Film Blogathon 08/17: Contact

Contact

Contact

Synopsis: How one woman’s search for extra-terrestrial life changes the world when she decodes a signal from deep space.

Based on a Carl Sagan novel, the film Contact was released in 1997, and you need to hang on to that fact.

Behind the scenes, the film was put together by a brilliant team.

Edited by the fantastic Arthur Schmidt, who worked with the awesome cinematography of Don Burgess (a director of photography of brilliant track record), this film makes me feel the same way that Close Encounters of the Third Kind used to make me feel.

The slow but near-perpetual build-up of momentum keeps excitement and pace running in near tandem.

There is not a single dull moment in Contact.

Everything in the film, whether visual or audio, everything in this film exists for a reason.

Contact is the perfect vehicle for Jodie Foster: a sharply-written storyline and a chance to showcase her broad range of ability.

She brings a breathless enthusiasm to the role, and to the film, and she contributes to the qualities that make Contact a stand-out film.

A most likeable second strand in the story is how the discovery of alien life brings in to focus the schism between science and religion, and it neatly points out the fundamental incompatibilities between the two.

If I was handing out stars, Contact would get four out of four, five out of five, six out of six or ten out of ten.

It is a perfect interpretation of a brilliantly-written book, by a high-thinking author.

Contact was released in 1997.

How many other films look this good when they have reached 20 years of age?

Film Blogathon 07/17: Tornado Warning (originally: Alien Tornado)

Synopsis: Aliens are lured to Earth by a strange electronic signal, and they appear to you and me as destructive electromagnetic tornadoes (really!). Brilliant high school student (not a cliché, honest), together with her father and weather/storm chaser blogger who is already involved in the study of these ‘tornadoes’ are struggling against time to prevent further disasters and to disable the signal to make these destructive aliens/pseudo tornadoes leave the planet.

This film is CGI-effects a go-go.

And not in a good way.

The story is set in the American mid-west. Or possibly in South Carolina.

An unpredicted tornado strikes a small farm, but it behaves like no tornado we’ve ever seen before.

Not only that, but the Official US Government Weather Watchdog denies that the tornado-strike ever happened.

There are a number of sub-plots designed to keep the viewer off guard:

  • The 17-year old daughter (who says of her dad ‘you’re so old’) who achieves the top 10 percentile at school and qualifies for a place at Chicago University
  • Her single-parent dad who hasn’t insured the farm, and has spent his deceased ex-wife’s life insurance payout just meeting financial ends (and not been telling his daughter about all these financial dire straits, obv)
  • The town cop who is from out of town and Who Has A Secret
  • The Sinister Top Secret Government Installation just outside town
  • The storm chaser with ten years experience who can just feel an instant barometric drop. Yeah, right, we’re all that gullible as well
  • The sinister-looking blacked out SUVs linked to the same Secret Government Installation. Maybe

Anyway, to the film.

Despite the very low budget, which was probably almost the same amount as our weekly household shopping bill, and despite a very silly plot, Tornado Warning isn’t too bad.

Oh, it is bad, yes.

It just isn’t too bad.

The lo-fi special effects look unconvincing, but that’s the point. You’re supposed to notice that those tornadoes aren’t as we know them.

And the storyline has more cheese than the entire town of Cheddar.

But the female lead (Stacey Asaro) is surprisingly strong in a role that most people would find challenging.

Contrastingly, the head bad guy from the sinister SUVs is embarrassingly badly acted by David Jensen (no, not that one, another one).

But despite the childish plot and the unavoidable potholes of bad acting, there are things to enjoy about this low-budget flick.

I’m not too sure what they are yet, but I’ll let you know when I work out what they are.

Film Blogathon 06/17: The House Bunny

I know right?

There’s this girl?

And she’s like an actual Playboy Bunny?

You know?

Actually lives with Hugh Heffner in his mansion and everything?

But for reasons too complicated to explain (or too complicated for the audience to understand), she decides to leave the Playboy Mansion?

But this makes her homeless?

I know, right?

Like a poor person?

So she needs to find a place to live, because, like, we all do, right?

So she decides to get a job as a House Mom in a Soriety House on campus at College?

So she gets a job as a House Bunny Mom at the Zeta House?

And the girls who live at Zeta House are all, you know, really really unfortunate looking?

Like there’s a Goth with loads of facial piercing, and there’s a girl in a torso-brace, and there’s a girl who is like so like you know, plain, right? And there’s another girl who is so grossly pregnant that she looks just sort of f.a.t. you know?

Anyway, the House Bunny Mom has to get lots of pledges from lots of new students so that they will join the house, otherwise Mean Mrs Hagstrom is going to Close Down The House, right?

So the House Bunny Mom just goes about turning everything around and making the lives of those unfortunate girls so much better, while Hugh Heffner sits in his Mansion getting really miserable because his favourite bunny has left him, and eats lots of ice cream because that’s what we do when we’re down, yeah?

But while House Bunny Mom is being real cool and also turning everything around the House Bunny Mom messes up her own personal life because she seems to have the interaction skills of a cabbage, right?

But in the end, the House Bunny Mom gets everyone straightened out, and Zeta House gets all of the pledges they needed to have, and Hugh Heffner gets to spend the rest of his life in the Playboy Mansion with all his other Playboy bunnies and he gets over the ice cream phase and just chills out with lots of those other Playboy Bunnies and the House Bunny Mom finally gets it together with Oliver and they all live happily ever after?

I know, right?

Film Blogathon 05/17: M:I-2

M:I-2

M:I-2

Mission Impossible 2 (An Accent Too Far)

M:I-2 is an odd film which features an impossible implausible plot and:

  • An arch baddie with a bad Scottish accent
  • A sub baddie with a bad Australian accent
  • A goodie with a bad Australian accent, and
  • A goodie with a bad English accent.

However the film is jammed full of hi-tech goodies such as:
Those rubberish face-masks that let the wearer be someone else, even though they’re a different height and a completely different build
Tom Cruise’s Triumph Speed Triple having an auto-rear-tyre-change function, that somehow flips the rear tyre from slicks to roads, to cross-country and back to roads again, all in the space of one fast pursuit.

Yet even all of these technological marvels fail to lift MI: 2 out of the bathtub of mediocrity that it fell in to, in an early scene in Cadiz.

And the predictably obvious ‘fight to the death’ that Mr Cruise has with the arch baddie is just dull.

Actually no, it isn’t just dull.

It’s tiresomely dull.

So is the soundtrack.

I’m not sure what happened to MI: 2, but somewhere along the way, probably in a workshop deep within the creative phase, the film got out of control, like a rampaging bull in a shop in the middle of China.

M:I-2 should have been put to sleep, humanely.

But instead they went ahead and finished it.

I wish they hadn’t.

And I watched it.

I wish I hadn’t.

It’s rubbish.

Leg up

Prem (who may be on the cusp of being renamed ‘Bob’) had his injured leg scanned by the Vet today.

The news is that there is only slight damage to his Suspensory Ligament.

Yay!

However there is evidence of severe damage to his Superficial Flexor Tendon which, the Vet said, would seem to be about 3-4 months old.

This estimate corresponds with Prem’s/Bob’s last race, when he was pulled up due to injury.

The Vet has suggested that Prem/Bob stays on box rest, but is walked out in-hand for five minutes a day, increasing by five minutes every two weeks.

Prem/Bob will have a re-scan in three months, to determine how things are healing, by which time he should be walking, in-hand, for 30 minutes a day.

As you can tell from this photo, Prem/Bob is thrilled to bits at this prospect!

Prem

Prem

Thinking of shopping at IKEA? Think again…

A cautionary tale about buying a kitchen from IKEA

In the last two years we have had a significant amount of work done in the house.

The last lap, the very last job on the list was the kitchen.

We shopped around (as you do) and eventually we decided on a particular kitchen from IKEA.

Similar, but not exactly identical to this one:

IKEA Kitchen

IKEA Kitchen

The IKEA planner came to the house, took various measurements, and advised us what units and cupboards we could have, and where we could have them.

It was a done deal.

We booked.

The fitters would take one week, we were told.

On Monday 12th June the kitchen fitters rocked up, as planned, and began work.

By Wednesday evening, the old kitchen was piled up outside the garage (completely blocking the car-width doorway, but hey ho, it was only temporary, right?).

The kitchen fitters (a company called Lakers, sub-contracted to do the job for IKEA) told us that they wouldn’t be in tomorrow.

Or Friday.

They had to go on a course.

So we were going to have to endure not having a kitchen for nine days, instead of five?

Yes, that’s right.

Hey ho, it’s only temporary, right?

The kitchen fitters returned on Monday and, by 4pm Tuesday 20th June they had finished.

At 8am the next day (Wednesday 21st June) we discovered water.

The fitted mixer tap was defective, and leaking.

We called the kitchen fitters who turned up that day.

They said we needed a new tap and not to use the old one.

It’s a kitchen tap!

A mixer tap.

In the kitchen!

We are not to use either the hot or cold water tap in the kitchen?

Yes that’s right. Until the new one is fitted.

Hey ho, it’s only temporary, right?

On Thursday afternoon we got an email from IKEA to tell us that the new tap will be delivered to us at home, and that delivery could take up to 10 days.

TEN DAYS.

Really?

So the kitchen that was started to be fitted on Monday 12th June is not likely to be completed until after Friday 7th July?

That’s a total of 26 days, from start to finish.

TWENTY SIX DAYS.

Twenty six days without hot and cold water in our beautifully expensive IKEA kitchen?

The same kitchen we had paid thousands of pounds for?

Yes.

So next time you see a stylish IKEA advert on the television, just remember how your shopping experience could end up.

Film Blogathon 04/17: Black Hawk Down

 

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down, the film that spawned a thousand videogames.

Based on a true story (the key word there is ‘based’), this is the story of a disastrous US Special Forces action against a warlord in Somalia.

Black Hawk Down is not without its flaws, but is well worth another look – even if you have already seen it – and well worth a first look if you haven’t.

I had forgotten the brilliant soundtrack. Every note is evocative, every tone sounds authentic (even though it isn’t).

Also worth mentioning, and a point too easily overlooked, is the international cast.

Just, for a moment, taking away the American actors, we are left with:

Ioan Gruffudd (Aberdare)
Ewan McGregor (Perth)
Ewen Bremner (Edinburgh)
Hugh Dancy (Stoke on Trent)
Orlando Bloom (Canterbury)
Tom Hardy (London)
Željko Ivanek (Ljubljana)
Kim Coates (Saskatoon)
Eric Bana (Melbourne)
Treva Etienne (London)
Razaaq Adoti (London)
George Harris (Grenada)
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Rudkøbing)
Jason Isaacs (Liverpool).

Although Black Hawk Down is staged well for the relentless realism of urban warfare, it shouldn’t be seen as an accurate retelling.

The strength of the film, however, is the constant, incessant, punishing chaos of urban conflict.

Depicted well is the complete confusion and disorder, the total absence of a cohesive strategy, the massive underestimation of a well-armed enemy, and the crowning glory of idiocy; the tactical errors heaped upon even more and even greater tactical errors, of the US command.

In the words of the Prussian military tactician Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke ‘No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy’.

This film shows how chillingly accurate that phrase is, whilst continuing to maintain, and turn up the suspense.

Black Hawk Down is an easy four out of five, or an eight and a half out of ten.

Film Blogathon 03/17: Lost Boys

Lost Boys

Not lost, just clueless. And by the way gang, ONE OF THEM ISN’T A BOY!

I watched this skillfully-directed but very badly-edited, film for the first – and last – time, last week.

What a difference five years made.

From baggy, meandering Lost Boys in 1987, to the tight-as-you-like production of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy, and Donald Sutherland as her watcher), in 1992.

I’m still not sure whether I was supposed to take Lost Boys seriously, or if it was an attempt at schlock-horror, or even a stab at camp comedic send-up.

I don’t know.

I do know that I didn’t hate Lost Boys.

I didn’t even hate the film when IT BROKE THE VAMPIRE LAW, when it said you could become a vampire by just chugging a couple of mouthfuls of vampire blood from an old bottle, like you were some kind of down-on-your-luck blood-addicted wino from the wrong side of the tracks.

I didn’t even hate the film when the main motorbike scene had far too many implausible points for my brain to accept.

Lost Boys is just a mess of a film.

And it left me wondering what it could have been, if it had the courage of its convictions.

There is probably a great film in the script of Lost Boys waiting to get out.

But what I saw was more like a film of a script called Escape From Mediocrity.

Lost Boys film rating: Meh.

Film Blogathon 02/17: Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

You know those annoying syrupy films so self-consumed that they can’t see the joke at the centre of their own reason for existing?

Well, Pitch Perfect isn’t one of those.

This is the story of an all-girl A Capella group at a fictional co-ed US university.

I approached Pitch Perfect thinking it was going to be a large helping of sugar-coated gloop, just like (shudder) Glee.

It isn’t!

Instead, this is more like 112 minutes of Mean Girls The Musical (that’s the best analogy I can come up with); a film with a strong line in self-deprecating humour, and an occasional sideways glance at itself.

The writing is so sharp that it allows the odd nugget of cunningly-hidden adult humour to skilfully glide over the heads of younger viewers.

Production is OK (could have been better in places), but the film is shot with such articulate intelligence that it develops a likeable character of its own.

Yes, there is intelligence in Pitch Perfect. And it is a good example of smartly articulate story-telling.

But it isn’t a documentary, so lighten up people.

Although I enjoy the way Pitch Perfect allows some of its characters to develop, I do have a problem with Rebel Wilson, or maybe my problem is with the Fat Amy character.

Whatever.

Aside from this minor issue, Pitch Perfect is a nicely-paced feel good film that is a bucketful of family entertainment.

And easy and thoroughly enjoyable watch.

Which you should.

Obv.

Film Blogathon 01/17: Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2

I saw Now You See Me – the first one – a while ago.

It was a good fun flick, all about a group of magicians called The Horsemen, and how they use their magical powers to take down a bad guy.

So I thought I’d give Now You See Me 2 a go.

You know when you crawl out of bed at 3am, barely awake, and totter towards the bathroom, and just as you walk in you stub your toe and the vicious pain flashes your brain like a lightning bolt, straight in to your cerebral cortex?

And in the three seconds immediately afterwards, you believe that things can’t ever get any worse?

Well this is worse.

This is so much worse.

This is even worse than being force-fed a non-stop diet of Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie on permanent repeat cycle for 36 straight hours.

Now You See Me 2 starts with a Houdiniesque trick being performed in dangerous circumstances.

The trick doesn’t end well.

Fast forward to a very long and tedious voiceover from God.

I can’t remember what God said, it wasn’t very memorable, although God had a Really Great Voice.

Anyway.

There’s a cop who has spent a year looking for the Horsemen because they went in to hiding after their last gig.

So, the Horsemen have been Working On Something for months.

And then we’re at a posh software unveiling ‘do’, and the Horsemen are walking around talking in to their wrists and listening to their fingers in their ears and wearing dark glasses and being mysterious and talking REALLY REALLY FAST and a woman cuts off her hand with an electric carving knife and someone hypnotises someone else and then this guy (don’t know who) but he was key in the posh software ‘do’ exposes himself as a fraud and then the Horsemen burst on the scene and the audience claps and cheers and there’s lights and lasers and then the FBI shows up and then the Horsemen show goes tits up and then there’s more running and more REALLY FAST TALKING and sliding down construction tubes and landing in laundry baskets in a kitchen because yeah, laundry baskets and kitchens always go together in nobody’s world ever, and then the Horsemen find out that the slidey tubey thing they jumped in to from a rooftop in New York has dumped them in the middle of a Chinese city in actual China YES IN ACTUAL CHINA then on the soundtrack there’s some hardcore Chinese rap (not wrap, ahahahahahaha!) and then God calls the FBI dude but on a phone not through Divine Intervention and then we’re back in Macao riding around in some badass blacked out Landrover Defenders and there’s a badguy who is the Annoying Twin of one of the Horsemen and the badass blacked out Landrover Defenders rock up at the Sands Hotel and there’s some REALLY LOUD HENDRIX and then we meet the guy who stuffed up the big Horsemen show that went tits up and OH MY GOD IT’S HARRY ACTUAL POTTER.

With a beard, for sure, but it’s Harry Actual Potter.

Anyway.

Harry Actual explains to the Horsemen that well I don’t know what but something about privacy and science and not magic and when they slid down the tubey thing in New York they were hypnotised in to a trance then put on a private plane and flown to Macau and then pushed down another tube which woke them up in a laundry basket in a kitchen in Macao and that’s how the tubey slidey thing worked.

What Harry Actual Potter wants, Harry Actual explains, is revenge. He wants the Horsemen to steal something as revenge because he was wronged by a business partner. Why don’t you just magic him Harry Actual, I shout at the TV.

Oh, by the way. Morgan Freeman = God.

And now, back to the film.

*time passes*

God and the FBI dude are on a private jet from I don’t care where to somewhere else I don’t care about and I may have lost the will to live here and then the Horsemen are Planning Their Big Heist that they’re going to carry out for Harry Actual Potter and it involves stealing a computer chip that wait for it just happens to be the same size and the same shape as a playing card and who the heck saw that coming?

Yeah, we all did, right?

Right.

There’s a superdooperdatacentre which can cater for 820 squillion miles of digisynpatic hypertechnical buzzwords per nicrosecond.

There’s some distraction from the Horsemen and while the distraction is going on one of the Horsemen gets his hands on the chip that’s shaped just like a playing card and then the Horsemen are being searched and while they’re being searched they flip-pass the chip around between themselves and it’s all starting to get really ridiculous as the card/chip switches from the person who is being searched to another person who is being searched to another person who is being searched to another person who is being searched back to another person who is being searched back to another person who is still being searched back to another person who is still being searched until finally THEY HAVE ALL BEEN SEARCHED and they’re leaving the hypercool datacentre and then there’s another game of slight of hand and then the Horsemen are out with the card/chip…

I fell asleep.

I really don’t know what the point is of Now You See Me 2.

But if you want to go and see a film with people talking REALLY REALLY QUICKLY and walking around fast and lots of deception and acres of special effects, and an incomprehensible storyline, then this is the film for you.

Either the film is too clever for me, or I’m too clever for it.

Whatever.

I’m out.

Not even God was any good in this one.

It’s rubbish.

Don’t see it, you’ll only encourage them.