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Movies Wot I Have Seen Recently III: Wotsit's Return

27 December 200912:52PMreview

This is that time of year when every self-respecting person with an opinion on the internet writes a post about Christmas, or New year, or some such thing.

This is not that post.

This is the post where I rant about movies and a TV show

Alien

So. Alien. Incredible. ... I'm actually left speechless. It blew my freaking mind. It's the undisputed ultimate space horror film, and very possible the ultimate horror film. It latches on to that most primal human fear - being eaten - and plays that blunt instrument like a goddamned concert pianist, manipulating the tension and the fear and the horror to the nth degree to extract exquisite visceral terror.

It doesn't just shout 'Boo!' at you, it stretches it out so long that you think, "That can't be it... can it? Is it just around that corner? Is it there? Oh god, where is it? It can't be gone, it's following her, no, it's in front of her, no, it's... OH MY GOD!" It was one of those movies that makes you yell at the screen, ("Do what Ellen says,don't let it in here!" "Don't go down there! Don't go in there! IT'S BEHIND YOU!"), but whatever you yell ends up being wrong, because it's not behind you, it's lying in wait just a little further up the passage where you thought it might be safe.

The fact that the whole plot would never have happened if you'd just done what Ellen said sets her up pretty well as the protagonist, but you'd never guess it from the beginning, it could be any one of the crew. When she's the only one who survives (apart from the cat... you can't kill the kitty!) it's really a big ironic 'I told you so' moment, except it's really not that funny, because they're all dead. Still nice to see cosmic justice being served though, and the plot ends up, as well as being tension-crazy, also making sense- the most pragmatic and strong-willed one survives (and she happens to be female, woo, go SF feminism!), and everyone else dies. So yeah, it works nicely.

It's also really, really well made. The shots are all ludicrously tight, and the sets are too, which makes it feel claustrophobic like, well, as spaceship with an alien terror inside. Liberal use of fake smokey vapour-y stuff, so you never know what's around the corner. Lit just right, so the shadows jump out at you. It looks exactly how you'd expect a cargo hauler to look, kinda decrepit and utilitarian, bare conduits and grilles alternated with nice backlit white panels, like a spooky Millennium Falcon crossed with the Discovery from 2001, and the look was pretty much directly lifted for things like Sunshine. In fact, the whole movie was pretty much lifted for Sunshine. Interesting thing about the music too. At the end, when you think she's escaped safely, you expect the 'hero's theme' style triumphant music to come on, and it sort of does, but there's something wrong. Just the odd minor note here or there, makes it seem not-quite-right... and of course it's not, but you don't know that yet. It just sets you slightly on edge, making the twist work so much better. While we're on the subject of sound, though, just one little niggle- for a movie whose tagline was 'In space, no-one can hear you scream', having your spaceships make WHOOSH noises in space is a bit out of place. Just saying. Anyway, it's just fantastic. Mind = blown.

Avatar

Avatar was reallllllly pretty. I know pretty much every review is saying that, but it's true. The movie plays out something like this:

[mind-blowingly amazing incredibly stunning visual] I love this blue chick! [another mind-blowingly amazing incredibly stunning visual] War is bad! The Environment is good! The planet is sentient! That corporate dude is bad! Intricate tribal society, yay! [more mind-blowingly amazing incredibly stunning visuals]

Okay, not quite that cliche. It actually manages to be a decent sci-fi flick conceptually and explores some interesting ideas... a planet-wide sentient network of trees, for example, and the intriguing evolutionary quirk which gives every critter on the planet the ability to interface mentally though a kind of biological USB port, not to mention a fairly interesting plot on top of it all. Hell, it has more substance pure-sf-wise than Star Wars. But none of that matters, because the movie looks so damn good.

So.

Damn.

Good.

Go and see it, twice, because you'll never get to see it again, and it's really gotta be seen in the cinema.

Seriously.

Stargate Universe Stargate Universe is also quite good. It's as if Stargate's finally discovered what every other show has known for ages- things are much more interesting when your characters aren't all perfectly chosen and get along wonderfully. In SGU, there's already a couple nice little feuds going- Rush vs. Colonel Young, Rush vs. Scott, Rush vs. Chloe... Rush vs. everyone, really... Civilians vs. military types, scientists vs. soldiers... and so on. Basically, it's looking great.

Now Oliver Twist is on the ABC. Ima watch it.

< I hate ribbon cables. Alas, poor 2009, I knew him well. >