Archive for July, 2015

Blue Moon

If you look up at the sky tonight and see the moon, it will be a blue moon, not blue in colour, but the second full moon of a calender month.  Tonight’s moon will also be what is known as a ‘supermoon’, the time when the moon is at its perigee, its closest approach to the Earth, making it appear particularly big and bright.  Below is an article I first published on 31 August 2012, the last time we had a Blue Moon, we will next see one in January 2018.

* * * * * * *

You have probably heard the expression once in a blue moon referring to a rare event, but what is a blue moon? There are actually multiple meanings. The moon occasionally appears to take on a bluish tinge, this is caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere. The particles have to be a very particular size and are only caused by erupting volcanoes and forest fires. There are also two astronomical definitions: the third full moon in a season (or quarter of the year) with four full moons: or the second full moon in a month. Under this definition, we have a blue moon tonight. What better time list my top five werewolf movies:

ONE – An American Werewolf in London (1981): The advances in CGI mean that modern horror movies are better and more realistic than old ones that look cheep and outdated; well actually NO! An American Werewolf in London is more than thirty years old and still has the best man to werewolf transformation. The movie has moments that are scary, funny and sexy, it really is the ultimate comedy horror, the word classic is an overused but when talking about this movie, it just seems insignificant.

TWO – Ginger Snaps (2000): With all the wolf effects you need a big budget to make a good werewolf movie, again NO! With budgetary constraints comes artistic invention, $4million would barely pay the coffee budget on the Lord of the Rings movies but that’s what Ginger Snaps cost to make. Fantastically developed characters full of teen angst, the film is more gritty, earthy and visceral than the pithy ironic style of most horror movies of the time. With themes of alienation, despair and transformation the entire film is a metaphor for teenage in particular puberty.

THREE – The Company of Wolves (1984): With Red Riding Hood, two Snow White movies and the TV show Once Upon a Time there is a real desire to update fairytales, it has never been done better than the Little Red Riding Hood inspired The Company of Wolves. It was also a bit of a game changer for werewolf movies, until this time, werewolves were portrayed as viscous beasts whilst vampires were symbols of sex and sexuality, but this sumptuous horror fantasy movie oozes sexual metaphors. Loosely based on Angela Carter short story of the same name, the meaning of the film is left perfectly ambiguous and open to interpretation but is filled with themes of fear and desire and has an undercurrent of sexuality and loss of innocence.

FOUR – Dog Soldiers (2002): Soldiers on a training mission gone wrong in the Scottish highlands sounds like a rip-off of Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort, in a way it is but writer/director Neil Marshall (who went on to make The Descent) isn’t afraid to borrow from the best, later scenes are equal parts Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead with the end being pure The Howling with a British spin. As is often the case film makers are at there most inventive whist constrained by a limited budget, this film is no exception making great use of their none CGI monsters. Again for budgetary reasons the werewolves spend a lot of time where they traditionally belong, in the shadows. The final victory of the film is the perfect blend of horror and comedy, something that is hard to get right.

FIVE – The Howling (1981): Made by Gremlins director Joe Dante The Howling is a great early 80’s horror that dispenses with many of the conventions of the genre. The film plays out like a conspiracy thriller and in the sprit of All the President’s Men and The Parallax View the main character is a journalist. A film of the same era as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is less comical and more satirical but also in the conspiracy thriller style it is actually a little subversive, the wolf effects aren’t as good and look a little dated but aren’t bad.

Honourable mentions:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): Not an honourable mention because it isn’t as good as others on the list, but because it ultimately isn’t really a werewolf movie. loosely based on a real-life Beast of Gévaudan. A series of killings in France in the 18th century that caught the attention King Louis XV who sent professional wolf-hunters to solve kill the wolves responsible.

Underworld (2003): Not a great movie, but the first of this werewolf V vampire franchise is a real guilty pleasure for me. Making the most of its relatively small budget underworld is a hugely stylish movie. The sets are amazing


Read Full Post »

After Daniel Craig wore a midnight blue dinner jacket in Skyfall it immediately became the must have item in gentlemen’s eveningwear.  It wasn’t the first time Bond had worn blue.  Ian Fleming described Bond as wearing a midnight blue dinner jacket.  Most actors to play Bond in the official Bond films have worn a blue dinner suit including Sean Connery in the opening scene of Dr.james bond blue evening suit

But one of the most iconic images of Connery as Bond came in Goldfinger where he wears a white dinner jacket.  The trailer for Spectre later this year shows Daniel Craig reprising the look.  Will it have the same effect as when he wore blue, will all the high street stores be stocking white this Christmas?James Bond white dinner jacket

Read Full Post »

Don’t Ruin The BBC!

Since 1 April 2010 the annual licence fee has been £145.50 (less than 40p per day ) for colour and £49.00 for black and white (around five years ago the TV licence agency website reported that “28,000 homes across the UK are still enjoying their programmes in black and white”). The licence fee is reported to generate around£3.7 billion a year of which about 608 million (or 16.3%) was provided by the Government subsidies/concessions for those over the age of 75. The licence fee is reported to generate around 75% of the BBC’s income.   This is about to change, the BBC is going to have to cover the cost of over 75 year old viewers itself by 2020.  In return the fee will rise in line with inflation (measured by the consumer prices index).  It is also expected that legislation next year will close the loophole allowing those who only watch catch-up television to avoid the licence fee.

To put the cost of the licence fee in context here it is in comparison to a few other things:

  • 9 peak time trips to the cinema for 2 (based on average UK price found online)
  • 322 pints of milk (based on price I paid in my local supermarket this week)
  • 3 Premier League football matches for 1 (based on a rough calculation of average prices)
  • 125 litres  of diesel (based on the price I have just paid) (enough to drive about 1,500mile based on the 58mpg my car averages)
  • 46 pints of beer (based on an average price found online)
  • 6 meals for two at Nando’s (1/2 chicken with sides and a drink each)

More important than where the money comes from is where it goes.  Below if a graph (borrowed from The Telegraph) showing how they spend their money.chart

Most of the graph is self explanatory.  One unexplained thing is “other services & production” this, I imagine will include BBC Films; BBC Films is the film-making division of arm of the BBC, they co-produces and distributes British FIlms.  Notable examples are: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, My Week with Marilyn, In the Loop, An Education, Iris, Notes on a Scandal and Billy Elliot. Nut more notable are the fantastic smaller films that may not have been made if not for BBC Films: Fish Tank, X+Y, Shadow Dancer, Perfect Sense, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Made in Dagenham.  Given the state of the British film industry, we can’t afford to lose BBC films.fish tank poster

I could live without most of the television production.  There are many programs I watch but there are only a few  unmissable ones: Doctor Who, Top Gear and Match of the Day.  But there are two elements of the BBC that they do better than anyone else.  Radio and Online.  For as long as I can remember I have looked towards America, my favourite TV shows growing up were American, most films I watch are American, I love the two truly great American art forms; Rock and Roll and Jazz, but there is one thing no-one in the world, including America can do as well as the BBC Radio.  I grew up listening to Radio 1 then graduated to Radio 2 in my late 20’s.  Radio 4 provides great comedy and drama.  Then came the home of news, sport (and Wittertainment) 5 Live.  BBC 6 Music provides a good balance between Radio 1 and 2.  Then there is BBC local radio, my local station BBC WM is great for local sport.  The BBC website is the only place I look online for news, weather and sport. Also online, the BBC I-Player is the best TV and radio streaming service, providing a mixture of older archive programs , and recent catch-up,  and best of all,  it’s free.match of the day

The main point of the big debate is what should happen to the licence fee and what programs should the BBC make?  As for the programming,  you will never please everyone, but on the whole, I think they are getting it right. The lighter programming is the most contentious, but has been part of the BBC for as long as anyone can remember.  Free to air sport is not for everyone, but really is an essential part of the service they provide.  I can not imaging a time time when the FA cup final, Wimbledon, and F1 (ITV coverage wasn’t great when they had it) isn’t on BBC.  The fee is more complicated; the licence is only required to watch TV, all the other services including Radio and online are free for all.  At the moment around  96% of UK homes currently pay the licence fee or receive the over 75’s subsidy.   Is the any millage in funding the BBC directly from the exchequer?  Would this impact on the BBC’s independence?  One thing is certain, The BBC should never become commercial.  Whatever the outcome, my plea is simple, don’t ruin The BBC!

Read Full Post »

“God, a person can go crazy thinking about all this…”

In the Terminator Films, Judgment Day is the day the machines took over,  Skynet becomes self-aware and starts a nuclear war killing three billion people.  It is mentioned in the original film but a date is not referred to until the second film; Terminator 2: Judgment Day when it is said to be August 29, 1997 02:14 am Eastern Time.  Sarah and John destroy all the remains of the original 1984 Terminator, these remains formed the basis for Miles Dyson’s research that resulted in the development of Skynet.  This results in a change in the future, by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines it had been pushed back to  July 25, 2004 6:18 pm Eastern Time.  However in the original film Skynet already existed before a Terminator travelled back to influence the future.  So is as is stated in Terminator 3, is Judgment Day is inevitable?  In the TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles we are originally told Judgment Day is now set to occur on April 21, 2011. The character Derek Reese (Kyle Reese’s older brother) travels back in time to help Sarah and John.  When he meets people from the future who have travelled back, he asks them when Judgment Day happened for them.   This date is constantly changing as both Skynet and the resistance are constantly trying to influence the future.terminator 3

To expand on the quote at the top “Should I tell you about your father? Boy, that’s a tough one. Will it affect your decision to send him here, knowing that he is you father? If you don’t send Kyle, you can never be. God, a person can go crazy thinking about all this..”  Sarah’s words are spoken into a tape recorder for her son to hear in the future,  this also serves as a closing monologue for the film.  It is never explained who Johns farther was prior to the events of The Terminator, was it someone other Kyle Reese or was it a Predestination Paradox (also known as a Casual Loop or ontological paradox) – an event that occurs when a future event is the cause of an past event, due to time travel, with the past event then causing the future event, that in turned caused/causes the past event.  The events have no independent origin thanks to the loop, no conclusion.  (check out the movie Predestination (2014)) Terminator Genisys (2015)  sees Sarah and Kyle travel forward in time to 2017, there is never a mention of the possibility of them travelling back to 1984.  Therefore if John’s conception must have moved forward by at least 23 years.  If indeed he is ever conceived.  Where will that leave John?  Is as he suggests their presence in 2017 locked in time and a change in the past/future will not affect them?  There is no suggestion in the constantly changing future that this could be the case.   This move forward in time could break the loop thus preventing the birth of John and negating the events of all the films, including the first one.  If there is no John Connor, there is no need to send a terminator back to prevent his birth.The terminator

Then we have the possibility that the film universe exists in a multiverse (or meta-universe where there are infinite possible universes, therefore all the time travel will make no difference to those in the future.  By sending people or machines back to change the past they are simply creating new alternate universes, or are they?  In one interpretation of the Multiverse Theory, all possible alternate universes already exist.  There is no suggestion of this as we see a constantly changing future and people / machines are only ever sent back from the single changeable future.  But this takes us back to the original paradox of the first movie.  Not  the often quoted that if John hadn’t sent Kyle back to save his mother that he would never have been conceived, but what if the terminator had succeeded?   Had the Terminator killed Sarah in 1984, John would have never existed therefore, there would be no need to send the Terminator back.  Therefore, Sarah would survive.  “God, a person can go crazy thinking about all this…”The terminator

Read Full Post »

“It can be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

WARNING this article contains spoilers for the Terminator franchise including the latest incarnation Terminator Genisys.  Last week I went to a screening of The Terminator, The effects are looking a little shaky, but the 1984 classic remains the best of the Terminator franchise.   The apocalypse has happened, machines have taken over the world and the remnants of humanity are hanging on and beginning to fight back.  The premise of the film is that Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) travels through time to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) the future mother of a resistance leader from a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  Reese has had a hard life growing up in the ruins of the old world, his life a constant battle for survival.  Sarah is a waitress  who can’t doesn’t see herself as the mother of the resistance, a resistance in a war she can’t imagine.  In love with the idea and legend of Sarah Connor, Reese is willing to die for her and for John, her future son.  The reason Reese has to die is for the balance of the movie as much as the heart of it.  I wouldn’t go as far as a Christian metaphor of the hero dyeing for the sins of others, but his commitment to the cause is unshakeable and based around faith, all be it not religious faith.  Had he survived it would have undermined the concept of the film about defeating an unstoppable killer, his ultimate sacrifice gives the film the gravitas it needs, it also helps set up the perfect ending.  The happiness of Sarah’s victory and survival is first tempered by the death of the man she loves but then the shadow of the looming storm, the  impending war that will end the world as we know it.Kyle Reese Michael Biehn

When The Terminator was released in 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger was a rising star thanks to the Conan movies, but he was still a minor star.  It has been suggested that Schwarzenegger wanted to play Kyle Reese but James Cameron convinced him that The Terminator was the better part.  By the time Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out in 1991 he was the biggest star in the world.  As such he got his wish to play the hero not the killer.  This could have been a disaster but amazingly worked and became the most popular movie in the franchise (I prefer the original). It also helps that going into the film I had no idea about the change in role until it was revealed.   Is this idea of villain becoming hero centred in the age old movie trope of redemption?  It also works well against Linda Hamilton whose appearance and character has completely changed since the first film.sarah connor linda hamiltonarnold schwarzenegger terminator 2

Using an alternate timeline to reset the clock and negate the events of  Judgment Day (1991), Rise of the Machines (2003) and Salvation (2009) as well as a lot of The Terminator.  The film works best when playing with the original story.  The first half hour largely works around the original film, a little like the way Back to the Future Part II did.  Old Schwarzenegger waiting for the arrival of the original Terminator in 1984 is a particular highlight. Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) delivering the line “come with me if you want to live” set the tone for the film.  Fans will remember Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) saying it to Sarah in the first film and Schwarzenegger saying it to her in the second.  Elements of the reboot also work well, Judgment day is pushed back a decade.  This is because they leave no trace of future technology so Miles Dyson doesn’t have access to the remains of the original terminator to create the chip that becomes the origin of Skynet as depicted Judgment Day.  This results in a totally new story, or is it?  It boils down to preventing Cyberdyne Systems creating Skynet, in other words, the same plot as Judgment Day.  And while the plot in Judgment Day was an interesting surprise, every twist and turn in the Genisys plot is revealed in the trailer.  This is also where the film loses its way.  Similar to the death of Reese in the first film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day had to sacrifice Schwarzenegger’s good terminator both for the emotion and logic of plot.  While Genisys repeatedly reminds us of the importance of not leaving any future technology behind, it fails to sacrifice any character that we are emotionally  invested in.Sarah Connor Emilia Clarke

The overly contrived and convoluted plot, including the protagonists travelling forward in time felt like an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008–2009).  A TV show that was cancelled just as it was getting interestingly.  This leads nicely to the conclusion of this film, as is so often the way the film had its happy ending but with a mid credit sting leaving to door open to sequels.  Remember; “the future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”Sarah Connor Lena Headey

It may sound like I am tearing apart a terrible film.  I am not taken on its own merits, it isn’t bad.  It is largely an enjoyable film, but it is also forgettable and insignificant.  Something that can not be said for James Cameron’s two instalments in the franchise.   It’s worth watching for fans of the original films if only to spot the references, some more obvious than others.

Read Full Post »

Just six seven (I forgot one when I originally posted) new movies and one screening of a modern classic this month:

Man Up: British romantic comedy centring on the fallout of a woman who finds herself on someone else’s blind date.  Lake Bell is fantastic and Simon Pegg provides good support.Man Up

Danny Collins: Inspired by the true story of singer Steve Tilston.  Al Pacino has great fun with the part and manages to give a funny and compelling performance and avoids his tendency to shout instead of act.  Annette Bening provides fantastic support and has real chemistry with Pacino.Danny Collins

Survivor: Perfunctory spy thriller.  Milla Jovovich is miscast but likeable, Pierce Brosnan looks uninterested in a role that he should have some fun with.  Not a terrible film, but one to catch on TV on a Sunday afternoon, not one to pay to see.Survivor

Mr Holmes: Ian McKellen was born to play Sherlock Holmes.  Rather than rehash the old and well trod stories, director Bill Condon (who directed McKellen in Gods and Monsters 1998) uses the novel by Mitch Cullin.  An older Holmes with a fading memory looks back on his final case, it is more a film about mortality, aging and memory than investigation.  Child actor Milo Parker is also excellent.Mr Holmes

The Longest Ride: Nicholas Sparks adaptations follow a tried and trusted formula.  This one offers nothing original or outstanding but is solid and enjoyable romantic melodrama.  The cast is great with Britt Robertson again proving to be a star in the making.  Scott Eastwood makes a compelling leading man and looks frighteningly like his dad in his younger days.The Longest Ride

Knock Knock: Keanu Reeves finds himself in the middle of something that falls between the erotic thrillers and yuppies in peril movies of the 80’s and 90’s.  Keanu is as likeable as ever despite playing a character who makes some questionable choices.  The film has an interesting payoff but the nast undertone you expect from Eli Roth.Knock-Knock

Amy: Director and producer Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees are back with portrait of singer Amy Winehouse.  As compelling as Senna (2010), the real brilliance of the film isn’t the telling tale that played out in front of the worlds press, but the less know and more intimate story of the tragic figure.Amy

The Terminator: The effects are looking a little shaky, but the 1984 classic remains the best of the Terminator franchise.  NOTE: although I list cinema screenings of reissue films they aren’t in contention for movie of the month.The Terminator

The odds were against it as I am not a rom-com fan, but thanks to a funny script and an outstanding performance from the delightful and brilliant Lake Bell, Movie of the month is:man_up_movie_poster - Copy

Read Full Post »