, he’s evidently not averse to releasing films shockingly unfinished.

Vertigo - this film is like a dream-state, like one of those strange Philip K Dick real-world stories set in the 1950s that saw print after his death. It’s 1950s San Francisco is so detached from our contemporary reality that it seems as dreamlike and unreal as something out of a David Lynch film, its evocative score is utterly bewitching, the whole thing mesmerising.  Unique amongst Hitchcock’s body of work, its an arthouse movie in the guise of mainstream thriler, a powerful  study of the destructive power of love and obsession. Made half a century ago.  Mind-boggling. How many of our current ‘hits’ will stand the test of time as well as this film that flopped so many years ago?

Once Upon A Time In America- of all the films in my list, this is likely my least-watched film, not due to any quality issues but rather the sheer enormity of it. This is a long film (getting longer in the restored version hopefully arriving on Blu-Ray next year) but more than that, it’s a very complex and demanding film. You have to pay attention and work with it. And you know, of all the films in my list, this is the one that changes the most, as I grow older and revisit the film. Its weird, but your own age and viewpoint effects how you read and interpret this film. In that sense I guess its truly a work of art, something banded about regards films but often undeserved. So first-time viewers heed my word of warning; don’t approach it expecting a gangster movie. It looks like one, and purports to be one,  but it really isn’t. It’s more a study of the impact of time, mortality, age, so many things. Is any of it real, or is it all an opium dream? Pure Cinema.

Watchmen- including this one might seem surprising, but this remains the last time I left a cinema wide-eyed with a big grin of my face, buzzing from having seen a really great movie. Such experiences are truly rare, and its also the last time I actually went back to see a film twice at the cinema. I know its got its detractors, but for me its just so faithful to the comics, its just wonderful, impossible- I still have to pinch myself, its just too perfect. I mean, I enjoy Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight films, but they are not really Batman films, are they? They aren’t faithful to the comic, but rather are an interpretation of the Batman characters in an ultra-serious real-world scenario. Likewise the Spiderman films aren’t really honest to the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics I loved as a kid. The 1960s originals had an innocence and charm unique to their era, which is lost transferring them to contemporary times. I much prefer Spidey swinging over that 1960s New York skyline and fighting waterfront gangsters and living in that unique world. A Spiderman film set in the 1960s visually akin to an episode of Mad Men would no doubt confound most people, but I’d love it. Besides which, it really annoys me how Spidey is so often unmasked in the films. It’s more about seeing the face of an expensive actor than being honest to the comic.  On the subject of faces, the new Dredd film looks interesting and at least more faithful regards keeping the helmet on than the Stallone film was, but the dark over-serious tone of the Dredd trailer hardly seems to fit with the knowing British humour and pathos of the original strip. I know, films are a different medium and should make adjustments but what the hell, in that regard Watchmen is just damned fine and so incredibly faithful to the original, a comic brought to such vivid life, its a joy. The fact that the Directors Cut is even better than what I saw in the cinema is just icing on the cake. I still find it’s existence  hard to believe, every time I watch it. I mean, can you imagine how bad it might have been? One version would have had Arnie as Doc Manhattan for crying outloud. No doubt he would have quipped “I’ll be back!” when he made his departure at films end…

Leone’s extended America in 2013? August 9, 2012

Posted by ghostof82 in : Film General , add a comment

Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon A Time In America is one of my very favourite films, easily in my top three all-time. I think its a genuine cinema classic, a term widely over-used in this era of hyperbole but truly deserved in the case of this beautiful epic. Its not a film easy to watch, I’ll admit, being dark, violent, poetic, and yes, very long.  An amazingly complex film, it was brutalised, frankly, by its American distributor who released it in a chronological 139-min version (of which critic Pauline Kael commented “ I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a worse case of mutilation”) which at least partly contributed to Leone’s death.  Here in Europe we had a 229-min version that saved Leone’s complex structure of flashbacks and remains a truly great film, but rumours of an even-longer cut have persisted for decades.

Last year, completely out of the blue, it seemed, it was announced that the Leone estate, with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, had begun work on restoring the film to its proper and complete form with some forty minutes of additional footage. In importance, this is somewhat akin to the recent restoration of  Lang’s Metropolis when long-lost footage had been found in Argentina. This newly restored version was premiered at Cannes in May this year; confusingly most reports cited the added footage at being somewhat under the trumpeted forty minutes,  actually something in the region of 25 minutes, but nonetheless most reviewers described much of this footage as very important.

Scheduled to be next shown in Australia at a film festival in Melbourne, The Guardian reported last week that this newly restored and further-extended cut of  Sergio Leone’s  film had now been pulled from circulation for more restoration work. In some ways this is not too much of a surprise, as some people who were fortunate enough to see this version had reported that the additional footage looked to be of workprint quality, generally inferior to the rest of the film.

While any delay of finally seeing the film is unfortunate, I think its a postive step that further restoration work is being done. A recent Q/A session with Warner Bros revealed that Warner do indeed have the rights to the extended version and are looking to release it one day, certainly on DVD/Blu-ray but also possibly in cinemas. No doubt this further restoration work has all of that in mind. There was always the possibility that the restored version might only have ever had an extremely limited distribution on the film festival circuit, particularly if the quality was not of a high enough standard. So anyway, I think this is very welcome and exciting news. Its hoped that this version of the film will return to the festival circuit at the end of the year or early next year. So if all goes to plan, a Blu-ray release in Summer or Autumn of 2013 might well be on the cards. It already ranks in my mind as the  most important release of 2013. Can hardly wait.

Login     Film Journal Home     Support Forums           Journal Rating: 4/5 (7)