Ranking the Alien Movies

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Few movie series can boast the longevity of the Alien franchise, which now spans eight films over nearly forty years. It’s hard to over-emphasise just how influential the Alien movies have become since the release of the first film in 1979. The alien has become one of cinema’s most famous, universally recognised monsters, while in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley the series has arguably Hollywood’s most celebrated female protagonist.

With so many instalments in the series, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the quality has been…somewhat variable. With the release last week of the franchise’s latest entry, Alien: Covenant, I decided to go through and rank all eight films from worst to best, starting with:  Continue reading “Ranking the Alien Movies”

Alien: Covenant – review

“You can’t go home again,” Thomas Wolfe once wrote. Someone should really tell Ridley Scott, whose persistent attempts to return to the Alien universe he created are beginning to look more and more misguided. First there was 2012’s Prometheus, a muddled mess of a film where Scott’s execution fell far short of his ambition. Now he’s back with Alien: Covenant, and it’s another deeply disappointing entry in a once great franchise.  Continue reading “Alien: Covenant – review”

The Best Fantasy Books Of All Time

For a genre theoretically bound only by the author’s imagination, fantasy novels are too often depressingly unimaginative: simplistic tales of good and evil that slavishly riff of genre tropes. Yet every now and then a fantasy novel comes along which breaks the mould and raises the bar for all that follow. Here’s my list of the best fantasy books around.

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The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
A series of seven books published between 1950 and 1956 (beginning with a little book called The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), for many The Chronicles of Narnia remain the template for what great fantasy novels should look like. Centring on a magical land populated by talking animals and ruled over by a mighty lion, the Chronicles are rip-roaring stories of adventure and magic, even if the overt religious themes can occasionally make things a bit impenetrable for non-believers. Though The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe remains the most well-known and beloved title in the series, for me it’s third book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, recounting a physical and spiritual journey to the ends of the earth, which remains the most entertaining and evocative. Continue reading “The Best Fantasy Books Of All Time”

Books Everyone Should Read: American Gods

“One question that has always intrigued me is what happens to demonic beings when immigrants move from their homelands. Irish-Americans remember the fairies, Norwegian-Americans the nisser, Greek-Americans the vrykólakas, but only in relation to events remembered in the Old Country. When I once asked why such demons are not seen in America, my informants giggled confusedly and said, ‘They’re scared to pass the ocean, it’s too far.”

– Richard Dorson, ‘A Theory for American Folklore’, American Folklore and the Historian. Epigraph to American Gods

It’s tempting to think of mythology as solely a feature of ancient societies. The word itself calls to mind images of togas and temples, of gods and monsters, of Zeus and Arthur. But every generation, in every country, from the beginning of time to the modern day, has had its own myths and icons, its own  heroes and villains, and its own devotions.  And in American Gods, Neil Gaiman turns his eye to 21st century America and asks just what deities the citizens of this high-tech melting pot really worship. Continue reading “Books Everyone Should Read: American Gods”

Ghost In The Shell – review

Mamoru Oshii’s groundbreaking 1995 anime film Ghost In The Shell famously begins with its main character stripping naked before leaping off a skyscraper to engage in a gun battle. In Rupert Sanders’ live-action remake, it’s Scarlett Johannsen who takes the plunge (modesty now just about protected by a skintight suit, no doubt to help the film maintain a PG-13 rating). But what’s notable about this Ghost is not how similar it is to the original, but how different. Unfortunately, the changes are not always for the better.  Continue reading “Ghost In The Shell – review”

Team of the Six Nations 2017

It’s fair to say that it’s been a tournament of twists and turns and even though the final standings are pretty close to how I predicted they’d end up, the way we got there was more than a little unexpected. England sealed the Championship a week early, but only after lucky escapes against France and Wales. Scotland demonstrated the progress they’ve made under Vern Cotter by beating Ireland and Wales, only to implode during their much-hyped showdown with the Auld Enemy. Ireland suffered surprise defeats against Scotland and Wales, before finally rediscovering their Autumn form and denying England a second-straight Grand Slam on the final day. France gained their first top three finish in over five years, even if it took a farcical finale amid accusations of cheating to get there. Wales put in some of their best performances under caretaker coach Rob Howley and still contrived to sink to their lowest finish in a decade. And Italy were…well, Italy, although they did manage to utterly perplex England for an hour.  Continue reading “Team of the Six Nations 2017”

Elle – review

Paul Verhoeven has always been a provocative director, but even so Elle, his first film in French and his first feature of any kind in over a decade, begins in truly shocking fashion. It opens mid-way through a brutal rape scene as Michèle (Isabelle Huppert), the fifty-something wealthy head of a video game company, is attacked in her home by a masked assailant. After he leaves, she tidies up, takes a bath and calmly orders sushi. Informing her shocked friends of the assault over dinner, she bats away their entreaties to go to the police, saying “It’s over, it’s not worth a debate.” Continue reading “Elle – review”