Random stuff on Life, the Universe and Science Fiction

Archive for April, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 20 – Your Favourite Romantic Film

Ok. This is stretching it a bit, but the only proper romantic film I really like, I already chose for Day 14. They did say this film was a RomComZom (Romantic Comedy…. with Zombies).

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 19 – Your Favourite Action Film

Fantastic action film. Ed Harris brilliantly plays a rogue US Marine General who takes hostages on Alcatraz island in San Fransisco Bay while pointing poison gas missiles at the city. The FBI director (the late great John Spencer) brings in their top chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nic Cage) and the only man to ever have escaped from Alcatraz, John Mason (Sir Sean Connery) to go along with a Navy SEAL team to release the hostages and secure the missiles. Action brilliance ensues. This is probably my favourite Cage performance and Sir Sean excels as an aged James Bond well. With three such strong leads, this film could scarcely put a foot wrong and it doesn’t.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 18 – Your Favourite Comedy Film

As the Movies You Should See people say, it’s dificult to review a comedy film without decending into a quote fest so I’ll simply say this:

This movie is a perfect example of how to do a spoof well. Pay homage to the original, show respect for the original. It is possible to do this and spoof it at the same time as this film shows. If you are a Star Trek fan, or have any knowledge of the show at all, this movie is well worth a watch or 20. It’s got Tim Allen in his best performance ever. But even better, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman! All in one film!

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 17 – Your Favourite Drama Film

This is the most fantastic movie and a true definition of Drama. 12 men, 1 room, an hour and a half of tense thrilling drama as Henry Fonda plays the only dissenting jurer in a seemingly open and shut murder case as he tries to bring round the others to the idea of reasonable doubt. Not a special effect in sight but seriously one of the best films ever made.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 16 – Your Favourite Science Fiction Film

Again. I couldn’t really think of anything for what today’s category was supposed to be (film you used to like but now hate). So I decided to split the upcoming sci-fi fantasy category and do sci-fi now and fantasy then. I promise this is the last time I’ll change the category… probably.

Anyway, this is my favourite sci-fi movie (not counting those already mentioned for other categories). A brilliant sci-fi suspense horror/thriller that keeps you guessing who from it’s fantastic ensemble cast will survive.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 15 – Your Favourite War Film

Well, I couldn’t for the life of me think of a film that depicts my life, so I decided to change today’s category. There’s a favourite Action film category coming up that would cover war films but I really think they are deserving of their own.

This 1964 film tells the story of the defence of Rourke’s Drift in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Rourke’s Drift was a tiny mission station in present day South Africa consisting of a church, hospital and store-house with a small contingent of soldiers stationed at it. Around 150 men of the 2nd Batallion 24th Regiment of Foot under the command of Lieutenant Bromhead (Michael Caine in his first major role) receive word from a messenger that the rest of their regiment consisting of almost 2000 men has been slaughtered at the Battle of Isandlwana by a force of 20,000 Zulu warriors, 5,000 of whom are now heading for them.

Under orders to hold the station at all costs, Bromhead and the other officer on site, Lt. Chard of the Royal Engineers (Stanley Baker) prepare their men to defend. What follows has gone down in the military history of not only Britain but the Zulu nation as well. The film is expertly directed by Cy Enfield and recieved the full support of the Zulus during production. The Zulus in the film are all played by actual Zulus and the Zulu King by his own great-grandson. Along with fantastic performances by the two leads, Nigel Green shines as the unflappable Colour Sergeant Bourne and Richard Burton narrates at the beginning and end.

The film is in the Public Domain, so I have no qualms in linking you to the entire movie on Youtube (in High Definition no less)

There’s no good trailer for this film so instead here is a clip of one of the early Zulu attacks-

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 14 – The Film That No One Expected You To Like

Well, it’s a romantic film so that automatically makes it unlikely that I’d like it but this film of two parallel time lines is just so good. It’s a very clever film with some brilliant writing and great performances from the leads Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 13 – A Guilty Pleasure

Yes I know this movie is a ridiculous special effects and action fest with little story line, but it’s great fun and it has Neil Patrick Harris in it which is a plus for any movie. Would You Like To Know More!?!

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 12 – A Film By Your Least Favourite Director

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” was directed by Larry Charles. If you can call it that. Sticking an impressionist in a silly suit with a racist accent and having him go round and make a fool of himself in front of people and filming it is not a valid film making technique.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 11 – A Film By Your Favourite Director

Well, this may seem like a cop out choice, but if I go through my favourite films, one director keeps popping up over and over – Steven Spielberg. This is one of his best films, a masterclass in suspense.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 10 – A Film With Your Favourite Actress

I had to think hard about this one. I don’t really have a favourite actress so I chose what I think is the finest actress performance ever which is Jodie Foster as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. One of the best films ever made.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 9 – A Film With Your Favourite Actor

My favourite Actor is Sam Neill. He’s featured twice on this list already (The Dish, Jurassic Park) but this is one of his earlier films. An Australian psychological horror set in the middle of the ocean. A Royal Australian Navy Captain John Ingram (Neill) comes home on leave to discover that his wife and baby have been involved in a car accident on their way to pick him up. The wife Rae (a young Nicole Kidman in her breakthrough role) survives but the child dies. To get away from this terrible tragedy, John takes his wife on a month long cruise on their private yacht. A couple of weeks in, in a dead calm ocean, a larger ship appears on the horizon. A man gets in the ship’s rowing boat and rows towards them. He claims that he is the only survivor of a food poisoning on board that has killed the rest of the crew. Having his doubts about the story, John rows back to the ship while the man sleeps and discovers the horrible truth.

This is probably one of the best films to come out of Australia. A truly terrifying movie without falling into the gore of modern horror films. Definately worth a watch.

Book 6: Glory Glory!, Andy Mitten

Book 6 of my challenge was all thanks to Mary (@mekster on Twitter) who kindly lent it to me. You can check out her blog, including her own 50 book challenge, at http://meksmeanderings.blogspot.com/

Basically, Glory Glory! is the story of Manchester United in the 90s, culminating in the historical treble win in May 1999. The book comes from the perspective of the players themselves, and take the form of a series of in depth interviews with10 of the players and the Club Chairman at the time, Martin Edwards.

All the stories were really interesting and it was great to read a bit about what footballers are really like behind the scenes, and the backgrounds that they came out of. I especially liked that it didn’t focus on the big names. No Beckham, Giggs or Schmeichel in this book. Some of the most interesting stuff came from David May and Nicky Butt who were relatively small players at the club (or as small as you can be in the red shirts of Manchester United).

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who was following English football in the 90s or who has and interest in Manchester United.

Books 1&5: ST DS9 – Mission Gamma Books 1&2

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Series and minor ones for the DS9 relaunch books follow.

I know I’m well behind on this and I’m unlikley to make it to 50 books this year but I’ll do my best. I’m even further behind on blogging about it so here goes.

Book 1: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mission Gamma: Book 1 – Twilight, David R. George III

The first book of my challenge was the next up in my reading of the DS9 relaunch novels. Twilight is the first book in a four-part set called Mission Gamma that in it’s main plot follows an exploration mission of the Gamma Quadrant by the crew of the USS Defiant from Deep Space Nine.

In the previous books in the series (Avatar two parter) we are introduced to the new crew of DS9 after the ascension of Captain Sisko in the series finale. Kira has been promoted to station commander and her new XO is a Starfleet Commander Elias Vaughan. Lieutenant Nog has taken over from Chief O’Brien as chief engineer and Lieutenant Ro Laren (newly commissioned into the Bajoran militia) has Odo’s old office as chief of station security. Other new crewmembers include Andorian Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane and Commander Vaughan’s estranged daughter, Ensign Prynn Tenmei.

The main plot of the first book concerns the Defiant‘s departure from Deep Space Nine commanded by Vaughan with Ezri Dax, Nog, Doctor Bashir and Ensigns ch’Thane and Tenemi on board. The first new planet they come across is occupied by the peaceful Vahni Vahltupani but the planet is in danger of destruction from mysterious energy pulses from space. Vaughan and his crew must race against the clock to save an entire people from annihilation.

In the meantime on the station a Federation diplomatic team arrives to negotiate Bajor’s entry to the Federation.

Book 5: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mission Gamma: Book 2 – This Gray Spirit, Heather Jarman

In the second book, the Defiant is damaged by an enemy weapon but is rescued by a ship from the alien race known as the Yrythny. The crew quickly discovers that this is a society at breaking point. The planet is plagued by strict discrimination between the Houseborn deemed genetically superior and the enslaved lower class known as the Wanderers who are stripped of many rights including the right to breed and the eligibility to serve in the military. Wanderer terrorist attacks have brought the planet to the verge of civil war. A throwaway comment from Ezri Dax about the possibility of getting an independent mediator in, causes the defiant crew to be drawn in to the centre of the conflict.

Back on the station, a Cardassian delegation arrives in the hopes of patching up relations between them and Bajor before Bajor enters the Federation.

The books are both reasonable reads. In both cases the plot on the Defiant is more compelling than the one on the station and the plot of the first book is far more interesting than that of the second. Both books, thought the second more than the first, unfortunately suffer from far too much concentration on two minor plots, the first of which is the budding relationship between Ro Laren and Quark. The second is the arrival on the station of Ensign ch’Thane’s family. Great detail is given to the complicated Andorian family structure and while it’s all interesting, I just got bored of it after a while. From the reviews I’ve read, This Gray Spirit is the low point of the series so I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 8 – A Film You Can Quote Best

“Dr. Grant, my dear Dr. Sattler. Welcome to Jurassic Park!” – John Hammond

This is probably my second favourite film of all time, and, along with First Contact I can pretty much speak along with the entire time which can annoy the hell out of my fiancée if I do it all the time. I know I’ve said this for other movies on here, but seriously, if you’ve not seen Jurassic Park, go directly to see it now. Do not pass Go, do not collect £200.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 7 – A Film That Reminds You Of Your Past

This movie is pretty good. I’d say it ranks about even with Tomorrow Never Dies as the second best of the Brosnan era (after Goldeneye obviously). But the reason it reminds me of my past is that it was the first 12 rated (and therefore to me at age 12 ‘adult’) film I went to see at the cinema on my own with a friend rather than with my parents.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 6 – A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere

I’ve never been a huge fan of anime but this film and the company in which I watched it became a big part of my university life. It was the film we watched at my first meeting of the Durham University Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. I later went on to be on the society exec and spent almost every Wednesday evening in Elvet Riverside, Lecture Theatre 142 (ER142) watching a film and an episode of a TV show. This film reminds me of that room and all the hours of fun watching scifi that I spent there.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 5 – A Film That Reminds You Of Someone

This was the first film I went to see at the cinema with the woman who is now my fiancée. Any time I see it or see the DVD in a shop, I’m reminded of that evening and I smile.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 4 – A Film You Watch To Make You Feel Down

I don’t really watch films deliberately to feel down, but this is a harrowing tale if ever I saw one. Absolutely fantastic film.


30 Day Film Challenge: Day 3 – A Film You Watch To Feel Good

I picked this film up on DVD from my local library shortly after it came out in 2000. I watched it on our computer (the only DVD player in the house at the time) three times in the week I had it out and then it was one of the first DVDs I bought when we got our Playstation 2. I absolutely love it. A charming and quirky Australian comedy about the community surrounding the Radio Telescope in the small town of Parkes, New South Wales, that was thrust into the forefront of world events when it was chosen as the southern hemisphere’s prime receiving station for the Apollo 11 mission. Of course, not everything goes quite to plan. Sam Neill shines as he leads a fantastic local cast accompanied by American Patrick Warburton. The soundtrack is also great, full of contemporary music, and one of the few CDs I’ve ever actually bought.  If you’ve not seen this film, I’d check it out.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 2 – Your Least Favourite Film

Why, just why…. This film was little more than an excuse for Mike Myers to see how many rude jokes and obvious innuendos he could fit in to a single movie. It also to me started the trend of crap spoofs that, rather than intelligently send up the originals, just use the framework to make bad jokes and get a few cheap laughs (Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans etc. etc.). You’ll have to wait till Day 18 and my favourite comedy for an example of the right way to make a spoof film. Obviously, the films that have followed Austin Powers’ pattern have got progressively worse and worse, but to my mind, this one kicked it off and I really, really hate it.

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 1 – Your Favourite Film

I’m a few days behind my twitter friends @mekster and @amezzeray on this but it looked fun. Basically the aim is to post about a film each day in 30 different categories (see the bottom of this post). First up is My Favourite Film:

Just the best film ever. One of the most fantastic villains ever invented pitted against the noble crew of the USS Enterprise-E. If you are a fan of Star Trek or just a general science fiction fan and you’ve not seen this, go watch it now. Resistance is Futile.


List for the challenge
Day 1 – Your Favorite Film
Day 2 – Your Least Favorite Film
Day 3 – A Film You Watch to Feel Good
Day 4 – A Film You Watch to Feel Down
Day 5 – A Film That Reminds You of Someone
Day 6 – A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere
Day 7 – A Film That Reminds You of Your Past
Day 8 – The Film You Can Quote Best
Day 9 – A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Male)
Day 10 – A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Female)
Day 11 – A Film By Your Favorite Director
Day 12 – A Film By Your Least Favorite Director
Day 13 – A Guilty Pleasure
Day 14 – The Film That No One Expected You To Like
Day 15 – The Film That Depicts Your Life
Day 16 – A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate
Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film
Day 18 – Your Favorite Comedy Film
Day 19 – Your Favorite Action Film
Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film
Day 21 – Your Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film
Day 22 – Your Favorite Horror Film
Day 23 – Your Favorite Thriller/Mystery Film
Day 24 – Your Favorite Animated or Children’s Film
Day 25 – Your Favorite Documentary Film
Day 26 – Your Favorite Foreign Language Film
Day 27 – Your Favorite Independent Film
Day 28 – The Most Obscure Film You’ve Ever Seen
Day 29 – Your Favorite Film As a Kid
Day 30 – Your Favorite Film This Time Last Year