Wednesday, 30 March 2011

15 Genre Gems That You Probably Missed #3 - PAPERHOUSE

Anna is a young girl on the edge of puberty with concerns over her parents relationship and a streak of rebellion about her. She draws a house and finds that she can enter into that drawing into a world where there is a young boy who can give her solace, but a world that also contains terrible threats.

Anyone who thinks that PAN'S LABYRINTH  was startlingly original (which it was), should take a look at this 1988 movie which has many scenes and themes that foreshadow Guillermo Del Toro's masterpiece.

As with all classic gothic horror pieces, the film plays with what is real and what is the creation of fevered dreams, perhaps brought about by an awakening of sexual potential.

It is the world of the paperhouse that really impresses. The production design is excellent with slanted camera angles and heightened reality caught somewhere between a child's drawing and the real world making it visually exciting as well as utterly convincing.

The performances are also excellent, though low key. The heroine is played by Charlotte Burke as no angelic Hollywood brat. She is smart, sassy, self-absorbed and rebellious. Your regular teenager in fact. Glenne Headley is the mother who doesn't know what to do with her youngster and Ben Cross is a memorably scary monster.

PAPERHOUSE didn't make a splash because it's pitched between age groups. Horror fans will find its bloodless scares weak and it's too dark and layered for the younger audience.

Even so, this is a very fine dark fantasy and well worth picking up for a look.

Genre Icons We Love - Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is a top model turned actress who has an oscar under her belt for uglying up to play a serial killer. Whilst she might argue that she's no genre icon since she's been in any number of non-genre movies, we beg to differ since she's been in enough sci-fi and fantasy flicks to meet our criteria (which is if we want you in, you're in).

Theron made her genre debut in 1995's CHILDREN OF THE CORN 3:URBAN HARVEST, but she probably came to most people's notice when she appeared (pretty much all of her) in the over-the-top but highly enjoyable DEVIL'S ADVOCATE where she proved to be one of the best things since Keanu was just looking pretty and Al Pacino was overacting to the nth, oth and pth degree.

She cashed in on the success of that by taking the lead role in the giant gorilla remake MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998) which was acceptable family fare, boosted by her committed performance in making us believe she was sharing the screen with a giant gorilla. Immediately afterwards, she worked with Johnny Depp in the misconcieved THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE(1999), which managed to completely waste the considerable talents of its two stars whilst hoping to get by on their sheer good looks.

That kept her out of the genre for a few years, but she was tempted back for the equally misconceived AEON FLUX that should have been so good, but was, in fact, so bad. That experience might have put her off altogether, but she came back again for the so-so, but fun HANCOCK with Will Smith and the hard, but worthy THE ROAD with Viggo Mortensen (2008 and 2009 respectively).

She's currently in the cast for the potentially alien-linked Ridley Scott production PROMETHEUS as well as the mooted MAD MAX:FURY ROAD and playing the evil queen in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, all of which qualify as genre. Perhaps we've won her back.

Theron is, as far as we are concerned, The Most Gorgeous Woman In The World TM, but she is also an excellent actress who brings intelligence and emotion to any role that she takes on. Whatever the quality of the film she is in (yes THE ITALIAN JOB we're looking at you) she is always worth watching and not just for the eye candy.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The licence fee is your friend

This weekend, BBC3 broadcast an event called Frankenstein's Wedding...Live In Leeds in which the original gothic science fiction story was retold in a mix of live acting, song, dance and filmed inserts. The final event was a curate's egg for some, but we thought caught the essential power of the story (see the link).

What got us thinking, though, is who else but the BBC would have even considered commissioning something like this? ITV? Five? We don't think so. Only the BBC because of the licence fee source of finance can take the risk on non-commercial minority programming. Because let's be clear about this, science fiction and fantasy is minority programming.

Take a look at the recent BBC output in this area - Outcasts, The Deep, Being Human, Survivors, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Whistle And I'll Come To You and, of course, Doctor Who. OK, the quality has been variable at best, but you can't fault the committment to home grown science fiction and fantasy.

What have the other main channels produced? ITV brought us Marchlands and Primeval (which only came back thanks to creating financing in part paid for by BBC America!) and Sky Living gave us Bedlam. And that's it.

The non-BBC channels bring us tonnes of science fiction and fantasy from America and we're not complaining about that, but if you are a fan of British science fiction then it is clear that the licence fee is your friend and long may it continue.

Monday, 14 March 2011

BEING HUMAN will return

It's less than 24 hours since the third season of BBC 3's supernatural drama came to a game changing end that upheld its position (in our eyes at least) as simply the finest supernatural show on television at the moment.

What sounds like a joke - a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share an apartment - has developed into a dark and violent tale of this world and the next; bloody, unpredictable, witty and full of warmth.

The finale of the third series came to an end and the credits rolled without a word about the show coming back. Today, however, a BBC 3 blog put fans of the show out of their misery (well part of it, but you'll have to see the show to know what we mean) by announcing that the fourth series has been commissioned.

With the emotional fallout from last night's events and the arrival of a whole new threat there is plenty of story to be told, but will the creators be able to juggle the darkness, comedy and down to earth mundaneness so succesfully for a fourth time?

One thing's for sure, we'll be front of the queue to find out.

Friday, 4 March 2011

15 Genre Gems That You Probably Missed #2 The Day The Earth Caught Fire

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE was made in 1961 when nuclear hysteria and the cold war were in full swing, but it has lost none of its ability to chill.

Two nuclear tests take place on opposite sides of the globe within a short time frame and the combined effect of the blasts shifts the axis of the Earth's rotation. This in turn means that the orbit is shifted into a slow fall towards the sun.

This manifests itself in freak weather conditions, temperature rises, water rationing and the threatened breakdown of all human civilisation.

The very human people at the heart of this tale are a floundering newspaper reporter (Edward Judd, never better), the girl he meets through the story and who might just be able to save him from himself if someone else can save the world (the very sexy Janet Munro) and a crotchety old hack with a heart in the right place under the cynical exterior (the inestimable Leo McKern).

The story plays out in almost documentary style as the reporters dig into the story of freak weather conditions and slowly learn the horrifying truth. The arrival of equipment to set up communal showers and water rationing is brilliantly chilling and the ending - oh that terrible tease of an ending.

This is out on DVD and at a good price, so rush out and buy it now. You won't be disappointed that you did.