Last Week: Glory, Alien, Dune… and Captain Nemo in Space

Last week was unfortunately hampered by real-life issues impacting my posting here, and I didn’t make much progress with my re-read of Frank Herbert’s Dune because a shinier book came my way. I’m so shallow and time is so limited: sorry Frank, I must try harder.

The disc releases of films from 1989 celebrating 30th anniversaries continued with the 4K UHD release of Glory, a film I have mentioned before here when remembering seeing it at the cinema. It never gets any easier realising how many years have passed by me when films get anniversaries, whether it be twenty, thirty, forty, it’s all a sobering reminder of time slipping. Music fans no doubt mark time by anniversaries of album releases etc, and I can be guilty of that myself, but usually its movies with me. Glory is thirty years old damn it, and I’m thirty years older.

Its looking better for those thirty years than I am. I haven’t sat down to watch the film yet- watching old favourites is like enjoying a fine wine, it’s something to be savoured and appreciated when able to give it the attention it deserves, and this week has been far too hectic, but I was curious enough about the transfer that I did watch the first fifteen minutes, and it looks great. As always with Glory though, whenever I watch it I am struck by the beauty of James Horner’s score, and like Field of Dreams, which I watched a few week back as that film is also celebrating thirty years, it’s always a little sad now, hearing Horner back in his prime and remembering what we have lost with his passing. Its also a reminder of how much film scoring styles have changed over these thirty years, and not for the better- even if James Horner was still around and scoring today, his scores for films now would sound little like these scores. They are not in vogue anymore, that old (I would suggest ‘proper’) kind of scoring.

Alien of course, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year and its 4K UHD (and cinema re-release, albeit limited) has been accompanied by J W RInzler’s excellent book The Making of Alien. I’m really, really enjoying reading it. So far I haven’t read anything particularly ‘new’ to me, it’s really just recounting things I already knew from other books and contemporary magazines of the day, such as Fantastic Films, Starburst, Cinefantastique etc, and naturally the various documentaries made to accompany DVD and Blu-ray box-sets over the years. But it’s an almost tangible nostalgic joy reading it all again, especially in such a richly presented format. Dan O’Bannon, John Carpenter, Ron Cobb, Ronald Shusett, Ridley Scott- these are names from my teenage years that were like the names of  football stars to other kids my age. And yes, it’s surely nostalgia, but going back to the 1970s, and reading about O’Bannon going off to Paris to work on Jodorowsky’s Dune with Moebius, Chris Foss and H R Giger, and Gary Kurtz calling O’Bannon about a film he was producing called Star Wars… those were wild times, back then. Analogue times in an analogue age, I guess.

Mentioning Dune brings to mind the recent news that Villenueve’s Dune has completed shooting, and the announcement yesterday, I think, that its November 2020 release date has been pushed back a month to December 18, 2020. That’s Oscar territory right there, and the same period that Spielberg’s West Side Story remake is due. Dune is by far the most exciting film in my immediate future, with huge expectations for me. Just imagining that film all in the can, in the old parlance of things (really I should write ‘all on the hard drive‘ because that’s where it lies, or on various servers somewhere at various stages of post-production). At this stage of things, without any stills or teasers or trailers, the project is full of all kinds of crazy possibilities. Maybe this is the best of times, indeed, when everything yet seems possible. I remember those heady days of Revenge of the Jedi (before it became ‘Return’), wondering how George Lucas would follow The Empire Strikes Back. And of course the more recent (and more tension-tinged) period when BR2049 was at a similar stage, and all the secrecy around that particular project made Blade Runner fans like me especially nervous.  Well, that turned out great- here’s hoping Dune does too.

I’ve found myself reflecting on BR2049 a lot, lately. A sure sign that I’m about due a rewatch. Its been awhile; indeed, I may not have actually watched it this year at all yet. I still haven’t managed the double-bill of Blade Runner and BR2049 in the same evening, something that in the old days of more free time (less of a ‘real life’) would have been the most natural Saturday evening in the world.

One curious thing I did do last week- when I found half-hour free one night, I found a recent recording of The Black Hole on my Tivo and gave the first twenty minutes or so a go, curious at seeing it in widescreen and HD. I actually saw The Black Hole at the cinema, way back when it was in direct competition with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While ST:TMP had pretensions towards 2001, The Black Hole was really just Disney knocking-off a Star Wars wannabe whilst nodding back to its own classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (maybe it should have been titled ‘20,000 Light Years Into Space’). I haven’t seen the film in decades and doubt I’ll ever have the two hours required for a full rewatch, especially on the evidence of this twenty minutes. Good lord it’s horribly dated. While I quite enjoy the John Barry score (I had the old LP and have the recent Intrada expansion) it doesn’t seem to work in the film at all, and Vincent is such an annoying R2D2 it’s a grim reminder of how much Star Wars influenced film back then. So many sci fi films had to have robots and spaceships flying overhead and laser gun battles etc. Its curious to think that Alien was released a few months earlier than The Black Hole or ST:TMP, and while all three owed a great deal to the existence of Star Wars kickstarting the sci-fi boom of those years, it’s clear that Alien was really its own thing, while the other two felt so inclined to flatter the effects extravaganza of Lucas’ blockbuster. I well recall Starburst‘s John Brosnan likely having the time of his life ripping at both The Black Hole and ST:TMP in his reviews.

bhStill, there was some value to seeing Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Perkins again, and I do adore the design of the Cygnus, that was such a beautiful model. I watched up to the moment that the darkened, and apparently derelict Cygnus is suddenly lit up, ablaze of light, like some Victorian dream of space travel. Arresting if somewhat preposterous. Its a nice moment that really caught my imagination back when the film came out. Nice starfields too. Yeah, some nice effects in that film, but it’s a horribly mangled Captain Nemo in Space film, really. There’s certainly a much better film in there that we never had opportunity to see, and a bad one that we unfortunately did. George Lucas had a lot to answer for, even back then.


The 2019 List: April

TV Shows

43) The Walking Dead Season Nine

48) After Life

50) Don’t Forget the Driver

55) Black Summer


44) The Highwaymen

45) While She Was Out

46) This is the End

47) Cold War

49) Bad Times at the Hotel Royale

51) Malevolent

52) Hush

53) Venom

54) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


Game Night (2018)

game1Well, the Westie was kind of cute (and was, I have to admit, the reason we watched this, damn those marketing boys and their sorcery). Game Night is one of those entertaining comedy-thrillers that are empty-headed and mildly diverting and mostly harmless. Its also terribly manipulative and silly and cynical. The thing that struck me most while watching this was, what the hell is Rachel McAdams doing in low-rent stuff like this? Well, it was a pay-cheque I guess, but it reminded me of what some people must have thought seeing Alec Guinness in Star Wars all those years back. Not that I’m comparing McAdams to Alec Guinness, you understand, but you know, the point is there. I thought she was beyond stuff like this (her performance in True Detective some way in the distance, and raising another interesting comparison between movies and television now).

Which is possibly overly disingenuous of me as I quite enjoyed the film. Its certainly slickly done, but it always feels knowing and manipulative and seldom surprises. Maybe that’s the point, I mean, the audience for films like this will expect films like this to do what they do, be what they are. They won’t want the film to be terribly realistic or fully make sense. But one of the characters gets shot in the arm, the bullet goes straight through and there’s quite a lot of blood in one scene (to comedic effect) but the guy should be in terrible pain/feeling faint/out for the count but instead goes around on an adventure for several hours involving chases and fights and stunts and I’m thinking, ‘he’s got a hole in his arm, he should be crying like a little girl or something‘ but of course instead he’s racing down a runway in a sports car bringing down a jet-plane that’s trying to lift off and then facing off the bad guys and…

Yes, its lightweight nonsense. Just feels a bit cynical, the whole thing, but maybe that was just me in the wrong mood.


Happy New Year 2019

Many moons ago, quite a few decades even, I was walking with a few freinds on our way to another freinds house where we were going to play AD&D that day. I remember with alarming clarity (writing as someone who cannot recall what I had for dinner last Wednesday), walking across a side-road chatting away about all sorts of stuff teenage lads are concerned with other than girls (we were geeks, that much is patently and horrifically clear, looking back), when our topic turned to 2001 and Blade Runner. This was 1983, and the year 2001 not exactly imminent but, you know, somewhere near enough ahead of us to seem an inevitable experience. Looking back on it, it might seem daft, but to a 17 year old back then, immersed in geek culture such as it was back in the dark ages of pre-internet existence, the year 2001 had a very intense and special meaning. It wasn’t just some random date. It was 2001. It was Kubrick’s epic odyssey.

So while we were enthusing about what actually living in the year 2001 might be like, my mate Andy raised the spectre of Blade Runner and its own date of 2019. Wow. That seemed such a long way off back then as we walked down Barnard Road that it might as well have been Forever away.  Our eyes glazed over at thoughts of The Future and unlikely as it may seem, flying cars (nevermind mobile phones, but we weren’t alone in missing that kind of tech). We did the math and calculated that it was 36 years to 2019. That we were 17 years old on that Saturday afternoon and that we would be, horrors, 53 years old when that hallowed year came around. A 17 year-old cannot truly fathom being 53 years old and all that entails and all those years in between – in RPG terms, it’d be like throwing a roll of the dice to spare you suffering san-loss.

So here we are, and it’s now 2019. Ladies and gentlemen, I suspect you may have started without me, but right now I need a very strong drink.