Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lucy Brown in New Tricks

Just a quick alert that Lucy Brown, formally of Primeval, is guest staring in New Tricks on Monday 4th July 2011 on BBC1.

Thanks to George for the alert.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Tron Legacy

I saw Tron Legacy on DVD a few weeks ago and I've been meaning to post my thoughts on it.

I can't say I'm a giant fan of the original. I do remember seeing it in the cinema as a child and I can remember doodling light cycle races on the page of my school exercise book when I should have been paying more attention to what the teacher was saying.

The new movie appeared in cinemas at the end of 2010 and seemed to get a good number of mediocre reviews. Therefore when I popped the disk into the player I had low enough expectations.

The movie opens with a scene set in the 1980s with a younger computer generated Jeff Bridges aka Kevin Flynn telling his son Sam a story about his adventures in The Grid. I noted the Black Hole poster on the bedroom wall! Flynn leaves and is never seen again. Two decades later and Flynn's company is making lots of money from their operating system. It's making Sam rich but he isn't taking an active part in running the company.

As you will have seen in the trailers Alan Bradley, played again by Bruce Boxleitner, turns up with the news that he was paged from Kevin Flynn's old phone that has been disconnected for 20 years. Sam zooms off to check out the old Flynn video arcade and promptly gets zapped into The Grid.

At this point I have to say I do like the look of The Grid. Everything is shiny and glassy. No, not quite glassy, but there is a pleasing almost-translucent quality to all the surfaces.

Sam's quest sees him try to make it to the portal that will let him return to the real world. Along the way he takes part in the games, including I am glad to say, a light cycle race. He also meets the young computer generated Bridges character CLU who informs him "I am not your father" in a nice reversal of the famous line from The Empire Strikes Back. Later Olivia Wlide's Quorra takes him to meet the older Bridges who is indeed his dad and has been trapped in the Grid by his own creation.

I found I liked the relatively minor character Gem very much. She is one of the 'sirens' who gives Sam his Grid type outfit for the games. Later she appears again and takes Sam to meet Caster in the night club place. I liked that actress's performance as there is always a little half smile on her face that suggests 'I know more than you do'.

There are a few surprise reveals that are not too surprising, namely the true identities of Rinzler, Quorra and Zuse respectively. I saw them all coming but maybe a kid would find them surprising so that's ok.

And I enjoyed the movie very much. I'd certainly rate it a lot higher than the mediocre reviews. it held my attention throughout, I connected with the characters, was suitably amazed at the visuals and it's also worth noting that I really enjoyed the music soundtrack. It's also nice to see the original design of the light cycle appear.

Any negatives? Well I thought the CGI Bridges was good but there was something not quite right with the eyes. But then he's a CGI creation representing a computer program, not a human, so maybe that's ok too. otherwise it was pretty amazing to see what they can do with CGI now.

Overall I liked it and right away it went on my list of movies to buy on DVD.

Friday, 3 June 2011

X-Men: First Class review

I may have mentioned it before, but I am a big fan of the X-Men movies, going back to 2001 when I rented the video (!) of the first movie. Actually I think I bought the DVD shortly after that. It was probably one of the first DVDs I did buy.

This week sees the release of the fourth (or fifth) X-Men movie and marks the return of Bryan Singer, the director of the first two, albeit in a producing capacity. It also marks the "return" of Matthew Vaughn who almost directed the third movie. Much has been written (or at least read by me) about the movie's 1960s setting, the new take on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the short production schedule and some deliberate nods towards a certain 1960s spy movie series.

So having finally seen the movie here are my initial thoughts, sans spoilers.

First of all I do have to mention the recreation of the opening scene of the first movie. It will be very interesting to watch the inevitable shot-by-shot comparison that will do doubt turn up on YouTube.

Much credit must be directed towards Misters McAvoy and Fassbender who did did great work playing Sirs Patrick and Ian. James McAvoy played the good professor in a way we have never seen him before, clearly making the most of the 1960s and a full head of hair.

Michael Fassbender as Erik went for it. The word that springs to mind is "intensity". There are a few scenes early in the movie that are gripping purely based on his performance and the sense of danger he exudes. Watch out for the scenes in the Swiss bank and the South American bar. And it's great to see Erik doing dangerous things with metal. At one point he finds an interesting use for a ship's anchor chain. If I have one complaint it is that I do think his Irish accent was becoming a bit pronounced near the end of the movie.

It's also great to see Charles and Erik become friends. In the original movie Erik and Charles do refer to each other as "old friend" on occasion. Here we see how their bond was formed and its nice that the chess games are referenced. Particular mention must be made of the "rage and serenity" scene.

However I do think the movie has a third lead, namely Jennifer Lawrence. This movie goes some way to make amends to Mystique by giving her more screen time after she was unceremoniously "cured" so early in the third movie. In a way the movie is as much about her as it is about Professor X and Magneto. We obviously know she'll end up joining Magneto but it's quite a revelation to see her first meeting with Charles and the bond that develops between them.

It was also nice to see Hank McCoy/Beast getting some screen time. Nicholas Hoult played him endearingly geeky.

In the previous movies the team used the X-Jet. Here they use a plane based on the SR-71 which is a nice nod to the comics and the period. I want to build that model kit now.

Kevin Bacon plays the villain of the piece, Sebastian Shaw, who has a link to what happened young Erik in 1944. He is perhaps the most villainous of all the bad guys we've seen in the movie series so far. January Jones played a suitably icy Emma Frost.

A couple of inconsistencies with the previous movies do now arise. In particular the first scene of X3 no longer fits into this continuity, but this is something I will happily ignore.

There were two surprise cameos from original cast members. One in particular had the audience in stitches.

So overall I enjoyed it and I will be hoping we will see a First Class series develop. If this is what they can do with a curtailed shooting schedule then I want to see what they can do with more time!