Posts Tagged: Movies

Films 2017

Wednesday 20th December 2017

I go to the cinema regularly. When I do, I keep a record of what I saw and write a short comment about the film. This is the list of those films. Some of these I went to see multiple times, but I’ll just list them by first viewing.

I’ve not listed films seen outside the cinema, because I don’t note those down (and there’s no way I can remember them all).


  • Manchester by the Sea – Walked out half way through. I thought it was ok, but it was one of those days when I wasn’t in the mood for an onslaught of misery. Haven’t tried to watch it again.
  • Passengers – Actually quite an enjoyable film to go and see on a dreary January night.
  • Silence – I had no preconceptions of this, and was very impressed. It’s very long, and the topic isn’t something I’d usually go for, but I thought this was a masterpiece.
  • Split – Rubbish.
  • La La Land – Loved it, didn’t think I would. Looks great on the big screen.
  • Jackie – Got bored. Walked out.


  • Lion – I thought I’d hate this. How wrong was I? For a film about a guy using Google Earth a lot, it’s surprisingly compelling.
  • Lego Batman – Watched this on a Sunday afternoon with a fairly decent hangover. Maybe for that reason, found this to be too hectic to be enjoyable.
  • The Founder – Actually pretty good.
  • Hidden Figures – Better than expected.
  • Fences – Denzel Washington indulgence.
  • John Wick 2 – Not as good as the first one.
  • Moonlight – First time I went to see this, the power in the cinema cut off after 30 mins and didn’t come back on. I went back a week later and thought it’s pretty good. Not sure if worth an Oscar.
  • Toni Erdmann – So weird. So funny. So thought provoking. Watch this if you haven’t already.


  • Free Fire – Bloody good fun.
  • Logan – Just from the law of large numbers, eventually someone had to make a good superhero film. This one only spoiled by the person in the cinema who insisted on talking very loudly to the person next to him.
  • Kong: Skull Island – meh.


  • Get Out – Very very good.
  • Power Rangers – Bad. So bad.
  • Their Finest – Saw in on a Sunday evening to while away some time. It served that purpose well.
  • Lady Macbeth – Didn’t know anything about this before seeing it. Thought it was interesting, dark and really compelling.


  • Colossal – Sort of silly science fiction, very good fun.
  • Alien: Covenant – meh


  • The Red Turtle – Beautiful. This is a film with no dialogue that manages to say more than a lot of the films on this list. Well worth a watch.
  • My Cousin Rachel – Saw this on a Friday afternoon. Left after half an hour because I was too tired to concentrate. Watched it again later in the year whilst on a flight, and thought it was pretty good.
  • Baby Driver – Huge fun, and great on the big screen.


  • It Comes At Night – A decent horror film. However I had to think hard to remember what it is, so clearly not that good.
  • The Beguiled – Very good. Very tense, you don’t quite know where it’s going to lead which makes it really compelling.
  • War For The Planet Of The Apes – Meh.
  • Dunkirk – Absolutely phenomenal. Even though you know how it ends, amazingly tense the whole way through. Excellent sound design, awesome cinematography. I saw it twice on an Imax screen, and think it really benefits from the big screen.


  • A Ghost Story – This was phenomenal. An, er, haunting look at relationships, loss, grief, and all that big stuff.
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – This had poor reviews and basically tanked at the Box Office. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It’s quite funny, very odd, spectacular to see on screen and overall really, really enjoyable. People go on about Hollywood/action films all being the same (shit) superhero franchises done in the same way time after time, so it’s annoying they don’t go and see something so different when it somehow gets made.


  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Not good. It’s as if they didn’t understand why the first one worked.


  • Blade Runner 2049 – Great sequel. Worth seeing on the big screen.
  • The Death of Stalin – OK, but not great.


  • Ingrid Goes West – Very funny.


  • Murder on the Orient Express – OK, not great. Branagh a little OTT as Poirot.
  • The Disaster Artist – If you know anything about The Room then you need to see this. Oh, hi Mark.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Good but not great, and not as good as Rogue One (or, in fact, the first Star Wars film from 1977). The ending feels a bit “tacked on”; although I think it was the right ending, the scenes leading up to it could have been paced better to lead you into it. Could also drop 30 mins off the running time without losing anything important.

That’s 39 films seen at the cinema this year. As I mentioned at the top there are a few I saw multiple times (1 film I went to see 3 times…), so that’s 40-odd visits to the cinema this year.

Posted In: Movies Tagged: | 2 Comments

“Foolproof, and incapable of error”

Saturday 21st January 2012

Whilst I was thinking about and writing the previous post, a couple of extra things came to mind which I couldn’t really fit into the post. So I thought I might as well do a follow-up with a couple of extra observations. I did intend to write this earlier, but partly I was busy (more on that in a following post) and mostly I just didn’t get around to it.

1) The previous post was not so much about aeroplanes, but more about interfaces in general. Be that with machinery like a plane, or a device like a phone, or even infrastructure or services. And it struck me that one of the few organisations that consistently manages to create things with great interfaces is Apple. Not so much with their computers (I’m really not a big fan of MacOS, probably because I’m more used to Windows), but their iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) are really good examples of things which simplify tasks through good interface design.

It strikes me that if the computing business ever starts to go slack (!), Apple could do a good business out of consultancy; imagine if they applied their UI design skills to things other than making iPhones and iPads. This isn’t as daft as it sounds; some ex-Apple employees recently set up a business to make a better thermostat. That’s a specific example of someone applying the Apple approach to interfaces to a different type of product, and I’m sure there are other things which would benefit from the same approach.

2) For some reason, I also started thinking about 2001: A Space Odyssey (spoilers follow. Although, it’s a 40-odd year old book/film, so I guess most people at least vaguely know the plot. If you don’t, then go read the book and watch the film. They’re classics). The first – obvious – point is that a lot of the interfaces in that film do appear to tend towards simplicity. There’s loads of little things: the video phone booth that Dr Floyd uses near the start of the film, the tablets that Bowman and Poole use on Discovery, all the spaceship status screens look like they’re intended to be simple, and of course there’s HAL9000

On the topic of HAL, it occurred that his demise is pretty relevant too. HAL was programmed to help the crew, to convey information to them about Discovery and about the status of the mission. But before the crew left Earth the parameters of the mission were changed; this was secret, and the crew were not to be told until Discovery reached Jupiter. As the central computer, HAL knew the real purpose of the mission, but was not allowed to tell the crew. He was being asked to hide information, to lie. This ran counter to HAL’s programming – he was designed to give information, not to hide it – and because of that conflict he perceived there to be a problem. Which he then set out to rectify…

The point is, HAL failed because the people who defined his tasks for the mission did so incorrectly. The computer carried out its tasks as it saw best, but those tasks were in conflict with each other. And so the failure of the mission was the result of misuse of the computer. Now obviously the details in this and in the example in the previous post are very different, but in general, it’s the same fault: the computers behaved exactly as they were asked, the error arose from the way people were trying to use them.

And, really, how clever is that? That 40 years ago, people were thinking about how we’ll be using these ultra-sophisticated computers, and were (in a very broad sense) predicting some of the problems that we’re starting to see. Just makes me realise how great a job Clarke (and Kubrick, I think) did in writing that story, and how many ideas they’ve managed to pack into it. I’ve read the book many times already, but I really need to re-watch the film.

Posted In: GeekMoviesTechnology Tagged: | No Comments

Meandering Musical Meanings

Sunday 23rd October 2011

As occasionally often happens, a while ago I started to listen to “just one more song” before turning the computer off and doing something else, and ended up listening to music for a while, rather than just 5 minutes. One of the songs that I listened to was Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something. No particular reason, just happened to listen to it.

When I listen to music I quite like to read the lyrics and think about what the song is about. Sometimes that can be quite tricky; people like Bob Dylan or even Radiohead, often have lyrics which can be interpreted in many different ways. On the surface, not so here:

You’ll say we’ve got nothing in common 
No common ground to start from
And we’re falling apart
You’ll say the world has come between us
Our lives have come between us
Still I know you just don’t care

And I said what about Breakfast at Tiffany’s
She said I think I remember the film
And as I recall I think we both kinda liked it
Then I said well then that’s one thing we got

So yeah, probably pretty easy to interpret that. But whenever I listen to the song, I wonder if there are two potential meanings. Either it’s the absolute final end of a relationship, they’ve decided they’ve got nothing in common and that it’s over. But one of them remembers this film they both liked, and so they remember that. It’s over but “well, that’s one thing we’ve got”, it wasn’t all just a waste of time. Or, it’s the turning point in an argument. She said they’ve got nothing in common, he remembers the film they both liked and maybe then they think of other things they have in common as well.

In the latter interpretation, I suppose the song ends with an ellipsis; that’s one thing we’ve got…. perhaps there’s some other stuff too. For the former, it’s a full stop. On balance, it’s probably a full stop. At least, judging by these lines:

So what now it’s plain to see we’re over
And I hate when things are over
When so much is left undone.

Anyway, pretty good song. And the film it takes its name from isn’t bad either. Although I couldn’t decide if I liked Audrey Hepburn’s character in the end; I couldn’t shake the feeling that she’s just a bit shallow and manipulative. So it made it the end a little bit dissatisfying. Maybe that’s just me though.

Ooh, while I’m on the subject of good songs that are related to films, I direct you to Year of the Cat by Al Stewart. Only realised recently (after I’d seen the film) that it draws pretty heavily from Casablanca. Well worth seeing that if you haven’t already, very good film indeed.

Posted In: MoviesMusic Tagged: | 1 Comment


Sunday 31st July 2011

In my opinion, the best science fiction is something which takes one simple idea and runs with it. When the story takes a simple concept and plays with it, to look at what can be done with it or how people would interact with it. I wrote last year about Moon, which is a great example of good sci-fi for the way it takes the idea of human cloning and deals with the practicalities and the morality of such a thing. I’ve recently watched Primer, an indie film that was produced a few years ago on a tiny budget ($7000), which does this absolutely perfectly.

The premise is that a couple of engineers have built a machine which can apparently reduce the gravity acting upon an object. But after experimenting with their invention they also discover that it has another capability, and this is what the film is about. I’m deliberately being a little vague as I think it’s best to not know more than that; the way the film reveals more detail is really nice, and works well to draw you into the film.

What’s interesting is that the film really focusses on the characters; their interaction with their invention, and also their relationship with each other as they start to use it. It’s very clever how the film has been put together to bring the viewer into it, and the attention to detail that has gone into doing that is very impressive. The actual concept that the film deals with isn’t a new thing; plenty of books and films have looked at it before, and lots of them have done it very well. But the way this deals with the manner in which the characters interact with that concept, and the effect it has on their lives, is pretty much perfect.

This is not an easy film to watch, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. The plot is very complex (even though the film only lasts just over an hour) and there is a lot that is left unsaid or that is not shown, which means that you have to think about it. I’ve watched it a couple of times now and frankly it’s still pretty confusing, but I think that’s deliberate. If you like science fiction, and films which are based around ideas, then Primer is absolutely unmissable.

Posted In: Movies Tagged: | 5 Comments


Saturday 4th June 2011

When I wrote about Closer To The Edge a few weeks ago, I mentioned that there was another motorsport documentary due to be released, this time about an F1 driver. The driver in question is Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian three-time world champion, and widely thought of as the greatest racing driver ever.

I went to see the movie today, and it’s brilliant. It’s quite a different form of documentary, because as much as possible the film makers have avoided using narrators or talking heads to tell the story; instead they’ve used footage and recordings of Senna from during his career, and so largely he is telling his own story as it’s unfolding. It’s extremely clever, helps bring everything to life and draw you into Senna’s story. And it’s a fascinating and dramatic story, told extremely well. For instance, the way the film builds the tension when the story gets to That Weekend – even from the first shot, taken from a helicopter as it flies towards and over Tamburello, which genuinely made me shudder – is really quite remarkable.

You do not have to be a petrolhead to appreciate this movie (I saw this with my Mum – who finds F1 boring – and I think she enjoyed it as much as I did). As with Closer To The Edge, it’s largely not about obsessing over this race and that, about watching and admiring what he did on the track. Instead it’s about Senna as a man, about what made him tick.

I can’t think of much more to say, other than to urge you to go and see this (and to see it at the cinema rather than waiting for the DVD; it’s definitely worth it). Even if  you have absolutely no interest in motorsport or F1 and think it’s the most boring thing in the world, you will not be disappointed by this movie.

Posted In: MotorsportMovies Tagged: | 2 Comments

Closer To The Edge

Wednesday 18th May 2011

I’ve had exams the last couple of days. My next one is on Friday, so after this morning’s exam I decided to take a break from revision for the rest of the day. And as I was in town anyway, I thought I may as well go and see a movie. Specifically, TT3D: Closer To The Edge, because I read a review of it in the last issue of Grand Prix+, and thought it sounded interesting.

It’s a documentary about the Isle of Man TT, a bunch of motorbike races held every year. The circuit is 30-odd miles long, on narrow public roads. The bikes average about 130mph around the lap, and reach a maximum of over 200mph. There are buildings, trees, walls, sheer drops and all number of other things lining the track, which makes it ridiculously dangerous. And one hell of a spectacle.

The movie basically tells the story of last year’s event, mostly following one particular rider in his efforts to win his first TT race. As a motorsport fan, there’s lots to like. Lovely shots of bikes whizzing around very quickly, and some stellar onboards. But it’s not just about that. The TT is a hell of an event, and the story of that event is really quite interesting. It’s a dangerous race (on average, 2 people are killed every year), and so the first reaction is to question why the hell anyone would do something so stupid, to risk their lives like that. The people who made the film did a really good job about answering that question, and of making something which seems completely crazy, look like the most sensible thing in the world. It’s not just a movie about motorsport; it’s about passion. The passion and the drive that makes people do extraordinary things.

I’m always going to like films about motorsport, but this is genuinely something that I think most people would find interesting. And also incredibly exciting. It’s shot in 3D, and this is probably the first 3D movie I’ve seen where it’s actually added something to the experience, not just felt like a pointless gimmick (hello Avatar). It really conveys the speed, and the sheer thrill of racing those bikes in that place. And there are quite a few shots that are absolutely beautiful. If I’m honest, the 3D is probably the main reason I went to see the film; motorbike racing isn’t really my thing and I actually didn’t know much about the TT before I saw this. I just wanted to see how it looked in 3D, so that I enjoyed the film so much (and not just the 3D fast-bikeyness) is really quite impressive.

As ever, I’m aware that this entry will go unloved, as do all my motorsport-themed blogs. But honestly, if you get the chance to go see it, I seriously commend it. You will enjoy it.

Oddly enough, there’s another motorsport movie out in a few weeks, about one of the most talented F1 drivers ever. Apparently it too has been made for a wider (non geeky-motorsport-fan) audience, and all of the reviews I’ve read bear that out. I know more about the subject of that movie, and bloody hell I can not wait. Expect a post about that in a couple of weeks, where I shall probably urge you all to see that too…

Update (23/5/11): And here’s Mark Kermode’s review, to give the point of view of someone who isn’t a motorsport fan.

Posted In: Motorsport Tagged: | No Comments


Thursday 11th March 2010

I saw Moon last night, and I can’t really decide what I think about it. Before I go further there are some spoilers here, so don’t read if you don’t want them.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film but bits felt iffy and I can’t completely put my finger on why. I think it might be down to some of the most glaring factual errors you could think of. For instance, Moon gravity is a sixth of Earth gravity, folks! For some reason, whenever the characters were outside the base they moved much slower, as you’d expect them to in low gravity. But inside they moved normally. Hell there was a game of table tennis at one point, which struck me as particularly implausible. And also, they’ve somehow found a way to increase the speed of light, given the instantaneous communication between the Earth and the Moon.

It probably sounds like I’m nitpicking, but I don’t think I am. For a film called “Moon”, you would expect the film makers to have grappled with some of the fundamental physics of the place, and at least have come up with a reason why they choose to ignore them.

Regardless of that, it’s still a pretty enjoyable film and I really like that it’s a proper, pukka, science fiction film. Far too often sci fi just means “set in space”, as opposed to what sci-fi actually means; stories based around some sort of scientific “what if?” – for instance, Star Wars isn’t really sci fi, its just set in space. Of course, it’s another thing completely to say how good a SF film Moon is. Given that it ignores fundamentals like gravity, you could argue possibly not…

Anyway, I enjoyed it. But then I should, because it steals elements from quite a lot of other Science Fiction. It takes bits from 2001 (sentient uber-computer – Kevin Spacey plays the part, and you can tell that his brief was “sound like HAL!”), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (implanting fake memories), The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (using a catapult to sneak people to Earth, amongst other things), a sort-of allusion to Asimov and the Laws of Robotics. I’m sure I’ve read a short story by Clarke too about clones which the film echoes quite a lot, but I can’t be bothered to look through the books to find one.

It sounds like I’m being negative, but I did enjoy it and it’s well worth watching. Frankly it’s a much better film than most of the trite that gets released (mentioning no Avatars). The story may not be groundbreaking but it’s watchable, and other things more than make up for it. It’s rather nicely shot, especially the scenes which are set outside. And I also think Sam Rockwell is pretty good too as the main character(s). Kevin Spacey is ok as the computer, but it felt like he was trying to be HAL and failing – he didn’t quite get the pure emotionless tone that Douglas Rain managed in 2001. And by the way if anyone hasn’t seen 2001, you really should because (except for the first bit with the apes) it’s stunning. But then Kubrick was a great director and Clarke a great writer, so it’d be odd if it weren’t.

I think though that the best thing about the film is the soundtrack. It suits the film really well, helps the pacing and overal “feel” of the film, but it’s also just really good music. At the end I actually left the end credits run, because I was enjoying the music that was playing. It’s on Spotify so I suggest you all go listen now.

An interesting point came out of watching this. The other day I was having a discussion with a housemate about how you’d build on the moon, and specifically we were talking about concrete. We couldn’t decide whether the curing reaction needs air to work (I’m not sure it does, looking at it now), but irrespective of that you’d need to ship materials up there, which takes a lot of energy. When I was reading about this film though I ran into an article on Lunarcrete, which uses stuff found on the Moon to make a concrete-like material. I think they’ve even suggested using lunar glass as reinforcement (glass has a ludicrously high tensile strength. Concrete has very little, so thats why reinforcement is used), which is pretty cool. Apparently Lunarcrete isn’t airtight though, which is a fairly glaring flaw. And It also requires a lot of energy to produce, which is another issue. I presume the energy cost is still lower though than transporting a similar amount of concrete to the Moon.

Personally I think I’d just build underground, but then that probably also requires a lot of energy.

Posted In: Engineering Tagged: | 5 Comments


Friday 19th February 2010

A while back I commented on a post on Callan’s blog about Avatar. At the time I hadn’t seen the film, so I refrained from commenting on the film itself, but rather on 3D. I’ve seen the movie now and I stand by what I said there about 3D – I really don’t think its “the future” or anything like that. In fact I think that Avatar was a pretty bad vehicle with which to demonstrate 3D as a technology. I thought that the bits of the film where the 3D effect was most effective were the “live” bits, with real actors in real sets. It added to the “grittiness” of those scenes and I think the 3D effect looked brilliant then. I found myself noticing things like reflections in glass or creases and wrinkles on people’s clothes, and overall it made those scenes look pretty good. Not more immersive though, but I shall come back to this. In contrast, I thought that the CGI scenes looked more fake than they would if they were just in 2D. Everything was too smooth, too polished, too obviously rendered.

But enough talk about the technology, because it’s not really what I want to talk about. Avatar (like many contemporary Hollywood films) is a really awful film. The characters, plot, everything is just ridiculously cliched, shallow and pathetic. It’s way too long, and I found myself getting pissed off at everyone involved. I wanted the humans to piss off and die because they were obviously bastards. But I also wanted the na’vi to fuck right off just on general principals. Both sides were equally irritating so the big battle scenes at the end really didn’t move me. I think we were meant to feel some sort of empathy for Zoe and Jake, but honestly I just didn’t care.

And the less said about “Unobtainium”, the better. For fuck’s sake…

In contrast, last night I watched Das Boot for the first time. This is actually 40 minutes longer than Avatar, but you really don’t notice that. In contrast to Avatar, the story doesn’t feel like it drags at any point, and you definitely feel empathy for the characters. Whereas I didn’t give a toss about the characters in Avatar, it’s completely different with this. The way the tension is built and sustained is really amazing, and just goes to show that clever writing is a lot more successful  than any amount of flashy CGI bollocks. We are treated to the odd shot of depth charges exploding around the U-boat but it’s all very dark and murky, probably because it was made pre-CGI. I actually think it’s more successful like this. No doubt if the film were made now it’d be possible to have loads of cool CGI stuff, but I think it’s much better if the focus remains in the sub with the characters; if our only clues as to what’s happening are the same clues that the people on the boat have – the eerie, threatening sounds coming from the water outside.

The point I’m trying to make is that it was a wonderfully immersive film, with probably a more interesting and subtle message than Avatar. You don’t need 3D or any other clever technology to involve an audience, all you need is a bit of intelligence. All too often, gimmicks like CGI and 3D are used as a replacement for good film making (as further evidence, I give you Star Wars… speaking of which, if you have time watch this, well worth it), and it’s a real shame.

I suppose the polar opposite is something like The Road, and I’ve commented on this film before over on Jenny’s blog. In that case, there’s just… nothing. Again, I didn’t care for the characters and as far as I could tell, there’s no real story to speak of. Now I’m all for a story being subtle, but if it’s so subtle that it’s invisible then it all starts to become somewhat pointless!

Anyway, it’s getting late, so I’m gonna go watch an episode of Mad Men (and read for a bit… I got up very late today) before sleeping. In fact, if you want to see an example of really good storytelling (not to mention beautiful characterisation – I mean really, stunning), watch it. It’s worth doing so just for one particularly brilliant scene at the end of season 1, but I shall say no more so as not to spoil it for anyone.

Posted In: RantSleepTechnologyTV Tagged: | 3 Comments