Some Good New Movies on Film4 (25th Feb 2016)

Last night was a pretty good night on television for sci-fi films. We had three in a row on favourite channel Film4, which pretty much took up the entire night’s viewing.

We started off with the Men in Black 2 (2002) sequel, a fun film featuring lots of great action scenes and good character sequences with Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and the various aliens. It also featured the sexy and evil Lara Flynn Boyle as the main bad girl/alien, and the young and stunningly beautiful Rosario Dawson as Will Smith’s love interest. Overall, an enjoyable film, if not very original. It is, basically, a rerun of Men in Black 1.

Next out, we had Hellboy (2004), which is one of my favourite comic book-based films, and one of my favourites directed by Guillermo del Toro. It’s very different from any of the superhero films, and all the better for it, as I much prefer the horror themes of the film, with its Lovecraftian overtones. There’s a great cast, too. Ron Perlman is absolutely perfect in the title role. I don’t think they could’ve found better if they tried. And he had a great supporting cast in John Hurt (Professor Broom), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Rupert Evans (John Myers), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), Jeffrey Tambor (Tom Manning), and bad guys Karel Roden (Rasputin), Ladislav Beran (Karl Ruprecht Kroenen) and Bridget Hodson (Ilsa Haupstein). Cracking film, and a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Lastly, we had a surprise package, one of those foreign movies that just keeps you glued to your seat. Swedish horror vampire classic Let the Right One In (2008) was probably my favourite film of the night, beating even Hellboy. This vampire film is totally unlike any of the Hollywood “sparkly vampire” schlock (yes, I’m pointing the finger at you, Twilight Saga), a grim, gritty and gripping movie that I enjoyed a lot, the story of a relationship and budding romance between a young boy being bullied at school and a young girl, who just happens to be a vampire.

There was also a surprisingly good US remake of this film which came out a couple of years later, Let Me In (2010) starring Chloë Grace Moretz (Hit-Girl from the Kick Ass films) in the role of the vampire. For a Hollywood remake, it kept the essence of the original really well, despite a few plot changes and the Americanization of the location and characters. I actually saw the US version a couple of years ago, before I saw the original, and was very impressed. But the original Swedish version is a cracker, at least as good, if not better, than the excellent remake. Both are great films, and I’d recommend them to any fans of horror/vampire films.

Overall, a great night’s viewing. Film4 is definitely one of my favourite TV channels.

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Classic Sci-Fi Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963)

I’m sitting here in the (very) early hours of Boxing Day, watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 horror/fantasy thriller The Birds on Film4. I haven’t seen this one from beginning to end in many, many years, so I’m enjoying it a lot.

The main characters are played by Rod Taylor (three years after his role in George Pal’s classic 1960 movie The Time Machine), Tippi Hedren (I can’t recall her in anything else), Suzanne Pleschette, Jessica Tandy and a very young Veronica Cartwright. But the real stars of the film are the birds.

The story is a classic “what-if” with an impending apocalyptic theme, and is loosely based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier. It is set in the tiny California harbour town of Bodega Bay, which is under siege by thousands of birds. The birds are launching sporadic, seemingly random attacks on the inhabitants, causing mayhem, destruction and even killing a number of people including one of the main characters, the local school teacher. There are several truly disturbing and memorable scenes, in which the birds attack the children during a party and later at the school, the mass attack and destruction at the diner/petrol station, and the final attack at the home of Mitch’s mother, in which Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is almost killed in the bedroom and left traumatised.

I did have a bit of a chuckle during the scene at the diner (just before the birds attack) where the old lady ornithologist states that there are a hundred billion birds in the world, and if they really have all ganged up together to attack the human race, we’d have no chance. I seriously doubt that, and I believe that if a war ever did break out between the birds and humans, we would very efficiently render every single one of them extinct. Cue images of tens of thousands of rednecks and Dick Cheney types blasting countless millions of poor birdies out of the sky and having great fun doing so.

The film has just ended, and never really explains why the birds are attacking. The conclusion has the protagonists just driving off in a car, under the watchful eyes of thousands of menacing birds, who just let them go, we never find out why. There is some inference (from news reports on the car radio) that the attacks are spreading beyond Bodega Bay, and that this is the beginning of the end for the human race.

That was certainly two-and-a-half hours well spent. 🙂

Sci-Fi Cinema Classic – THE TIME MACHINE (1960)

Right now, I’m having a lovely, relaxing Saturday evening, sitting back, chilling, and watching one of my favourite sci-fi cinema classics on Film4. The amazing 1960 George Pal movie adaptation of the landmark H. G. Wells 1895 novella (or short novel) THE TIME MACHINE is one that I haven’t watched in quite some time, and it’s really nice to see it on the telly again.

This was the very first sci-fi film that had a big impact on me, when I first saw it at about the age of five or six years old on local Irish television (RTE). I remember standing, totally transfixed, in my grannie’s living room, staring at the TV in total amazement for two hours as the film unfolded (some achievement, I can tell you, as I never stood still for a moment when I was a young kid). At that tender age, I’d never seen anything quite like it, and this film was to become a life-long influence, playing a massive part in turning me into the sci-fi/science fiction geek that I am today.

For at least the first half of my life (I’m almost 54 now), THE TIME MACHINE remained my absolute favourite film ever, until I eventually became fed up with it after watching it over and over again ceaselessly on video during the 1980’s. This one film kick-started my obsession with sci-fi cinema in general, which I’ve adored from that very early stage of my life. It also led directly to me picking up the original H. G. Wells novel from the local library a couple of years later, a point in my life which also marks the beginning of my life-long love for reading science fiction literature. This old film has a lot to answer for! 🙂

Sure, a lot of my love for this 1960 film is probably sheer nostalgia on my part, and younger viewers might consider it slightly dated and slow now compared to more modern films, with their wondrous CGI special effects and non-stop action and explosions. But I believe that the SFX in THE TIME MACHINE still hold up remarkably well today – you have to remember that this film is over fifty years old, and it DID win an Oscar for the visual effects back in the day. So it was definitely THE big sci-fi blockbuster movie with the great effects, at least back in 1960, and still looks good today, in my opinion. I wonder how many of the current fancy movies will still hold up in fifty years time.

The 2002 Simon Wells-directed reimagining of this film has grown on me over the years, despite my dismissing it as an inferior remake when it was first released. But while I do like the 2002 version now, the 1960 version still retains that spot in my heart as my favourite movie version of this classic 1895 scientific romance. Highly recommended, especially for older viewers who don’t suffer from having only the attention span of a goldfish or who are unable to sit through a film without non-stop action and snazzy modern SFX.

The film is getting near the climax now, with the hero rescuing the female “love interest” from a terrible fate underground as “Saturday Evening Lunch”. I’m off to watch the ending!

Sci-Fi Film Marathon, Saturday 5th July-Sunday 6th July, 2014

I’ve said several times before that Sundays at our house have become a favourite of mine for sci-fi on TV and DVD, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to the day as “Sci-Fi Sunday”. Well, this weekend was no different, with the local UK Freeview television channels coming up with the goods yet again, airing some excellent sci-fi films over the weekend. The only unusual exception was Channel 5, which most weekends has at least one sci-fi film on, but not this time around (but lots of Disney stuff on today, for anyone who’s into that kinda thing).

The additional plus this weekend was that Saturday was almost as good as Sunday, for a change. This week it’s not just “Sci-Fi Sunday”, but an entire “Sci-Fi Weekend”, during which Film4 hosted no less than four classic sci-fi films, and Channel 4, ITV2 and BBC Three aired one each. Add to that the two sci-fi DVDs that I watched with my friends on Sunday night, and that amounts to quite a sci-fi marathon over two days.

Unfortunately the BBC channels, particularly the two big ones, BBC One and BBC Two, are very poor when it comes to airing any kind of sci-fi, preferring instead to aim for the lowest common denominator and concentrate on an unrelenting garbage diet of soaps, sport and reality TV. I think the BBC considers Doctor Who to be their absolute limit for sci-fi these days, and tough luck if we want anything else. When there’s no Doctor Who on the BBC channels, there’s very rarely any sci-fi at all. If it wasn’t for the news or documentaries, I wouldn’t watch BBC One or Two at all. The same for BBC Three. Aside from a couple of episodes of Doctor Who on Friday evenings, it’s complete crap.

Once again, Film4 was the undisputed champ, with two sci-fi films on Saturday, and two more on Sunday. Saturday afternoon started off well, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). Then we did a bit of channel-hopping over to Channel 4 for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), and then it was back to Film4 again for some Arnie in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Sunday afternoon saw Film4 picking up where they left off on Saturday night, with The Phantom (1996), running straight into Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). The usual Sunday evening visitors started drifting in by that point, so once the Star Trek V film was over, we switched from TV to DVD, with the first part (of three) of the Sci-Fi Channel’s excellent Dune mini-series (2000).

Then it was back to the TV for another film. Given what I said earlier about the BBC channels being very bad for sci-fi, I almost died of shock when BBC Three actually aired Tron: Legacy (2010). This was followed soon after on ITV2 by The Matrix Reloaded (2003), the very good second film in the Matrix Trilogy. Finally, and taking us from late Sunday night into early Monday morning, it was another DVD, the much underrated fourth film in the Alien series, Alien: Resurrection (1997). I’ve heard many people whinge about how bad they think this film is. I disagree with them. I always enjoy it when it is re-run on TV.

I’m slinking off to bed now at just after 4am, exhausted, but very satisfied after two days of great sci-fi films. Here’s looking forward to next weekend! 🙂

Some Sunday Evening Movies

Another quiet, relaxing Sunday afternoon/evening, sitting in, just watching sci-fi films on television and DVD. Sunday has become one of my favourite days for films. There’s almost always something good on for sci-fi fans on a Sunday.

I started off this afternoon watching two-in-a-row on Film4. The first was an “oldie-but-goody”, AT THE EARTH’S CORE, starring Peter Cushing, Doug McClure, and the absolutely gorgeous Caroline Munroe. Based on the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of the same name, the monsters and special effects might (definitely) look a bit hokey compared to modern movies, but it was fun, and not a mess of explosions, fighting and SFX without a story, which is a problem afflicting many modern sci-fi films.

This was followed by CONGO, the first Michael Crichton-based film that I’ve seen in a while that didn’t have dinosaurs in it (I’ve seen lots of re-runs of the various JURASSIC PARK films over the past few months). Not a bad film, even if carnivorous gorillas don’t seem to have quite the same attraction as lots of raptors or the compulsory Tyrannosaurus Rex. 🙂

Finally, on DVD, something a little more modern. I’m not usually a big fan of films based on computer or consoles games, but I gotta admit that I liked PACIFIC RIM. Firmly based in the Kaiju/giant monster vs giant robots genre, there are lots of great SFX and titanic fight scenes between the various kaijus and men in giant robot suits, but there’s also a half-decent story, which is a major plus. Another fun film.

Well, the sci-fi films are all done now, and the evening is almost over, so it’s back to Film4, and DIE HARD 2. All-in-all, a very good evening’s viewing.