The Thing


Viewed – 24 October 2017  Blu-ray

Growing up I must have seen this movie on TV several times, and always marvelled not only at the atmosphere and setting, but those incredible creature effects by makeup artist Rob Bottin.  Over the years CGI has taken over considerably, the recent ‘prequel’ being a noteworthy example of CGI not able to replace decent practical effects, and so despite this being over thirty years old, how does it hold up compared to today’s offerings?

The Thing-Kurt-Russell

Kurt Russell leads a cast of characters which bare at least thematically a resemblance to the crew of Alien’s Nostromo.  These guys, working at a remote research facility in the Antarctic are not marines, but simple blue-collar workers, not unlike what you’d find of an oil rig … who are about to get an unexpected and unwelcome visitor.  Director John Carpenter took inspiration from 50s b-movie The Thing From Outer Space, but brings his own personality and considerable directing chops to deliver probably one of the stand out horror movies of the 80’s.  Colourful characters bring a realism to the movie that works well and the cast all do a fine job with Russell proving a great lead.  The setting is also claustrophobic and well filmed; combining a mix of traditional cinematography with hand-held camera work.  Once the ‘thing’ starts imitating various characters, tension ramps up and it became pretty disturbing and scary, especially with how the characters convey their paranoia and fear for those they once called friends.  However the star of the show is the creature itself and it’s transformations and gory appearances are stuff of cinematic legend by now – and all these years later still impress.  The scenes with tentacles, spiders legs and all sorts of other things still sent shivers my way.  Yet Carpenter sensibly chose to make this as much a character piece as a creature feature and for that reason it excels.Thing Arrow VideoArrow Video once again deliver a stunning package with the movie’s latest treatment on Blu-ray, improving immeasurably over the previous Universal release which suffered from lip-sync problems.  Here we get a 4K restoration boasting a clean, detailed image free of dust or damage and in fine shape, even if it’s not the most vibrant movie you’ll see.  All those gory details certainly get showcased however.  Add to this a choice of original 2.0 Stereo, 4.1 and also DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio, and along with Ennio Morricone’s ominous score and clear dialogue – this is impressive stuff.  Now as usual Arrow don’t shirk on the special features and here we get two audio commentaries; firstly an archive Kurt Russell & John Carpenter one which feels like two old time buddies watching a movie together, complete with laugh-out-loud reactions to certain scenes.  The other is a commentary by a trio of podcasters that’s well worth a listen for endless titbits and geeky knowledge.  We also get several featurettes, some archive, some new that are well worth dipping into if you’re a fan (and let’s admit it, if you’re reading this you already are).  The Blu-ray limited edition I picked up also comes with a fold out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet as well as fancy slip case packaging.  Which makes this edition essential.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

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Blade Runner 2049


Viewed – 25 Ocotber 2017  Cinema

I went into this fairly hyped.  It’s been well received for such a long awaited sequel that probably nobody was really waiting for, yet I also had slight apprehension due to the fact of not being the biggest fan of the original.  That movie whilst aesthetically impressive (more so for the time) and having some interesting moments and a solid turn from Harrison Ford, was ultimately rather empty and simple, lacking much of the depth or grit I’d been lead to believe.  So how does this sequel hold up?

Blade-Runner-2049

Ryan Gosling plays a Blade Runner who from the off you’re aware is also a replicant (an artificially engineered imitation-human), hunting and putting out of commission rogue replicants who have gone off the radar.  Yet on one such mission he stumbles upon a grave of a female replicant who seems to have died in child birth – something nobody imagined a replicant was even capable of doing; conceiving a child.  So the hunt for the missing child and answers to Golsing’s own past is set in motion.

Like the 1982 Ridley Scott original, this has a foreboding, dystopian future that is partly awe-inspiring and depressing.  It’s a dark, moody vision of Los Angeles full of clouds, smoke, neon billboards and miserable people.  Unlike Scott’s vision however this seems intentionally filmed with no real wow-factor, and with admittedly gargantuan set design and vast cityscapes appearing rather bland looking.  This look is raised up a notch by some iconic looking, sci-fi imagery not out of place on a book cover or in the pages of a graphic novel, even if much of said imagery seems put there for the sake of it.  Gosling is good and his journey of self-discovery is interesting (aided by a hologram girlfriend).  Also where the movie eventually goes is clever, with how it ties into the original really well done.  Add to this a late-to-the-party Harrison Ford pretty much stealing the show in a surprisingly layered performance, and on paper the ingredients are here to make a great movie.  Sad then that the pace is so damn plodding, with almost every scene stretched out for maximum run time with long pauses between portions of dialogue, lingering looks between characters etc.  Keeping myself entertained with this was a massive struggle.  If some scenes had just been tightened up we’d have a 2hr movie rather than one approaching 3hrs, and somewhat underwhelming visuals aside, such a languishing pace is ultimately what lets the movie down.

If you’re a big fan of the original, you may still get something out of this.  However if you want a movie that will keep you gripped throughout, this isn’t for you.

Verdict:  3 /5

Gaming perfection?


Yesterday I finished one of the most talked about and acclaimed videogames of the year… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Not for a long time has a game captivated me as much as this did.  It was a game I could walk away from for a week or two, and then come back and instantly feel appealed and at home in it’s world.  It made simply walking around and exploring as much fun as actually playing the game for it’s story or missions or quests.  It’s also a game I shall still come back to even post-credits, as the world is so huge and full of wonder, I just can’t stop exploring and simply enjoying being part of it all.

Breath-of-the-Wild

It’s filled to over-flowing with fun characters, interesting, awe-inspiring and varied environments and many many fun things to do and see.  The main quest involves eventually restoring peace to the world of Hyrule, by rescuing Princess Zelda from the clutches of the malevolent force ‘Ganon’, who not only has shrouded the magnificent castle Hyrule in an impenetrable force of evil, but also taken over four ‘divine beasts’ who once were guardians of the world but now drench the world in fear and danger.  Once you reclaim said guardians by climbing aboard their bodies and defeating a boss in each, only then can you attempt to defeat Ganon.  It’s a vast under-taking but one I always felt compelled to persevere with despite the wealth of distractions available (the endless amount of ‘shrines’ to discover, the myriad of countless quests given to you by various characters) which is something the likes of Grand Theft Auto doesn’t seem to be as good at – keeping the player focused on the main quest and not just the side stuff.

Add to this a ridiculous attention to detail in every aspect of the game.  The amount to see and do is crazy, the detail in the cartoon world presented is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before…it has an atmosphere, personality and beauty to it that taking pictures and just standing looking around at stuff, the life, the wild-life and plants, the trees, the realistic weather … is just so fulfilling.  It is definitely what you’d call the complete package, and probably a game that such like we may not see again this generation.

breathofthewildLink

It’s gameplay and difficulty seemed very well implemented, with a gradual learning curve and increase in difficulty that works seamlessly with character progression, discovering new abilities, new armour and skills or weapons, that not once did I feel the game was unfair or that I couldn’t get past something without some perseverance.  That’s not to say it was easy – at times it was very tough, but it was a toughness that I felt my failings were my own fault and not that of the game, and as I learnt and developed my own ability, I’d triumph just when I was meant to and not before.

So I honour this game with my highest recommendation.  If you have a Nintendo Switch or even Wii U … it’s a must play.

Gerald’s Game


Viewed – 08 October 2017  Netflix

There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies.  This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage.  Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.

Geralds-Game

This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma.  It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling.  Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.

I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident.   A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.

Verdict:  4 /5

Alien Covenant


Viewed – 03 October 2017  Online-rental

I was optimistic about this one.  I was initially a little hyped when it hit theatres considering that director Ridley Scott not only created the Alien franchise, but also helmed last year’s (for me) ‘movie of the year’ Martian.  So I was thinking, he’s back and bringing Alien back.  Oh was I wrong…

Alien Covenant

The crew of the Covenant are transporting a colony of thousands in hyper sleep, in search of a new planet to call their home.  After receiving a distress call from a near by planet, they choose to, albeit reluctantly investigate.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Sort of a direct sequel to the much hyped yet bewildering Prometheus, a film I came away disappointed by, this has returning character David, a synthetic android marooned on said planet who the crew of the space ship meet up with.  Amongst their crew is also an identical synthetic called Walter (both are played by Michael Fassbender), who soon finds himself bonding with his look-a-like by way of a drawn out flute lesson (yes you read that right…a flute lesson).

This is a movie in search of an identity.  It wants to be a survival horror typical Alien movie, and then like Prometheus it wants to be a philosophical origin story on both the creation of the Aliens and some mumbo-jumbo mythology involving mankind and bio-engineering.  The problem is it’s very hard to get invested in much of any of it, what with tedious characterisation and a plodding pace.  Fassbender tries his best but is let down by a poor script that is both over-complicated and boring.  Unconvincing CGI for the Aliens doesn’t help either and when crew members start dying off and you’re not even entirely sure which ones they were – the movie has problems.

Alien never needed a deep mythology.  It didn’t need a back story.  The mystery, the foreboding eeriness of H R Giger’s designs was enough – once a director attempts to explain it all, it ultimately kills it … which Scott is very much going to do if he insists on making the franchise something it never needed to be.

Verdict:  2 /5