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Sci Fi Day: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem August 31, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal , 1 comment so far

I’m one of the few who liked Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien Vs Predator, so maybe I’ve got a higher than normal tolerance for crap films but this follow-up makes Anderson’s film look like a classic. It takes the slasher film mentality, i.e. spend the first half of the film introducing the victims and the second half killing them off, the only difference here is the bogeyman is extraterrestrial in origin. Whereas the first film had the Predator as (sort of) the good guy, here it’s a free for all with the humans caught in the middle, so think Freddy Vs Jason without the humour.

Full of stereotypical characters who follow predictable story arcs anyone who’s seen Friday the 13th or any of its ilk will be able to predict who’s going to die. In fact we had more fun predicting who would be next to croak than we did watching the film. A lot more.

The Strause Brothers direction generates no tension or suspense, the action is poorly choreographed and it doesn’t even deliver on the gore front (even in this Unrated Cut). It’s sad to see just how far these once mighty monsters have fallen, let’s hope they leave them in peace now.

And the ‘twist’ ending was complete bollocks and made no sense at all.

For Dipa’s equally negative review click here.

That’s the end of Sci Fi Day for now. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet we attempted to devour more than we could possibly cram in in one sitting but we will do the remainder of the films (E.T., Transformers and Donnie Darko), probably next weekend.

Sci Fi Day: Phase IV August 30, 2008

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This is the 2001 of ant movies! Part alien invasion part Animal Planet it has Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy out in the desert trying to understand recent changes in ant behaviour and, in the end, find some way to communicate with them.

Director Saul Bass is best known for his revolutionary credit sequences, particularly for some of the Bond films, but here he crafts an intelligent SF film, with some amazing footage of the ants. In fact the ants are almost like characters themselves, and this is the only film I can think of where one cast member literally eats another.

 Davenport steals the acting honours, going a tad bonkers after one of the ants gives him a bite on the hand while Murphy is too emotionless, perhaps unsure what the hell it’s all about. Just what it is all about is open to interpretation but I’d love to see Bass’ original version with its trippy 2001 style ending. As it is though I’m just glad I’ve had to chance to see this again.

For a bugphobe’s perspective read Dipa’s review here.

Sci Fi Day: Godzilla

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This original Godzilla film will come as a shock to anyone who’s only seen later entries in the long running series. The main difference is that the Big G we see here is very much the villain rather than the reluctant hero he would become. It’s also a much more serious film, with Godzilla an analogy for the American atomic bomb. It also asks how responsible a scientist is for his creation, coming down in favour of culpability.

There’s some good old-fashioned Godzilla mayhem too but it’s not as much fun as later films, we get to see the affect it has on people rather than just wholesale mass destruction. A worthy film but not one I’d consider a true masterpiece.  

You’ll find Dipa’s less enthusiastic opinion here.

Sci Fi Day: The Incredible Shrinking Man

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Richard Matheson’s Tom Thumb for the atomic age is part character study, part action movie. The first half of the film focuses on Scott Carey’s gradual disintegration, both mental and physical and gets the audience to empathise with Carey, thanks to a terrific performance from Grant Williams. Then we’re thrown down the cellar with him, into a primal world where food must be won and life is threatened by a creature as fearsome as any horror movie monster, before ultimately reaching a philosophical climax that leaves the film with a note of optimism.

The set design is amazing, Matheson’s script, from his own novel, is literate and moving and Jack Arnold’s direction fuses them together to create a true science fiction masterpiece. This is probably my favourite ‘50s SF movies and one I never get tired of watching. Given how good he is here I’ve never understood why Grant Williams got stuck in B Movies and TV.

I think this is also the film that’s responsible for my fear of spiders.

You’ll find Dipa’s view here.

Sci Fi Day: Forbidden Planet

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The day kicks off with a real classic. Groundbreaking special effects that still look good today, a unique score that’s more electronic bleeps than music but fits the film perfectly, and a cool monster – what more could you ask for? How about Leslie Nielsen as a proto-Kirk, he’s even got James T’s eye for the ladies, or Walter Pidgeon as mad scientist Doctor Edward Morbius, or one of cinemas most memorable robots in Robby? The only bum note is Anne Francis who lacks the innocence to make the Altaira character believable, coming across as a bit of a flirt.

You’ll find Dipa’s thoughts here.

Boldly Going Where Mine Was Taller Has Never Gone Before August 27, 2008

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Back in June I tried something a little different on Mine Was Taller, namely Horror Day. Horror Day was a day of back-to-back horror movies with me and my friend Dipa blogging about each film after we watched it. Horror Day was so successful (well we enjoyed it anyway) that we’ve decided to do another one and, in case the title of this post didn’t give it away, this time we’re doing Sci Fi. There’ll be a slight change to the format as Dipa now has her own blog, Inner Corr, so she’ll be posting on there and I’ll be putting links to her thoughts along with my own comments here.

The line up should be something like this:

Forbidden Planet
The Incredible Shrinking Man
(the Japanese original)
Phase IV
Donnie Darko (The Director’s Cut)
Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem

And if we get time Deja Vu.

Sci Fi Day will be Saturday 30 August.

Also coming soon will be a write-up of this year’s FrightFest, not the full event this time, just the Sunday, with Let the Right One In and Martyrs the pick of the days films.

Burning Rubber August 15, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : DVD Viewing Journal, DVD Reviews , add a comment

Fast cars (and bikes) are the subject of this weeks viewing journal.

A film so over the top that it feels more like a spoof than a genuine attempt to do for motorbikes what The Fast and the Furious did for cars. Problem is it’s silly but not funny and ends up just being tedious.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Am I alone in thinking Lucas Black is cool? Maybe I am but he’s definitely the best thing in this second sequel to the 2001 hit, although it’s a sequel in name only, having no ties to the other films in the series (save for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo right at the end from Vin Diesel). Aimed at a younger audience, with a cast of twentysomethings playing high school kids, it’s The O.C. on wheels on holiday in Japan. If you’re under twenty you might love it, for anyone older it has little to offer but it’s still far better than John Singleton’s deadly dull 2 Fast 2 Furious.

The Diver
This is a great thriller from Walter Hill. Yes it could have been better, the part of The Driver has Steve McQueen written all over it, but it’s got some cracking car chases and a gripping game of cat and mouse between The Driver and The Detective. Ryan O’Neal, while lacking the McQueen cool does a good job in a part that’s a world away from the romantic dramas and light comedies that made his name. Bruce Dern, for a change on the right side of the law, is great as the cop who’ll stop at nothing to get his man. It may not be big on character but this is one of the best car movies ever made.

Vanishing Point
And while we’re on the subject of best car movies ever, this one gets my vote. The late ‘60s/early ‘70s were the golden years for cinematic vehicular mayhem and this film gives us one of the most iconic movie automobiles ever in the white 1970 Dodge Challenger driven by Kowalski (Barry Newman). Kowalski is in a hurry to get to San Francisco from Denver (we never find out why) and takes a job delivering said Dodge Challenger. In between outrunning the police and encountering oddball characters (like Dean Jagger’s desert dwelling snake hunter) we get snapshots of his past - as racing driver, cop, lover - none of which explain his need to get to Frisco, but then the why isn’t really important. Newman is cool, not McQueen cool but still pretty damn cool, and you’re routing for him right up to the films nihilistic yet oddly exhilerating climax.

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