Film: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

2010: The Year We Make Contact @

With 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick set out to make a serious sci-fi movie that wouldn’t look out of date and he produced a masterpiece of cinema.  Peter Hyams, a real workman-like director, decided to make a sequel there is a lot to like about it.

There are a few things to look past; Roy Scheider is lumbered with an awful ‘I’m going to tell you what you’ve just seen’ narration and some of the special effects are a bit on the wonky side, including a ‘just hang the actors upside down’ approach to anti-gravity with both Scheider and Bob Balaban looking positively uncomfortable in a couple of instances.

What makes the film worth your time is that it has the optimism of the first film and, when it allows itself, the same wide sense of wonder.  It’s an intelligent and steady piece of cinema wrapped in that same post-Alien (1979) industrial aesthetic that Hyams used for his finest film Outland (1981).

Cinema doesn’t always have to be perfect, sometimes a little bit great in the right places is enough.


Book: The Lost Worlds of 2001 (1972)

The Lost Worlds of 2001 @

As a nerd this book really scores big because Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, space, movies, space movies etc and so on and it’s got a spaceship on the front which is pretty cool.  The contents are also pretty swish.

This is a great ‘making of’ book that expands on Kubrick’s movie and, more extensively, Clarke’s novel.  It delves into the genesis of the project and it’s evolution.  You get a fascinating insight into the working and personal relationship of two great minds and the film / book that could have been.  Thankfully neither possibility is as interesting as what we got and the book’s strength is that it captures the creative process at work.  It also contains some fascinating insights into Kubrick and Clarke themselves as story notes and personal messages are passed between the pair and Clarke includes notes on his day-to-day life.

This isn’t the usual ‘behind the scenes’ book and is possibly a bit more removed from the day to day of the production than some might like but for me that distance helps create a more interesting peek behind the curtain.

Highly Recommended.

Film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001 A Space Odyssey @

Is there a more chilling moment in film than HAL preparing a maintenance pod to kill one of the crew members of the Discovery?  Is there anything more looming than the Monolith or beautiful than the Star Gate?

These moments wrap up a lot of what I love about Kubrick’s film; the mixture of awe and dread that comes with real wonder.  To be honest it’s what I love about all of Kubrick’s films but the movie that I would most readily compare 2001 with is Spielberg’s Close Encounter’s of the Third Kind (1977).  Yeah, so obviously the subject matter is on the same wavelength, both films do a beautiful job of looking up, but more importantly they are both the stuff of dreams, films that can bother and trouble you until you rewatch them and then leave you pondering for days.  These are films that really live.

I wish I could watch them both for the first time.

Highly Recommended.

Film: Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl @

Here’s a great big slice of genre cinema for you.  Based on the pulp novel by Gillian Flynn (here adapting her own work for the screen), Fincher has delivered his most funest movie since Panic Room (2002); it’s trashy, quite glorious and, at moments, even hilarious.

In removing about 100 pages of content Flynn has sharpened the book’s focus and created a more compelling protagonist / antagonist battle.  Granted, some may feel that in ditching one character’s inner monologues the film pushes you to one side of the fence but, to counter that, the film also frees up a strain of black humour and lunacy that allows another character, and the story, to truly soar.

This is great fun in the same hokey strain as the rather excellent Stoker (2013) and, because it’s got that ‘quality’ sheen, you can impress your friends or editor with highbrow commentary on something that wasn’t a chore to watch… be sure to use the word ‘zeitgeist’.

Highly Recommended.

Film: The Equalizer (2014)

The Equalizer @

Although over the top, and more than a bit wet, I think it says something about a film when it could be seen as a variant on Richard Matheson’s classic horror novel I Am Legend (1954).  At what point is the protagonist just flat out murdering people?  Obviously these are bad people being killed, the film takes great lengths to show us how violent, nasty and foreign they are, but ‘does anyone remember when that guy who used to work here executed those violent, nasty, foreign guys?’ is a weird and worrying question no matter which way you look at it.

Denzel does most of his ‘equalizing’ dressed like your dad at a relative’s anniversary party, it’s very flat and takes about 30 minutes longer than needed.  A couple of brief scenes with Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo are worth their weight in gold.

Film: Frances Ha (2012)

Frances Ha @

So I’ve just caught up with Frances Ha and it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.  It’s a fun and lively movie with a fascinating central character and a great supporting cast.  It looks exactly how it should and it feels exactly right too.  Short and sharp but overflowing with character, life and a big heart for it’s ramshackle heroine.

Yep, I fully understand how it might annoy the hell out of you.  But I really liked it, it was a real joy.

Highly Recommended.

Film: A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

A Walk Among the Tombstones @

Despite having some real pluses A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t quite make up a satisfying whole.  Based around a solid genre tale of kidnapping and criminals, and featuring suitably neat dialogue and some genuinely sinister goings-on (the appearance of a third person in an early scene is one of the most simply chilling moments in recent memory), the film goes in the right direction but is severely hampered by having just too many characters.  By my count there are at least four characters that could just be a much more satisfying two; a saving that could also spare us from a fair number of tedious moments or maybe feature some women who aren’t being stuffed into fridges.

Another problem is Liam Neeson himself.  He is a great actor but by now, after punching numerous people in numerous countries, he just doesn’t look like a guy who might fail.  A different actor and 20 minutes less could have made this a must-see.

Film: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Jodorowsky's Dune @

Like Vincent Ward’s Alien 3, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune is a legendary unmade film, a ghost glimpsed in the background of other films.  It’s a film you want to exist at the same time as being glad that it doesn’t because in it’s unmade state it can still be perfect.

In all honesty, I’m not convinced that we would have ended up with the 100% masterpiece that many of the contributors seem to believe would have resulted, the cast alone would have toppled it, but thanks to Jodorosky’s infectious, alive, and playful nature this remains a fascinating insight into the creative spirit and when he speaks of assembling a team of ‘spiritual warriors’ he’s got you.

What the film also does is provide a snapshot of a great moment in sci-fi history.  In bringing together Dan O’Bannon (definitely not Douglas Trumbull), H.R. Giger, Jean ‘Moebius’ Girauld and Chris Foss, he effectively foresaw the immediate future.  I don’t buy into the ‘everything was nicked from Dune‘ line that the film seems to take (I think that we might be confusing ‘working artists progressing their own good ideas’ with ‘copying’) but it’s undeniable that this unrealised project created a cinematic wave, one that hit me smack in the face and left a permanent mark.

Highly Recommended


1. In waiting for this film to arrive, I revisited David Lynch’s Dune (1984).  Although not perfect (what film is?) it’s a great big, weird and ballsy piece of sci-fi.  What really feels right is the savage nature of the world in which it’s set both in terms of the political / societal set up and hardness of the dessert planet Arrakis.  Everything in this film is life and death.  Highly Recommended.

2. Although it’s not currently available in the UK, it is really worth grabbing a copy of Jodorowsky’s Dune on Blu-ray / DVD for the deleted scenes, which are just as fascinating as anything in the film, especially the final storyboarded scene, which seems to sum up the whole project.

3. That book, the one in the above photo, was created by the (almost) film-makers to take around studios when trying to get the project off the ground.  Apparently around 20 were made and only 2 still exist.  I really want that book, please publish it.


I’m going to do a spot of housekeeping over the next couple of days which will probably involve a change of themes.  Normal pretentious musings will recommence shortly… and I’ll be making a real effort to blog more regularly (because no one has ever said that before).