Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

10 best apocalypses

Big Hollywood looks at the ten best apocalyptic films

Apocalypse Now didn't make the cut.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Lost Ark of the Covenant goes on display

The Lost Ark of the Covenant and other incredible treasures go on display at the Montreal Science Centre as part of a travelling exhibit commemorating the life and works of Dr Henry "Indiana" Jones.

That's pretty impressive for a man who was denied tenure.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cinematic British accents

In America they haven't spoken it for years. looks at the ten worst and best British accents in cinema.

It's an odd thing about accents.  A bad American accent, such as in Battle Beneath the Earth or Carry on Cowboy, is often hilarious, but a bad British accent is merely painful.  I suppose that's why listening to a BBC luvvie affecting a Mockney accent puts my teeth on edge.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

It's an ill wind

A far better version.

We all owe Cowboys and Aliens a debt of profound gratitude.  Thanks to its box office failure, Disney has lost heart and ha cancelled its production of The Lone Ranger.

A $250 million+ western starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and has a plot about werewolves mixed in with shovel-loads of new agey Red Indian mysticism?  Apparently the lesson of The Wild, Wild West never sunk in.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Marvel Comics is a bit like opera.  It's been around for over 70 years and still hasn't caught on.  Where its rival DC produced characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman who are not only immediately recognisable to the general public but have become national archetypes, Marvel's stable of superheroes, outside of Spider-man and the Hulk, don't impinge much on mainstream culture.  And that's not for want of trying.  Marvel has always been keen about expanding into film and television and while the general public might see 2011 as the year when Captain America "finally" came to the big screen, the good Captain, in fact, made d├ębut in a Republic serial in 1944.  Since then, he's been in two television plays, a 1990 feature film that is deservedly unknown and dozens of cartoons.  It's a bit puzzling that such a patriotic figure as Captain America failed to imprint himself on the American consciousness, but I suspect that had a lot to do with the ludicrous costume Jack Kirby stuck him in.  Red buccaneer boots and a balaclava with tiny wings takes a lot of getting past.

Like the other non-X-Men Marvel films of recent years, Captain America: The First Avenger is part of an overarching series that climaxes with next year's The Avengers, hence the title.  It follows the basic origin story of the comics as it's evolved over decades.  During the Second World War, Steve Rogers is a patriotic young man who wants to join the US Army and help fight the Nazis.  Unfortunately, he's literally (Thanks to some creepy CGI on actor Chris Evans) a 90 pound weakling with a host of medical problems that only gets him rated 4F because there isn't a lower classification.      His tenacity to enlist is noticed by German refugee scientist Dr Erskine, who recruits Rogers as a test subject for the US Army's Super Soldier programme intended to produce... You get the idea.  The experiment is a success with Rogers now a perfect physical specimen of greater strength and intelligence, but a Nazi agent murders Erskine, leaving Rogers as the first and only one of his kind.  In the comics, Rogers immediately goes off to war, but here, after running down the assassin on the streets of Manchester New York,  he's seen as both a propaganda victory and an embarrassment by the government, who put him in Kirby's ridiculous costume and send him on a bond tour as Captain America.

So, we have the conflict set up of the dutiful Captain America wanting to prove himself in real combat against an Army general played by Tommy Lee Jones who wishes he'd just go away.  And it doesn't hurt that there's a crazed German officer called the Red Skull (for obvious reasons) who is so evil that he thinks Hitler is too much of a nice guy.

Captain America is the most straightforward of the Marvel superhero features–mainly because the title character isn't burdened with the personal demons that the comic book writers imagine passes for character development rather than cheap soap opera.  Captain America is Marvel's version of Superman; a compassionate, patriotic man whose superpowers are merely a bonus and would be fighting evil even if its with his bare fists and no hope of success.  Many American commentators have criticised the screenplay for underplaying Captain America's American angle and even the scene of VE day set in (shudder) Trafalgar Square.  Given Hollywood's anti_American record, this isn't surprising, but Captain America isn't as guilty as charged.  True, it isn't as flag waving as some would like, but to a non-american, like this reviewer, this is a very American film that expounds some very American traits, such as the American belief in the Little Guy who can become great while never forgetting where he came from.  As for Trafalgar Square, most of the film was shot in Great Britain, and Trafalgar Square still looks much as it did in 1945,

And yes, his costume does get better as the film progresses.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Review: Outland

Outland (1981)

Space: The final frontier.  But frontiers can be dangerous places and often the law and order is as thin as a marshal's badge.   In this case, lawman in question is Federal Marshal William O'Neil; just starting his tour of duty on a titanium mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons, Io.  It's bad enough dragging his family from one outpost to another, but when a string of "accidents" occurs that the managing director of the mining operation is a little too keen to shove under the carpet, things get downright dangerous.  And when O'Neil pushes back, things get deadly.

Outland has been called High Noon in space since its release, though that's a bit too simplistic, since it doesn't do more than lift a few ideas from the latter.  Outland isn't as mature or as allegorical a drama as the Gary Cooper Western and it never pretends to be anything except an action movie in an exotic locale, but Sean Connery as O'Neil brings a professionalism and dead-straight approach that makes the audience take him seriously while Peter Boyle enjoys himself as a thoroughly rotten villain.  The set design is pure oil-rig chic and the oddest thing about the film is how the "futuristic" electronics have dated so badly that it's less like science fiction and more like looking into a parallel universe where the solar system was colonised in the 1980s.  It's like watching the Apollo Moon landings and seeing the astronauts and their ship looking like something out of Destination Moon.

Unpretentious, Outland is a fair bit of afternoon watching so long as you don't mind plot holes falling like manhole covers and a space doctor so crusty that you can confuse her for a loaf of French bread.  Still, there is a fair share of exploding heads, so it's par for the course for an '80s sci fi outing.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011