Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: The Grandfather Infestation by John Peel (a Lethbridge-Stewart adventure)

My second foray into the world of Doctor Who spin off Lethbridge-Stewart, this is an alien invasion yarn very much in the vein of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids.

Set in the 1960s at the height of the pirate radio station craze, a pirate station and a navy sub sailing off the coast of Scotland are the first to suffer at the hands of an alien invasion by telepathic, carnivorous plants (the Grandfathers) and their tall, rocky assistants (the Ymir).

The survivors of both vessels find themselves on the ocean floor, surrounded by an air-sealed protective bubble, and are soon captured by the Ymir and put to slave labour, working to help the invaders enact their dastardly plan: to detonate a bomb in an undergound oilfield that will release millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere. With the resultant global warming killing off the pesky humans and most other life, there will be plenty of room for the grandfathers and their cronies to take over. So far, so good.

Lethbridge-Stewart and his team are soon alerted to the strange goings on in Scotland, however, and make their way up North to investigate and put a stop to the Grandfather's ambitions.

After a failed attempt by the RAF to firebomb the infected island, a team led by L-S set out to be captured by the alien invaders disguised as 'ordinary' island folk (concealing as much weaponry as their outfits can hold). Meanwhile, L-S's colleague Ann Travers, is tasked with conducting an investigation using a bathysphere deep sea vessel.

Written by John Peel (no, not him), there are plenty of 60s references, as one would expect, and the Brigadier is his usual gallant / stuff-upper-lipped / get-the-job-done / no-nonsense self. Also, the enemy is one that has been well thought through, despite the obvious inspiration from Wyndham's original story.

In conclusion, the Grandfather Infestation is another excellent addition to the Lethbridge-Stewart series and well worth checking out.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Films I've seen of late (September)

#53 Under the Skin (2013)
Sci-fi horror meets arthouse in this dark tale about an alien who seduces lonely men in order to harvest their flesh. The antithesis to Hollywood action hero fare, Under the Skin ironically features one of its most prominent superhero actresses (Johanssen) - who delivers a captivating performance as the otherworldly siren.

#54 Captain Underpants (2017)
Two best friends come up against their mean school principal and inadvertently turn him into their own comic book invention 'Captain Underpants'. Starts well, but soon gets muddled along the way and ultimately resorts to a slightly tired ending. 

#55 Paddington (2015)
The children's classic is given the feature film treatment in this enjoyable origin story of the clumsy but loveable bear's adoption into a London family. Updating the stories to 21st century Britain feels a little forced at times, and the evil villain (Nicole Kidman) doesn't seem to fit well with the tone of the original stories. Even so, a good effort.

#56 American Made (2017)
Tom Cruise is on top form in this biopic of Barry Seal, ace pilot who gets recruited by the CIA to spy on South American rebels in the 70s. His actions come to the attention of drug lords who see his usefulness and ask him to run drugs to the States as well. Before long, the money is flowing but soon Barry's luck begins to run out. Well-paced and tightly directed, American Made feels more of an indie flick than a hollywod blockbuster (despite Cruise as the lead) which plays to its advantage. An enjoyable true story.

#57 Passengers (2016)
Two passengers aboard a colony ship travelling through space find themselves awake ninety years too early. Restricted from returning to cryosleep, they come to terms with their fate and fall in love - but a dark secret hangs over their lives. Critics panned this film but I think it's pretty decent - yes, it could have been a lot darker but understandably the studio played it safe. Good performances, amazing visuals and an interesting dilemma for the protagonists make this entirely watchable.

#58 Office Space (1999)
Cult classic comedy about a frustrated office worker in a dead-end job who has an epiphany and seeks to take revenge on corporate America. Feels like it loses its way half way through but is enjoyable nonetheless.

The Joy of Baking (again)

My new (second hand) breadmaker and its produce - yum!
Back in the day, I had the bread-making bug and tried numerous times to make it myself with varying degrees of success.

Because bread making is not as easy as, say, making cakes I kinda gave up on the whole thing though. I was fed up of making heavy, overly-yeasty bread that didn't taste right. I longed to be able to produce soft and fluffy white loaves like they make in the bakery. Had I more time, I guess I could have worked to perfect my skills – but time is a precious commodity of which I have very little at present.

Until, that is, that we were bequeathed a bread maker. Oh yes!

Now, I accept that this is sort of cheating but I thought I'd give it a go and I have been impressed with the results so far.

I've been fairly unadventurous and stuck with white loaves (apart from one wholemeal that I made which the family disapproved of), and each time they have come out pretty much perfect. So, the bread making will continue (despite the fact that it's far, far cheaper to buy the stuff from the supermarket!), and maybe I'll try a few more exciting varieties down the line.

At some point, I hope to use the bread maker to just do the kneading (this is the hard part - not just physically but technically, I feel) and do the rest myself. But that, unfortunately, requires a bit more time.

So, maybe one day...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Female Movie Voiceover

At a trip to the cinema recently, it struck me that the voiceover for every trailers is always a man.

I don't think I've ever heard a female voice for trailers and I wonder why. Sure, it feels like it should be a bloke, but when you listen to this:

I don't have a problem with this at all.

It's time to redress the balance, people. Let's have more female voicovers for trailers please!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Films I've seen of late (August)

#44 Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel is at it again with yet another superhero instalment, this time featuring neurosurgeon-turned-mystic warrior Steven Strange. Not particularly original as a superhero film but at least it doesn't take itself too seriously. Some impressive visuals, but lacklustre plot.

#45 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
An enduring and timeless classic, Oz set the benchmark for all fantasy films made ever since. The tale of Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin man and lion is told with innocence, wit and humour - all in glorious 1930s cinematic technicolor.

#46 Blind Date / A Little, a Lot, Blindly (2015)
A charming French-language film that tells the tale of two introverts living in apartments next to each other who gradually strike up a relationship by talking through their thin partition wall - and not actually meeting. Despite this slightly unrealistic premise, the two leads are enjoyable to watch as they navigate an unusual journey of romance.

#47 Independence Day: Resurgence (2015)
Sequel to the alien-invasion disaster movie that spawned numerous imitators. This, too, sadly is far from original - rehashing the original premise but just making everything more ludicrous. Whilst it's interesting to see what has happened to the main characters after 20 years (well, apart from Will Smith's), it just lacks any of the heart and soul of its predecessor.

#48 Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015)
George Clooney does some kid-friendly Disney that has some dark edges. Inventive and entertaining, it is nice to hear a message of hope for a change (one of the themes of the movie). There is still, however, something missing from the film - leaving it somewhat dissatisfying.

#49 The Phantom (1996)
Billy Zane is the titular hero in this comic-book caper, with plenty of nods to other adventure films like Indiana Jones and Batman. Despite feeling a bit rushed in places, and having a couple of daft stunt scenes, Zane is enjoyable as the mysterious but chivalrous hero.

#50 Keeping up with the Joneses (2016)
A glamourous, attractive couple move in to an idyllic American cul-de-sac and befriend their neighbours who suspect something's not right, soon discovering that the newcomers are actually spies. Much hilarity and mayhem ensures. Fairly predictable but enjoyable comedy.

#51 Event Horizon (1997)
Cult horror often described as 'The Shining' in space. Has some shortcomings and there's clearly a heavy 'Alien' influence, but it still holds up well twenty years later. Whilst a more gruesome film was originally planned and shot, the heavily edited version which ended up as the final cut is enough for me.

#52 Detroit (2017)
Police brutality and racial tension is put under the spotlight in this harrowing drama set during the '67 Detroit riots. The performances are excellent but the overlong script sadly induces a sense of boredom about an important subject.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Offworld Feature Film - Trailer

Offworld is an independent feature film that was shot in Wales earlier this year. I have been part of the post-production team, working on the edit and have helped to put together this trailer:
We hope to release the final film in December / January.
Please like and share to support independent productions!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Films I've seen of late (July)

#34 Galaxy Quest (1999)
This Star Trek spoof perfectly hits the mark as it lampoons the classic show and its obsessive fan following. There are a couple of plot holes that don't really work if you think too hard about it, but ignoring that, Galaxy Quest is a fun story.

#35 RIPD (2013)
Nowhere near as bad as what I was expecting. Essentially Men In Black with demons/undead ghosts: two dead cops (Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds) on the case of a baddie played by Kevin Bacon. Bridges' mumbly cowboy dialogue is not the easiest to follow but Ryan Reynolds does a good turn as the rookie. Popcorn-pleasing fun.

#36 Bridget Jones' Baby (2016)
Bridget Jones returns, and this time she's having a baby, except she doesn't know who the father is. This sequel feels slightly forced and unnecessary (especially after over a decade's hiatus) but is enjoyable in places and has its moments.

#37 Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Another effort to cash in on the Minions / Gru phenomenon, D3 is a reasonable sequel. Gru learns he has a twin brother and takes him on a mission to rescue a stolen diamond from an ex-80s-child-TV-star-turned-villain. Contains heaps of 80s references and in-jokes to keep the parents of the target audience happy (I know exactly what you're doing, Universal).

#38 A Million Ways To Die In The West (2015)
Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane is the loser sheep farmer unlucky in love who, through a chance encounter, ends up falling in love with the local psycho bandit's wife. Plenty of crude humour abounds in this goofy western that manages to strike the right balance between comedy and period love story (of sorts).

#39 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Sequel to the Apes franchise reboot that lives up to its predecessor, with impressive CGI and action pieces. The simian flu has wiped out most of humanity, leaving the genetically engineered apes to live in relative peace in the mountains outside a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. A chance encounter between the apes and surviving humans is the catalyst for a bitter struggle for supremacy. We know how it's going to pan out, but the story keeps you hooked all the same (plus it's got an ape weilding machine guns atop a horse - you can't beat that!).

#40 Baby Driver (2017)
Edgar Wright is clearly having a blast in this ultra-cool bank heist 'action musical'. Weirdly, it has a bit of an unsteady start but soon turns up the revs with spectacular action sequences all to the tune and rhythm of an excellent soundtrack.

#41 Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman is an attempt to reinvent the spy actioner with plenty of tongue-in-cheek antics and over the top violence. It does the job fairly well, but everything still seems all to familiar. Some good scenes and witty one liners just about save the day.

#42 Nocturnal Animals (2016)
A wealthy art dealer regains contact with her ex-husband in this dark and moody tale of revenge and betrayal, with events playing out between the story of a novel and the real world. Nocturnal Animals is not easy watching but the acting and cinematography keeps you engaged.

#43 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
I really wanted to see this when I was a kid, but I'm glad I didn't. In some ways, not as bad as everyone says (especially considering its miniscule budget and the fact that most of it was filmed in Milton Keynes of all places), but still an awful film. The set up seems to work OK but then it rushes to the end, presumably to put the viewer out of his or her misery.