Celebrating Great Films

Friday, May 29, 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek#82 at time of writing.

Batman Begins did it. The Pink Panther did it. The Incredible Hulk did it. And now, Star Trek has rebooted too. This is not a straightforward prequel to the franchise, but a resetting of the entire story world. The rules have been rewritten, and now anything can happen.

And, wow, director J.J. Abrams has set the bar high.

This is the fourth film in the series to use time travel as a plot device. An extremely disgruntled Romulan is accidentally cast 150 years into the past, determined to avenge the destruction of his home planet (which hasn’t, of course, happened yet), coincidentally arriving at the moment of James T. Kirk’s birth. Thus, an alternative timeline begins.

Now, I’m a Next Generation guy. Shatner was too smug for me, and DS9 was trying too hard. But this? This I can get on board with.

I was grabbed right from the opening scene: We've all seen epic space battles before, but grounding the action with the emotional and intensely human experience of giving birth (while the daddy is about to be blasted to smithereens) - that gets my attention.

After watching this, I watched a bunch of old Star Trek on You Tube. Tribbles rock.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Day The Earth Stood Still

The Day The Earth Stood Still#228 at time of writing.

The Time Machine got the treatment. So did The War of the Worlds. And the latest golden age sci-fi epic to be remade Noughties-style is The Day The Earth Stood Still.

I saw the remake last year, and I left the cinema feeling kind of empty. It should have been a great film - indeed it started excellently (as far as I can remember, the start is the only bit that's similar to the original, which tells you something) - but it ended up being special effects over substance.

(To be fair, the remake did have one or two good moments. I liked the "You came to save the Earth... from us" twist, even if it was awfully delivered. Oh stop whining at me for giving away the twist, just watch the original instead.)

So I was excited about seeing the original. Did it, as I hoped, better fulfil the potential of the idea?

Yes. Much better. And much simpler. The story focusses on the characters, with few special effects. The background of paranoia creates ample tension, injected as it is with the 1950s Cold War mentality. The extra-terrestrial visitor has moments of convincing alien-ness despite appearing to be human.

After being poisoned by the remake, I was expecting a climactic ending, but the original ends abruptly. I felt like I wanted more - but on reflection, I am thoroughly satisfied.

In an echo of Warner Bros' attitude to Casablanca (as previously blogged), actress Patricia Neal has admitted in interviews that she was completely unaware during filming that the film would be considered a great science-fiction classic. She assumed it would be just another one of the then-current and rather trashy flying saucer films that were popular at the time, and she found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines.

As an aside, this is the 1950s version of special effects: To give the appearance of seamlessness to the space ship, the crack around the door was filled with putty, then painted over. When the door opened the putty was torn apart, making the door seem to simply appear.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Movie Posters

Recently I got a big payrise at work. And I spent it all on film posters.

There are some great films with terribly mediocre posters. Either they just have mugshots of the top-billed actors on them, or they try and crowd too much stuff on. Or both (see Lord of the Rings).

And there are some excellent posters for awful films. For example...

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

I tried to find the happy medium, whilst avoiding the too-popular choices (Pulp Fiction) and avoiding posters that my wife would never let me put up (Phase IV).

So, several hundred pounds later (framing is expensive!), our lounge sports these:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Man On Wire

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Our hallway features:


Run Lola Run

The spare bedroom has:

Requiem for a Dream


Forbidden Planet

And a Bilinsky in our bathroom: