Monthly Archives: August 2017

Science Fiction Double Feature

This post is going to be fairly long, so you may want to find a comfortable chair.

Even from an early age, my daughter has  had tastes beyond her years, and films are no exception. She has a particular interest in science fiction films not normally seen in a 12 year old girl. I suppose to some extent this derives from her interest in the Harry Potter novels. When she was about six, her reading ability improved exponentially and she tore through the series in double quick time, which, of course, led to an interest in the films. I’m sure all parents will be familiar with this phenomenon, and anything that encourages kids to read is fine by me. Her interest in more intense material didn’t take long to manifest, however. Not long after this, she was looking through my DVDs and asked in all seriousness: “Dad, can I watch “Alien”?”. Noooooooo! was my instantaneous response, as you would expect. When she and her brother first met my sweetie at the EMP to view the Lego exhibit ( See “We Are Going To Be Friends”), I had to forcibly prevent her from entering the exhibit of horror film props as the notice made clear that it was unsuitable for young children.

Fast forward a few years. In an attempt to find something worth watching, I had asked members of the “Monster Talk” Facebook page for recommendations of horror/monster films that were either well worth watching, or so dreadful they deserved to be seen. I was able to find some of the titles, although some were not worth the effort. A case in point being the truly awful “Super Inframan“. Apparently the first major Chinese movie filmed entirely in Hong Kong, it deserves to be buried forever. It isn’t even good enough for the “So bad it’s good” category, and has production values so low it makes the work of Sid and Marty Kroft look like “Lord of the Rings”. I mention this cowpat of a film because my daughter asked me what was the worst film I’d ever seen, and despite explaining the plot to her, she insisted on watching it, and nothing I said could dissuade her. She lasted all of 20 minutes, before agreeing with my assessment and suggesting we turn off the DVD player.

This led to a discussion about Sci Fi in general, and films worth watching in particular. We watched “Rogue” together, a pale imitation of “Jaws” with a giant crocodile instead of a shark, and absolutely no tension and then moved on from monsters to traditional Sci Fi. As you no doubt can guess, I’m a fan of “Star Wars”, and we watched the original trilogy together, which she thoroughly enjoyed, although this meant she wanted to see the truly dreadful prequels, and I have no shame in admitting that I fell asleep during “The Phantom Menace”, although this did mean that she wanted to see the originals again as well as “The Force Awakens” a second time, her mother having bought the disc. Of course, we went to the cinema to see “Rogue One”, and she enjoyed it, although it could have been a much better film.

I ran out of suitable films for her to watch, and had already confirmed that her mother didn’t want her to see “Alien” when I said to her “Do you want to see “Alien”?”. I know, I know, but she’s an eminently sensible kid, and had explained that films don’t scare her, because she is “outside” of the action, unlike a book where she is drawn in by the narrative and experiences the story first hand. To be honest, the film is a lot less gory than I remembered, and she already knew of the “Chestburster” scene, so she wasn’t shocked by it. Naturally, we watched the first two sequels, but didn’t bother with the third as it is nothing more than a patchwork made up of elements of the first three. I was impressed by the way she handled the films, and asked a number of insightful questions throughout. She’s an expert at picking out errors, inconsistencies  and plot holes, so watching a film with her is a lot more fun than it would be with most kids her age.

I wasn’t sure how she’d handle “Arrival”, but she really enjoyed it, despite it being devoid of the usual Sci Fi elements. It raised a lot of interesting questions, and the production values and alien design really helped. I then suggested we watch “The Day The Earth Stood Still” in order to compare attitudes in the films to the arrival of aliens. I gave her a hint to keep an eye open to the parallel to a more famous story, but I had to explain it to her at the end: Klaatu’s arrival is heralded as a star in the east, he arrives with a message of peace to all men, he takes the name Carpenter, he has followers, he’s betrayed, he’s killed by soldiers and then rises from the dead and ascends into the heavens. She didn’t exactly give herself a dope slap for missing the comparison, but it all fell into place for her when I pointed it out.

The idea of first contact really appeals to her, so tomorrow we will be watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, as yet another take on the subject. I don’t know why she has such a strong fascination for Sci Fi, but I do appreciate the opportunity it gives us to spend time together, and I have enough films to keep our weekend sessions going for quite some time. She’s as sharp as a needle, and I want to do all I can to encourage her interest and curiosity, and films give ample opportunity for that. I do have my limits, though. It will be  a cold day in hell before I let her watch John Carpenters’ “The Thing”.

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Entertain Me

Now that I have a lot more spare time on my hands than I’d like, I have had to find ways of occupying my attention. For someone who claims to be an avid reader, of late I have had very little motivation to open a book. Technically, I have two books on the go at the moment, one being the complete fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, and one on the history of the Celts. For some reason, I just don’t have the patience to sit down in a quiet room and read. I suppose I should get back into the habit while I still own some books, but who knows if I ever will.

I have been spending more time than is good for me playing video games, though. Even this attraction is beginning to pall, however. As you can imagine, new games are not in my budget, so I have been replaying those I already own. I have been a big “Call Of Duty” fan ever since  I had the opportunity to play the “United Offensive” expansion pack nearly 13 years ago.  Much as I love blowing stuff up, sniping and shooting fascists in the back as they run away, the games all blur into each other after a while, as there are a limited number of situations available, and one mad dash through a city or the countryside in an armed vehicle with a bunch of enemies in hot pursuit is very much like any other, be it in 1944 Normandy, modern day Russia or some post –  collapse nearish future.

This leaves television and films, and this is where I have to expend some actual effort. I don’t miss having television service, not for a minute, as the vacuity of most television makes even the biggest of super-massive black holes seem small and insignificant. when I do find something worth watching I tend to burn through it in very short order: A  case in point would be season two of “The Expanse”. I watched the first season on disc borrowed from the library, but as season two isn’t out yet, I looked online for a streamed version. I burned through the entire season in three days.  I know this is not much to those of you for whom binge watching is a fact of life, but in all probability you follow many shows, perhaps even on a one episode per week basis and have enough in your queue to keep you occupied. I don’t and now have to wait 12 months for the next season. Presuming of course, that I have a roof over my head and a screen on which to watch it.

Netflix has never appealed to me, as even $8 a month isn’t worth it to me, especially as there are plenty of free options. My sweetie subscribes, but she doesn’t watch all that much, and she tends to request films that don’t interest me at all. Of course, streaming has it’s drawbacks, and this manifested itself recently. My daughter is a big sci fi / horror fan ( the subject of a future post), and as she has inquired about my H.P. Lovecraft interest, I suggested we watch “The Whisperer In Darkness”, a film produced by the HPL Historical Society and made in the style of a 1930’s movie. I spent quite a while trying to find a feed that didn’t require me to subscribe and didn’t try and get me to download malware under some spurious context, but eventually one was found and we sat down to watch. Alas, it was not that simple. The feed was so slow that we watched the first 20 minutes in 10 second bursts with five second pauses in between. Even pausing the feed did no good, so I searched again and eventually found a feed that didn’t pause. Yay.

DVDs are my other, if somewhat limited choice. The county’s last DVD rental store shut down a couple of months ago, although I never used it, so make of that what you will. The library has a good selection, but it’s difficult to get the timing right. My sweetie and I watched all five seasons of “The Wire” on discs borrowed from the library, but the wait time for various seasons meant interruptions to our viewing, although it’s so great a show it was worth it. My own collection is also something of a problem, in that 90% of the films I burnt onto disc from the DVR in my married days were ones I’d already seen,  so I have little new content. I own quite a few movies and series, and recently  re-watched “Band Of Brothers” over the course of a week, so it will be a couple of years before I watch it again.

I dug out “The Prisoner”and am only three episodes away from the end, but I’m having difficulty in motivating myself to finish the set. The show hasn’t aged well, despite its’ cult status. I hate to write that last sentence, but it’s true. I haven’t watched the show since my ex bought me the complete box set for Christmas before my son was born, and it may well be another 16 years before I watch it again, if at all. To be honest, the show hasn’t stood the test of time. At times it borders on high camp and pastiche, the production values don’t hold up despite it’s high budget for the time, and the final episode is so pointless and full of dross as to define explanation.

The English football season is still two months off, so I don’t even have that to look forward to on Saturday mornings. I realise that all of the above can be categorised under “First world problems”, but once I’ve finished my work, my job searches and any chores I am motivated to undertake I still find myself with too much time on my hands. Does anyone have the complete run of The Simpsons on DVD they could lend me? It’s going to be a long summer.

 

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